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Eleven UW Female Faculty Members, Students Receive WWISE Travel Grant Awards

November 20, 2013
Woman in front of projector board
Mariah Ehmke, a UW associate professor in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, was one of 12 UW faculty members or students who were awarded WWISE travel grants to present their research at conferences.

When Mariah Ehmke attended the recent North American Economic Science Association Conference, the University of Wyoming faculty member expected only to present her research paper. But her visit to Santa Cruz, Calif., resulted in so much more.

Ehmke, a UW associate professor in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, had her research mentioned by the conference’s keynote speaker as indicative of the kind of work that is valuable in the experimental economics field; reconnected with Al Roth, a recent Nobel Prize winner in economics; and met a French professor from the University of Lyon who wants to collaborate with her in the future and send a doctoral student to UW to conduct research.

“I’ve actually been impressed,” Ehmke says of her Oct. 24-26 conference experience and reception of her paper, titled “Young Consumers’ Demand for Sweeteners.” “It was a lesson in my need to get out and attend more conferences.”

Ehmke was one four UW female faculty members and seven doctoral and master’s students who benefited as the first grant recipients in the Wyoming Women in Science and Engineering (WWISE) program. The grants are travel awards that allow female researchers to make presentations at national conferences.

The goal of WWISE is to increase the visibility of women in science, engineering and mathematics by increasing opportunities for public presentations by women researchers. Administered by the Wyoming Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), WWISE is funded by the same National Science Foundation (NSF) grant that supports the new Wyoming Center for Environmental Hydrology and Geophysics (WyCEHG).

“With the travel grants, we asked applicants what are the personal benefits to attend and how it fits into their careers,” says Sarah Konrad, associate project director for Wyoming EPSCoR. “All travelers had to be presenting their work” to receive grants, she adds.

WWISE is one more approach UW has taken to highlight and improve STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) opportunities for female faculty members and students.

“I’m very grateful for it,” Ehmke says of the travel grant. “It came at a good time in my career.”

In addition to Ehmke, the fall 2013 UW travel award recipients, their titles and conferences they will attend/have attended, are:

-- Hakima Bessaih, associate professor of mathematics, SIAM Conference of Analysis of PDEs.

-- Melia DeVivo of Indiana, Pa., doctoral candidate, veterinary sciences, National Conference of the Wildlife Society.

-- Lisa Edens of Philadelphia, Pa., doctoral candidate, molecular biology, American Society for Cell Biology.

-- Katie Foster of San Diego, Calif., doctoral candidate, atmospheric science, American Geophysical Union.

-- Mollie Herget of Jacksonville, Ill., master’s candidate, ecosystem science and management, World Conference on Ecological Restoration.

-- Jennifer Richards of Olympia, Wash., master’s candidate, ecosystem science and management, World Conference on Ecological Restoration.

-- Shibely Saha of Bangladesh, India, doctoral candidate, chemical engineering, American Institute of Chemical Engineering.

-- Lidija Vukovic of Budapest, Hungary, doctoral candidate, molecular biology, American Society for Cell Biology.

-- Ye Zhang, associate professor, geology and geophysics, American Geophysical Union.

-- Jing Zhou, associate professor, chemistry, American Chemical Society.

WWISE also provided funding for female faculty members from other universities to be guest seminar speakers at UW during 2013-14. Funds covered lodging, meals, an honorarium and travel.

To determine guest speaker selections, Konrad says EPSCoR reviewed resumes, seminar descriptions and the benefits to the UW programs that invited the speakers. Of 24 applications for speakers, 12 were selected, Konrad says.

“We gave priority to speakers associated with WyCEHG. That is the science specific to our program,” Konrad says. “Beyond that, we spread out the speakers on campus. We were careful not to be too heavy in one department.”

WyCEHG, a multidisciplinary center, was established as part of a five-year, $20 million grant award from NSF to Wyoming EPSCoR.

“We let them (departments) use our funds for speakers that were already planning to come. With other departments, they had no money for speakers, so our program allowed them to enhance their offerings,” Konrad explains.

However, adjustments will be made next year. In instances where speakers already plan to come to campus based on a department invitation, WWISE funds will not be awarded, she says. In addition, speakers next year will be asked to interact with UW students and discuss their experience “being a woman in science,” Konrad says.

The list of the 2013-14 guest seminar speakers, their titles and university, the UW host department and the date of their campus appearance are as follows:

-- Kamini Singha, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, Colorado School of Mines, geology and geophysics, spoke Oct. 14.

-- Dennice Gayme, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, Johns Hopkins University, electrical and computer engineering, spoke Nov. 8.

-- Kristy Red-Horse, assistant professor of biology, Stanford University, molecular biology, Dec. 6.

-- Stephanie Pfirman, professor of environmental science, Barnard College, Haub School Environment and Natural Resources, January 2014.

-- Christina Scribner, faculty associate in health sciences, Arizona State University, family and consumer science, February 2014.

-- Christina Payne, assistant professor of chemical and materials engineering, University of Kentucky, molecular biology, March 28, 2014.

-- Julie Rathbun, associate professor of physics, University of Redlands, physics and astronomy, May 2, 2014.

-- Banu Baydil, lecturer of mathematics and statistics, University of Maine, mathematics, TBD.

-- Janis Louie, professor of chemistry, University of Utah, chemistry, TBD.

-- Susan Hubbard, senior scientist and director, Earth Sciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, geology and geophysics, TBD.

-- Kristina Keating, assistant professor of near-surface geophysics, Rutgers University, geology and geophysics, TBD.

-- Susan Solomon, Ellen Swallow Richards Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry and Climate Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, atmospheric science, TBD.

“We are trying to develop it (WWISE) a little each year, at least for the life of the WyCEHG grant,” Konrad says. “We are open to feedback from recipients.”

A request for proposal for the next round of travel grants will be circulated and posted on the Wyoming EPSCoR site in January, Konrad says.

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