cynthia1960: (steampunksuffrage)
[personal profile] jesse_the_k asks When you realized that your work would find you in male dominated milieux, did that influence what you did or how you did it?

When I was little, I was absolutely fascinated by astronomy. Chemistry came into my life not much later when I was wondering what the stars were made out of. When I was in 9th grade, I was dabbling in theater arts and getting A’s in science. I kept getting cast as middle aged or elderly women at the age of 14, and I never could be the ingenue. Of course, I could raid my great-grandmother’s closet for my characters’ wardrobes, but I looked at my type casting and my grades in science, and then went, “Cindy, don’t quit your day job!” My high school was exceptionally good in science and math, and my physics teacher was very keen on getting the girls in her classes to focus on STEM careers. I was able to work at NASA Ames in Mountain View as both a senior in high school and a senior in college.

The gender imbalance wasn’t so acute in high school because my closest girlfriends and I were pretty much science geeks together. By the time I got to Santa Clara, I declared my chemistry major right away and just kept plugging along. I never got any flak from the chemistry faculty about how girls don’t major in chem, but one of my friends got a major sexist slap down from one of the physics professors about how girls don’t do physics (GRRRR, he was a grade A jerk).

There were four girls majoring in chem in my year, and three out of the four of us graduated cum laude (only one guy was with us, and the 4th girl wasn’t far behind us).

My only question was whether or not I was going to go to graduate school in chemistry, and by the time I finished my senior thesis with my second tour at Ames, I pretty much had gotten tired of academia and didn’t really have the necessary drive to do research. Soooo, that meant looking for a job, and I got a job in the semiconductor industry right out of school (which incidentally paid a lot better than pharmaceuticals if you had a BS degree thirty years ago). I started off doing benchtop quality control testing on the chemicals and plastics used in wafer fabs and chip assembly, and then switched into materials characterization and microscopy where I still am today. Some of the meetings I was in at my old company, I was at least 33% of the XX chromosome cohort. My current company is probably split 60/40 M/F, but that’s probably damn good for around here in Silicon Valley.

I’m pretty happy because my work focuses on doing good materials characterization to help others improve their products. My primary job is making samples for transmission electron microscopy and the quality of the pictures that my imaging co-workers take are only as good as the samples that those of us in the sample prep group make. If I do a really good job, we can see the atomic lattice at 400,000X, which rocks. And I still keep my hand in surface contamination analysis by bouncing X-rays off of shiny wafers part of the time.
cynthia1960: (chemistry)
[personal profile] emceeaich made my afternoon yesterday by sending me a link to a story by Charlie Stross on about a delightful conversation about rocket propellants. I will note that one of the reagents has been called "Satan's kimchi" on one of my favorite science blogs, and then I'll run very far away and armor up when I get to that hiding place.
cynthia1960: (chemistry)
These people use machines similar to the one I drive at work to etch really tiny things on tiny things.

One of my co-workers etched the San Jose Sharks logo on a piece of silicon and sent me a picture of it ;). Most of the time, I make very thin slices for others to look at inside a even bigger electron microscope.

Hey, it pays the bills, maintains Miss Snickers in cat food and kitty litter, and enhances the book, yarn, and fiber stashes.
cynthia1960: me from Wiscon Chronicles v. 3 (Default)
A radioactive rabbit was trapped recently on the Hanford nuclear reservation. The poor glow in the dark bunny drank from a source contaminated with radioactive cesium, and is now buried with the rest of the waste from the reservation.
cynthia1960: (steampunksuffrage)
Happy Ada Lovelace Day to all the women out there toiling in the technology sector and the sciences!

Today, I want to write about the second woman to have a element of the periodic table named after her, Lise Meitner. She could arguably be the first woman in her own right to do so, I don't know if curium was named after Marie Curie alone or Marie and Pierre. (All praise is due to the divine [ profile] beatonna for the awesome shirt, I treasure mine.)

Lise Meitner was part of the team that discovered nuclear fission, but got shut out of the Nobel Prize in chemistry her colleague Otto Hahn got in 1944 (grrr). In addition, she independently discovered the Auger effect in 1923, where electrons emitted by surface atoms under bombardment with an electron beam have characteristic energies. Pierre Auger seems to get all the credit in 1925 for this (double grrr). A few of my co-workers do Auger electron spectroscopy as part of their jobs.

Interestingly enough, she has element 109, meitnerium, named after her, and Otto Hahn can't have an element of his own, because the Institute of Pure and Applied Chemistry rejected hahnium as a name for element 105 (dubnium), according to Theodore Gray, in his awesome coffee table book of chemistry pr0n (pretty pictures and interesting information about all the elements discovered to date).

May her memory last far longer than the longest lived isotope of meitnerium (mass 278, half life ~30 minutes per Wikipedia)!
cynthia1960: (chemistry)
via [ profile] lolscience, there's a fascinating link about chlorine trifluoride and how incredibly nasty it is (one of the by-products of the reactions is lots of hydrofluoric acid, and when I was at $OLDCOMPANY, I was absolutely paranoid about handling HF). He's got blog tags like "things I won't work with" and "things I'm glad I don't do", and I envision some fascinating diversions into the world of BoomToday!
cynthia1960: (chemistry)
thanks to [ profile] shweta_narayan, I bring you Periodic Table cupcakes courtesy of some UC Berkeley folks with too much time and baking materials on hand. Also: some fun snarkage at Stanford's expense.

I especially appreciate the empty cupcake liner for ununseptium (element 117 still has to be discovered).

When I was in the chemistry club at Santa Clara U, one of my friends and I made sugar cookies for a fair that we decorated with the symbols of the elements. If I remember correctly, arsenic, silicon, and californium were the big sellers. Ah, Silicon Valley educations....
cynthia1960: (Home sweet home)
While I'm making tiny slices with a big frakkin' machine, I'm reading Neil deGrasse Tyson's The Pluto Files on Hypatia the Kindle and am vastly amused to find that Tyson has lyrics to songs written about the controversy over Pluto getting demoted to dwarf planet status, including Jonathan Coulton's "I'm Your Moon", in the appendices.

When fandoms collide, indeed.
cynthia1960: (Home sweet home)
[ profile] whumpdotcom and I just got back from seeing An Inconvenient Truth. This is a must-see movie. Go to's theater listings, and then spend more time poking around the main web site.

Speaking as a person whose home and job would be underwater if the sea level in the SF Bay Area rose 10 meters, Gore was preaching to this choir member, but here's hoping the message gets out to the folks who are still on the fence.

And doing a compare and contrast between Gore and the current occupant of a certain DC mansion makes me more proud of my choice in 2000.


cynthia1960: me from Wiscon Chronicles v. 3 (Default)

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