12 March 2012

Women scientists at the MagLab


One of the Magnet Lab's goals is to increase the number of women scientists who work, learn and study at the lab. In honor of Women's History month, here's a look back at some of the recent stories that featured women scientists at the MagLab.

Building bridges and learning new science

Iraqi scholar Wasan Saleh.Iraqi scholar Wasan Saleh in physicist James Brooks' lab during the summer of 2011.Physics professor Wasan Saleh was the only woman in a group of 10 Iraqi Fulbright scholars who visited Florida State University in the summer of 2011. She came to the Magnet Lab eager to learn everything she could. Much of the lab's latest equipment and techniques were new experiences for her.

Before returning to the University of Baghdad where she teaches, Salah presented two papers. She was also featured in a story, "Scholar's visit full of Florida surprises, high-tech research," in the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper on Sept. 15, 2011. 

Finding a mentor makes a big difference

The MagLab's Jackie Jarvis mentored college student Alesha Shorts.The MagLab's Jackie Jarvis (right) mentored college student Alesha Shorts during the summer of 2011.Alesha Shorts, a 20-year-old college senior, spent her 2011 summer doing an internship at the lab. Shorts was from Gardner-Webb University, a small private Christian university in Boiling Springs, North Carolina, and she also grew up in a very small North Carolina town. Coming to Tallahassee and the Magnet Lab as part of the lab's Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) outreach program proved to be a big change.

Fortunately for Alesha, researcher Jackie Jarvis, a scientist in the MagLab'€™s Ion Cyclotron Resonance program, stepped up to act as her mentor. Like Alesha, Jarvis, is also from North Carolina and went to the same small university. She'€™d asked professors at Gardner-Webb to share information about the MagLab'€™s summer internship program in hopes of exposing some young scientists to the incredible research opportunities at the lab.

The mentoring pair of North Carolina scientists were featured in a story, "Lab partners: GWU student, alumnus bond during Florida internship," in The Star, a North Carolina newspaper, on July 13, 2011.

Journey to Tibet

Science is often an adventure for geochemist Yang Wang, who was part of a team that traveled to Tibet in search of prehistoric fossils. The team's discovery of the oldest known woolly rhino made science headlines around the world in the fall of 2011.

After returning to the MagLab, she played an integral role in analyzing fossilized teeth using a sophisticated mass spectrometer and other high-tech tools.

"We look at the chemistry of the teeth and bones to see what the animals ate and what kind of environment they lived in," says Wang, a professor in the Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science at Florida State University.

She was featured in two stories, both in the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper: "Travel to Tibet at next MagLab Science Cafe this Tuesday," on March 4, 2012, and "FSU professor shares woolly rhino story," on March 5, 2012.

You can read more about Wang, and how she and others at the MagLab painstakingly extract all sorts of information from ancient teeth, in the latest editon of flux.

Exploring superconductivity and semiconductors

Luisa Chiesa, an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Tufts University in Massachuetts, has been coming to the Magnet Lab since 2005 to explore semiconductors and superconductivity.

"Watching a superconducting-to-resistive transition of the samples we test is one of the most exciting and beautiful things to observe," she says.

Chiesa, who studies critical currents of superconducting niobium-tin samples, was featured in a "Look Who's at the Lab" story that captures some of her personal life and insights. 

Delving the beauty of graphene

Physicist Chun Ning "Jeanie" LauPhysicist Chun Ning "Jeanie" Lau (far left) and several of her students at the University of California, Riverside.Scientist Chun Ning "Jeanie" Lau, an associate professor of physics at the University of California at Riverside, has been traveling to the Magnet Lab to do research for four years. She's drawn here to work with high magnetic fields and the unique material graphene. Graphene, a material taken from graphite, is made of carbon atoms arranged in hexagons just one atom thick.

"Graphene ... is stronger than steel yet softer than silk," Lau says. "It's transparent like plastic but conducts heat and electricity better than copper. ... It's a Nobel-winning material but is produced by every school kid every day."

Lau was featured in a "Look Who's at the Lab" story in 2011. 

Women, math and science

Why do women abandon majors in math and science and switch to other career paths midway through college? The MagLab's Roxanne Hughes, an educational outreach coordinator who recently earned her doctorate in educational policy from FSU, decided to investigate that question in her dissertation. Her research focused on 26 female students at FSU.

She found that half of the women — all with Bright Futures scholarships, high SAT scores and headed into science, math, engineering or technology careers — chose to study other fields halfway through college.

Hughes' research was honored earlier this year by Phi Delta Kappa International, a professional association for educators.