Saturday, June 26, 2010

Building Self Confidence I - Experiences at CRA-W Grad Cohort 2010

As Gail wrote in her post last month, she, Svetlana and I were fortunate to be able to attend the 2010 CRA-W Grad Cohort held in Seattle. Read her post for a great summary of the sessions that were available to us, ranging from find a research topic to just being a woman in technology.

While I found these sessions excellent, my epiphany was a feeling of greater belonging and confidence in being a woman in the science and technology community. It helped me experience first hand how critical support organizations such as WISE can be.

To tell you the absolute truth, even as a member of CU-WISE, I had been a little skeptical of the need for women-only organizations within science and engineering. Coming from an Engineering background, at some point, I had let myself become used to the fact that there were just few other women in the area.

So imagine what it was like for me to walk into a room full of 200-300 women, who not only shared similar academic and career aspirations but also had to operate as a minority in their respective worlds? For the first time in a long time in my life, gender was the great leveler instead of the great divider, and that really made all the difference! It was a refreshing and exhilarating feeling and the instant camaraderie that I felt with those women in that instant is indescribable.

The next three days were, at their core, a reaffirmation and celebration (there's a reason why they call Grace Hopper a Celebration of Women in Computing) of WISE women, what they have and can achieve. It was a unique confidence building experience because it reminded me that
i) I don't need to fit in - I have much to offer just as I am
ii) We can be each other's best supporters, being there when someone needs that extra confidence booster

This event drove home for me the difference that having female mentors, peers, role models and supporters makes for those in the science and engineering field. It has shown me that, although the female-minority situation that I work and study in is not normal, groups such as CU-WISE can provide the sense of empowerment, belonging and support that can help me achieve better equilibrium.

I came away from the conference having a better appreciation for the gaps that organizations such as CU-WISE fill in their local university communities and hope to do my part to support my fellow WISE women.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

How I landed in Earth Sciences

This guest post was written by CU-WISE Advertising Officer Judy Lam.

How I landed in earth sciences... and developed the inability to see outcrops along roads without wondering about what kind of rock it is, its composition, and its geologic history.

I love geology (synonymous with earth sciences), but I didn't know that until first year university. My high school didn't offer the Earth & Space Sciences, so I only took Biology, Chemistry and Physics. After taking them in grade 11, I didn't want to work on living things or how things move but I liked what things are made of... so I applied to Chemistry when it was time to apply for university. At first I didn't seriously consider going to Carleton so I just applied to whatever sounded interesting, like Environmental Science with a concentration in Chemistry. I ended up switching that to Chemistry and Earth Sciences at the deadline, thinking that the latter was similar to Environmental Science... Not quite!

Hey, it worked out! I ended up choosing Carleton because I figured that I might get bored doing pure Chemistry, and it also helps that I was awarded an Earth Sciences scholarship in addition to my entrance one... Getting paid to go to school definitely helped.

Heading into first year, I took some Earth Sciences courses and realized I love it! Minerals, rocks, and all that jazz lured me into the field. I went to field camp shortly before second year, and met pretty much everyone in my year who I'd eventually share core Earth Sciences classes with. It was a great experience - nothing beats field work!

Then came second year, and after a week, I realized that I dreaded thinking about taking some of my chemistry classes in third year... After mulling it over for a bit, I figured that I'd just switch to pure Earth Sciences because anyone who asks me what I want to do with my degree, I reply, "I want to be a geologist." (Not a chemist...) Naturally, I made the switch. I haven't regretted it - in fact, switching required me to take the second field course, which was another amazing experience. (It was so different from the first one, and of course, tons more work to do!)

It just goes to show that sometimes you just have to take a chance because you never know how well it might work out!

Monday, June 14, 2010

E-Waste Recycling

This guest post by Jesse Herman of Repair Launch is all about how to recycle your electronics responsibly, and why you should care.

The overall issue of recycling has placed a high importance on plastics. This is important because of the volume and ultimate long term problem it poses. What has been overlooked is electronics recycling. It is estimated that only 3% of electronics are disposed of correctly. While these devices don't occupy much of the physical space occupied in landfills, they account for over 70% of the toxins.

This all is staggering but even more troubling is our methods of disposing, which is often to ship the materials to countries like India, where cost goes down and profits go up, due to regulation standards, which are very poor.

Keeping all of that in perspective, the stage is set for a movement, provided that measures are taken to preven the exporting of electronic waste to under regulated countries. 13 new e-waste recycling centers have been opened in the United States recently and there are a number of services (in larger populated areas) that may offer pick-ups or nearby dropoffs. It is important to do your research first. Some of these 'services' are a disguise for improper disposal, with companies like Target being accused of not knowing where their 'recycling drive' ewaste is going.

It is important that the public grows a conscience in order to properly dispose of these materials on an individual and corporate level. Here is a good place to start for recycling.

Digging further it can be said that consumers are fully aware of the parameters that have been set. A reaction to job losses and pay cuts people have reduced their spending on new items. Compounded with that is an overall eco-minded general public, who has spent a ton of money the latest gadgets over the past 20 years, along with a quickly growing DIY repair resources base to compliment services and it's easy to see that there is a real market on all levels.

The more popular the device, the more information you can find for repairs. On the cell phone end of thing iPhone repair is a well documented issue. If the information war is any indication, Apple is doing very well.Blackberry's are firmly established online as well, along with a bunch of other models. Repair services at every level are rapidly growing though, right along with a proactive role from users to preserve their purchases and as a result, value there electronics.

DIY Information is searchable for many products and repair services are forming to generate profitable options for those looking for local repairs or those wanting a local business to walk into.