Author: ilana

CO/WY Front Range PROGRESS project coordinator

Women scientists characterize human exposure to flame retardants used on backpacking tents!

Have you ever wondered what chemicals you might be exposed to by setting up and spending time inside your tent on a backpacking trip?  Well, these five women scientists asked that very question!

Five female scientists from the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina recently published a scientific article in Environmental Science and Technology entitled, Characterizing Flame Retardant Applications and Potential Human Exposure in Backpacking Tents.

Abstract ImageFlame retardant (FR) chemicals are applied to products to meet flammability standards; however, exposure to some additive FRs has been shown to be associated with adverse health effects. Previous research on FR exposure has primarily focused on chemicals applied to furniture and electronics; however, camping tents sold in the United States, which often meet flammability standard CPAI-84, remain largely unstudied in regards to their chemical treatments. In this study, FRs from five brands of CPAI-84-compliant, two-person backpacking tents were measured and potential exposure was assessed. Dermal and inhalation exposure levels were assessed by collecting hand wipes from 20 volunteers before and after tent setup and by using active air samplers placed inside assembled tents, respectively. Organophosphate flame retardants (OPFRs) were the most commonly detected FR in the tent materials and included triphenyl phosphate (TPHP), tris(1,3-dichloro-2-propyl)phosphate (TDCIPP) and tris(2-chloroethyl)phosphate (TCEP). Levels of OPFRS measured on hand wipes were significantly higher post-tent setup compared to pre setup, and in the case of TDCIPP, levels were 29 times higher post setup. OPFRs were also detected at measurable concentrations in the air inside of treated tents. Significant, positive correlations were found between FR levels in treated textiles and measures of dermal and inhalation exposure. These results demonstrate that dermal exposure to FRs occurs from handling camping tents and that inhalation exposure will likely occur while inside a tent.


Check out the full journal article here.

See more research performed by the Stapleton Group at Duke here.



Front Range PROGRESS team lead, Dr. Emily Fischer, featured on Colorado Public Radio

CSU Study Asks: What Will More Wildfires Do To Air Quality?

If climate change causes more wildfires in western states as expected — what will that do to air quality?That’s the question some Colorado State University researchers will try to answer after receiving a $350,000 federal grant.

The warming climate is expected to translate into more smoke from wildfires. It’s could also mean more dust in the air on windy days.

Estimates vary on just how much the climate will warm between now and 2050. CSU researchers will combine different models to give managers scenarios of how air quality could change.

“We are going to connect that range of potential futures in the meteorology to a range of possible air quality impacts,” said Emily Fischer, an assistant professor in the department of atmospheric science.

The project will be funded by the Environmental Protection Agency. It’s expected to last three years.

– See more at:

Solving the Equation: The Variables for Women’s Success in Engineering and Computing

Tap into new resources for women in STEM at the American Association of University Women.

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) explores the The Variables for Women’s Success in Engineering and ComputingThe AAUW is the nation’s leading voice promoting equity and education for women and girls. Since it was founded in 1881, AAUW members have examined and taken positions on the fundamental issues of the day — educational, social, economic, and political.


Such as:


Solving the Equation: The Variables for Women’s Success in Engineering and Computing asks why there are still so few women in the critical fields of engineering and computing — and explains what we can do to make these fields open to and desirable for all employees.

Read the full article here.  

More than ever before, girls are studying and excelling in science and mathematics. Yet the dramatic increase in girls’ educational achievements in scientific and mathematical subjects has not been matched by similar increases in the representation of women working as engineers and computing professionals. Just 12 percent of engineers are women, and the number of women in computing has fallen from 35 percent in 1990 to just 26 percent today.

The numbers are especially low for Hispanic, African American, and American Indian women. Black women make up 1 percent of the engineering workforce and 3 percent of the computing workforce, while Hispanic women hold just 1 percent of jobs in each field. American Indian and Alaska Native women make up just a fraction of a percent of each workforce.

Diversity Is Good for Business

The representation of women in engineering and computing matters. Diversity in the workforce contributes to creativity, productivity, and innovation. Everyone’s experiences should inform and guide the direction of engineering and technical innovation.

In less than 10 years, the United States will need 1.7 million more engineers and computing professionals. We simply can’t afford to ignore the perspectives or the talent of half the population.

Stereotypes and Bias Are Holding Everyone Back

We all hold gender biases, shaped by stereotypes in the wider culture, that affect how we evaluate and treat one another. Several findings detailed in the report shed light on how these stereotypes and biases harm women in engineering and computing.

One study ask science faculty to evaluate résumés that were identical except for the candidates’ names. The researchers found that scientists were more likely to choose a male candidate over an identical female candidate for a hypothetical job opening at a lab. Both female and male scientists also offered a higher salary to the male candidate and were more willing to offer him mentoring opportunities.

In another study, potential employers systematically underestimated the mathematical performance of women compared with men, resulting in the hiring of lower-performing men over higher-performing women for mathematical work.

figure 15_rightCandidate-01[2]

But employers aren’t the only ones making this mistake. Stereotypes and biases affect women’s beliefs about their own abilities and the choices they make about their own futures as well. Girls with stronger implicit biases linking math and science with boys spend less time studying math and are less likely to pursue a career in a STEM field.





Show Women That They Are Welcome in These Fields

Women who leave engineering are very similar to women who stay in engineering. The differences are found not in the women themselves but in their workplace environments. Women who left were less likely to have had opportunities for training and development, support from co-workers or supervisors, and support for balancing work and nonwork roles than were women who stayed in the profession.

figure 25_jobsatisfaction-01

Women engineers who were most satisfied with their jobs, in contrast, worked for organizations that provided clear paths for advancement, gave employees challenging assignments that helped develop and strengthen new skills, and valued and recognized employees’ contributions. In other words, workplaces with good management practices were more likely to retain women employees.

Harvey Mudd College has dramatically increased the number of women computer science graduates at the school with three simple interventions designed to welcome beginning students into the curriculum rather than weed them out. The college

  1. Revised its required introductory computer science course to emphasize broad applications of computer science and accommodate different levels of experience.
  2. Provides students with early research opportunities.
  3. Sends women students to the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.

figure 23_HarveyMudd_

In just five years, the percentage of women Harvey Mudd computer science graduates grew from a historical average of 12 to around 40 percent, while the national average stalled at 18 percent. What if we took the lessons from these efforts and applied them to businesses and K–12 education?

How do we close the wage gap in the U.S.?

The gender pay gap is now the narrowest it’s ever been, and yet it’s still 2.5 times the size of those of other industrialized countries. So what’s to be done?

By all accounts and figures, women in the work force have made enormous economic progress in the last 50 years. In the 1980s, women only made 60 cents to every dollar of male earnings. The latest figures show that gender wage gap narrowed substantially, with women making nearly 80 cents to the dollar in 2015.

The last three decades have seen American women move up in both educational attainment and into higher paying jobs. The gap is now the narrowest it’s ever been, and yet it’s still 2.5 times the size of those of other industrialized countries. So what’s to be done? How can America get its men and women paid equally?

One suggestion is that “we should encourage women to take jobs that pay more, and in fields that pay more…perhaps by encouraging them to study STEM or other profitable majors.”

Read the full story in The Atlantic.

7 misused science words

“Just a Theory”: 7 Misused Science Words

By Tia Ghose, LiveScience on April 2, 2013

From “significant” to “natural,” here are seven scientific terms that can prove troublesome for the public and across research disciplines

Hypothesis. Theory. Law. These scientific words get bandied about regularly, yet the general public usually gets their meaning wrong.

Now, one scientist is arguing that people should do away with these misunderstood words altogether and replace them with the word “model.” But those aren’t the only science words that cause trouble, and simply replacing the words with others will just lead to new, widely misunderstood terms, several other scientists said.

“A word like ‘theory’ is a technical scientific term,” said Michael Fayer, a chemist at Stanford University. “The fact that many people understand its scientific meaning incorrectly does not mean we should stop using it. It means we need better scientific education.”

From “theory” to “significant,” here are seven scientific words that are often misused.

1. Hypothesis

2. Just a theory

3. Model

4. Skeptic

5. Nature vs. Nurture

6. Significant

7. Natural

Read the full story here.

Communicating the science of climate change

Feature Article: Communicating the science of climate change
by Richard C. J. Somerville and Susan Joy Hassol
It is urgent that climate scientists improve the ways they convey their findings to a poorly informed
and often indifferent public.
As scientists we must consider the power of language in our communication as common terms for scientists are often misunderstood by the public.
terms_different_meanings_for scientists_vs_public
Read the full article here.

NPR story: Why Math Rocks

Why Math Rocks

Article by Marcelo Gleiser — a theoretical physicist and cosmologist and professor of natural philosophy, physics and astronomy at Dartmouth College. He is the co-founder of 13.7, a prolific author of papers and essays, and active promoter of science to the general public.

The number pi shows up everywhere, from statistics to wave motion to the equations of general relativity describing the expanding universe and black holes. Human brains are exceptionally attuned to identifying such patterns.

Everyone who has kids, or who remembers his/her childhood, will also remember the struggle to understand why math matters.

“Who cares about multiplication tables and fractions, triangles and algebra? Why do I need to know these things?”

The challenge with math is that if you don’t look with the right eyes, you don’t see how pervasive and all-encompassing it really is. We somehow detune ourselves from the myriad patterns that surround us, both outside and in. We don’t count heartbeats (that would drive most people mad, as you can check in this amazing Radiolab program The Heartbeat. And we don’t associate evergreens with cones or tend to analyze the symmetry in people’s faces — at least consciously. Yet, all of our gadgets and machines depend on our understanding and ability to apply math to different materials.

Read the full article on the NPR Section 13.7 website.

Application deadlines extended for 2016 summer REUs

The application deadlines for some summer REUs (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) have been extended to April 1 or even April 15. Apply! Do it! Practice makes perfect – even if you don’t get an opportunity to participate this summer, you will understand how the application process works for next year. These kinds of programs are awesome.

A summer research program for undergraduates in collaborative earth system science research at N.C. A&T in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Portland State University Center for Climate and Aerosol Research


And here is a big list of everything that the National Science Foundation is supporting:

National Science Foundation

FORT Collins Atmospheric ScientisTs (FORTCAST) seminar

Dr. Laura Sample McMeeking

CSU STEM Center Associate Director

“The Power of Language in Science Communication and Research”

“As humans, we use language to convey meaning every day. As scientists the language we use at work may have a different meaning from the language we use at home. When we communicate with or ask questions of different groups of people, our language necessarily changes. But how do we know that others understand us? How do we know we haven’t made assumptions about others when we talk to them or ask them questions? In this interactive talk, we will discuss how language plays an important role in how we communicate science and how we elicit information about our science from others. Through real examples of forecast discussions, survey questions, and public communication, we will see how the words we choose and assumptions we make can drastically affect how others interpret our meaning and we interpret theirs.”

Learn more about FORTCAST seminars and/or sign up for email alerts here.

  • Wednesday, March 30th at 6:30pm
  • Room 103 of the Behavioral Sciences Building at Colorado State University
  • Parking available in lot 455, just east of the Behavioral Sciences Building