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Speaker: Women, science and superheroes

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  • st ephen,

    On STEM/STEAM - at intermediate school level there is now a huge Design element in Tech. It's no longer a matter of the class simply following a set 'recipe' to make identical items - students go through a full design process with loads of scope for creativity. If anything it now penalises the kids who aren't strongly creative, because they end up staring at a blank piece of paper for an hour. For some kids it's probably better to give them a design and let them set about solving the technical issues of how to realise it.
    .

    dunedin • Since Jul 2008 • 253 posts Report Reply

  • Amy Gale, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    One thing I can see going on is that the 'apprenticeship' phase for life sciences seems to drag out WAY the hell longer than it does for some others. My friends in areas like pharmacology did multiple long postdocs apiece as a necessary prerequisite to proceeding in academia. My CS friends only did postdocs if they actually wanted to (or were in a two-body holding pattern waiting for the second body to finish, which I guess is a form of wanting to).

    If we frame this in the context of the current discussion: [some of] the sciences where women are participating at or even over a 50-50 ratio have more barriers to participating at the professional academic level; [some of] the sciences where women have relatively low participation rates have fewer barriers.
    Maybe the best we can hope for is that the prolonged agony is purely numerically motivated.

    (more tables than you could possibly want at http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/2013menu_tables.asp)

    tha Ith • Since May 2007 • 471 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Amy Gale,

    If we frame this in the context of the current discussion: [some of] the sciences where women are participating at or even over a 50-50 ratio have more barriers to participating at the professional academic level

    Yup. A particular problem in the life sciences. And the punitive post-doc structure is particularly hard on women both as the scientist themselves or if they are the partner of a scientist, or worse both!

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4431 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Amy Gale,

    One thing I can see going on is that the ‘apprenticeship’ phase for life sciences seems to drag out WAY the hell longer than it does for some others. My friends in areas like pharmacology did multiple long postdocs apiece as a necessary prerequisite to proceeding in academia. My CS friends only did postdocs if they actually wanted to (or were in a two-body holding pattern waiting for the second body to finish, which I guess is a form of wanting to).

    On that note, there was an interview on NatRad this morning about unpaid internships. For lack of a better description, it's like volunteering but without the good bits.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5399 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I hate to use an economics word, but pure science does seem oversupplied, when people complain that after 25-30 years of education, they struggle to get any kind of wage at all.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10579 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to BenWilson,

    I hate to use an economics word, but pure science does seem oversupplied

    Absolutely not true. What has instead happened is that funding in sciences has been steadily cut in order to make room for tax cuts. The value of pure science to the economy (according to economists) has not changed.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4431 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    I think Ben means that there is a surplus of qualified people (at various levels) to available jobs in the pure sciences. In e.g. computer science, the opposite is true and in general, those with skills will be able to find (well) paid work.

    (Although there is the issue that with skills being highly specialized, one might find it difficult to find a job that matches ones skillset. This is exacerbated by NZ businesses inability to train and develop staff, combined with an attitude that people are hired to do a very specific role and disposed of when that role no longer exists).

    Also, I understand that a lack of work in the public sector is due to government policy, but why do commercial businesses seem to have little need for scientists?

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to steven crawford,

    My daughter has a pair of periodic table, basket ball boots, which tend to force conversations.

    My daughter was with me on a shopping trip, buying electronic components for a control system. The shop we were in didn't have all the gear I needed and the assistant said "Oh, try Element... ah 44 I think they are called. " Quick as a flash Jessie said... "That would be Element 14... Silicon"
    She is now studying psychology, bloody smart arse that girl. I wonder where she gets it from?.

    I would like to see more women in Engineering, they tend to be more committed. Most of the guys I know that work as engineers never finished their degree, just got a Summer job with an engineering firm and never went back. Saved on the student loan and paid off what was left quite quickly. Others I know qualified and can't get a job because the firms already have someone "good enough".
    She'll be right eh?.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Yup, I meant the labour is oversupplied. Although Bart could be correct if he is asserting that demand has been pushed down. But I'm not sure what time period he's talking over - pure science was a second rate income for a first rate mind even when I was a lad. This could have become worse.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10579 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to BenWilson,

    demand has been pushed down

    Precisely.

    In the "pure sciences" (probably what you mean is the science projects without an immediately obvious product) the vast majority of funding comes from the government. This is true in every country, regardless of how you play with definitions to make projects look like they are one thing when they are in fact the other.

    Essentially the sole market is society as a whole and the government as their representative.

    While society has exactly the same need for pure science - what has happened is the governments (Labour and National) have taken from the science budgets to fund other things (eg tax cuts). Thus in real dollar terms science funding has declined and hence there are not enough jobs for the graduates ... even though society still needs them and their work.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4431 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Amy Gale,

    barriers to participating at the professional academic level

    Also sexism is alive and well in the hallowed halls making some departments unattractive.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4431 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    probably what you mean is the science projects without an immediately obvious product

    That's exactly what I meant.

    While society has exactly the same need for pure science

    I don't know how one could even begin to measure such a thing.

    Thus in real dollar terms science funding has declined and hence there are not enough jobs for the graduates … even though society still needs them and their work.

    Well, you could just as easily say there are too many graduates for the existing science funding. Or, alternatively, you could say that we have set things up perfectly to keep science as cheap as possible by oversupplying the labour resource.

    Not that this particular problem is confined to science. We could say there's a global oversupply of education generally, for the work that needs doing. If we think of education as being for the purposes of paid work. Or we could abandon that last lingering precept of puritanism. But that ain't happening.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10579 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to BenWilson,

    While society has exactly the same need for pure science

    I don’t know how one could even begin to measure such a thing.

    Lots of economic studies have done exactly that. Essentially investment in science is one of the weird factors in economics that is non-linear. They came up with a special category to describe the effect of science investment on economic returns.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4431 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to BenWilson,

    Well, you could just as easily say there are too many graduates for the existing science funding.

    No. That would be like cutting funding for teachers and closing schools and then saying because there are unemployed teachers we don’t need them.

    Wait, that IS what you are saying - that's bizarre.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4431 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Lots of economic studies have done exactly that.

    Measured the exact social need for pure science? How much was it?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10579 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    That would be like cutting funding for teachers and closing schools and then saying because there are unemployed teachers we don’t need them.

    If there were too many teachers for the number of schools, you could certainly say they were oversupplied. Yes, increasing the number of schools could be an excellent thing to do, but when giving careers advice to people considering training, you'd be pretty mean not to mention a glut of teachers to them. And teacher training only takes a year. Imagine if it took 5 years...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10579 posts Report Reply

  • JC Carter,

    I work in science (industry). In a female dominated field (cept for HOD/Prof level ... strange that). I interact with many academics, male and female.

    I wouldn't recommend anyone, male or female, get involved in STEAM. Run, run like hell. Unless you manage to get off shore employment/scholarship. I retrained thinking it would be useful to gain post-grad education to progress in the world. NZ is a dead end where enormous volume of qualified phds are left doing technicians jobs that only a few years ago were filled by BSc. The others are left on unemployment, or working in completely different fields for low income - after spending a fortune on education. Return on investment is depressing.

    Space • Since Sep 2014 • 11 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford, in reply to JC Carter,

    I have a close relative who first earned her degree in applied arts, and now has a Phd. The phd will help us to better understand grain crops, which could help prevent starvation for millions of people.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4046 posts Report Reply

  • Alyona Medelyan, in reply to JC Carter,

    Hi JC, I'm sorry to hear that you had a bad experience, but I think we shouldn't generalise here. STEAM stands for "Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Maths", it does not stand for "a PhD in a subfield of Science that's hard to get a job in, in NZ". Everybody should think carefully about what the future is bringing in terms of technological advances. What kind of jobs will still be around in 10-50 years? It's hard to predict this of course, but there is some research out there.

    I think, the key is to combine one's passions with what will be useful to society long term, what skills will be in demand. These skills most definitely lie in specific subfields of STEMS and their combination.

    For those interested what happens to Computer Science post-graduates, here are the results of the survey I ran 2 years ago: http://www.medelyan.com/survey

    * Majority of graduates found the job while still enrolled or within the first 3 months after graduating (slide 12)
    * Most earn between 70 and 100K or more (slide 22)
    * Both Academics and Industry are just as happy with their job (slide 26)
    * People with a Masters rather than a PhD are more happy than others (35% like their job a lot). Changing the job helps find happiness. (slide 27)

    New Zealand • Since Feb 2015 • 6 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to JC Carter,

    NZ is a dead end where enormous volume of qualified phds are left doing technicians jobs that only a few years ago were filled by BSc. The others are left on unemployment, or working in completely different fields for low income – after spending a fortune on education. Return on investment is depressing.

    Sounds like a mild case of credential inflation. A long-time family friend of mine moved to Auckland several years ago to work in pharmaceuticals, after getting his PhD. Unfortunately, the job wasn't all it was cracked up to be, when he ended up in a far more mundane role than the research position he had hoped for. He then switched to the NZ Blood Service, which he finds just slightly better.

    It seems a no-win situation either way. If you have a bachelor's degree, you "haven't got enough experience", and if you have a PhD, you're "overqualified". Is the purple squirrel more of an obsession in NZ than the USA?

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5399 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Alyona Medelyan,

    How does the term STEAM not cover any field of study you could possibly follow, from circus arts to welding to nuclear physics?

    The programming trade has been good to me, on the whole. The caveats would be that it was both more rewarding and more lucrative before it became fashionable, and that once one develops experience and skills in a field like IT, then it's financially impossible to escape. (A friend who's a dentist has reported a similar thing with her profession).

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Email
    How does the term STEAM not cover any field of study you could possibly follow, from circus arts to welding to nuclear physics?

    I think that the point in promoting the acronym, is to emphasize well rounded education. It's not such a long time ago, that if you didn't show tidy hand writing, you didn't go to university. Never mind the bullocks.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4046 posts Report Reply

  • Alyona Medelyan, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    It does cover all of these fields, but not all research subjects that one may choose to specialise in, even if they fall into Science or Tech, are in demand.

    New Zealand • Since Feb 2015 • 6 posts Report Reply

  • Alyona Medelyan, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Choosing IT, but then finding it "financially impossible to escape" sounds like a case of not following your passion, which is also not ideal. I think there are so many great research areas out there that are both in high demand and are fascinating to be working in. With STEAM ahead events, I hope girls can get exposure to many possibilities and end up choosing the right thing for them.

    New Zealand • Since Feb 2015 • 6 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to steven crawford,

    I think that the point in promoting the acronym, is to emphasize well rounded education. It’s not such a long time ago, that if you didn’t show tidy hand writing, you didn’t go to university. Never mind the bullocks

    My father was forced to choose between French and Maths at high school, despite being good at both. I think that impoverished him.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22584 posts Report Reply

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