Scientista Presidents' Circle - Meet The President!
Meredith MacGregor, PhD Candidate; Harvard University
Meredith MacGregor; President, Harvard Science Club for Girls
Tell us about yourself! I just graduated from Harvard College in May of 2011 and I decided to jump right into graduate school afterwards. Currently, I am studying as a first year graduate student in Astronomy and Astrophysics at Harvard University. It was just too difficult to leave Cambridge and all of the amazing research opportunities here. For my current research project, I am studying the disks of dust and debris that exist around young, recently formed stars. By performing observations with submillimeter interferometers like the SMA and ALMA, we hope to be able to probe the process of planet formation within these disks.
How did you decide to get involved in your organization? Science Club for Girls (SCFG) is a larger organization in the Boston and Cambridge area that aims to provide mentorship for young girls who are interested in science by running afterschool programs in science for girls in kindergarten through 6th grade. Undergraduate and graduate women go once a week and teach an experiment-based curriculum on topics that range from Oceans to the Human Body to Rockets. I heard about SCFG over an email list when I was a junior in college and I knew that I wanted to get involved. I remember how much my mentors meant to me when I was first beginning my path towards a career in science and I love having the opportunity to fill that role for today’s aspiring scientists. Most physical sciences are still vastly male-dominated fields and I think that it is critical that we continue to encourage and inspire young girls and women to pursue careers in these fields.
After I had been involved with SCFG for two years, we began the process of forming a Harvard Science Club for Girls student organization. Having this new organization makes it much easier to reach out to other Harvard undergraduate and graduate students and get them involved in the program as well. The more mentors we have, the more girls we can reach!
What is your favorite organization event? At the end of each semester, SCFG has an event called “Everybody Loves Science.” All of the girls from all of sites that SCFG works at come together and show off what they have been working on for the entire semester. It is always wonderful to see so much enthusiasm for science in one place!
When you are not being a Scientista, you are most likely… Running along the Charles River. Reading all of the books that I’ve never had a chance to read before. Doing the New York Times Crossword. Hanging out in coffee shops. And, playing in a symphony orchestra. All at different times, of course.
Which woman in science inspires you the most? I think that I have to go with Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin. She was the first person to earn a doctoral degree in Astronomy from Radcliffe at a time when many institutions did not grant degrees to women. It is truly inspiring how she persevered in such an environment and was able to do such remarkable science.
Why do you think organizations such as yours and the Scientista Foundation are important? The American Association of University Women published a report entitled "Why So Few? Women and Girls in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics" in March 2010 that attempts to address why there are so few women in STEM fields. This report discusses a finding that children are exposed to stereotypes as early as elementary school that girls are not as good at math and science as boys. It is critical for programs to contradict these stereotypes and to encourage girls and women to pursue science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) throughout their educations. Organizations like Science Club for Girls and the Scientista Foundation serve exactly this purpose!
What do you think is the most important scientific research or discovery of today? This past year, Saul Perlmutter, Brian Schmidt, and Adam Riess were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery that the university is expanding at an accelerating rate. This acceleration is supposed to be driven by a mysterious thing called “dark energy” that makes up about 75% of the universe today. However, what exactly dark energy is remains perhaps one of the greatest puzzles in physics today. I think that this work is certainly one of the most interesting areas of research today. Unraveling this problem will allow us to actually understand what the eventual fate of our universe will be!