CSWM Communicator - Spring 2015


  • Letter from the Committee on the Status of Women in Microbiology (CSWM) Chair, Hazel Barton
  • Committee on the Status of Women in Microbiology asm2015 Events
  • Nancy Hopkins, Ph.D., 2015 EMD Millipore, Alice C. Evans Award Laureate
  • Special Interest Symposium: Seeking Solutions: Beyond Biases and Barriers for Underrepresented Minority (URM) Women in Microbiology
  • ASM Career Development Grants for Postdoctoral Women
  • Keeping WISE: A female undergraduate perspective on recruiting and retaining women in science and engineering
  • Sex Inclusion Drives Discovery at 2015 Annual OSSD Meeting

Letter from the Committee on the Status of Women in Microbiology (CSWM) Chair, Hazel Barton
Welcome to New Orleans and welcome to the Committee on the Status of Women in Microbiology (CSWM).  If you’re not familiar with us, we’re an ASM committee (within the Public and Scientific Affairs Board) tasked with identifying, understanding and addressing some of the factors that influence the role and success of women as professional microbiologists.

I’m in my second year as chair of the CSWM and finally feel as though I’m making some progress, although I still feel like I’m taking baby steps.  Much of the success I’ve had has been through the positive interactions and feedback I receive from other members of the committee, as well as leveraging the extensive network I’ve developed at ASM over the years (see photo). My interactions with other ASM members have not only greatly influenced my successes with CSWM, but have also helped me build scientific collaborations and develop my resume.  I was very fortunate when the past chair of the CSWM, Dr. Lorraine Findlay, invited me to join the committee. 

Reflecting on the successes that I and other members of the committee have had through our interactions with ASM, we decided to work toward helping other ASM members achieve similar success.  To do this we’ve organized a special open session forum title Getting involved in ASMThis session, which is open to all ASM members, includes a number of distinguished ASM members from various committees and boards, including Cynthia Nau Cornelissen (Committee on Graduate and Post-doctoral Education), Marie Pezzlo (Clinical Microbiology Mentoring Committee), Janet Hindler (Professional Practices Committee), Mary Sánchez Lanier (Education Board), Wade Bell (Student Mentorship), Niel Baker (Education Board), Jim Poupard (ASM Archives), and Sue Bagley (Speaker’s Bureau).  Attend this session and learn how to become more engaged with ASM!

As I write about becoming involved in CSWM, it is almost 10 years ago that Lorraine organized a special session at the GM to highlight the contributions of female scientists to microbiology in extreme environments.  In recognition of the impact that special session had on the CSWM and to thank Dr. Findlay for all her work for the CSWM, we’re having another special session of "extreme microbiology," however, this year, we’re expanding that ‘extreme’ definition to include environments such as BSL4 laboratories!  You can find details of our session and other topical events relevant to the CSWM below.  It should be a really fun session highlighting the research of some really talented scientists and I encourage you to attend. 

We’re always looking for volunteers.  If you’re interested in working on our newsletter, developing our network, coordinating volunteers, or staffing our booth, I need you.  Come to our session, come to our open meeting, visit the booth, fill in a form and let me know you’re willing to help.  Together we can continue to do great things.

Have fun in New Orleans and I look forward to seeing you at one of our sessions.

Committee on the Status of Women in Microbiology asm2015 Events

CSWM Open Forum Meeting
Monday, June 1, 3:00 PM
New Orleans Marriott, Galerie 4
The Open Forum will allow attendees of the meeting to network, discuss career issues for women in microbiology and find out about the CSWM and how to become more involved in ASM activities.

CSWM Reception
Monday, June 1, 4:30 PM
New Orleans Marriott, Galerie 5
The EMD Millipore Alice C. Evans Award winner and the recipients of the Career Development Grants for Postdoctoral Women will be acknowledged.

CSWM Special Interest Symposium
Contributions to “Extreme” Microbiology by Female Scientists
Sunday, May 31, 2015, 4:45 PM - 6:30 PM
Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, Meeting Room 355
Description: Previously, the past chair of the Committee on the Status of Women in Microbiology highlighted the important contributions by women microbiologists to the field of microbiology in a session entitled “Microbial Exotica and the Women Who Nurture Them”. In honor of Dr. Findlay’s contributions to the CSWM, our committee is repeating this theme. The women presenting in this session will expand the environments that are considered extreme; bacterial metabolism under a variety of geochemical conditions to ancient microbial life. The concept of “extreme” microbiology will be further developed by considering working under extreme conditions, such as a BSL-4 laboratory. Overall, this session will explore what it means to participate in extreme microbiology and demonstrate that the women who participate in this area of research are truly passionate about their subject, an aspect that Dr. Findlay conveyed with her previous “Microbial Exotica and the Women Who Nurture Them” session.


Graciela Brelles-Mariño; Univ. Nacional de La Plata, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Anne-Marie B. Blancquaert; Inst. Dow Corning Corp., Carrollton, KY


Bacteria that Make Rocks and How They Do It: Understanding the Physiology of Bacterial Mn Oxidation?
Kati Geszvain; Oregon Hlth. & Sci. Univ., Portland, OR

Emerging BSL4 Pathogens: Research in the Lab and in the Field
Emmie de Wit; NIH, Bethesda, MD

Bonneville Salt Flats - Life in the Fast Lane
Betsy Kleba; Westminster Coll., Salt Lake City, UT

Ancient bacteria: Pre-Cambrian Fossils and the Earliest Life on Earth
Abigail Allwood; NASA Jet Propulsion Lab., Pasadena, CA

Antarctic Microorganisms
Alison E. Murray; Desert Res. Inst., Reno, NV

Nancy Hopkins, Ph.D., 2015 EMD Millipore, Alice C. Evans Award Laureate
The winner of the 2015 EMD Millipore Alice C. Evans Award is Nancy Hopkins, Ph.D. The Alice C. Evans award seeks to honor scientists that not only participate in the advancement and development of women in microbiology but who also serve as role models to aspiring female scientists everywhere. This award was established by the ASM's Committee on the Status of Women in the Microbial Sciences and is given in memory of Alice C. Evans, the first woman to be elected ASM President in 1928.

Dr. Hopkins graduated from Radcliffe College in 1964 with a bachelor’s degree in Biology. She earned her Ph.D. in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry from Harvard University. Her thesis was on the control of early gene expression in the bacterial virus lambda. She stayed at Harvard for her Postdoctoral training for 2 years until beginning as an assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the Center for Cancer Research, within the Biology Department. She has been at MIT since then and was elected professor emerita January 2014.

Through the identification of unconscious gender bias, Dr. Hopkins launched a national debate on gender equality in the sciences while helping institutions to recognize and overcome such bias.  She has been honored 15 times for her work on gender issues, including the WTS – Boston Chapter’s first Diversity Leadership Award, the AACR-Women in Cancer Research Award, and the Gladstone Leadership Award for Promoting Diversity in Science and Medicine, among many others. Her work on viral replication and, in particular her work on RNA viruses, led to the development of a system for insertional mutation in zebrafish.  This work, which dramatically changed our understanding of genetic regulation in vertebrates, has been recognized by Dr. Hopkins’s election to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences.

According to Ben Barres, “it is difficult to think of anyone who deserves to be honored more for her contributions to help women in science than Professor Nancy Hopkins.”  In her 1999 report, “A Report on the Status of Women Faculty in Science at MIT,” she demonstrated systematic discrimination in terms of resource allocation. This ground-breaking achievement stands as a testament to Dr. Hopkins’ bravery, courage and continuous effort to uncover data for this study. One of the outcomes from this study has been the establishment of “The MIT-9” which included Presidents, high level administrators and female scientists from 9 major research universities. The group sought to acknowledge and develop sustainable solutions for the problems facing women in science. According to her nominators, she has faced public ridicule and discrimination for speaking out on this issue but has held steadfast to her beliefs and efforts to promote gender equality in the sciences.  Her efforts have resulted in numerous improvements to more equitable university policies that have helped so many women to achieve successful careers in science. It is these qualities that make Dr. Nancy Hopkins a worthy recipient of the EMD Millipore Alice C. Evans Award.

Special Interest Symposium: Seeking Solutions: Beyond Biases and Barriers for Underrepresented Minority (URM) Women in Microbiology
Sunday, May 31, 2015, 2:00 PM - 4:30 PM
Ernest N. Morial Convention Center , Meeting Room 255 (Learning Lab)
Description:  The Committee on Women in Science, Engineering and Medicine of the National Academies recently released a report entitled “Seeking Solutions: Maximizing American Talent by Advancing Women of Color in Academia.” This report included testimony from ASM that stated “participation of URM in productive careers as compared to white women and men was still dismal.” For example, only about ten URM women ever have been elected to the ASM Academy and no URM woman has ever been president. This session will address our current understanding of the pervasive effect that unrecognized cultural and institutional biases pose for URM women who face the double bind of being women and being minorities. While ASM clearly has provided significant helpful programming and supportive administrative structure to increasing numbers of URM men and women, it has not devoted as much attention to the full participation of URM women in career advancements within the microbiological and related health sciences. Many of the barriers that confront URM women are shared by all women; others are unique. The main objectives of this program are to increase understanding of the key transition points when female URM students, faculty and researchers leave microbiology; to disseminate information about programs that work in integrating and promoting the achievements of URM women; and to celebrate the successes that have been made in attracting, retaining and promoting URM minority women in microbiology including the importance of minority serving institutions, the support of coaches and mentors, equitable job searches, and flexible and fair workplace policies.


Joan W. Bennett; Rutgers Univ., New Brunswick, NJ
Marian Johnson-Thompson; Univ. of the District of Columbia (Emerita), Washington, DC


Seeking Solutions: Summary of a National Academies of Sciences Workshop on Women of Color in Academia
Lydia Villa-Komaroff; Cytonome/ST, LLC, Boston, MA

The Underrepresented Minority Woman's Road to Success: Pit Stops and Pitfalls
Crystal N. Johnson; Louisiana State Univ., Baton Rouge, LA

Just Because You are a Pawn, You Don't Have to Lose the Game
Rita R. Colwell; Univ. of Maryland, Coll. Park, College Park, MD

Convener Gender and Speaker Gender Ratio at ASM Meetings
Arturo Casadevall; Johns Hopkins Bloomberg Sch. of Publ. Health, Baltimore, MD

Maximizing Career Transitions
Maureen S. Wright; USDA-ARS-SRRC, New Orleans, LA

ASM Career Development Grants for Postdoctoral Women
The Career Development Grants for Postdoctoral Women (CDGPW) program, administered by the ASM Membership Board, awards up to four $1500 grants per year to postdoctoral women with outstanding scientific accomplishments and potential for significant research in the area of microbiology.  The grants support the career development of the candidates by providing funds to travel to a meeting, visit a laboratory, take a course, or for other purposes to advance the candidates’ careers. 

2015 CDGPW Awardees
The ASM Membership Board is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2015 Career Development Grants for Postdoctoral Women: 

  • Ye Jin Eun, Harvard University (Ethan C. Garner’s Laboratory)
  • Jennifer R. Honda, National Jewish Health, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus (Edward D. Chan’s Laboratory)
  • Athenia LeQuan Oldham, University of Oklahoma (Kathleen E. Duncan’s Laboratory)
  • Daria Natalie Van Tyne, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Harvard Medical School (Michael S. Gilmore’s Laboratory)

Call for Nominations
The CDGPW Committee will begin accepting applications for the 2016 grant program on July 1, 2015.  Please check the ASM website for complete program policies and nomination procedures:  http://www.asm.org/grants-for-postdoc-women

Program Funding
The CDGPW Committee welcomes donations to support additional awards. For information on how to make donations to the CDGPW endowment, please visit:  http://www.asm.org/grants-for-postdoc-women/DONATE 

Keeping WISE: A female undergraduate perspective on recruiting and retaining women in science and engineering
Amy J. Reese, Ph.D. and Audrey J. Ettinger, Ph.D.

Cedar Crest College is a women’s liberal arts college in Allentown, PA that is “dedicated to the education of the next generation of leaders.  Cedar Crest College educates the whole student, preparing women for life in a global community.”  As part of their senior year in the Department of Biology, our students are enrolled in a writing- and reading-intensive discussion-based capstone course called Science, Ethics, and Society.  In the first third of the course, the focus is on how science and scientists are perceived by society, how different constituents frame science, and how to frame their own science for the public.  In the middle section of the course, the focus is on women in science and the value of diversity in science.  The final section is devoted to scientific ethics and moral dilemmas faced by scientists.  This course aims to bring together biology students of various specialties, provide them with opportunities to consider broader issues surrounding science that may not have come up in their previous classes, and further their preparation for scientific work beyond their college years, including the distinct possibility that they will encounter sexism, particularly of the unconscious form.

The essay associated with the middle of the course is a research literature-based response to a speech made by Lawrence Summers in 2005 at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) Conference on “Diversifying the Science & Engineering Workforce” in Cambridge, MA.  At this meeting, he presented three hypotheses as to why there were not more women in science.  The following is an excerpt from his remarks:

“There are three broad hypotheses about the sources of the very substantial disparities that this conference's papers document and have been documented before with respect to the presence of women in high-end scientific professions. One is what I would call the-I'll explain each of these in a few moments and comment on how important I think they are-the first is what I call the high-powered job hypothesis. The second is what I would call different availability of aptitude at the high end, and the third is what I would call different socialization and patterns of discrimination in a search. And in my own view, their importance probably ranks in exactly the order that I just described.” [Lawrence H. Summers, “Remarks at NBER Conference on Diversifying the Science & Engineering Workforce” presented in Cambridge, MA on Jan 14, 2005, transcript from the Harvard University Office of the President]

After reading and discussing his presentation and various analyses of it, the students spend several weeks examining the scientific data that addresses how science and scientists have studied each of the questions at the bases of his hypotheses.  They are then charged with the task of constructing a 4-6 page paper response that includes sections that set the stage for his comments, addresses his three hypotheses and his ordering of them, supports or refutes each hypothesis in turn using published resources taught in class (or found independently) to support their points, and then concluding with their suggestions of how to recruit and retain women in science.  These conclusions could have been inspired by our various readings and/or could have resulted from what most resonated with them as they wrestled with the readings and discussions.

We thought it would be valuable to share what a slice of today’s college students feel is important to recruit and retain women in science and have collected the following top 20 quotes from the written conclusions of seven members of the Fall 2014 class, with minor copyediting:

Solutions offered to address the “high-powered” job hypothesis:

  1. “When looking at the hiring level, actively seek out talented female scientists to hire as an effective method of increasing numbers.”
  2. “Employers must make several changes; they should aim to make a more family friendly environment for their employees, and combat discrimination in hiring and promotion.  Measures to achieve this could include onsite daycare, as well as the ability to “make your own hours” or flexible hours, so that if on a given day an employee needed to come in late or leave early, he or she could do so.  This would relieve some of the stress of balancing work and family.  Employers should also provide adequate maternal as well as paternal leave; it is important that both parents are able to take leave, in order to foster a more balanced parenting schema, rather than placing the majority of the burden on child-reading on the mother.  On the discrimination side, employers should have diverse searches for candidates and diverse committees who select the candidate.  Diversity of committees and groups throughout the company will help with hiring as well as promotion.”
  3. “Incorporate means for working mothers to be able to compete in their field of interest.  Women have babies.  Make the working environment welcoming for females.  Ask them to be part of a team.”
  4. “In order to combat the “high-powered job” dilemma of family versus career, implementing “tenure-clock extension” for both males and females has been successful, and is a fair and simple way to attract more individuals with families to STEM fields.”
  5. “Ensure that promotions within a company are well defined and clearly stated.  If promoting within a company, choose candidate that are capable, not gender based.  Do not assume a woman will not want to expand her career because she has a family.  Make it so that parents of both sexes are able to balance home and work.”

Solutions offered to address the “different ability of aptitude” hypothesis:

  1. “The solution to the problem begins with identifying that we do have a problem.  The second is taking the actions we know already work and not letting people forget about unconscious bias.  The last thing is to let women know they can be anything they want to be and as long as they work hard they can accomplish anything they set their mind upon.”
  2. “When young girls are told that intelligence is malleable, not static, their abilities equal or exceed their male counterparts.”
  3. “In grade school, more emphasis should be put on mathematics and science as teachable skills for both genders, rather than presented as merely talent or gender-specific career choices.”
  4. “In order for females to improve in math and science, societies need to abandon the idea that knowledge of any subject is innate but rather it is perfected through challenging oneself with hard work.”
  5. When choosing articles for publishing, choose the article based on merit.  Solve this by choosing candidates blindly, that is, without knowing the name of the individual.  This will help reduce bias.

Solutions offered to address the “socialization and patterns of discrimination” hypothesis:

  1. “Providing scientific outreach activities with female role models may help get young girls interested in science.”
  2. “If girls have people (men as well as women) to mentor and believe in them, they will be more inclined to pursue careers in STEM fields. …  If girls see strong women in these fields they will be more likely to want to emulate those women.”
  3. “Women also need to work together to overcome the imposter syndrome, feeling inadequate and continuous self-doubt.”
  4. “Women need to focus on celebrating the success and improvements they have made instead of constantly highlighting faults and improvements they haven’t made.”
  5. “Women must advocate for themselves whenever possible, such as negotiating salaries, and seek out mentors who will support them and advocate for them for things such as promotion.  Don’t allow yourself to assume you can handle the cooking, cleaning or child care better than your husband; let him do it sometimes.  Combat the desire to be passive, and point out discrimination when you see it.”
  6. Get to know the women on your staff.  Don’t be afraid to ask their opinion.  If you are a woman, don’t be intimidated by being the only female.  Pioneers are important.  Also, do not be afraid to negotiate for a raise.  A boss may not be aware of all of your contributions.”
  7. “Adding women on boards or for discussions could greatly increase the productivity of the companies.”
  8. “Men must make an active effort to combat stereotypes and help work to change perceptions.  Participate in child care, and don’t hide the fact that it’s your night to vacuum and cook dinner.  Be a role model for young men and don’t endorse the idea that things such as cooking, cleaning, and child-rearing are woman’s work.”
  9. “Combating unconscious bias is important as well.  This could be done by requiring individuals conducting the interview and hiring process to take the Harvard Implicit Association Test to identify unconscious biases so efforts can be made to overcome such biases.”
  10. “There are other suggestions for what institutions and schools can do, such as taking charge when bias occurs.”

We hope that sharing the viewpoints and solutions of a slice of today’s college students has been valuable.  While Summers’ comments were in 2005, these perceptions and issues continue to ring true today in 2015.  These approaches can contribute to recruiting, supporting, retaining and promoting women and students of diversity in the sciences.

Sex Inclusion Drives Discovery at 2015 Annual OSSD Meeting
Written by Tamara Lewis Johnson, MPH, MBA
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Member of the ASM Committee on the Status of Women Microbiologists

The Organization of the Study of Sex Differences annual meeting was held in the Li Ka Shing Center of the Medical School at Stanford University from April 21st-23rd, 2015. The president of the OSSD stated that the rate at which scientists are advancing knowledge has never been greater and there is increasing recognition of the importance of sex differences in understanding human health and disease. The goal of the meeting was to spotlight the multi-disciplinary nature of the sex differences research community, to promote the cross fertilization of ideas among disciplines and to hone the best practices in sex and gender medicine within discipline.

Why is sex so important?  Sex represents one of the most evolutionarily well conserved differences in biology; yet it is one of the most underappreciated differences in biomedical research (Sex inclusion in basic research drives discovery: http://www.pnas.org/content/112/17/5257.full)

Researchers convened on Stanford’s campus to assess the state of the science of sex and gender differences research. A practical workshop was held on the first day to discuss how to design research studies to integrate sex differences into existing research. Researchers were advised to think carefully about study design and to consider placing equal numbers of males and females in their studies to be able to test for any statistically significant differences in their cell lines, animal studies and human studies. The importance of working with biostatisticians was emphasized to be able to adequately measure for sex differences. One researcher noted the menses cycle of female animals in studies should not be considered an unsurmountable barrier to conducting sound sex difference research. The highlight of the first day was the key note address given by David C. Page, a physician and a professor of biology at MIT and the director of the Whitehead Institute. His talk was entitled, “Sex and disease: Do males and females read their genomes differently?” Based on his studies of the sex chromosomes of animals and humans, he found that males and female do read their genomes differently and this difference in the interpretation of the interaction of the sex chromosomes on key proteins has an effect on sex differentiation. He also cautioned that many of the GWAS studies are focused exclusively on the Y chromosome leaving most of the GWAS studies silent on understanding the role of the X chromosome on the health and disease. He found that the XX and XY chromosome are not equivalent and should be considered separately when measuring the effect of sex chromosomes on health and disease.

The next two days included scientific presentations on a range of plenary sessions on Sex and Vaccines, Sex Differences in the brain networks, Sex effects in early adversity, sex effects on cardiovascular diseases, Sleep and Sex, Sex determination, intersex and transsexualism, epigenetic dynamics of sex dimorphisms and sex differences in sensory perception and neuro-cognitive aging.

 At the Sex and Vaccine session, the presenter stated that males and females have the same immune system but what is unique is the difference in immune response between males and females. Women tend to mount a greater immune response than men. With respect to influenza, a greater severity in immune response was found in people between the ages of 18-45 years old, among females, among women who are pregnant and those individuals with comorbidities.

While the brevity of this article does not permit a comprehensive description of the research findings from the various speakers, the overall gestalt of the meeting pushed the frontiers of how health is defined and demonstrated, in many cases, the intricate variation in the expression of sex differences in health and disease. These findings could have a powerful influence on the dose, the drug delivery route, and the formulation of a drug as well as the development of interventions designed to promote the health of males and females in mental health, cardiovascular health, cancer, perception and cognition, vaccine development and other related areas of health.

The final talk of the OSSD annual meeting was the Capstone Lecture given by Vera Regitz-Zagrosek, a physician researcher, who gave a talk on the gender aspects of cardiovascular medicine.  Regitz-Zagrosek found there are different forms of heart failure in men and women. Gender was an important component in how men and women experience heart failure. She also found that women’s hearts were smaller and stiffer. These factors are important in the use and interpretation of diagnostics procedures used to screen for heart failure.  She is the Founder and Director of the Institute of Gender Medicine at the Charite in Berlin, Germany.

As the NIH develops a policy on the inclusion of sex as a biological variable in studies it sponsors, there will be a need to adapt studies to include the reporting of sex differences in biomedical research. For more information on how sex and gender influence health and disease, go to: http://orwh.od.nih.gov/resources/sex-and-gender-infographic/images/SexGenderInfographic_11x17_508.pdf

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