Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy Holidays!

I just want to say a quick hello to all you Brainy Girls (and Brainy Boys) out there, and thank you for all the support you've given this fledgeling website in the past few months.  It has been a busy past few weeks, but I'm hoping to launch the January/February issue soon after the New Year.  Make sure you vote for what you want to read about on the "Interactive" page! 

Regardless of what holiday you do (or don't) celebrate at this time of year, I hope that you all take some time to appreciate YOU!

marci  :o)

Friday, December 7, 2012

Three Down, Two to Go!

We've covered three of the five senses:  smell (perfume science), hearing (interview with conductor Dijana Ihas), and taste (entomophagy), which leaves only touch and sight left!  I have some ideas for you, but let me know NOW if there's anything in particular you want to know about with regards to touch and sight!

The holidays are approaching and I will try to get these articles done, but I'll have to keep my fingers crossed.  Even Brainy Girls need to do holiday shopping!

And since we've been posting so much about insects on Facebook lately, here's a fun image for you.  The photographer's wife noticed that the sugar ants have transparent abdomens that turn the color of the fluid that they drink!  You can see more of this photographer's work with colored ants here.  Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Katydids and Conductors

Photo Credit: Dr. Montealegre-Z
and Professor Daniel Robert
Let's continue our exploration of the five senses.  What do crickets and conductors have in common?  Why, the orchestra, of course!  Someone has to direct all that chirping, no?  Well, maybe not, but sometimes it seems like the noises of nature combine to make quite a symphony.  And who's listening?  You can certainly say that South American bush crickets, or katydids, are listening, and listening well.  A recent study has found that these katydids, whose ears are on their legs, have a hearing system very similar to mammals but are incredibly sensitive and can detect noises from great distances.  Perhaps this study will help unlock some of the secrets to supersonic hearing for humans!

Yes, that's right, I'm talking about our sense of hearing.  However, I thought we could take a break from all the technical jargon for a bit and simply enjoy our sense of hearing.  And what's better to listen to than music?  I'm psyched to present our latest interview, this month featuring Dr. Dijana Ihas of Pacific University in Oregon.  I met her after she conducted a high school honor band concert and she very kindly allowed me to ask her some questions about her career as a professional musician and music teacher.  So, if you play or are learning a musical instrument, or know a music teacher, read and share this interview.  The interview is located on the "Work It" page, here; please enjoy and let me know what you think!

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving and that the holiday was a feast for all five of your senses!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Who is an Engineer?

One of the things that Brainy Girls tries to do is defy stereotypes.  What do you think a female engineer acts like?  Looks like?  Take a look at Laura and remember - YOU can be anything you want to be...defy the stereotype!  The only person who defines who you are is YOU.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

I'm *Sensing* Some Changes Around Here!

Welcome to the November - December issue of Brainy Girls!  Over the next week or so you'll notice that the content will change - the old stuff will disappear and new stuff will take its place.  Did you miss out on any of the September - October issue?  If you'd like, you can request a pdf of the entire thing and I'll email it to you - just send me a note through the Feedback page (unfortunately, it looks like I can't post files directly to this website).  It's no trouble at all!

You may have noticed that I'm referring to Brainy Girls content as "issues".  This is because I very much consider this website to be an online magazine, with the same type of content that you'd find in a print publication.  We've got articles, we've got interviews, we've got other fun little tidbits!  The only difference is that you don't have to pay for it, and there are no advertisements.  So if you like this online magazine, pass it around to your friends!

You may also have noticed that a few things have changed in this latest issue.  First, there's an "interactive" page where I hope to post things for you to engage with.  Please let me know how you like it - right now, there's a poll for what you'd like to see in future Brainy Girls issues.  Second, I've moved the links and good reads sections to one page, "more, please".  There, you'll find links, books, DVDs, and other things I think you might find interesting.  Next, I now have a "videos" page, where I'll post videos relevant to the current issue's theme.  We also have our own YouTube channel!  You can subscribe to that and see what videos we like.  Additionally, current news will now be featured through Facebook, since it's so easy to find and share there.  So if you haven't "liked" our Facebook page, please do so!  And that leads me to my final point - social media.  It turns out I'm kind of a social media geek, and have gone a little overboard on the social media scene.  But that's ok, it just gives you that many more options to connect with Brainy Girls!  You can find us on Facebook, Google+, Blogger (the "join this site" button on the left side of this page), YouTube and even Pinterest!  Yahoo!  (Well, not Yahoo.com, but yahoo, as in yippee!!!)

I'd like to take a moment to reiterate the purpose of Brainy Girls.  There are two main messages that I want to impress upon you:  1) most importantly, be proud of who you are, whoever you are; and 2) be smart!  No matter what "type" of girl you are, you can use your brain.  You don't have to choose between being smart or popular or geeky or pretty - you can be ALL of these things, some of these things, or something else entirely.  It's up to you!  Brainy Girls is here to encourage you to enjoy using your brain!

One last thing...the theme for November and December!  I received a note from a girl named Wallis who was hoping to learn more about the science behind cosmetics and perfume.  I started thinking about fragrance, and then thought about how much we enjoy smelling (crisp winter air, pumpkin pie), tasting (turkey and stuffing, please!), feeling (warm air from the fireplace), hearing (caroling, anyone?) and seeing (brilliant changing leaf colors) the world around us at this time of year.  You see where I'm going with this?  Yes, our new theme is our senses - and I'll take a look at some of the ways they help us navigate our world, for survival, need, and enjoyment.  I hope you enjoy the next couple of months!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Nice to Meet You, Ada Lovelace!

Do you know who Ada Lovelace was?  Shoot - neither did I prior to just a couple of days ago when I learned it was Ada Lovelace Day.  Born in 1815, Augusta Ada Byron (yes, daughter of poet Lord Byron) was an English mathematician and and is now known for her work regarding an early mechanical general-purpose computer, the "analytical engine". Her notes on the engine include what is recognized as the first language processed by a machine; hence, she is considered the world's first computer programmer.  So what is Ada Lovelace Day all about?  This year, Ada Lovelace Day fell on October 16.  The day is all about telling your story of a woman in science, technology, engineering or math who helped make you who you are today.  It's about celebrating brainy girls as role models!  I know that in my career I've looked up to a lot of women, whether they were teachers or professors, or coworkers, or even some of my own relatives.  Who inspired your braininess???

I came across an interesting article that listed a number of women who made significant contributions to the STEM fields.  Considering these accomplishments, why is it, then, that women make up only 25% of those employed in the STEM fields?  Perhaps we need more role models.  Perhaps we need STEM in our girls' daily lives...a regular part of their learning and interests, so that choosing a path towards science, technology, engineering and mathematics isn't so foreign, daunting, or intimidating.

And why should STEM be any of those things to girls?  Check out this TED talk I just stumbled upon - it's about science and play, and how (when you think about it) scientific experiments really are just games.  The talk gets interesting around minute 6 because a young girl is brought in to talk about her class's experiment with bees, which was published in a peer-reviewed journal.  Really amazing!  Let's keep our girls' brains playing for as long as we can!

Meet the Polar Bear Ambassadors!

Did you read the Work It interview with polar bear biologist Susi Miller?  She does a lot of work in a small village called Kaktovik in Alaska.  One of the things she's very involved in is trying to reduce negative polar bear - human interactions: it's all about polar bear safety!  So given all that I had learned about Susi's job, I was pleasantly surprised to see a recent article in the Arctic Sounder about a group of teenagers that are serving as Kaktovik Youth Ambassadors!  These four kids put in a full day at school, then spend extra time talking with tourists and visitors about how to be safe in an area that has a lot of polar bears.  These ambassadors have lived around polar bears their entire lives, so who better to promote polar bear safety?  Read the article to learn more about their work.  Way to go, kiddos!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Sooooo Cool...literally!

Biologist Susi Miller, USFWS, with one
of her study subjects.
I am super excited to announce that Brainy Girls has posted its first "Work It" feature!  I'm so excited, as a matter of fact, that I actually had to leave work a couple hours early so that I could write up the interview I conducted with Susi Miller, Polar Bear Biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  She told me all about her job - what she does, who she works with, how she got there, and the best and worst parts of her work.  Additionally, she has some FANTASTIC advice for any of you young women out there who might be thinking about a career in wildlife biology.  So please take a look at the Work It page and read the interview.  And did I mention pictures?  No?  Well, there are pictures!  You can see for yourself just how hardcore Susi is - and I'll admit that I, for one, am just a little jealous of her job.  Ok, so I don't know if I would do so well in the cold climate, but still - she works with polar bears!  Have you read enough of me talking about the interview yet?  Yes?  Well, stop reading this and head on over to Work It!  Enjoy!

Monday, October 1, 2012


As you'll notice, Brainy Girls has gotten a bit of a makeover.  A bit darker, a bit creepier, a bit more October.  Ahhhh, October.  My favorite month!  Not only is the weather changing - cooling down, leaves turning colors, the smell of autumn in the air, but at the end of the month is my favorite holiday.  Yay Halloween!!!  Any holiday that combines candy and dressing up in costumes is ok in my book.  And since I love candy, and I love costumes, well, me and Halloween are a natural match.  So, you might be seeing some scary things happening at Brainy Girls this month.

But don't let that frighten you off - I've still got lots of interesting things planned for the month of October.  For example, did you know that October 3rd is National Virus Appreciation Day?  Yes, indeed.  You'll hear more about that, well, the day after tomorrow.  And, October 4-10 is World Space Week.  Why does it start in the middle of the week?  I'll tell you all about it.  Plus, in honor of World Space Week, I'll be posting an article on the latest Mars Rover mission, so keep an eye out for that.  Also, I'm particularly excited about our "Work It" feature.  I don't want to reveal it right now, but I've got an interview scheduled for this week...with someone in Alaska!  But that's all the hints you will be receiving...you'll have to wait until next week to see who I've gotten to talk with!

And for those of you into computers, October happens to be National Cyber Security Awareness Month.  So ratchet up your antivirus settings and avoid those viruses (unless it's October 3, which is Virus Appreciation Day)!  Oh!  And I almost forgot - October is also great because the 29th is National Cat Day!  And cats are awesome, so yay cats!

Happy October - don't forget to stop back soon and see what's new!

Monday, September 24, 2012

An Unexpected History Lesson About Brainy Ladies

I'm a little embarrassed to admit this, but I've lived in the Portland area for over three years now and I just visited the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (fondly known as OMSI) for the first time.  And I have to say that it's a pretty awesome place if you want to get your hands on real science...in fact, they actually want you to play with stuff!  I didn't see one "do not touch" sign, or see any parents yelling at their kids to not play with something that just looked too irresistible not to touch. 

While I enjoyed the earth science exhibit immensely (I got to be a weather forecaster in front of a green screen!!!), the biggest surprise for me came when we went to the physics lab.  In front of the physics lab they had a large bulletin board with all sorts of newspaper clippings about physics in the news.  And guess what - about a quarter of them were all about women who excelled in the field of physics and mathematics.  I took a little time to read about some of them.
Emmy Noether (SPL/Photo Researchers)

A New York Times article (March 26, 2012) titled The Mighty Mathematician You've Never Heard Of, described Amalie Noether, the woman who Einstein called the most significant and creative female mathematician of all time. She invented a theorem that united "two pillars of physics: symmetry in nature and the universal laws of conservation. Some consider Noether’s theorem, as it is now called, as important as Einstein’s theory of relativity; it undergirds much of today’s vanguard research in physics, including the hunt for the almighty Higgs boson." Wowzers!  In light of that, it seems logical that many of her contemporaries viewed her as the most significant and creative mathematician - period - regardless of her gender.

Dr. Spiewak Dresselhaus, by
Evan McGlinn for The New York Times
And there were other women featured in more articles, too.  For example, Margaret Murnane, a University of Colorado at Boulder Professor, recently won Ireland's top science award for her work with lasers and x-ray technology.  And Dr. Mildred Spiewak Dresselhaus, a professor of physics and engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, won the 2012 Kavli Prize in Nanoscience for her work studying the properties of carbon. 

What amazing women we have to serve as role models.  Once you start looking, it seems that they are everywhere!  I suggest you stop by your nearest science museum, and no matter how old (or young) you are, play.  Use your hands and your brain - what will you learn?  What will you envision yourself doing?  Who knows...perhaps some day you'll be playing with stars!

Me, geeking out at OMSI.  Maybe YOU will be an astronaut some day!

Monday, September 17, 2012


Retro rocket launch by Avero

Well, hello there!  Thanks for joining Brainy Girls as we launch our braininess into the Interwebs!  I'm happy to finally say that we're ready to go live with our new blog, Brainy Girls.  With the exception of "Work It", you'll find that all the pages in the blog are ready for your reading enjoyment (and trust me, I'm working on Work It).  This blog is aimed at sharing cool and interesting news in the STEM fields with girls between the ages of 11 and 17 (or roundabouts - girls and women of ALL ages are welcome here!).  What are the STEM fields?  Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.  Exciting, huh?  We want you to know that it's awesome to be brainy, and that you can be everything you already are, plus brainy too.

Here's how this blog works:
  1. READ - Every two months, you'll see a new theme for Brainy Girls.  All the old theme-related content will be removed for fresh new-themed articles, news, and other goodies.  Since this blog is so new and I want everyone who's interested to get a chance to take part in introductions, the theme for September / October is "Nice to Meet You".
  2. PARTICIPATE - Enjoy the blog!  If you want, leave a comment about what you read in the comment boxes found at the bottom of every page.  Or, you can sent a private email through the form on the Feedback page.
  3. SUBSCRIBE - Follow this blog!  There's a little button off to the right (see it?) that will guide you through the process.  When you check your blogger feed, you'll see new blog entries from Brainy Girls there.
  4. LIKE - If you're so inclined, "like" the Brainy Girls facebook page (there's a link on the left side of this page).  When you like the facebook page, you can join in discussions, ask questions, give  feedback on what you'd like to see in this blog, and you'll find out about blog updates and anything else I think you'll enjoy knowing about as a brainy girl.
  5. SHARE - Please share this blog and facebook page!  Tell your friends, your daughters, your daughters' friends. 
  6. REREAD - Don't freak out when the previous months' blog content disappears!  New content will take its place with a fresh theme.  AND, you can request a .pdf of previous months' content through the form on the Feedback page, so it will be available to you any time you like (once I figure out how to make a .pdf from this blog, that is).
Page from "This is Cape Canaveral"
by Miroslav Sasek, 1963
I am VERY much looking forward to meeting my readers and hearing back from you about what you'd like to read about on Brainy Girls.  I hope you love this blog and are as excited as I am to see it launch!

    Friday, September 14, 2012

    September and October's Theme: Nice to Meet You!

    Greetings, Brainy Girls!  This blog and corresponding facebook page is ALMOST ready to go live.  Hurray!  I just need to add a few things, write a couple of things, and we'll be all set for launch.

    In the meantime, ponder this: the Brainy Girls theme for the month of October (ok, and the rest of September) is "Nice to Meet You".  Since Brainy Girls soon be introducing ourselves to the Interwebs, I would like to say that, yes indeed, it is nice to meet ALL of you!  And since we have a theme, it means that a lot of the content that will be featured on this blog (i.e., Feature Essays and Work It) will follow this theme.  So, what does "nice to meet you" mean to you?  Who would you like to meet, and why?  Who would you NOT like to meet?  I'll be giving you some potential answers to those questions mega-soon.  But if you want to chime in, feel free to leave a comment below, or contact me through the Feedback page.

    Anywhooooooo...enough of that.  Take a look at this video and guess who these girls got to meet at the White House Science Fair earlier this year...yup - our very own POTUS (that's President of the United States fyi)!  And it was clear that he was very impressed by what these girls had dreamed up and built.  Be sure to watch the last part of the video to hear what advice these girls have for others.  You might have an itty bitty dream growing in your mind that could some day - and sooner than you think - turn into a BIG idea!  Way to represent, young scientists!