SWMS Career Explorations: Teaching intensive institutions

In this blog post, URI SWMS member Tejashree Modak shares her recent experience visiting Bridgewater State University and learning about teaching intensive institutions.

If teaching is your passion and especially if you are thinking of it as a career option, a question you should ask yourself is: What type of teaching am I passionate about? I realized it more than ever before when I visited Bridgewater State University this past March.

It all started when I got an email about the workshop ‘Teaching in Teaching Intensive Institutions’ organized at UMass Boston. I signed up since I was interested in teaching and wanted to make use of the resources it offered. At the workshop we met a variety of professionals from different institutions, in different phases of their career from new faculty to deans, the whole spread! At the workshop, I met a lot of people from Bridgewater State University (BSU).  Dr. Martina Arndt, Professor in the BSU Physics Department shared her story of how she got to her current position in one of the sessions. That got me thinking that I really don’t know what being a professor in a teaching intensive institution entails! Teaching intensive positions have a higher teaching load than research based universities but research is also a part of the expectations from tenure track positions. However, the important difference is that often student participation in research is undergraduate only. I have always been a student in a research university so I know very little about this part of the world.  I got in touch with BSU to see if I could visit to get a feel of their institution. The Dean of Bartlett College of Science and Mathematics, Dr. Kristen Porter-Utley, hosted URI students that shared my curiosity for a full day at BSU!

Rhody Rams Visit Bridgewater Bears

Six graduate students from different departments at URI spent morning to afternoon at BSU on March 31, 2017. BSU is located in Bridgewater, MA with a large beautiful campus. We checked in at the Dean’s office at 9:00am. We were given class schedules of courses taught in our field if we wanted to sit in a lecture.  I got a revision of meiosis taught by Dr. Jeff Bowen to a class of very well attentive students. I was blown away by how engaged the students were and asked such good questions! After the lecture we were led to a conference room and Dr. Porter-Utley along with Dr. Bowen and a new faculty in geology, Dr. Christine Brandon talked about BSU, their experiences and career at BSU. Dean Porter-Utley also gave us a gist about the hiring process, course load and overall responsibilities of a professor at BSU. She encouraged applicants to thoroughly research the institution before applying for open positions and to let that research show through the application. She pointed out that this tells the hiring committee you spent time and tailored your application for the position. She said, “The worst mistake you can make is to show up for an interview without knowing enough about the institution you are applying to.” She says it is very evident and reflects badly on your candidacy for the job. Make a note everyone! Dr. Brandon is a new faculty and Dr. Bowen has been at BSU for several years so we got to hear from two people at very different stages of their career, about their role and experiences at BSU.

Next we split up into our fields of interest and met with faculty that teach in our field. I was in the biology group and met with Dr. Merideth Krevosky, Dr. Kenneth Adams and Dr. Joseph Seggio. Apart from sharing their journey and experiences at BSU, they also gave us some very good advice and shared helpful resources for grants and career decisions. One important advice was that when you apply to undergraduate institutions it is very important to tailor your research questions such that the experiments can be conducted by undergraduate students, be done with smaller grants and shared resources.  This is quite a different thought process than what we are used to in graduate programs at URI. Start practicing your research statements if this is your career choice!

We got so wrapped up into the discussion we didn’t even realize it was time for lunch! We all walked to the fancy BSU dining hall and enjoyed a delicious buffet over more conversation with Dr. Arndt, Dr. Krevosky and Dr. Brandon.  We got many pointers and really good advice from all of them. Unanimously all of them pointed out that building and maintaining collaborations with other research institutions was critical for their research. Many of these collaborations started in graduate school. So as graduate students it is important for us to start building that network sooner than later!

Undergraduate Research Opportunities

The day was wrapped up by a tour of the Dana Mohler-Faria Science and Mathematics Center. Dr. Krevosky gave me a tour of the classrooms and research labs. The research space was immaculate and shared between faculty members where undergraduate students perform experiments. They also write research and travel grants with their professors. Early scientists in the making for sure! It was very cool to see entire research run by undergrads! I wrote my first publication as an undergrad so it felt even more heartwarming to see enthusiastic students finding time from courses to work in the lab!

Thank You, Bridgewater

Each person I met had a different story of how they reached their current position. Some landed there by chance, some had always planned to teach in teaching intensive institution and some tested out the research universities and then came to BSU. But one thing was very evident in all of them: they love what they are doing right now! They love being a part of BSU.  That sends a clear message: you are not limited to academic positions in research universities if you want to stay in academics after your PhD.

All in all it was a very resourceful and enlightening experience to visit BSU. It gave us all the tools to think about teaching as a career option and whether a career at a teaching intensive institution is a viable one for us. I along with everyone who attended the event would like to sincerely thank BSU for the gracious and warm invitation to URI graduate students and for such a thoughtfully organized event! Along with everything else, I found several women role models who are so good at their jobs and provide inspiration to other women who want to pursue a career in science!!

Tejashree Modak, URI PhD Candidate in Cell and Molecular Biology

Steering Committee at OCB meeting

Gearing up for SWMS 2017

By Chrissy Hernandez

For the past few years, the SWMS Steering Committee has been comprised primarily of students and postdocs based at WHOI and MIT. Despite our close geographical locations, we have all of our meetings via Skype. This has made it easy to transition to having Steering Committee members in more far-flung locations. When Femke DeJong was wrapping up her postdoc and spending more time at home in the Netherlands, she continued to participate in our meetings and with website upkeep. And this past year, after Ellie Bors and Sophie Chu defended their theses at WHOI, they moved on to exciting postdoctoral fellowships but have continued to support us back ‘home’ as we work to grow SWMS. Ellie is currently a Knauss fellow in DC, and Sophie is in Seattle, splitting her time between NOAA and the University of Washington.

The 2016 Symposium was  planned entirely over Skype!

The 2016 Symposium was planned entirely over Skype! Annie, Sophie, Femke, Gabi, Ellie, and Chrissy (clockwise from top left) are used to e-meetings, but we are excited to add two new members to our crew. 

As exciting as it is that our experienced Steering Committee members are staying on to help guide our organization through some growing pains, it’s an even bigger deal to bring in some fresh blood! Alexa Sterling and Anna Robuck, students at the URI Graduate School of Oceanography, have generously volunteered to help plan and run the 2017 SWMS Symposium. These ladies are already doing an amazing job with the URI Chapter of SWMS, which you can read about here. Their participation in planning the 2017 Symposium will be invaluable because they add a perspective that is outside of WHOI, and because they’re bringing all kinds of great ideas about what has worked well for SWMS at URI!

I guess that in our highly-connected, social-media-filled society, it shouldn’t seem so weird to meet people and collaborate with them electronically…but it still does! Since Alexa was in Woods Hole last week for the Ocean Carbon Biogeochemistry (OCB) meeting, she and I made plans to meet up in person (for the first time ever!). When I realized that Sophie, Hilary, and Annie were also participating in OCB, I was so excited to have a get together!

Although I wasn’t participating in OCB this year (#fieldwork), I went to the Tuesday evening poster session and had the opportunity to hear about Hilary’s current research. We asked a kind stranger to take some photos of us, because this is the first time we’ve had this many Steering Committee members in one room (outside of the Symposium). After that, the 5 of us went to the Captain Kidd for a lively session of eating, drinking, talking, and being merry! It was a special treat to have Annie out with us for the evening (big thank you to her husband for watching their kids!), to have Sophie back in town, and to meet Alexa face-to-face! Of course, I also had fun hanging out with Hilary, but I get to see her most frequently outside of the group.

Steering Committee at OCB meeting

SWMS Steering Committee members Sophie, Alexa, Annie, Hilary, and Chrissy (L to R) got together at the OCB meeting.

After this brainstorming session, we’re ready to hit the ground running with planning the SWMS 2017 Fall Symposium. Our next priorities are to pick a theme and invite a keynote speaker. We’re also working on setting up registration forms and designing our program. If you have a scientist in mind that you would like to hear speak, on either their awesome science or the specific experience of being a woman in marine science, please email us at swms.general.contact@gmail.com!

We are so excited to see you on November 3rd in Woods Hole!

Bamboo coral with calcitic internodes (white) and organic gorgonin nodes (black). Image credit: NOAA

Member Updates: Corals, Parasites, and Graduation

Megan Frenkel: first paper published!

Megan (Meg) Frenkel, a PhD student at Columbia/LDEO, published her first paper! “Quantifying bamboo coral growth rate nonlinearity with the radiocarbon bomb spike: A new model for paleoceanographic chronology development” was published in Deep Sea Research I, and is based on her undergraduate honors thesis at Bowdoin College with Michèle LaVigne

Close up of Meg Frenkel smiling at the camera

Meg Frenkel

Meg’s journey to publication was not exactly smooth: when she was almost ready to submit the paper, her computer crashed and she had to remake all her figures and reprocess part of the data — yikes! She is excited to have her first publication out and is now transitioning to working on dust flux at Lamont. You can read her paper here.

Bamboo coral with calcitic internodes (white) and organic gorgonin nodes (black). Image credit: NOAA

Bamboo coral with calcitic internodes (white) and organic gorgonin nodes (black). Image credit: NOAA

Meg is on Twitter at @megfrenkel.


Jillian Freese: review paper published!

Did you know that there are over 6,000 species of red algae, and that the latest review published about this huge assemblage of species and their parasites was written by a grad student?  Jillian Freese, a PhD student at the University of Rhode Island, recently published an invited review in Molecular and Biochemical Parasitology on parasitism in red algae. Her research in the Biological and Environmental Science department focuses on red algal parasite development. While researching for her paper, Jillian really enjoyed seeing how much each paper built off others from the past, even as far back as the 19th century.  At that point, the most cutting edge research focused on the appearance and shape, or morphology, of red algae specimens.

red algae illustration

This illustration of red algae was published in 1849. Image contributed to the Biodiversity Heritage Library by Museums Victoria.

 

 

Red algae

Modern photograph of red algae. Image credit: University of Wisconsin Plant Teaching Collection, used with permission.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
The most challenging part of getting the paper out was the actual writing. “There’s something about that blank document and blinking cursor that can be intimidating,” Jillian said. Read her paper here to learn all about the fascinating link between red algae species and their parasite friends.

Jilliane Freese with red algae

Jillian Freese with red algae sample.

You can find Jillian on Twitter @JillianFreese.


Dr. Sophie Chu: graduation!

Model, doctor, or both?!

Model, doctor, or both?!

Sophie Chu defended her thesis back in January, but she finally got to wear a funny hat and walk across the stage this month! Dr. Chu earned her PhD in the MIT-WHOI Joint Program in Oceanography. She traded one joint program for another when she graduated and is now a postdoc with the Joint Institute for the Study of Atmospheres and Oceans (JISAO), where she is part of the NOAA PMEL carbon group.

Sophie and her boyfriend in front of mountains

Sophie and her boyfriend are loving the PNW life!

Sophie is a SWMS steering committee member and is working on starting a Seattle chapter of SWMS.

Written by Gabi Serrato Marks, PhD student in the MIT-WHOI Joint Program and SWMS steering committee member.

Do you have news to share?

The Society for Women in Marine Science would like to start posting about our members’ exciting news and accomplishments to highlight the excellent work being done by women marine scientists.

Is your first (or fiftieth) paper coming out? Are you graduating, or did you get tenure? Did you just get back from a two week cruise? Did you write an article for a public outlet?

via GIPHY

We want to hear about it! Nothing is too small to celebrate.

Please fill out this form about your news, and then email us a picture at swms.general.contact@gmail.com to go along with it.We plan to write posts with a group of member updates, so look out for those in the future. We can’t wait to hear what you are all up to!


via GIPHY

PS: not a member yet? Fill out our membership form here, and then send the link to your friends.

New SWMS chapter makes a splash at University of Rhode Island

Introducing the new URI SWMS chapter!

Introducing the new URI SWMS chapter!

Inspiration Hits at SWMS Annual Symposium

University of Rhode Island (URI) PhD students, Alexa Sterling and Jillian Freese, felt empowered by the vast network of women they met at the 2015 and 2016 SWMS Symposia.

“I heard candid stories from women who broke boundaries in marine science about the sometimes circuitous paths they took from graduate school to their current position,” says Freese, co-president of SWMS at URI. While women in marine science are more abundant than ever at the student and trainee level, lead scientist and professor roles are still overwhelmingly male-dominated.

“I wanted to help build the sort of supportive community I saw at the SWMS symposium here at URI,” says Freese. It didn’t take long for Sterling and Freese to mobilize an ambitious group of women in marine science in their own community.

At the first SWMS meeting held last December at URI, more than 20 women (including graduate students, undergraduates, faculty and staff) shared their ideas and enthusiasm for the future of SWMS. “We are really excited for the momentum the group has picked up so quickly,” says Sterling, co-president of SWMS at URI.

As of today, the group has already established several committees focused on what members are most passionate about: mentoring, outreach, professional development, and science communication.

Not wasting any time, SWMS planned several professional development workshops and outreach events at URI. This month, SWMS will host a panel of five women across government, academia, and science communication career paths to discuss their experience and insights. The outreach committee has designed hands-on activities for the local SMILE (Science and Math Investigative Learning Experiences) Forth Grade Ecology Field Day in April. In hopes to foster an interest in marine science, SWMS will lead activities including bird stomach dissections and plankton identification.

Unique Opportunity for Undergraduate Engagement

In March, SWMS kicked off its undergraduate-graduate mentoring program to foster supportive relationships among members. “I am so grateful for the graduate students who helped me when I was younger – this is our way of paying it forward,” says Sterling.

Both graduate students and undergraduates are looking forward to the social events and professional development opportunities promoted by the mentoring relationship. “At URI, we have the opportunity to actively include undergraduates in this organization,” says Freese. “We hope these mentoring relationships will encourage undergraduates to stay in science.”

Karla Haiat, an undergraduate double majoring in Marine Biology and Ocean Engineering, was thrilled to hear that SWMS was forming at URI. “SWMS has provided an open and safe environment where learning, networking and support between members is encouraged,” says Haiat. “As an undergraduate, there is nothing more valuable than having the support and friendship of more experienced scientists and peers that can understand the challenges of this field.”

URI Faculty Show Support for Women in STEM

Sterling and Freese acknowledge that URI faculty members, Dr. Bethany Jenkins, Dr. Jacqueline Webb, and Dr. David Smith, have played an integral role in the formation of SWMS at URI.

Through her work with RI Girl Scouts, Dr. Jenkins, Professor of Cell and Molecular Biology and Oceanography, has provided a unique platform for SWMS at URI to get involved in more outreach and communication with the broader community. Dr. Jenkins was one of three female URI professors to receive Antarctic cruise funding this season, and is regularly involved in outreach programs engaging young girls in science.

Dr. Webb, Marine Biology Program Coordinator and the George and Barbara Young Chair in Biology, is a mentor for numerous undergraduates in the Marine Biology program at URI. Naturally, Dr. Webb became an advocate for women to stay in scientific fields and she recently led a workshop for SWMS members on creating professional CV’s.

Associate Dean of the Graduate School of Oceanography (GSO) at URI, Dr. David Smith, has not only helped jump start SWMS at URI, but has spoken on panels at the annual SWMS Symposia. Dr. Smith recently spoke to the chapter about the process of applying to graduate school. As a representative of the GSO, Dr. Smith has been key in motivating connectivity between the URI campus and GSO campus.

Faculty and student involvement in SWMS has fostered meaningful connections not only between URI’s main campus and Graduate School of Oceanography at the Narragansett Bay campus, but also throughout the wider community. “With a large group of marine science researchers, I felt that SWMS would allow us to focus on professional development and increase our opportunities for collaboration and public outreach,” says Freese.

Anyone involved in or interested in marine science is welcome to join SWMS – man or woman. Stay tuned for more exciting events coming up this semester at URI and profiles of our members in the near future.

Melissa Hoffman, Master’s Student in Biology & Environmental Science