April 7, 2011 – Day Two of the ICWIP

Today was the second full day of the ICWIP.  It was a full day starting with a terrific plenary session by Tebello Nyokong on the “Use of Lasers and Phthalocyanines in Cancer Therapy.”  Even though Dr. Nyokong is a chemical engineer, she uses lasers and a dye (phthalocyanines) to destroy cancer cells via photodynamic therapy.  We saw amazing photos showing how skin cancer was healed with this type of therapy.

The rest of the morning was spent wandering through scientific posters from the participants.  There was a wonderful range of topics in physics being presented from the participants.

We went on excursions during the afternoon.  I chose the Stellenbosch wine tour – and tried some excellent wines at the Delheim winery and also some sparkling wines at the House of J.C. LeRoux.  Our afternoon adventure ended with a visit to the cheetah sanctuary.  One of the participants actually went with one of the docents into the pen and petted a cheetah – how cool was that!  It was a great way to cap the Stellenbosch experience.

The evening started with an announcement from Dame Bell-Burnell that the international community is trying to get 2014 declared the year of light.  This has already been endorsed by the APS and the European Physical Society.  We need to ask all the IUPAP liaisons to vote for this during their October meeting.  After the announcement, the South African delegation told us about the song that they sang during the opening reception.  The words are:

Igama lama khosikazi

Malibongwe (repeat twice)

Which translates to “praise be to the women.”  This song is a traditional South African song and was sung during the ending of apartheid.  It is very fitting for our meeting and we will be singing this during the closing banquet.

Rachel Ivie (AIP, Statistical Research Center) gave a plenary on the international survey that was completed in the fall.  The survey focused on education, career issues, and work-life issues and was given to both men and women.  The purpose of this survey (the third done by IUPAP and the working group) was to insure comparability across countries with one report at the end, to show whether women physicists’ experiences are different from men, and to provide a survey in languages other than English.  The work is continuing on analyzing the data from this survey (including translating open ended questions into English).  However, the survey found a number of interesting things.  Women are less likely to do a number of important professional activities (serve on proposal review panels, etc) except for advising undergraduate students.  Women are less likely to have access to resources and are not as comfortable asking their boss for more resources.  (Other studies have shown that women that ask for more resources are perceived to be acting inappropriately!)  Women in highly developed countries are more likely to be married to other physicists (approx. 40% are) and men are less likely.  More women than men have felt discouraged about physics.  But, for both men and women, 89% would chose physics again.  More women do housework than men, are responsible for child care, and earn less than men.  Not surprising!  The final report is forthcoming.

The day ended with workshops.  The one I attended was useful in thinking about resolutions that would spin out of this conference.  What capital don’t women have (social, cultural, symbolic, and economic) and what could be done to increase capital in these areas?

I can’t wait until tomorrow to learn more from other participants!


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Day 1 of ICWIP – April 6, 2011

The first full day of the International Conference on Women in Physics (ICWIP) just finished.  The opening plenary Yan Lai Yan was “How Physics is Involved in Ancient Chinese Chime-Bells.” Dr. Yan mentioned going to the 1992 AAPT Winter Meeting in Florida and how she met Tom Rossing, then president of AAPT.  Tom ended up buying one of the ancient Chinese chime bells and doing holography on the modes of the bell.   The ancient Chinese bells are almond shaped as apposed to the round shape of Western bells (like in Big Ben).  This gives the bells two tones depending on where the bell is struck – one is a minor or major third of the other.  The almond shape also makes the sound decay faster.  Finally, the ancient Chinese bells have nubs “mei” on them which gives a purer tone (no high frequency partials).  Big bells have nubs, small bells don’t.  Thus, the ancient Chinese bells can be used to play faster and more complex music than Western bells.  It was a fascinating talk!  We also heard from all the countries on their progress of increasing the number of women in physics.  Dame Jocelyn Bell-Burnell also gave one of the plenaries.

The afternoon ended with workshops – and I was honored to be one of the speakers on “Transitioning into Leadership” along with Dame Bell-Burnell, Dr. Susan Seestrom (USA), and Dr. Ching-Ray Chang (China-Taipei).

Tips from the leadership workshop:


  1. Understand your strengths (and weaknesses)
  2. Always do quality work (but not always “the best”)
  3. Get a powerful person as a mentor (and you may want to consider more than one mentor)
  4. Get onto powerful committees (where money and future directions are considered such as proposal review panels)
  5. Broaden your experiences, get known


  1. Be careful about the timing of your transition to leadership – make sure you have established your research (so that people know and respect you) before you make the leap into leadership.  That way, if you decide you want to go back, you have the credentials and background to do so.
  2. Go with the part of your career that feels natural – serve on committees in professional societies that fit your direction.
  3. Retain a certain amount of time for your research
  4. Observe the culture of your organization especially when starting in a leadership position
  5. At higher levels, you can set the expectations and change the culture (and can serve as a role model)


  1. Physics prepares you to solve problems
  2. Keep professional successes going
  3. Be a good mentor and get a good mentor
  4. Collaboration is important
  5. Make good friends when you are young and keep those friends – you may need them in the future
  6. Have a vision and be able to persuade people about your vision.
  7. Your partner is important – they need to support you.
  8. You need some luck, too.


  1. Understand the difference between leadership and management (you’ll need to do both)
  2. Lead from the side, not from front
  3. Leadership is hard work – be prepared to work long hours
  4. Lead for something you are passionate about and lead with passion
  5. Seek several mentors
  6. Use your energy and your time wisely – take care of yourself and spend time with those you love
  7. Know when to pass the torch onto the next generation
  8. Don’t be afraid to let people know what is important to you
  9. Read articles about leadership – they help you think about your own situation

Also, Be true to yourself!

The future is bright with all the future leaders we interacted with during our session.

We also had group meeting of the countries from the Americas to discuss how we can network and share our ideas about increasing the number of women in physics.

Ideas for professional physics societies:

  1. create a wiki to share ideas (Ted Hodapp at APS can set this up)
  2. Use the network of chairs of women in physics committees in the Americas as a network
  3. Have web meetings to provide face-to-face meetings.
  4. Obtain the email list of Americas delegations so that we can remain connected.

The day ended with a meeting of the presidents (and other top leaders) of physics societies across the globe with the IUPAP working group to discuss what we as physics societies can do.  (Several of the society presidents mentioned that they published in the American Journal of Physics!)  The best thing about today was the sharing of ideas – what has been successful in other countries.

  1. Contact country liaisons to ask them to pass resolutions
  2. Offer regional conferences for women in physics (more frequently than the international conference which occurs once every three years)
  3. The working group should provide a list of participants from the ICWIP to continue the network
  4. Create partnerships to share newsletters, etc, and exchange ideas (e.g. South Africa is using the newsletter written by the National Society of Black Physicists)
  5. Make role models more visible and make more of them!

The next few days should be equally as informative.

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Opening Reception of the 4th International Conference on Women in Physics

This was my first full day in South Africa.  Several of the US delegates, a delegate from the Netherlands, and I headed into Cape Town for part of the day.  We started at the Victorian and Alfred waterfront and ended up walking to the Company’s Garden.  We went into St. George’s cathedral (where Desmond Tutu preached and the location of clashes with police and anti apartheid protesters in the 1980’s) and also Parliament.  It was a good way to try to overcome some jet lag.

In the early evening the 4th International Conference on Women in Physics officially opened followed by a reception.  We were addressed by the Minister of Science and Technology, Ms. Naledi Pandor.  She talked about the efforts that South Africa is taking to encourage women and blacks to become scientists.  She is very proud of her daughter who is a Ph.D. candidate in genetics so she understands the joys and struggles of becoming a scientists through the experiences of her daughter.  At the end, the South African delegates sang their national anthem – very touching.  I saw Marina Milner-Bolotin (one of AAPT’s Board members and a delegate from Canada) tonight.  And, I met many, many other women physicists from across the globe.  I have some beautiful pictures of Cape Town and of the delegates.  But, I am not able to upload pictures because the bandwidth is not good at the hotel – I may try tomorrow.  The plenary sessions, workshops, and posters start tomorrow.  It should be interesting to learn about other countries efforts to increase participation of women in physics.  Good night!

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Arrival in South Africa!

I am now in South Africa!  We had a 6 hour flight between Dulles and Amsterdam and a 12 hour flight from Amsterdam to Cape Town.  Ted Hodapp (APS), Rachel Ivie (AIP), and I were on the flight between Dulles and Amsterdam.  We picked up a number of other delegates – both US (Herman White, Elizabeth Simmons, Elizabeth Freeland, Rhiannon Meharchand, and Jarita Holbrook) and other countries (the Netherlands, Norway, and Italy) – in Amsterdam.  The conference hotel is overbooked so some of us are staying in the Lord Charles hotel which is about 12 km from the conference hotel.  The conference organizers will try to straighten this out tomorrow but it looks like we’re in the Lord Charles for two nights.  I didn’t see much between the airport and the hotel because it is night (and almost midnight).  I am looking forward to seeing more of the Cape Town area tomorrow and to the opening of the conference tomorrow evening.  Perhaps I’ll have a couple of pictures to post by tomorrow.  Time for some sleep!

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4th International Conference on Women in Physics

April 4th – In Amsterdam waiting to get on the plane to Cape Town, South Africa.  Ted Hodapp, Lynn (his wife), and Rachel Ivie were on the plane from Dulles to Amsterdam.  I know that there are two others from the US delegation that are on the flight between Amsterdam and Cape Town.  I’ll write a quick post once I get to South Africa!

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India Higher Education Administrators Seminar, March 29, 2009

Integrating back into life in Bloomington, IL, has been interesting. The plane ride back to the US was long but I was able to sleep a few hours and watched many movies. Jeanne was on the same flight and waited with me in Chicago until Dave arrived at O’Hare. After a two hour ride home and my first latte in two weeks, I unloaded my luggage and showed Dave all of the gifts. He immediately placed his carved Saraswati on the fireplace mantle along with the three carved elephants that I purchased. The dog hovered around me and leaned up against me several times to get some pets. What an easy life Chase has compared to many people in India! I enjoyed the refreshing shower and brushing my teeth with running water!

We went to Biaggi’s for a nice pasta lunch and a fresh salad. We are so fortunate in the US to have confidence in the food we eat at restaurants and also from the grocery. I was initially horrified to listen to the server describe a “delicious” steak salad after being in a country in which eating beef is taboo. That was my first encounter with problems in re-entry. I enjoyed being in a country that vegetarians are the norm. I spent the afternoon and evening resting and showing Dave all my pictures of the trip.

After a wonderful night of sleep we woke up to over an inch of snow. Another re-entry shock! I miss the warmth and colorful flowers of India. I’m glad to be home but also sad to have the experience end. Tomorrow will bring another re-entry shock with my first day back to work.

This is my last entry for my India trip. Everyone should experience India. It is truly an incredible place.

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India Higher Education Administrators Seminar, March 27, 2009

Today we met at the Fulbright House for a debriefing and our last interaction with Adam Grosky, Executive Director USIEF, and Sudha Rao, our program coordinator. We gave useful feedback to Adam and Sudha and then had a tour of the USIEF facilities including the library of resources for Indian students who are interested in attending US institutions of higher education. I found IWU on the map of Midwest four year colleges and universities (see photo)! Admissions may be interested in becoming a USIEF member to disseminate information about our institution to potential Indian students.

Beth, Adam Grosky, and Sudha Rao at the Fulbright House

Beth, Adam Grosky, and Sudha Rao at the Fulbright House

Beth pointing to IWU on the map of four year colleges in the Midwest at the Fulbright House

Beth pointing to IWU on the map of four year colleges in the Midwest at the Fulbright House

After our morning at the Fulbright House, most of us went to the Central Cottage Industries shop and bought some last minute gifts. We spent only one hour at this shop but could have spent much more time! We then went to the Imperial Hotel for tea. Jeanne and I decided to skip tea (after seeing the beautiful restaurant at the Imperial) and make our way to the State Emporium shops. We asked for directions and ended up diverted to another shop. Although we were disappointed that we didn’t get to the State Emporium shops, we did buy some gifts at the shop we were diverted to. We then headed to Mittal’s tea shop via auto rickshaw (see photo of me in the auto rickshaw). It was a great ride through New Delhi! The tea shop was fabulous! Too bad we don’t have anything like this tea shop in Bloomington.

Beth in auto rickshaw traveling to Mittal Tea House in Lodi Market, New Delhi

Beth in auto rickshaw traveling to Mittal Tea House in Lodi Market, New Delhi

We freshened up at the hotel, checked out, and met up with Jeanne’s colleague Mark who is spending part of this academic year in Delhi. Funke joined us and we went to Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi for a bicycle rickshaw ride. This is truly the real Delhi where Indians go shopping, etc. We went past the silk market and saw many colorful saris. We went past the silver market with lots of jewelry shops. We wanted to go past the spice market but the police had closed the road to traffic. We also went past the area that cooking vessels are made. The sights, sounds, and smells were incredible! It seemed like we were the only Westerners in Old Delhi. We went down many narrow lanes that our bicycle rickshaw could barely get through. It was interesting to see all the electrical wires in jumbles. Jeanne stopped at a sweet shop to buy some candy to bring back to her colleagues. One popular candy is made of cashews ground very finely and resembles something like half way between fudge and brittle. The top is often decorated with silver foil. It is quite yummy! Then we went back to the hotel for a quick bite to eat before going to the airport.

Narrow street in Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi

Narrow street in Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi

Beth, Funke, and bicycle rickshaw driver in Old Delhi

Beth, Funke, and bicycle rickshaw driver in Old Delhi

Street in Old Delhi

Street in Old Delhi

Jumble of wires in Old Delhi

Jumble of wires in Old Delhi

This was an incredible trip. I would recommend India to anyone who wants to experience a vibrant, colorful, historic, complex developing nation. The people are very friendly and very curious about Americans. India has a wide diversity of climate, language, customs, history, and food that makes it a fascinating place to visit. I felt that I just barely scratched the surface in understanding India, its people, and higher education. I want to visit India again and see some of the same places and many different places.

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