What Do All These Women Have in Common?


They are incredible scientists! This article was taken from the TEDfellows Blog.

Everywhere you look, odds appear stacked against women in STEM. Young male scientists receive up to twice as much funding as their female counterparts in Boston’s biomedical research institutions, a global research hub. Only 30% of the world’s researchers are women, and women hold fewer than 25% of STEM jobs in the US. In fact, one recent survey found67% of Europeans and 93% of Chinese respondents don’t even believe women have the skills to do science — and Nobel Prize-winning biochemist Tim Hunt thinks women cause “trouble” in the lab.

But take a look at the above portrait, which was taken by photographer Bret Hartman at the TED Fellows Retreat in Pacific Grove, California in August 2015. These 12 scientists represent a range of disciplines — from astrophysics, biology, genetics, archaeology, medicine, glaciology, data science and more — and represent 5 countries around the world. They also happen to all be women. And while a portrait like this one shouldn’t be extraordinary in 2015, it sadly is — highlighting a very real, very large gender gap in the sciences.

“This week, a cab driver asked me, ‘What do men say when you tell them you’re a scientist? Because you don’t look like a scientist,’” marine biologist Kristen Marhaver says. “In this picture, I see a twinkle in each of our eyes, saying, ‘No, that’s the thing, sir. I do look like a scientist.’”

Get to know these extraordinary women and their groundbreaking work in the short bios below.


Image: Jennifer Wolfe Design

1. Renée Hlozek, cosmologist

South African cosmologist Renée Hlozek studies the cosmic microwave background — radiation left over from the Big Bang — to better understand the initial conditions of the universe and how it grew into the structures, such as galaxies, we see today.

“My field is about asking questions about the nature and evolution of the universe, fundamental to our understanding of ourselves,” Hlozek says. “While there is a history of women in astronomy, there are still so few in my field, I find that I’m noticed as more of an outsider. But because there aren’t many of us, I find can have a clear voice within the field. I’m proud to be a role model for young women interested in science, and am excited for the day that we have equal number of men and women scientists in cosmology and astrophysics.”

2. Janet Iwasa, molecular animator

We know a lot about molecular processes, yet they are impossible to observe directly. Molecular animator Janet Iwasa’s colorful, action-packed 3D animations illustrate how molecules look, move and interact — allowing scientists to visualize their hypotheses and conveying complex scientific information to general audiences. Iwasa uses high-end animation software to create her works, but to help scientists access visualization technology, she’s also created Molecular Flipbook, a free, open source 3D animation software tool that lets researchers intuitively and quickly model molecular hypotheses.

“The group of women in this image work on some pretty awe-inspiring science — from understanding the birth of the universe, to finding evidence of cancer in ancient human populations, to preserving animal species that may disappear without our help,” says Iwasa. “My subjects are far too small to see, but through my work I hope to reveal a world within our cells that is chaotic and beautiful, and — hopefully — also awe-inspiring.”

3. Katie Hunt, paleo-oncologist/archaeologist

When archeologist Katie Hunt was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at 22, it catalyzed a deeper curiosity about cancer as an ancient disease. Delving into ancient texts and analyzing ancient human remains, Hunt discovered cancer’s presence in antiquity — recorded as early as 1,500 BCE, and in skeletal remains from as early as 6,000 BCE — but no tools existed for rigorous scientific analysis. So, with three other women in science, Casey Kirkpatrick, Jennifer Willoughby and Roselyn Campbell, Hunt launched thePaleo-Oncological Research Organization — a network of archaeologists, oncologists and cancer researchers working to develop scientific research standards and techniques — and an open source database of physical evidence of cancer from many eras and regions. This growing field of paleo-oncology will raise interesting questions about how biology, culture and environment affect development of the disease, helping us better understand its prevention and treatment.

“Biological anthropology — a physical science in a gentle embrace with social science—happens to be a field predominantly led by women, so I have the fortune of working with brilliant woman scientists every day,” says Hunt. “While sexism still exists in our lives, I’m privileged to witness a world in which women in science is commonplace and celebrated, as in this picture. And science is stronger for it!”

4. Kristin Marhaver, coral biologist

Based in Curaçao, marine biologist Kristen Marhaver researches how corals reproduce and what their juveniles need in order to survive on today’s reefs — an urgent task as corals struggle against pollution, overfishing and a changing climate. By gathering coral spawn and raising larvae in the lab, Marhaver and her colleagues analyze corals’ habitat preferences in substrates, colors and even bacterial scents, in order to construct environments that encourage coral settlement in the wild and facilitate the reintroduction of lab-raised juvenile corals. Marhaver’s research team was recently able to harvest the spawn of and successfully breed the Caribbean pillar coral, which until now scientists worried had stopped reproducing.

“This picture carries extra power for me because we all look like our real selves,” says Marhaver. “I have this photo hanging behind my desk, so that when people come to my office, I have a posse of 12 PhDs backing me up.”

5. Marcela Uliano da Silva, computational biologist

Invasive Golden Mussels, brought to South America from Asia in ballast water, threaten to destroy the ecosystem of the Amazon River. Brazilian computational biologist Marcela Uliano da Silva is sequencing the mussel’s genome to develop a genetic solution preventing mussels from being able to attach to substrates. But it’s a race against time: the mussel — which arrived in South America in the 1990s, choking river systems, altering aquatic ecosystems and damaging industrial and infrastructural facilities — is a mere 150 kilometres from the first river in the Amazon River basin. If it arrives, it would spell disaster for the Amazon and the health of the planet.

“It wasn’t until my work as a scientist got more well known that I felt, in rare moments, the prejudice: objectification, discredit,” Uliano da Silva says. “The only thing I could think when such things happened was that such behavior is based in insecurity. People are afraid of change, yet change is the thing that makes mankind move forward in extraordinary ways. Science has already shown us that each individual, regardless of origin or gender, has the potential to be as creative as anyone else.”

Uliano-Silva collects mussels at Jacuí River, in the city of Porto Alegre, southern Brazil. Photo: Rogério da Silva

6. Jedidah Isler, astrophysicist

Astrophysicist Jedidah Isler studies supermassive, hyperactive black holes. These objects devour material at a rate upwards of a thousand times more than an average supermassive black hole. They pull in material via an accretion disk that spins around the black hole, and then shoot it out via jets that move at 99.99% the speed of light. When these jets are pointed at the Earth, we call the supermassive, hyperactive black holes that produce them blazars, or blazing quasars. Isler is working to understand how and where the highest-energy light from the jet is made, and how that energy is transported through the galaxy.

“In this picture, see the future. I see a diverse set of explorers, thinkers, builders, achievers who are using their incredible intellect to improve the world we live in,” Isler says. “As a woman of color in STEM, I see the opportunity to add my voice to the chorus of women redefining what it means to ‘be’ a scientist or ‘do’ scientific work. It’s an honor and privilege to stand with these women, but even more, to stand as an example for the next generation. I hope young women all over the world see themselves represented somewhere in this image, aspire to greater STEM dreams and find herself in the company of the next generation of women in STEM.”

7. Laura Boykin, computational biologist

Smallholder farmers in Africa rely on cassava for both sustenance and cash, but this crucial staple crop is threatened by whitefly, an insect that transmits a destructive virus to the plant. Computational biologist Laura Boykin uses genomics, supercomputing and phylogenetics to identify whitefly species, gathering information necessary for researchers to modify cassava to resist both insect and virus. To accelerate progress, Boykin has launched WhiteFlyBase — the world’s first database of whitefly genetic information — with the hope of eradicating whitefly and bringing food security to East Africa.

“Being a woman in science can be lonely,” says Boykin. “When I see this image, I realize I will never be alone again. I also think about all the young females in science who can stand on our shoulders, because we will be providing a ladder for them — not pulling it up as so many before us have done.”

Laura Boykin, right, inspects African whiteflies feeding on cassava leaves at a farm near Namulonge, Uganda. Photo: Courtesy of Laura Boykin

8. Patricia Medici, conservation biologist

Brazilian conservationist Patricia Medici has devoted her life to preserving the life and habitat of the South American lowland tapir, the largest terrestrial mammal of South America. Though not well known, tapirs are important to their ecosystems as an umbrella species: protecting tapirs also protects iconic species like peccaries, jaguars and pumas. Tapirs also help distribute the seeds of the foods they eat, shaping and maintaining the structure of forests. Sadly, tapirs are threatened by deforestation, hunting and roads, and are especially vulnerable due to their long gestation periods.

“I started my tapir work in 1996 when it was a pioneer research and conservation program and we had nearly zero information about tapirs,” says Medici. “They are extremely difficult to study, mainly because they are nocturnal, solitary, very elusive animals. That’s exactly what fascinated me. The rest is history. It’s not always easy to be a woman in the conservation world as it requires a significant level of commitment to spending long periods of time in the field, away from home and family. It also requires physical strength and the proper frame of mind to deal with the hardships of working in the wilderness — not to mention the mosquitoes, ticks and botflies!”

Patricia Medici, a TED Fellow, works with tapirs — the largest land mammal in South America. Photo: Marina Klink

9. Lucianne Walkowicz, astronomer

Stellar astronomer Lucianne Walkowicz works with data from NASA’s Kepler mission, studying stars that host planets outside our solar system, and how stellar radiation influences whether life could thrive on those worlds. Lucianne also mines astronomical datasets in search of signals from intelligent life in the universe, and is a leader in the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, a new project that will scan the sky every night for 10 years to create a huge cosmic movie of our Universe.

“Searching for habitable worlds and life in the universe really makes me value our home, Planet Earth!” says Walkowicz. Both our challenges and our opportunities are so great, we need the brightest minds to create the future we want to see — and that means making science open and accessible for all.”

10. Julie Freeman, artist/computer scientist

British artist and computer scientist Julie Freeman creates kinetic sculptures, compositions and animations from nature-generated data, such as the motion of fish swimming, or the quiver of moths’ wings. “I use digital technology as a communication bridge between the natural world and ourselves,” she says. “I make artwork that allows me to be curious about nature in different ways, and to share that curiosity. What is it about natural systems that are so compelling? How can we understand phenomena that exist beyond our sensory perception? Technology allows us insight into hidden elements of biological systems, and can allow us to experience things in new ways.” Freeman’s online, data-driven artwork “We Need Us” explores the nature of metadata, and the humanity in the life of data.

“One of the things I’m increasingly aware of is the multiplicity of roles we all play,” says Freeman. “I am an artist AND a scientist. A swimmer and a speaker. A consultant and an entrepreneur. I am shy and I am outspoken. I don’t believe any of us represent a single role or gender. We care about being given respect and equal opportunity to do whatever we are good at — without the fight, without the justifications that we find ourselves involuntarily pronouncing.”

11. Michele Koppes, glaciologist

Glaciologist Michele Koppes travels to the the coldest places on Earth to study glaciers: how they move, carve out valleys and mountains, and respond to the warming atmosphere, oceans, and rocks — as well as how these changes affect the landscape, water resources and biodiversity. Her one-of-a-kind research in the Himalayas fills in gaps of unrecorded glacial change, and may help vulnerable populations adapt to shifting weather patterns.

“As a woman, I constantly need to prove I am not only scientifically capable, but hardy enough to thrive in the field, in the harsh environments of my research,” says Koppes. “Doing science properly is rife with failed attempts — on top of this, women must stand up for their legitimate seat at the table. The time has come for both women and men to discard the cultural stereotypes of what a ‘proper scientist’ should be — we can all be curious, creative, brainy, rational, driven, successful, and loving partners and parents, playful and engaged teammates and citizens.”

12. Sheila Ochugboju Kaka, genetic virologist

As a child growing up in rural Nigeria, Sheila Ochugboju Kaka was urged to stay indoors to stay safe from an untamed environment — an upbringing that piqued her curiosity about invisible things that can so easily kill a child: bacteria, viruses, scorpions in the sand. This curiosity led her to study baculoviruses as a postdoctoral research fellow at Oxford University, investigating genetic engineering as a way to produce commercially viable biopesticides. Today, Ochugboju Kaka is a science communicator and international development expert, promoting the intersection of art and science — such as the Wellcome Trust’s Danscience project, an exploration of the science of epigenetics through dance — to promote innovation and social change.

“It’s incredible to be amongst such a diverse mix of women scientists which in itself exemplifies the power that different perspectives, skills, experience and heritage brings to any discipline,” says Ochugboju Kaka. I’m also encouraged that nearly 20 years after I got my PhD in biochemistry, the image of women in science is finally shifting. What a beautiful change that makes.”


Learn to Love Subtraction!

When a teacher brings up, “Subtraction,” he is bound to hear a lot of groans.  Many students find subtraction confusing and because of this they dislike it. Students often struggle with subtraction, more specifically subtraction with regrouping, because they don’t have a strong conceptual understanding of place value.

Since it’s almost Valentine’s Day, we’d like to challenge you to learn to LOVE subtraction. In order to help you, we have made this handy video playlist of Subtraction Strategies that span the grades. Check the playlist out, try the strategies out, and let us know how else we can help you learn to LOVE SUBTRACTION!


Learn How to Find the Theme of a Story

Determining the theme a text can be really challenging for upper grade students because they  don’t know what it is or how to find it.  In this video, Ms. Goldstick teaches students how to determine the theme of a story by asking themselves 3 questions:

  1. What has the character learned?
  2. What does this teach me about life?
  3. What is my evidence?

In the tutorial, Ms. Goldstick references the short film, “Piper.” Please take a moment to watch it before watching the tutorial to better understand her lesson. Click here to see it.

Enjoy and please let us know what you think in the comment section of the video! Click the image to watch the tutorial.

Screen Shot 2017-02-10 at 11.25.06 AM.png

Snow Day Activities for Kids

Hey PS11, happy SNOW DAY! Below are some fun and easy activities you can do with your kids today from Care.com.

They also have a great list of 101 Snow Games and Activities for Kids like a simple Avalanche Project with real snow and a template to make Snowflake Ballerinas.


  1. Create Snow Art
    Bring some color into the outdoor fun. Deanna Garretson, a mom who blogs at Domestic Chicky, recommends filling empty spray bottles or liquid dishwasher bottles with food coloring and water, then letting the kids unleash their inner winter wonderland artist! As Garretson says, “adding color to the snow is so much fun and really allows them the chance to be creative and do something different than the typical outdoor, snowy activities.” Kids can design rainbows, flowers or self-portraits or even add color to snowmen.
  2. Build a Living Room Campsite
    Kids love when their parents flip normal household routines upside down. Creating a campsite in the living room is the perfect way to take them by surprise! Turn out the lights, wear PJs, bust out the sleeping bags and sit around telling stories. If you don’t have a tent, be creative and build a fort using blankets, couch cushions and pillows. Hide marshmallows, chocolate bars and graham crackers in the pantry for snow day s’mores. Check out these fun twists on the classic camp food.
  3. Schedule a Neighborhood Play Date
    For New Yorker Denise Albert, co-founder of the Moms, snow days are all about neighbors. Living in a big, urban building makes for instant play dates when friends are just down the hall or a floor above or below. Albert suggests, “at the beginning of each school year, make a snow day roster with neighbors who want to participate in the same building or, for parents in suburban areas, on the same block. When the snow hits, play dates are already lined up!” Make rotating shifts throughout the day, allowing each parent a little peace and quiet to catch up on their own tasks as well.
  4. Make Magazine Mosaics
    Use old magazines in creative, artistic ways. Have kids cut out different colors from the pages into small squares. Next, sketch a design on a paper plate. Then use glue and a paint brush to make a colorful mosaic. You can make designs using different shades of one color or lots of different colors. Or download free color-by-number printables and fill them in with the paper squares instead of crayons.
  5. Bake, Bake, Bake
    If it’s too cold to enjoy the snow outside, bring the fun into the kitchen. Make some yummy treats that everyone will enjoy. According to Carrie, who blogs at Making Lemonade, “Oreo snowballs are the perfect treat to make with stir-crazy snowbound kiddos because there is no baking involved. They’re also great for partnering with hot chocolate after a morning spent sledding.” Get the simple recipe here.
  6. Craft an Indoor Snowman
    You don’t always have to freeze outside to build a snowman — be creative and make one using marshmallows. Outline a snowman on construction paper and trace glue around each circle. Place mini marshmallows onto the glue. Add details with other materials from around the house. Grab scraps of felt for his hat or yarn for his scarf and color in his face with markers or dried food products. When he’s dry, the kids can name and hang him up in the house. Don’t have mini marshmallows? Use cotton balls for a fluffier snowman.
  7. Make Homemade Play Dough
    On her site, Skip to my Lou, blogger Cindy Hopper gives a step-by-step tutorial on how to make colorful play dough from basic household baking ingredients. Follow her simple instructions and the kids will be kneading and rolling their play dough all day long to create fun designs.
  8. Whip up Snow Cones
    After playing in the snow with the kids, gather up clean, freshly fallen snow and bring it inside. Divide it into cups and pour lemon juice and a little sugar or frozen juice concentrate over each and you and the kids can enjoy some scrumptious homemade snow cones. Get more detailed instructions here.

Learn How to Write Happy New Year in Chinese with 5th Grader, Olivia

In celebration of the Chinese New Year, one of our PS11 students made a video to teach you how to write Happy New Year in Chinese! Check it out! GO OLIVIA! Click the image below to watch!

Screen Shot 2017-02-08 at 3.07.15 PM.png

For the step-by-step instructions Olivia reference, click here.

A Morning with Dr. Clarence B. Jones

“At the end of the day, it’s all about love. It’s all about getting along. It’s all about coming together like we are in this auditorium today.” – Dr. Clarence B. Jones

This was one of the many takeaways from the assembly this morning, when grades 3-5 were given the great opportunity to see Dr. Clarence B. Jones speak.

Dr. Jones was personal counsel, advisor, speech writer and close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He is a scholar, author, lawyer, professor at two prestigious universities in California, and the grandfather of two PS11 students. And if that isn’t enough to make your jaw drop, he actually penned the first several paragraphs ofDr. Martin Luther Kings, “I Have a Dream,” speech.

Ask your kids about him tonight, and to learn more about Dr. Jones click here.

January’s Book of the Month

January’s Book of the Month is a classic tale by Dr. Seuss, The Sneetches.

The Sneetches is about two types of creatures, separated by having or not having stars on their bellies. The Star-Belly Sneetches think they are the best, and look down upon Sneetches without stars. The Plain-Belly Sneetches are really sad about this and are kept from associating with their star-bellied counterparts, until Sylvester McMonkey McBean comes along with his Star-on and Star-off machines.  Sylvester begins to give stars to the Plain-Belly Sneetches, and soon they are happy, for they look like their elite counterparts. The original Star-Belly Sneetches are angry at no longer being different and special, so they get Sylvester to remove all their stars. This continues back and forth until no one can remember which Sneetches were originally what, and an epiphany strikes them all at once…read to find out what the lesson is.


Read the text:

  1. Here is a printable version of the Sneetches.
  2. Here is an animated version of the story.
  3. Here is the story being read aloud.


Pre-K & K:

All Grades:

Below you will find discussion questions for the text that you could use at home. They are taken from Center for Civic Reflection and Teaching Children Philosophy.

  1. What are the differences between the Star-Belly Sneetches and the Plain-Belly Sneetches?
  2. How do these differences influence how the Star-Belly and Plain-Belly Sneetches treat each other?
  3. What does Sylvester McMonkey McBean offer the Plain-Belly Sneetches? What could this offering mean for them?
  4. Why do the Star-Belly Sneetches enjoy having the power of “being the only ones”? What does that power give them that full equality does not?
  5. Where does the Star-Belly Sneetches’ power come from? Is this power natural or created?
  6. Why do you think the Star-Belly Sneetches ultimately give up their power? Do you buy the ending of this piece? Why?
  7. How do you know you’re the same as someone else? How do you know that you’re different?
  8. Who is this story more about – the Star-Belly Sneetches or the Plain-Belly Sneetches and why?
  9. Which is more important – proving that we’re “all the same” at our core or gaining respect for our individual differences? Why?
  10. Have you ever been a Star-Belly Sneetch or a Plain-Belly Sneetch? In what context(s)? How did you relate to the other group?


  1. What makes the Sneetches different from one another?
  2. How do the Sneetches treat those who are different from them?
  3. Do you think it is all right to treat those who look different than you differently? What about those who act differently?


  1. What makes a Sneetch a Sneetch – what makes it different from other animals or things?
  2. How do you know one thing is different from another thing? Is it based on things you can see, things you cannot see, or both?
  3. Based on the qualities we chose for deciding what makes something different, are the Star-Bellied Sneetches and the Plain-Bellied Sneetches the same or different?
  4. Are there things that make people different from one another? Do any of these things make certain people better than others? (Think about physical differences and personality/characteristic differences.)
  5. Are there any situations in which it is okay to treat two things differently because they are different?

After the Plain-Bellied Sneetches go through the machine the first time and come out with stars, the Star-Bellied Sneetches say, “We’re still he best Sneetches and they are the worst.” 

  1. What makes the Star-Bellied Sneetches think that there is still something different about the Plain-Bellied Sneetches since they now have stars on their bellies?
  2. If there was something that made the Sneetches different, other than their appearance, would it be okay for them to treat each other differently? Are there any qualities that would make that okay?
  3. Is there a rule we can apply to determine when it is okay to treat others differently and when it is not? How does this rule apply to the Sneetches? Based on the rule you develop, is it okay for the Star-Bellied Sneetches to treat the Plain-Bellied Sneetches differently?