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1/7/2015 » 1/9/2015
“Science and Religion in the Local Church,” Cambridge, England

“Identity, self-esteem and the Image of God,” Cambridge, England

Agriculture: Science & Christian Ethics, Paris, France

2015 Winter Day Conference - So Calif Christians in Science

“Global Access Conference: Where Disabilities & Possibilities Meet,” Westlake Village, CA

CWIS: Christian Women in Science
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CWIS is an affiliate of the American Scientific Affiliation and is open to all interested Christian Women in Science.


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Focus on Jennifer Wiseman

Posted By Alice C. Linsley, Sunday, November 17, 2013


Jennifer J. Wiseman is an astronomer and a Fellow of the American Scientific Affiliation. She holds a bachelor's degree in physics from MIT and a Ph.D. in Astronomy from Harvard. After research fellowships at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory and the Johns Hopkins University, she joined NASA in 2003.

Dr. Wiseman discovered periodic comet 114P/Wiseman-Skiff while working as a research assistant in January 1987. It was discovered on two photographic plates that had been taken on December 28, 1986, by Brian A. Skiff of Lowell Observatory. Wiseman and Skiff confirmed the comet on January 19, 1987. Comet 114P/Wiseman–Skiff is believed to have been the parent body of the first meteor photographed from Mars.

Jennifer Wiseman is chief of the ExoPlanets and Stellar Astrophysics Laboratory in the Astrophysics Science Division at NASA Goddard Space.

Jennifer Wiseman's affection for astronomy began with late-night stargazing walks with her parents on their Arkansas farm. Besides working as an astrophysicist, Jennifer is a public speaker and one of the country's top leaders on science policy. She has written here about how ASA members can help young Christians in the sciences. 

Tags:  astronomy  Jennifer Wiseman 

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Dr. Lin Allen Shares a Vision for CWIS

Posted By Alice C. Linsley, Tuesday, November 05, 2013

 Alice C. Linsley

One of the members of Christian Women in Science (CWIS) is also on the Rocky Mountain Board of the American Scientific affiliation. Dr. Lin Suzanne Allen is in the Humanities and Social Sciences at University of Northern Colorado. Her research includes court case analyses that address scientific questions. The research focuses on language and images in court argument and the construction of heroic imagination in public memory.

Lin holds a B.A. degree in Speech and Drama from Idaho State University; an M.A. in Communication Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison; and a Ph.D. in Rhetoric from the University of Oregon.

Lin has served as Director of Forensics and Debate for Idaho State University and taught in the Greenspun School of Communication at the University of NevadaLas Vegas

Allen volunteers as a lector at St. Peter Roman Catholic Parish in Greeley and is a Parish Council Member. Other volunteer work includes CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate), and Presidency of the Colorado Chapter of PARTNERS of the AMERICAS.

Lin is indeed a very busy woman! In additional to all the above, she is Minor Advisor for Communication Studies, an advisor for Law Club, and a Faculty in Residence at Harrison Hall on the University of Northern Colorado campus.

She has been traveling a great deal also. Her first college credits were earned in an overseas European program the summer after high school graduation, studying Comparative Cultures and Governments. At the time of this interview she was in PhuketThailand. She has led a Study Abroad course in Athens on Classical Rhetoric in Greece. She studied cultural narratives of the New China in Beijing and presented research in TokyoSingapore, and Brazil. At home, she has delivered presentations in TexasChicagoAlaskaWashingtonD.C., and San Francisco.

What follows is a brief interview with Dr. Allen.

CWIS: What drew you to the Christian Women in Science organization?

Dr. Lin Allen
ALLEN: Lynn Billman's extraordinary gift of inspiring ASA members to view our world from a spirit of wonder and gratitude. Lynn is faith personified. 

CWIS: What are your hopes for CWIS's future?

ALLEN:  That there will be an openness to learn how faith, science and the humanities intersect and enrich one another. 

CWIS: Please share your thoughts on ways CWIS can edify Christian women in science and technology.

ALLEN: By providing a creative forum for charting how the mythos of science and faith inform and influence our research questions and inspire directions for discovery. Human life is a mystery that becomes richer and deeper as we explore our scientific pilgrimage. 

CWIS: In your view, how might CWIS serve to build and strengthen the greater Body of Christ?

ALLEN: An article by Pichaya Svasti published in the October 24, 2013, Bangkok Post provides a guiding illustration of how we create our lives via exploration. Titled "Diving into the past," the interview features Pornnatcha SankhasprasitThailand's first female underwater archaeologist:

"With her love for solving mysteries, she was a volunteer assistant to underwater archaeologists since she was 19, after attending a summer camp at the Fine Arts Department's Office of Underwater Archaeology in Chanthaburi ....

Pornnatcha has undertaken a dangerous task in her hopes of better understanding the past, especially through recovery of artifacts from the Ayutthaya Era, a Siamese kingdom that existed from 1351 to 1767. Has she ever wondered what it would be like to live during that time?  In keeping with Buddhist narrative, she says, "I think everyone was reborn from one point.”  

For Pornnatcha science and religious belief go hand-in-hand. The two enrich each other. She illustrates how the archaeology of faith and the faith of archaeology can be a guiding vision. Likewise, CWIS can help to bring a renaissance of the science-faith, faith-science narrative.

CWIS: Tell us more about some of the cases you have worked on.

ALLEN: Some of my cases include Venice’s METAMORPH, the Lincoln Museum, the JFK memorial site, Memphis’ Graceland, and the narrative published by Mark Owen (pseudonym for Matt Bissonnette), a Navy SEAL who took part in the raid that ended the life of Osama Bin Laden.

Tags:  Lin Allen 

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2013 Board of Christian Women in Science

Posted By Alice C. Linsley, Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Lynn Billman, CWIS Board Chair

The first CWIS Board was assembled during our opening months of operation. Given that this is a brand new organization, we relied on the Holy Spirit for guidance, and the ASA Executive Council for feedback, and came up with several criteria. We wanted women who have demonstrated support for the ASA overall, who had shown a strong interest in the mission of CWIS, and who thought they would have enough time to participate on the Board. As to the best number, we were finally led to try the biblical number of seven. Diversity on the Board seemed an important criteria for us to be able to successfully serve our desired audience, and we managed to put together a good group for our initial Board:

· Some Board members are professionally associated with secular institutions, some from Christian institutions, and some with professional experience in both.

· We are university professors, government research managers, one person with consulting experience, and one student.

· We include a chemist, mechanical engineer, plant scientist, energy analyst, integrative biologist, science educator, and aerospace engineer.

· We range in age from graduate student to retiree.

· Our Board calls are convened across all four time zones in the United States.

As we agreed in our Charter, the duties of the Board are to:

· Set policy and direction of Christian Women in Science.

· Determine the proposed activities for the next year that Christian Women in Science will initiate and sustain to achieve its mission and goals for its stakeholder communities.

· Recruit, select, train, motivate, and guide volunteers to implement these activities as needed.

· Respond to suggestions for new or additional activities as they are offered by the membership or others.

· As necessary, review official communications (blogs, newsletters, website material, etc) of Christian Women in Science before publication or dissemination.

· Report periodically on activities to the membership and to the ASA leadership.

Please feel free to contact any of the Board members with questions or ideas. We need your active participation to let us know what you need, what you want, and how we are doing! Thanks for your support.

Christian Women in Science

Board of Directors, 2013

Ms. Lynn Billman grew up in Chicago, and earned a BS in Chemistry and a Phi Beta Kappa key from University of California Berkeley in 1975. After several years at Chevron as an analytical chemist and operations analyst, she began a 26-year-career at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado, where she served as a senior energy analyst, institutional planner, science writer, and manager, for many different energy-related projects, until her retirement in Sept 2013. Her husband of 34 years passed away in late 2012, but she has four grown children, three spouses, and three grandchildren in the Denver area. She became involved in ASA in 2003, and was blessed with being elected to the ASA National Council to serve 2013-2017. Lynn is excited to able to help encourage more women to become involved in ASA, and to help other women scientists realize that Christians are not the enemy. Lynn was elected an ASA Fellow in 2009.

Contact Lynn at

Dr. Gayle Ermer serves as a professor of engineering at Calvin College, where she has taught mechanical engineering courses since 1994. Her educational experience includes degrees from Calvin College (B.S. Engineering – Mechanical Concentration), the University of Wisconsin – Madison (M.S. Manufacturing Systems Engineering) and Michigan State University (Ph.D in Mechanical Engineering). Her technical specialties include machine/system dynamics and manufacturing system quality. She has also written papers on engineering ethics, women in engineering, and Christian perspectives on technology, many of which have been contributions to the Christian Engineering Education Conference (CEEC) and to ASA, where she was recently elected a fellow. She is an active member of Jamestown Christian Reformed Church in Hudsonville, MI, where she regularly leads worship and sings on a praise team. Gayle was elected an ASA Fellow in 2013.

 Contact Gayle at

Dr. Beth Kroa is a native of northwest Ohio. Beth majored in chemistry at Bowling Green State University for her bachelor’s degree and studied at The University of Toledo for a doctorate in organic and biochemistry. Inthe fall of 1983, her freshman year of college, she became a follower of Christ after reading the book of Romans in a New Testament she received from the Gideons. She worked in the chemistry field as a high school chemistry teacher, a research scientist, and university faculty member. She and her husband David have been married since 1986 and have one son, James, who has lived in his room in heaven since 2010. Beth is currently an assistant professor of chemistry at Bethel College in Mishawaka, IN, and she and David reside on a small farm in nearby Niles, MI with two dogs, a cat, and several chickens. She is involved in mentoring, discipleship groups, and music ministry at her college and home church and is often found at Gideon conventions and banquets as a testimony speaker.   

Contact Beth at 

Dr. Ann Marie Thro has served since 2001 as a National Program Leader in the areas of plant breeding and genetic resources, in USDA’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture. During 2011/12, "on loan” to USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, she worked with counterparts in the Ministry of Agriculture in Afghanistan. Her previous positions include service as Commissioner of the USDA Plant Variety Protection Office (1999-2001); Coordinator, Cassava Biotechnology Network, International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Cali, Colombia; Technical Advisor, National Grain Legume Program, Gandajika, Zaire (now D.R. Congo) (1991-92), and Associate Professor of Agronomy, Louisiana State University (1982-1992). Ann Marie earned a PhD and MS in Plant Breeding and Genetics from Iowa State University; a BS in Agronomy from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and a BS in History from Bryn Mawr College.

Contact Ann Marie at

Dr. Kristen Tolson is a postdoctoral research fellow at UC San Diego, studying the regulation of pubertal development and the interface of reproduction and metabolism. She earned her Bachelor’s degrees in Biological Sciences (BS) and World Cultures and Religions (BA) from California Lutheran University in 2004, and her Ph.D. in Integrative Biology from University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in 2009. Kristen is dedicated to both research and education, using her research experience to inform her teaching and bring relevance to abstract concepts. She works to remain active in the larger community through volunteer opportunities, especially in programs designed to increase scientific interest in disadvantaged and minority populations, and also recently began teaching Microbiology of Infectious Diseases at Point Loma Nazarene University.

Contact Kristen at

Ms. Faith Tucker is the youngest member of the board and an educator by training. She brings her passion for students and early career scientists to the CWIS board. Her interest in the intersection between faith and science was sparked while double majoring in Astronomy and Religion at Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA. Since graduating, she has spent time working in astronomy education at NASA, teaching high school astronomy and physics, and managing communications for the Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She is currently pursuing a Master's degree in science education from Stanford University.

Contact Faith at  

Dr. Leslie Wickman directs the Center for Research in Science at Azusa Pacific University (APU), where she stimulates the dialog on science and theology by bringing in renowned speakers, and a full professor at APU, teaching Astronomy and related classes. Leslie has a PhD from Stanford University in Human Factors and Biomechanics, and an MS in Aeronautical/Astronautical Engineering from Stanford, and a BS in political science from Willamette University, Oregon. She worked for Lockheed Martin and NASA Ames Research Center before coming to APU, and continues to consult for NASA, the Air Force, and other clients Her current projects include research on global climate change and national security issues, assessment of current and future space mission technologies and applications, human factors issues in extreme environments, and sustainable water reclamation systems. Leslie was elected an ASA Fellow in 2013.

Contact Leslie at

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Liberating Women from the Curse of the Three-Stone Fire

Posted By Alice C. Linsley, Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Paul Arveson has been a member of ASA since 1974. He has a background in research physics and computer system management. Since 2008 Paul has served as a Director on the board of a local nonprofit called Solar Household Energy, Inc. Louise Meyer is co-founder of this organization and has been an international advocate and trainer for solar cooking projects in many countries.

By Paul Arveson

In some African wedding ceremonies, a woman is not considered married until she goes out in the desert and collects three large stones to make a hearth.  She is literally married to her three-stone fire for the rest of her life.  This is a cooking method that is still used by billions, and is the cause of health problems due to indoor smoke, deforestation, CO2, black carbon emissions, and simply the poverty exacerbated by fuel costs1. Women and children bear the brunt of the health effects, and they typically spend many hours per week gathering firewood for cooking, which has risks of its own.


This is a photo of a Haitian woman in her kitchen, where she will stir the pot, holding a child, as they breathe the smoke of the indoor cooking fire for hours a day.  What's wrong with this picture?  You can see that outside the sun is shining brightly.  Many regions of the world are rich in one resource: a solar irradiance of about 1 kilowatt per square meter that is going unused.

Researchers at organizations like Solar Household Energy, Inc. have designed efficient solar cookers that can replace fuel-based cookstoves on sunny days.  Solar cookers simply use reflectors to concentrate sunlight enough to cook a large pot of food in a couple of hours.  However, the labor time is minimal because food does not need to be stirred – like a crock pot in an American kitchen.  This frees up time to care for children, tend a garden or do other profitable activities.  There is less need for gathering, chopping and carrying firewood (except for use on cloudy days).  There is no smoke inside the house (respiratory diseases are a major cause of illness and death according to WHO1).  The solar cooker can complement a fuel-efficient stove to further reduce the labor, emissions and costs involved with fuels.

Despite the simplicity, health benefits, labor saving, fuel saving, forest saving, and other benefits of solar cookers, this technology has gone largely unrecognized and there are no significant programs to promote or distribute solar cookers by USAID, the UN, the Gates Foundation or any other major funding source.  There are plenty of projects to distribute food and clean water, but little effort has been focused on how to cook the food, or pasteurize the water.  That is why I decided to focus my efforts on this concept2.


This photo shows a solar box cooker.  A small number of these were distributed in Haiti by Solar Household Energy, Inc. in a partnership with The Nature Conservancy.

Research is needed for matching product designs to the requirements of specific regions, and this research is complex and interdisciplinary.  We need the help of anthropologists, economists, climate scientists and physicists, as well as ample feedback from the end users of various stove designs, to optimize them for long-term acceptance and use.   Despite the huge potential benefits of solar cookers and fuel-efficient stoves, so far there has been limited awareness and demand for these innovative products. 

A Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (GACC) has been established to encourage governments and other potential sponsors to recognize the opportunities these products offer to help solve many economic and environmental problems3.  The GACC has recently initiated work toward a set of testing protocols for all types of cookstoves, including solar cookers.  I am a participant in the development of this standard, and I would be delighted to engage other interested women scientists in this effort. 


Paul Arveson, Physicist

Louise Meyer, Solar Cooking Consultant

Solar Household Energy, Inc.

Washington, DC





3.      Igniting Change: A Strategy for Universal Adoption of Clean Cookstoves and Fuels, Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves,

Tags:  Paul Arveson 

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NY Times article on Women in STEM

Posted By Ruth D. Miller, Monday, October 07, 2013

My father brought this (rather long) article to my attention.  It is discouraging, frightening and hopeful all at the same time.  Comments welcome.  It ran in print on 6 October.

Tags:  CWIS 

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Engineering job opening: Messiah College

Posted By Ruth D. Miller, Monday, October 07, 2013

CWiS colleagues:

Messiah College is looking for an engineering professor, preferably (but not absolutely) in Mechanical or Biomedical Engineering, and they really really want to hire a woman.  The job listing is here:

 Ted Davis is one well-known ASA member at Messiah and would probably be happy to answer questions.  Please forward this on to whomever you think would be a good fit.

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Kim Tweten: Drawing Our Daughters into the Sciences

Posted By Alice C. Linsley, Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Kim Tweten is a mechanical engineer and the wife of Dennis Tweten PhD and professor of Engineering at Taylor University. Kim and Dennis have three daughters: Lillian, Evelyn, and Annelise.

Drawing Our Daughters into the Sciences

By Kim Tweten

I have 3 precious daughters.  They love to sew, write stories about fairies, dance and play the piano.  When I ask them if they will follow in the footsteps of their mother and father (we are both Mechanical Engineers) they shudder and run for their stuffed animal covered bedrooms.  

While they DO have sets of legos and enjoy the science museum, we like for these topics to be more of a regular topic of  conversation around our house.  Here are a few practical things we do to engage our children’s interest in science and math:

  1. Encourage them to create

As a child, on quiet afternoons by myself, I found a great deal of satisfaction in sewing.  Understanding how flat pieces would come together to form 3 dimensional objects was central to my future as an engineer.  Spatial intelligence is beneficial for many scientists.  Creating with beads can be a starting point for a conversation about computer languages and digital concepts.  Fostering creativity is a huge asset as a future problem solver, as well.

  1. Talk to them about  science and math they encounter in their lives

My daughter took up soccer this fall.  She had an epiphany one day while out on the rope swing in our yard.  "Mom, when I want to kick the ball harder… it’s like the swing – if I pull my leg back further, I will have more push for the ball, and it will go further!” What a grand opportunity for me to share with her about pendulum motion, rockets, and trebuchets.  While spending time at the beach we visit local aquariums.  When the water boils on the stove for tea, we discuss how heat affects atoms and molecules and how change of state occurs from solid to liquid to gas.  We discuss how one sister’s new understanding in multiplication with double numbers could be represented with an algebraic equation.  We figure out what the equation is and test it on a few simple problems.  Science and math are all around us and its fun to look for ways to point that out to children.  Doing so makes it less foreign and more familiar.   

  1. Guide them into meaningful relationships with women in science

We have been blessed with a pile of female friends with degrees in the sciences.  Those women have become regulars at our dinner table.  Our friends cook meals, enjoy martial arts, sew, have pets, laugh, travel, exercise and have friends over for games or movies.  They are PhD’s in the sciences, MD’s who volunteer in missionary settings, and fascinating women living joyful & interesting lives.  And most of all, they are women who have deep, abiding faith in God.  We have come to care for those women as substitute aunties in our lives… and our girls are able to see that women in the sciences are to be admired.  Enriching our lives with godly women in science and math paints a possible future for our daughters in these interesting fields.

We find that our daughters enjoy being engaged with creativity, seeing science and math around them, and befriending women in the sciences.  While we can’t be sure that they will pursue a future in the sciences (after all, they love to write, and dance, and sew) we know that they will delight in science concepts and see math as a normal part of life.


Related reading: Jennifer Wiseman: How to Help Young Christians in the Sciences


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More Christian Women in Science and Math

Posted By Alice C. Linsley, Monday, September 30, 2013


Alice C. Linsley

Christian women can gain encouragement from reading about the lives of other Christian women in the sciences, in math, and in technology. Here are three women whose lives of service have left a mark on the world. 

Agnes Giberne  (1845–1939)

Agnes Giberne was born in the state of Karnataka in India where her father, Major Charles Giberne, was in military service. She was a prolific British author who wrote fiction with religious themes for children and books on astronomy for young people. She was a devout Anglican and wrote for the Religious Tract Society. She was a founding member of the British Astronomical Association.

Her illustrated book Sun, Moon and Stars: Astronomy for Beginners (1879), with a foreword by Oxford Professor of Astronomy, Charles Pritchard, was printed in several editions on both sides of the Atlantic, and sold 24,000 copies in its first 20 years. Most of her writing was done before 1910.

In her book Through the Linn; or, Miss Temple's Wards (Google e-book) is found this prayer that was quoted in over 100 books of early 20th century:

Gracious Saviour, gentle Shepherd,

Children all are dear to Thee;

Gathered with Thine arms and carried

In Thy bosom may we be;

Sweetly, fondly, safely tended,

From all want and danger free.

Tender Shepherd, never leave us

From Thy fold to go astray;

By Thy look of love directed

May we walk the narrow way;

Thus direct us, and protect us,

Lest we fall an easy prey.‎

Sister Mary Celine Fasenmyer (1906 -1996)

Mary Celine Faenmyer was a mathematician, most noted for her work on hypergeometric functions and linear algebra.

Mary grew up in Erie, Pennsylvania. For ten years after her graduation from high school she studied and taught at Mercyhurst College in Erie. It was there that she joined the Sisters of Mercy and dedicated her life to teaching and ministry.

She pursued her mathematical studies in Pittsburgh and the University of Michigan, obtaining her doctorate in 1946 under the direction of Earl Rainville with a dissertation entitled Some Generalized Hypergeometric Polynomials. The hypergeometric polynomials she studied are called Sister Celine's polynomials.

After getting her Ph.D., Sister Mary Celine published two papers which expanded on her doctorate work. These papers would be further elaborated by Doron Zeilberger and Herbert Wilf into "WZ theory", which allowed computerized proof of many combinatorial identities.

Katharine Hayhoe


Katharine Hayhoe is an atmospheric scientist and the wife of an evangelical pastor. She serves as an expert reviewer for the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Katharine has a B.Sc. in physics and astronomy from the University of Toronto and an M.S. and Ph.D. in atmospheric science from the University of Illinois.

As an associate professor in the Department of Political Science and director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University, part of the Department of Interior's South-Central Climate Science Center, Katharine develops new ways to quantify the potential impacts of human activities at the regional scale. As founder and CEO of ATMOS Research, she also bridges the gap between scientists and stakeholders to provide relevant, state-of-the-art information on how climate change will affect our lives to a broad range of non-profit, industry and government clients.

Her climate research has been featured in the PBS documentary series, The Secret Life of Scientists, and in articles including True Believer that appeared in On Earth magazine in 2012, and Spreading the global warming gospel that appeared in the LA Times in 2011. With her husband, Andrew Farley, she coauthored A Climate for Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions (FaithWords). Katharine was named in 2012 by Christianity Today as one of 50 Women to Watch.

Related reading: Christian Women in Science, Technology and Engineering

Tags:  Anges Giberne  Katharine Hayhoe  Sister Celine 

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Lynn Billman: Do We Really Need CWIS?"

Posted By Alice C. Linsley, Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Lynn Billman is a scientist and analyst who is just about to retire after 26 years at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and 10 years at Chevron and Amoco.  She feels that the Lord has opened a door in her next chapter of life to work with Christians in the sciences, especially women.

Lynn Billman

To my amazement, I was elected to the National Council of the American Scientific Affiliation in December 2012.  When the Executive Director, Randy Isaac, suggested to me that there was work to do in the realm of women’s involvement in science, my reaction was "Really?”  I knew the participation of women in ASA was relatively low (one of the main reasons I ran for Council), but across the science establishment in the U.S.?  When I decided to major in chemistry at the University of Illinois in 1971, of course, there were few women students – and even fewer in the ranks of chemical engineering students – but today, in 2013, I was skeptical that gender issues in the sciences are still a problem.  

Always having faith in my executive director, and being a scientist/analyst, I dug into the data for myself.  And what did I find in the prestigious "Science Indicators” from the National Science Foundation?  Proof that Randy was right.  Along with this blog, we are posting on the ASA/CWIS website a set of slides that I prepared for our July 20 "launch” of ASA’s Christian Women in Science affiliate.  You will see there the numbers that aroused my passion for reaching out to Christian women interested in science, and gave birth to CWIS.  

Take a look yourself.  Our sisters in Christ need support to pursue and stay engaged in science.  Our sisters in science who are not Christians need to understand, at least, that Christians are not troglodytes when it comes to science.  Our mission in CWIS is to encourage Christian women of all ages to pursue, sustain, and grow in a career in science,

technology, engineering or math, and to encourage women in these endeavors to pursue, sustain, and grow in the Christian faith.  If you haven’t already, come join us!  


Tags:  CWIS  Lynn Billman 

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Gayle Ermer on Balancing Profession and Family

Posted By Alice C. Linsley, Thursday, September 12, 2013


Gayle Ermer

As a female engineering faculty member at a Christian college, it is not been uncommon for female engineering students to stop by my office and ask for advice. Several years ago an ambitious, God-fearing Christian young woman presented me with the following question: how will a career as an engineer in industry allow me to also spend time with my family?

The issue of how to balance professional work with a family life is a hot button topic for female students. Interestingly, I have never had a male student express this concern. I suspect many young guys have simply not thought far enough ahead to consider issues of family/work balance. And I would not be surprised if the majority of them were unconsciously assuming that their eventual female spouse would be handling the kids and family management tasks while they would be free to put as much time as necessary into their engineering work. However, many young women are already conscious, even before they have obtained their engineering degrees, of the need to manage their own expectations for success in achieving their career goals and in fulfilling the responsibilities of motherhood. Women are aware of the pressure to do it all. They intuitively understand that they cannot let career take over at the expense of raising godly kids, nor can they focus entirely on nurturing a family at the expense of applying their gifts and talents in God’s service through significant time devoted to a professional career, especially in a technical field.

My initial response to questions of this type is always the same:  It is not up to you as the wife and mother to figure out how to balance work and family responsibilities. It is up to you and your spouse together, in a balanced partnership, to decide how parenting responsibilities will be allocated in your family unit. Most careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) are demanding in terms of time and mental energy, but there are many, many possible ways to arrange your life to perform Christian service on the job as well as provide Christian discipleship for the children God entrusts to us. There is no one right way to balance these tasks, either as a mom or a dad. The solution for my family has been for my husband (also an engineer) to work full time in industry, while I work part time (~70% of a regular faculty load) in academia. When my kids were young, this meant three days of week of daycare. For two of my colleagues, this has involved sharing of a single academic position. With each spouse working 50% of a full time load, careful scheduling of courses allows both to contribute equally to childcare. I have a cousin who is a medical doctor. Her husband stays home full time to watch their two boys.

I will admit that I have not always found support for my career aspirations in church or from Christian friends. I live in a conservative community where the norm is for Christian men to be breadwinners and Christian women to be stay-at-home moms. And arranging child care has personally been one of the most stressful aspects of pursuing my career. There are no perfect solutions. But the reward of knowing that God is using me in my work to reach students and improve the flourishing of the world through technology is what makes negotiating the tensions worth it.

So, whether you are just beginning to contemplate your career and family goals, or are in the midst of the struggle to have it all as a working mom, be sure to keep an open mind. What works for someone else may not work for you. We need to keep from judging each other, allow and encourage our husbands to participate in nurturing our shared offspring, and continually seek God’s guidance through prayer in balancing the various vocations in which God has called us to participate. In the words of Proverbs 16: 2-3:

"All a person’s ways seem pure to them,
    but motives are weighed by the Lord.

Commit to the Lord whatever you do,
    and he will establish your plans.”

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