Activities for
Students and Early Career Network

at Annual Meeting of American Scientific Affiliation, 2008

Friday-Monday, August 1-4, 2008:
Saturday 9 pm, Outing (off campus)
Sunday 12-1 pm, Luncheon (on campus)
Saturday, 3:30-5:30, Symposium
Sunday, 3:30-6:00, Science Careers Panel

Other Career-Relevant Talks
Symposium: Gender Issues in Science

homepage for Christian Careers in Science

Gwen Schmidt, Organizer and Moderator

featuring invited speaker Bill Newsome from Stanford University, with discussion to follow

Being Faithful in the Secular Academy: Addressing the Tough Questions
Bill Newsome
        When scientific colleagues learn about my religious faith, I receive all sorts of reactions ranging from simple incomprehension communicated by a puzzled or embarrassed expression, to surprise or even hostility, all the way to occasional expressions of genuine openness and even sympathy.
        My more extroverted colleagues will often challenge me with questions such as, “How can a smart guy like you believe all that stuff?” or “I don’t get it; you must use a different part of your brain when you do that,” or “But Bill, this is so different from your normal way of thinking.”
        Across 30 years in academia, I have tried to devise authentic ways of communicating my reasons for faith to my colleagues, and this presentation will focus on some of the talking points I have developed.
        There will be plenty of time for audience members to share their thoughts and perspectives on this important issue as well.

Science Careers Panel
Susan Daniels, Organizer and Moderator

• Matthew Stanford - Professor of psychology, neuroscience, and biomedical studies at Baylor University
• Anne Carpenter - Director of the Imaging Platform at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT
• Annabelle Pratt - Senior Power Architect at Intel
• Carolyn Anderson - Assistant professor of chemistry at Calvin College
• Susan Daniels - Health Scientist Administrator, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) / National Institutes of Health (NIH)

who will give short talks covering:
their career paths,
what their jobs entail,
what skills and experience are needed to enter/succeed in that career,
how faith and science come together for them personally in that career.

After the short talks, there will be a panel discussion to engage questions from the audience, followed by opportunities to network.

Here are other career-relevant talks:

An Exile in Babylon: The Personal Story of a Christian Anthropologist in the Secular Academy
Thomas Headland (plenary talk)
        Thomas Headland, a Christian missionary since 1960 and an elected Fellow of the American Anthropological Association since 1993, will tell how he and his wife gained the friendship of a hunter-gatherer tribe in the Philippines, and later the friendship of many secular anthropologists. Anthropologists have a history of antipathy toward missionaries.  Could God use a missionary to crack that barrier?  Headland hopes so.
        Headland has loved anthropology passionately since a child, and God since his early 20s.  While both anthropologists and some Christians see him as an oxymoron, he claims he has never had a minute of conflict between these two loves.  He has taught anthropology part-time in two state universities since 1986 because he believes the science of anthropology can be used to better humankind.  It can be harnessed for Kingdom work, and it can be used equally in the secular world to bring betterment to human suffering and misunderstanding.  He will tell his story in this presentation.

The Calling of the Christian Engineer
William M. Jordan
        The concept of vocation has been largely lost in our modern culture.  Many people think it only means a career in full time Christian ministry or an education obtained at a vocational/technical school.  However, vocation for the Christian engineer should mean much more.
        In his excellent paper in Christian Scholars Review, Byron Newberry writes that vocation refers to a “divine call or summons to live a life of transcendent purpose-to use one’s distinct gifts in the service of God’s people and for the stewardship of God’s creation.”  Newberry’s paper discusses the difficulties in trying to install this concept of vocation in contemporary engineering education.
        This presentation expands upon Newberry’s work by discussing some specific things God may be calling the 21st century engineer to do.  Among the topics we will discuss are:
        1. How does God call a Christian engineer?  How do we recognize it when it happens?
        2. What can we infer from the Bible about the nature of technology and how can it be used to better society?
        3. In a world with large numbers of very poor people, does our calling require us to use our engineering skills to better the lives of the poor?
        Some engineers believe that by making a substantial income and giving some of it to good causes they have done enough.  Other engineers believe they have been called to work full time in the developing world with groups like Living Water or Bridging the Gap-Africa.  Other engineers may donate a few weeks of their time each year helping out groups like Engineers without Borders or Engineering Ministries International.  Frequently Christian engineers help out with international service projects because it feels like a nice thing to do.
        This presentation will go beyond this superficial perspective to help Christian engineers understand their calling.

Science as Godly Vocation — A Virtue Ethics Model
Thomas D. Pearson
        The commonplace understanding of science is that scientific inquiry is defined by its object and its method: the natural world is examined under the auspices of a rigorous set of protocols that involve observation, testing, and confirmation.  The ethical issues that may arise in connection with the scientific endeavor—whether they be private moral issues of individual conduct or public issues of societal impact—while they are important, are typically considered extraneous to the “doing of science” itself. As a result, when those engaged in the pursuits of science and technology are confronted with congested ethical situations, the tendency is to try to import personal, privately-held ethical commitments (familial, religious, philosophical, etc.) from the outside into the discipline, and to attempt to make them fit the highly specialized episodes that often occur in these contexts.  But these efforts to transplant private ethical convictions into professional environments invariably leads to moral failure.  Why?  This poster seeks to address this question, and to present a proposal for understanding how the scientific professions themselves may be seen as ethical communities of practice, in which there are standards of moral excellence inherent in carrying out the activities of scientific inquiry. 
        This notion of a “professional community of practice” is derived from the traditional Christian affirmation of “godly vocations,” especially as presented by Martin Luther.  The Christian description of a “godly vocation” is remarkably similar to contemporary portrayals of virtue ethics, in which the domain of our public practices, such as science, contain within themselves substantial resources for the achievement of ethical excellence and virtuous conduct.  The argument will be made that this approach is more promising than the alternative of trying to accommodate our personal moralities within our professional settings.

Symposium — Gender Issues in the Sciences

Women Looking Up: Uplifting Women Who Study the Heavens and the Earth
Jennifer Wiseman
        Women throughout history have recognized the beauty of the heavens and have made strong contributions to the study of astronomy.  But only recently have professional doors truly opened for women to fully use their scientific skills in astronomy and other sciences as a profession.  Currently, a surprisingly large fraction of younger astronomers are Christian women.  And roughly half of all scientists seeking to be professionally involved in larger science policy issues are women. What draws these young people to the scientific study of space?  What draws them to want to understand and influence the “Big Picture” of science policy?  And what special challenges and opportunities do Christian women face as they encounter the sometimes conflicting pressures and expectations of church, family, and academia?
        I will present some historical perspective on the science and faith of Christian women astronomers of the past, and I will share some of my thoughts regarding the calling, opportunities, and needs of today’s Christian women scientists, from my observations in both research science and in federal science policy. Together, we will also explore how ASA can best encourage both women and men who are eager to study the universe and to influence the world for good.

Perspectives on Gender Issues within the Chemical Sciences
Carolyn E. Anderson
        During a hearing this past October before the US House of Representatives, President of the University of Miami and former US Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna E. Shalala commented that “faculty, university leaders, professional and scientific societies, federal agencies, and the federal government” need to unite to ensure that “all of our nation’s people are welcomed and encouraged to excel in science and engineering in our research universities.”  This call to arms has been echoed by many in the sciences, and yet, while nearly 52% of bachelor’s degrees and 36% of PhD’s in chemistry were awarded to women in 2006, less than 15% of all tenured or tenure-track chemistry faculty at major research universities are women.  These numbers suggest that neither simply getting women to major in chemistry at the undergraduate level nor even continuing on to graduate school is sufficient to significantly change the face of the academy.
        This talk, through statistical studies and anecdotes, will aim to highlight some of the issues facing female chemists as they consider careers in the professorate.  Several questions that will be considered include the following: What are some of the stumbling blocks women face?  How does family and the desire to have children affect their decision?  How might we begin to move in a more equitable direction? and How should we, as Christian scientists, be involved with leading this changing landscape?

Gender Shifts and Influences on the Culture of Physician Practice
James J. Rusthoven
        Until recently, the role of physicians in medicine has been dominated by males. Models of the physician-patient relationship have reflected this gender dominance. The paternalistic model, for example, explicitly and implicitly is defined by stereotypic male attitudes, behaviors, and actions including extraordinary service to patients that is often at the expense of time and emotional commitments to other human relationships.  Recent data, however, suggest that the current generation of physicians is choosing to work fewer hours or part-time; some studies suggest that female physicians are more likely to work part-time than their male counterparts. There is evidence that such changes in life-style choices may be contributing to shortages in physician hours devoted to patient care in both Canada and the United States.
        In the last two decades, women have assumed a greater role in medical practice, as reflected in a dramatic shift in women entering medical school and in becoming the dominant gender in primary-care medicine.  It has been suggested that this shift is creating changes in patient-physician relationships, with female physicians working out of a more empathic model, engaging patients more as active partners in their care, and fostering the trend toward newer models of patient care with greater involvement of nonphysician caregivers.  Furthermore, research priorities are reflecting more resources devoted to non-interventional aspects of health care often associated with female stereotypic tasks including a greater commitment to research in maintaining good quality of life and optimizing palliative care. From a Christian perspective, the impact of gender shifts on the traditional roles of caregivers, their influence on balancing professional responsibilities to patients with those to other life relationships, and the effect on the science of medicine will be analyzed.

American Culture, Evangelical Subculture, and Women in the Sciences
Gwen L. Schmidt
        I personally followed a long and difficult road on my path toward becoming a scientist, and being a woman was one factor which made things all the more difficult. I was always interested in science, and I can see the seeds of my current interests and love of science in my childhood.  Yet the attitude in the Christian high school that I attended, the family I grew up in, and the churches I was a part of as a child and adult was that women should submit to their husbands, not have a career, and see their primary role as a wife and mother.  Christian service or “ministry” was an exception, of course, but pursuing a career in science wasn’t something I ever considered.  To be fair, there were many reasons for this.
        Much has been written in the last few decades about women’s roles, but let me highlight some of my own views on the subject.  The church seems to be much divided on several aspects of “biblical womanhood.”  In many parts of society, as well as the church, men are seen as more competent, more rational, more success-oriented, more likely to “need” fulfillment outside the family.  A woman’s role is simply to support her man in pursuing his career or calling.  A woman is not seen as a full individual in her own right, but simply as an assistant to her man.  For example, in most families, even when both spouses work full time, the woman does significantly more of the housework. There are many other examples from my own life with respect to my family as well as to workplace relationships.  Thus one very important way in which we need to support women in science is to work to give women their Christ-given status as being equal.  This involves both attitudinal and practical changes.

Gendered Brains: Women, Men, and Science
Judith A. Toronchuk (in Track B)
        This presentation will review and evaluate recent reports of gender differences in brain structure and function.  At present there is evidence that chromosomal, hormonal, and environmental factors all contribute to bringing about these differences.  However, the statistical and social significance of so-called “typical” differences should be interpreted with caution, given the statistical variation between and within the sexes.  While evolutionary psychology suggests possible differential selection pressures acting on males and females to shape the emotional circuitry of aggression and nurturance, it should be kept in mind that we no longer live in an “ancestral environment.”  And while the pattern of cognitive abilities described by Baron-Cohen as arising from “the extreme male brain” due to genetic predisposition and/or high prenatal testosterone has been shown to be over-represented among scientists, mathematicians, and engineers, it nevertheless occurs in women as well as men.  Possible implications for Christian women and men in science will be suggested.

Panel Discussion
The symposium speakers from Tracks A [Gender Issues in the Sciences] and B [with Judy Toronchuk and others] will field questions from the audience and respond to one another.

And here are additional talks by two speakers in the gender-symposium above:

Our Magnificent Universe: Serving God by Exploring the Cosmos
Jennifer Wiseman (plenary speaker)
        Astronomy is allowing us to explore the universe in ways and depths never imagined in all earlier centuries of human history.  Our discoveries inspire an humbling awe of creation.  They can also challenge some of our most deeply held assumptions about the nature of the universe, time, and ourselves.  I will present some of the most fascinating recent discoveries in astronomy: planets around other stars, new stars in formation, the most powerful explosions in the universe, remnant light from the Big Bang, evidence from billions of years past that the expansion of our universe is accelerating, and theories that our universe may be one of many.  Our scientific research addresses exclusively the mechanics of the physical realm of matter and energy and forces.  Yet, is it possible to serve or understand God better by exploring what’s out there from other vantage points as well, that is, from perspectives such as beauty, magnitude, and activity?  We will examine these issues together as we explore the universe by viewing spectacular images of space.

A Covenantal Model for Understanding the Patient-Supporter Relationship in the Clinical Encounter
James J Rusthoven
        Among the different relationships which characterize clinical encounters in medical practice, the one most described is that involving physicians and patients. Several models have been described which differ in their allocation of power and influence between physician and patient in the management of illness.  Some have evoked a covenantal ethic in an attempt to assign a core of promise and fidelity to this relationship.  However, the historical and metaphysical justification for prescribing a covenantal model varies, with some appealing to the ancient Greek code of Hippocrates while others claim authority in the biblical revelation of the covenant established by God with humankind.  This latter basis for envisioning a covenantal model for clinical relationships has a firm foundation in Reformed theology, wherein two theological currents developed based on the concept of a pre-Fall covenant made between Adam and God and a concept of a post-Fall covenant with God’s chosen people.
        The patient-supporter relationship is also an integral part of medical practice but about which little has been written.  Unlike the physician-patient relationship where the patient is considered vulnerable and the physician empowered to have greater influence on decisions, in the patient-supporter relationship, the patient draws solace and strength from a supporter or community of supporters who can provide empathy and deliberative power on behalf of the patient in the clinical encounter.
        In this presentation, a biblical covenant model will be described with which the patient-supporter relationship can be understood as fidelity between a person or community and the vulnerable patient.  Its basis is found in the agape love of God for humankind and in the biblical concept of mutual support between members of a community of believers pledged confessionally at baptism.  The implications for such a model for both Christian and non-Christian communities of faith will be explored.