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In his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation,” psychologist Abraham Maslow placed the need for love and belonging above essential physiological and safety requirements in his hierarchy of needs. Anthropology makes a more basic argument: for our prehistoric ancestors, belonging meant survival; humans evolved into social creatures who are wired to coexist in groups. One such group is the American Astronomical Society, which provides a professional affiliation, vast interpersonal connections, shared values, and a sense of common purpose. For anyone studying or working in the astronomical sciences, membership in the AAS is a lifeline.
Not long ago I had a conversation with a young astronomer who had only recently joined the Society. He shared that while he was in graduate school he wasn’t encouraged to belong to the AAS. His advisor thought that our meetings weren’t conducive to presenting student research, that students would get lost in such big gatherings. He said that in retrospect he wished he had joined the Society and begun attending AAS meetings much sooner, to take advantage of the career workshops and networking opportunities. He also would have been able to compete for a Chambliss Astronomy Achievement Student Award and to present a dissertation talk.
We are now entering our annual membership renewal period. Reminders to renew will soon be emailed and/or snail-mailed to all current members. I hope you’ll respond by rushing online to members.aas.org and renewing electronically. This saves us time and money, because we won’t have to follow up with more reminders.
But perhaps you’ll reflect on the past year, wonder whether you got your money’s worth out of the Society, and set aside your renewal notice, knowing that you have until the end of the year to decide what to do. If so, think of Maslow and what it means to belong to a professional association. The AAS offers much more than the esprit de corps that comes from being part of a group with common interests and expertise. The Society publishes the leading journals in our field, advocates for our community’s policy interests in the nation’s capital, and unites thousands of astrophysicists, planetary scientists, and other researchers in pursuing our mission to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the universe.
If such “big picture” reasons aren’t enough to convince you to renew, I invite you to review the many specific benefits of membership listed on our website at http://aas.org/individual-membership/benefits-membership. In addition to those, we’re introducing two new ones. First, most members will now have the option to renew for two years at once, saving you money by locking you into the 2014 rate for 2015 too. This applies not only to your basic AAS membership but also to your division memberships and your electronic journal subscriptions.
Second, if you renew before 31 December 2013, you’ll receive a coupon for a 15% discount off your share of author charges for one scholarly article accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal or the Astronomical Journal during calendar year 2014. Better yet, if you take advantage of the option to renew for two years at once, you’ll get two author-discount coupons: one for 2014 and another for 2015!
The staff of the AAS Executive Office is intensely dedicated to serving you. Through our meetings, publications, policy advocacy, career services, and other products and services, our objective is to help you succeed in your research, teaching, and other endeavors. We welcome your ideas, suggestions, and comments. Thanks in advance for renewing, and thank you for your commitment to the Society.
Balloting for the next election of AAS officers and councilors will open in mid-December 2013 and close at the end of January 2014. All AAS members eligible to vote in the election will be notified once the ballot is available. Every vote is important, and those elected will be empowered to decide the direction and goals of our Society.
Candidates for the Nominating Committee were proposed by the membership at our annual business meeting in Indianapolis in June:
Nominating Committee (term: 3 years, positions open: 1)
Rica Sirbaugh French
Nicole van der Bliek
The Nominating Committee prepares slates of candidates for officers and councilors and helps prepare slates of candidates to serve on the Publications Board and Astronomy Education Board, as specified in the Constitution & Bylaws.
Here is the slate of candidates for officers and councilors, including those proposed by the current Nominating Committee and one additional nomination for councilor submitted by the AAS membership:
Vice-President (term: 3 years; positions open: 1)
The Vice-Presidents, as representatives of the Council, are responsible for the overall scientific content of the Society's major meetings. They select invited speakers, review proposals for special sessions, and support and advise the Executive Officer in maintaining the scientific quality of the program. The two senior VPs serve on the Executive Committee.
Treasurer (term: 3 years; positions open: 1)
The Treasurer is responsible for the financial affairs of the Society and keeps full and accurate accounts of receipts and disbursements in the Society's books. He or she deposits or invests all monies or other valuable effects in the name of the Society in such depositories or investments as are selected by the Council. The Treasurer prepares an annual report to the Council on the financial condition of the Society and secures regular audits of the Society's financial operations.
Councilor (term: 3 years; positions open: 3)
Stephen C. Unwin
Liese van Zee
As members of the governing board of the AAS, councilors have the legal responsibility to manage, direct, and control the affairs and property of the Society. Within the limits of the Bylaws, the Council determines the policies of the Society and changes to them, and it has discretion in the disbursement of the Society's funds.
USNC-IAU (term: 3 years; positions open: 1)
Lee Anne Willson
The U.S. National Committee for the International Astronomical Union (USNC-IAU) represents the interests of the U.S. astronomical community and safeguards the intellectual vigor of the Union.
Candidate biographies and statements will be posted on the AAS website at least 30 days before balloting opens, i.e., by mid-November.
The AAS is reaching out to its emeritus members and those who have belonged to the Society for at least 40 years to recognize them for their long-term support and to explore how better to serve this group. A committee has been set up to lead this effort, chaired by Lee Anne Willson and including Bruce Balick, Jay Pasachoff, and Nancy Morrison. There will be a special social hour for all "40+E" members attending the 223rd AAS meeting in Washington, DC, on Sunday, 5 January 2014, at 6 pm.
Emeritus membership is available to individuals who have been AAS members for at least 10 years and who have retired from gainful employment. Emeritus status carries reduced dues, reduced meeting registration fees, and other advantages. If you are eligible but have not applied, please contact Diane Frendak, AAS Director of Membership Services, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
An email has been sent to all known emeritus and/or 40-year-plus members inviting them to the January social hour. If you did not receive such a message and are eligible to be part of the 40+E group, please contact Diane Frendak.
"For most astronomers, astrophysicists, planetary scientists, and solar physicists, the AAS is, at best, a peripheral part of their lives," wrote AAS President David Helfand in April 2013. "Given the ever-accelerating pace of modern life, peripheral things get neglected — non-urgent emails get deleted, deadlines get skipped, dues renewals get forgotten, and calls for support get ignored. Political parties overcome this problem by having a hierarchy of unpaid, partially paid, and fully paid volunteers and staffers, and a party's effectiveness on election day comes not from the leadership but from the precinct captains. I have proposed the AAS adopt the precinct-captain model and, at the January  Council meeting, we agreed to proceed."
And so was born the AAS Agents program, designed to improve communication between the Society and its members and to enhance the profile of the AAS in the community. AAS Agents, representing colleges (or consortia thereof), universities, and research institutions that have at least a half dozen practicing astronomers, will act as interlocutors between the Society and its members. In return for their service, AAS Agents will receive a half-price registration discount for one Society meeting each year for a designee of their choice.
For a detailed description of the new program, as well as a list of responsibilities of institutional representatives, see "The AAS Agents Program." For a deeper look at the motivation for the program, as well as answers to some questions that we anticipate will be frequently asked, see "Information for AAS Agents."
We welcome anyone who wishes to volunteer to play this new role at his or her institution. To sign up, please fill out our short AAS Agents Sign-Up Form (note that you must be signed in to aas.org to fill out and submit the form). Deadline: 1 October 2013, if you wish to participate in the kickoff webinar in late October and in the Agents activities scheduled for the 223rd AAS meeting in Washington, DC, in January 2014.
AASWomen is the weekly electronic publication of the AAS Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy (CSWA). It consists of news, advice, and job postings relevant to women in astronomy. All AAS members are welcome to subscribe.
To subscribe to AASWomen by email:
Send an email to email@example.com from the address you want to have subscribed. You can leave the subject and message blank if you like. Be sure to follow the instructions in the confirmation email.
To unsubscribe from AASWomen by email:
Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org from the address you want to have UNsubscribed. You can leave the subject and message blank if you like.
To subscribe to, or unsubscribe from, AASWomen via the web, or to change your subscription settings:
(You'll have to create a Google account if you don't already have one, using https://accounts.google.com/newaccount?hl=en)
Google Groups help:
Back issues of AASWomen are available on the AASWomen Newsletter web page.
The Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) in Western Australia invites shared-risk observing proposals for the 2014A semester (1 January 2014 through 30 June 2014).
The MWA is a low-frequency radio telescope operating between 80 and 300 MHz. It consists of 128 phased-array dipole antenna tiles providing 31 MHz of instantaneous bandwidth, a 30-degree field of view, and up to arcminute angular resolution. The MWA is operated by an international collaboration, including partners from Australia, India, New Zealand, and the United States. We expect to schedule approximately 1,000 hours during the 2014A period, of which up to 350 hours will be available as open access and a further 200 hours as Director's Discretionary Time. We are pleased to invite proposals from all communities.
The deadline for proposals for the 2014A semester is 15 October 2013. The announcement of opportunity and call for proposals can be found on the MWA page, along with additional information about the telescope. Questions regarding this call for proposals can be directed to the MWA Project Scientist, Judd Bowman.
This item was received from Cora B. Marrett, Acting Director of the National Science Foundation:
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is pleased to accept nominations for the 2014 Alan T. Waterman Award. Each year, the Foundation bestows the Waterman Award in recognition of the talent, creativity, and influence of a singular young researcher. Established in 1975 to commemorate the Foundation's first director, the Waterman Award is NSF's highest honor for promising early-career researchers.
Nominees are accepted from all sources, from any field of science and engineering that NSF supports. The award recipient will receive a medal and an invitation to the formal awards ceremony in Washington, DC. In addition, the recipient will receive a grant of $1,000,000 over a five-year period for scientific research or advanced study in any field of science or engineering supported by the National Science Foundation, at any institution of the recipient's choice. We are especially interested in nominations for women, members of underrepresented minority groups, and persons with disabilities.
Eligibility and Selection Criteria
Candidates must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents. They must be 35 years of age or younger, or not more than 7 years beyond receipt of their Ph.D. degree, by 31 December of the year in which they are nominated.
Candidates should have demonstrated exceptional individual achievements in scientific or engineering research of sufficient quality, originality, innovation, and significant impact on the field to place them at the forefront of their peers.
Complete nomination packages, consisting of nominations and four letters of reference, are due by 25 October 2013. The nominations and letters must be received through the FastLane system.
Please contact the Program Manager for the Alan T. Waterman Award at email@example.com or 703-292-8040 if you have any questions, or visit http://www.nsf.gov/od/waterman/waterman.jsp. A PDF version of the call for nominations is also available.
The nomination of deserving colleagues is one of the most important and gratifying aspects of service in the scientific community. Please help celebrate the contributions of a promising young researcher by submitting a nomination for the Alan T. Waterman award.
The International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) in Perth, Australia, has announced the creation of a new and unique fellowship aimed at senior women astronomers. The announcement came at the opening of the 2013 Women in Astronomy Workshop, hosted by ICRAR at The University of Western Australia.
"We are very excited to announce this new opportunity for senior women researchers, and are looking forward to receiving many applications from outstanding candidates," said Dr. Renu Sharma, ICRAR Associate Director.
The fellowship, which will start accepting applications in February 2014, is aimed at providing senior female astronomers with the opportunity to visit ICRAR and interact with researchers and graduate students.
Only one applicant will be accepted every year in this highly competitive fellowship. For the successful applicant ICRAR will provide $5,000 per month for living and accommodation expenses for three months, as well as substantial travel assistance enabling highly qualified international applicants to participate. Recognizing the difficulty women astronomers can sometimes face when travelling due to family obligations, ICRAR will also provide additional support to cover childcare and other similar expenses.
"ICRAR has always had a strong commitment to promote science careers for women. Astronomy is fortunate among the physical sciences to have a large number of successful women, and I want to see that number grow," said ICRAR Director Professor Peter Quinn.
More information on the ICRAR Visiting Fellowship for Senior Women in Astronomy:
The AAS Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy and the AAS Employment Committee have compiled dozens of interviews highlighting the diversity of career trajectories available to astronomers. The interviews share advice and lessons learned from individuals on those paths.
Below is our interview with Cara Rakowski, an astronomer turned patent examiner for the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). For access to all our Career Profile Project interviews, please visit http://aas.org/jobs/career-profiles. We plan to post a new career profile to this blog every first and third Thursday of the month.
What field do you currently work in?
What is the job title for your current position?
What is the name of your company/organization/institution?
US Patent and Trademark Office
What city, state, and country do you live in? Work in?
Springfield, VA, and Alexandria, VA
What is the highest degree in astronomy/physics you have received?
What is/was your ultimate/final academic position in astronomy/physics?
What has been your career path since you completed your degree?
Two postdocs, then a federal position as an astronomer that was effectively soft money, then my position in the patent office.
What were the most important factors that led you to leave astronomy and/or academia?
Dwindling availability of funding, such that I could not foresee surviving a complete career as an astronomer either as a Fed or in an academic position, so it was time to take the leap to a new path, while the opportunity was there, and when my current pay was still low enough that it wasn't too much of a pay cut to "start over."
If you have made a career change, what was your age at the time?
Moved to the patent office at age 38.
What have been particularly valuable skills for your current job that you gained through completing your degree?
The ability to learn cutting-edge technology, write clearly and quickly, and research what is known in a field (now called "prior art"). However, I've been honing those skills all through my school years, not just my Ph.D.
What, if any, additional training did you complete in order to meet the qualifications?
The patent office provides a four month training academy to its new hires once they're onboard.
Describe a typical day at work.
Read and evaluate the claims of a new application in potentially a new subject matter for me, understand the inventive concept from the specifications, peruse any search reports or prior art submitted by the applicant, conduct a search for the claimed invention, decide whether and how to reject the current submission, write it all up, do corrections, field responses from attorneys, and make "final" decisions on patentability or rejection in consultation with my superiors. (This is currently spread out over two days.)
Describe job hunting and networking resources you used and any other advice/resources.
To be totally honest, my husband got a job at the patent office when I took my second postdoc here in D.C. Since then, every time I complained about funding or any other aspect of my job or work, he's said, "Come work at the patent office." After five years, they finally had a listing for physicists — I applied through USAJOBS — and now I'm here.
What advice do you think advisors should be giving students regarding their career path?
1) If you actually want a research-related academic job, only Harvard, Caltech, MIT, Princeton, and the like will stand a chance of getting you there. 2) The Federal Government is actually a really good employer for physicists.
How many hours do you work in a week?
35-40 hours. Working overtime is not even legal at my paygrade. It's great. Tons of responsibility, but you leave your work at the door to the office.
What is your salary?
Starting salaries at the USPTO are $58-$75K, but within five years you can be up to over $110K, plus $10-$20K available in production-related bonuses, with only non-competitive promotions (i.e., ones you have total control over, you do the work, they promote you).
What is your level of satisfaction with your current job?
Very satisfied. This job has a great mix of stimulating new technologies and legal matters to learn, responsibility that makes the job feel worthwhile, and a constant stream of accomplishments to keep you feeling productive. It's basically perfect for someone who was really good at school, but not all that creative as a scientist themselves.
What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job? Least enjoyable?
The constant learning, being the "adjudicator," interacting with my fellow examiners, and the variety of subject matter and legal situations.
What do you like most about your working environment? Dislike most?
The people at the patent office love their work and come from an extremely varied range of previous employers and jobs, but have all come to love it here.
What opportunities does your job provide to be creative and/or to take initiative?
This job is not "creative" in the traditional sense, but it does require you to constantly learn and apply new knowledge.
How satisfied are you with your work-life balance in your current job?
Very satisfied. The USPTO works very hard at having a good work-life balance. It would be difficult to come up with any place that does a better job of accommodating balancing work and non-work life.
How family-friendly is your current position?
Very family friendly.
What advice do you have for achieving work-life balance (including having a family)?
Do what you want to do for yourself and let the chips fall where they may.
Do you still interact with people who work (directly) in astronomy and/or are you still involved in astronomy in some way?
Yes, I keep in touch with my colleagues.
There is a worry among those considering careers outside of astronomy or academia that you can't "go back" and/or that you feel that you betrayed advisors, friends, colleagues. Have you felt this way?
Yes. You truly probably can't "go back" from the patent office to an academic position. But you can move forward, go to law school, become a supervisor, legal counsel to the office, patent board member, or any other number of positions that are difficult to explain to outsiders.
What do you do for fun (e.g., hobbies, pastimes, etc.)?
Cooking, singing, hiking, fishing, reading.
Can we include your email address for people who may want to contact you directly about your specific career route?
Yes, cara.rakowski [at] gmail.com.
The creators of the Golden Goose Award announced today two more sets of award winners whose federally funded research may not have seemed to have significant practical applications at the time it was conducted but has resulted in tremendous societal and economic benefit.
Mathematicians Lloyd Shapley and David Gale (deceased) and economist Alvin Roth are being recognized for their work which led to the national kidney exchange and other programs such as the national matching program for new medical residents and hospitals. Microbiologist Thomas Brock and glycobiologist Hudson Freeze are being recognized for their discovery that helped make possible the biotechnology industry and the genomics revolution.
Representative Jim Cooper (D-TN) first proposed the Golden Goose Award, and it was created in 2012 by a coalition of organizations including the American Astronomical Society. Like the bipartisan group of Members of Congress who support the Golden Goose Award, the founding organizations believe that federally funded basic scientific research is the cornerstone of American innovation and essential to our economic growth, health, global competitiveness, and national security. Award recipients are selected by a panel of respected scientists and university research leaders.
"We've all read stories about the study with the wacky title, the research project from left field," Rep. Cooper said. "But off-the-wall science yields medical miracles. We can't abandon research funding only because we can't predict how the next miracle will happen."
"I am proud to once again stand up with my colleagues in a bipartisan manner to promote federal support for basic scientific research," said Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA), also a congressional supporter of the Golden Goose Award. "The Golden Goose Award is an important reminder that ground-breaking achievements in science often begin with basic research that simply would not have been feasible for the private sector alone."
In 1962, supported in part by the U.S. Office of Naval Research, Drs. Gale and Shapley developed the Gale-Shapley deferred choice algorithm, which provided a means by which a large group of men and women could be matched to maximize marriage stability — they could be paired in such a way as to ensure that no man and woman matched with other mates could both find each other preferable to their own mate. While this might have seemed frivolous at the time — it was, after all, very theoretical — the algorithm actually led to a number of practical market applications by Dr. Roth. With funding from the National Science Foundation, Dr. Roth's applications included school choice systems for New York, Boston, and other cities, and the National Resident Matching Program, which pairs new doctors with hospitals nationwide.
Dr. Roth then built on another algorithm developed in part by Gale and Shapley, and also funded by the National Science Foundation, to develop a kidney exchange system that today is responsible for matching thousands of kidney recipients with unrelated kidney donors who otherwise might not have been able to receive kidneys compatible with their immune systems. Dr. Shapley and Dr. Roth received the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2012 for their work. (Dr. Gale had died and was therefore ineligible for the Nobel.)
Dr. Brock and his then-undergraduate research assistant Hudson Freeze, with funding from the National Science Foundation, visited Yellowstone National Park because they were curious to find out how organisms survived in extreme conditions such as the park's famed hot springs and geysers. The enzymes produced by one of the bacteria they collected to study — which they named Thermus aquaticus — enabled scientists to employ the high heat necessary for the replication and study of its DNA. Once they were able to replicate and study DNA in this manner, scientists essentially created the field of biotechnology, which then made possible the genomics revolution. These developments have led to extraordinary medical advances in recent decades and promise many more.
The newly announced awardees, or their designees, will receive their awards at the second annual Golden Goose Awards ceremony in Washington, DC, on September 19.
— Adapted from a press release from the Association of American Universities. Read the full release (PDF).