Friday Oct 02, 2009

GHC09: Denice Denton Emerging Leader Award Winner: Nadya Mason

This award is given to an emerging non-tenured leader in academia that is under 40. Nadya Mason received this award for her work encouraging woman and minorities in academia, and it turns out she's a minority at this conference: she's a physicist! :-)

Her research deals with a lot of things that are very small - nanotech - and what happens to things when you shrink them that small, specifically around chips and quantum computing. She told us about some of the interesting things she's working with: a nanotube! It is super small in diameter, yet it can be long, which allows you to actually hold it in your hands. neat.

Mason has some wonderful pictures that show how nanotubes are grown - in a 900C oven with a carbon source, gas and an iron catalyst. She clearly loves her work and her enthusiasm shows and makes this the most interesting talk I've ever seen on nanotech.

Mason credits a lot of her success with support and inspiration she's gotten from family, peers and conferences like Grace Hopper.  She said she was very fortunate to get scholarships targeted to women of color for math and science related work.  This let her know that people were interested in her as a person and in her work, and just opened so many doors.

Mason puts a lot of focus on her work, but notes that it's critical to her that she saves time to give back. She does this by actually scheduling time for research as well as time to do outreach. She does all she can to encourage women in the sciences by taking every event and interaction seriously. She knows that just adding one more woman to the field can actually make a big difference in the percentage.

Happily, Mason shares a lot of advice with us on being successful in our own careers

  • don't underestimate yourself: work hard and you'll know you deserve to be where you are
  • you'll still be underestimated by others: do your work, stay professional and find outside support
  • you might be lonely: combat this by seeking outside support and realize you're not the only person that feels alone in your field.
  • Find balance for family & career: set limits on work hours - for example, no work between 5:30-8:30PM or on Saturdays, think about your priorities.

There were a lot of questions from people in the audience about how Mason \*knew\* she was in the right field. Obviously, her passion for her work is so evident and I think a lot of the students here want to make sure they find that passion in their own work.  She is a big proponent of doing internships so you can get real world experience in a job without a long term commitment.

This was a great and inspiring talk and I'm so glad I came!

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Valerie's former weblog. The new one can be found at http://bubbva.blogspot.com/

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