International Engagement and Broadening Participation in STEM Project

world-map-297315_640Welcome to the Project Page for the “International Engagement and Broadening Participation in STEM from a Family-Friendly Perspective for Women of Color” project


INFORMED CONSENT: Thank you for visiting our website. The content on this page, including information from any webinars or online discussions, will be used to inform our research on international collaborations and the resulting challenges and strategies that either affect or facilitate career-life-balance. You are invited to participate in the discussion and you are free to use any format for your blog name or avatar. Responses from anonymous users are valued equally among those who use identifiable blogger names or those who use pseudonyms. We welcome and encourage participation from the general public, and seek to hear responses from an international audience. Thank you for your participation.

This page is hosted by the PROMISE AGEP, and this unique international project is sponsored by the National Science Foundation: NSF #1449322, Division of Engineering Education and Centers/Broadening Participation in Engineering (BPE).

The Project 

International Engagement and Broadening Participation in STEM from a Family-Friendly Perspective for Women of Color

Part 1: International Engagement. We will take a group of women faculty of color and graduate students to the July 2014 conference for the Latin and Caribbean Consortium of Engineering Institutions (LACCEI) in Guayaquil, Ecuador. This conference will have sessions that will discuss career choices, life/work balance, and the impact of family and traditions on advancement decisions. In addition, the conference will provide opportunities to develop new collaborations with women in the STEM fields from the U.S. and different Latin American countries (e.g., Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Argentina and Panama).


Part 2: Webinar series with blogged discussions. We will develop a webinar series that will broach topics of career life balance based on research and experiences from some of the experts from the Gender Summit 3 North America. Hashtag #GS3NA will refer to the summit because our blog will include both online discussions via a website, and microblogging using Twitter. Our webinar series will feature topics such as balancing work and family, how family decisions affect career advancement, and subconscious “imposterism” in the company of males at work and at home.  Further, we will highlight some of the policies and best practices that are working for women in other countries such as equal pay for faculty at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, and findings from Europe’s genSET project. The webinars will take place between September 2014 and April 2015.


The International Portion


Participants will be attending the LACCEI conference, and will blog about their experiences. LACCEI Website:

Conference Hotel: Hilton Colon, Guayaquil, AV. FRANCISCO DE ORELLANA MZ. 111, GUAYAQUIL, 090512, ECUADOR; TEL: +593-4-2689000 FAX: 593-4-2689149. The Hilton is the conference hotel, all conference events will be held there, except the pre-conference FLEEI program, which will be held at ESPOL, the local technical university.


Specific programs of interest:

  • Monday, July 21, 2014: FLEEI, Foro Latinoamericano de Estudiantes sobre Educación en Ingeniería. Location: ESPOL: Escuela Superior Politécnica del Litoral.  TheEscuelaSuperiorPolitécnicadelLitoral is a Public university located on Guayaquil,Guayas Province in Ecuador.
    • Graduate students have been asked by the FLEEI organizer to fill out the following short Google form:
    • We will meet at 7:00 AM to take the ESPOL bus from Hotel Hilton Colon to go to the ESPOL campus. The bus will leave at 7:15 AM. This is a 30 minute bus ride.
    • Students and staff in our delegation will be asked to participate as contributors and speakers in the session on “Mobility” and graduate programs in the U.S. (Optional for faculty.) The students will be asked to share their experiences as graduate students in Maryland. The paper that will guide the discussion is here:
      • Tull, R. G., Nino, M.  and Ramoutar, N. (2012).  Preparing for Engineering and Other STEM Graduate/Post-Graduate Masters and Doctoral Programs.  Proceedings of the Tenth LACCEI Latin American and Caribbean Conference (LACCEI 2012), Megaprojects: Building Infrastructure by fostering engineering collaboration, efficient and effective integration and innovative planning, July 23-27, 2012, Panama City, Panama.
      • Dr. Jamie Bonilla, Dean of Escuela de Ingeniería y Tecnologías de la Información, Tecnológico de Monterrey, México, will present the afternoon session. Dr. Bonilla was the key presenter (via Skype) for the International Careers section of the UMBC seminar on Career Paths in April 2014. Dr. Bonilla spoke about opportunities for short-term visiting professorships in Mexico. Interested persons should discuss options with Dr. Bonilla.
    • The FLEEI program will end at 5:00 PM.
  • Wednesday, July 23, 2014: Plenary by Dr. Bernice Anderson (Senior Advisor, Office of the Director/Office of International and Integrative Activities (OD/IIA) – National Science Foundation), “Funding Opportunities for International Collaboration and Engineering Research.”
  • Wednesday, July 23, 2014: Forum: Women in STEM and Diversity Panel/Mujeres en STEM y Diversidad
  • Wednesday, July 23, 2014: Cena de Gala – Awards Dinner and Cultural Show
  • Thursday, July 24, 2014: Plenary by Dr. Jose Quadrado (President, International Federation of Engineering Education Societies, Portugal) “Academic, Government, and Industry Collaborations”
  • Friday, July 25, 2014: Galapagos Islands Science Excursion – Tentative, On your own


LACCEI Program 2014

Enlarged schedule available here:

Technical Talks:

The Blogging Process

The study is designed to observe responses of participants from the University System of Maryland, NSF Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Bridge to the Doctorate Fellows and Alumni, members of the NSF LSAMP community, graduate student members and faculty mentors from the NSF PROMISE AGEP community, and partners of the NSF ADVANCE Hispanic Women in STEM project who attend the Latin and Caribbean Consortium of Engineering Institutions annual conference in Guayaquil, Ecuador, and their reflections on the conference workshops. We are interested in their thoughts about career-life-balance. We will be asking them to record their thoughts using a blog. Upon return to the states, we will have follow-up discussions and webinars regarding the international experience and career-life-balance, and the general public will be invited to participate in the online discussions. This is a social media, interactive project. Men and women are invited to participate.


 [A note about blogging: Many people engage in blogging activities on mobile devices, and bloggers who type without an account may not be able to edit their entries. Therefore, there may be small errors within the posts below that are the result of blogging quickly “on-the-go,” or unintentional mobile device “auto-corrections” that produce errors out of context. Errors will be corrected in any resulting publications. Thank you for reading and participating in the conversation.]


186 Comments on “International Engagement and Broadening Participation in STEM Project”

  1. July 17, 2014 at 9:07 PM #


      This blog discussion is being used for research on international collaborations and resulting challenges and strategies that either affect or facilitate career-life-balance.

    Your comment will be used for research purposes.

    We are planning to write and publish a “thought paper” based on the outcomes of this discussion. We may use excerpts from your comments, but we will never add any text to your post. Your online name may be used in the narrative for the research discussion and the publication. You may use your existing online persona, use a pseudonym, or post as “Anonymous.” All responses will be considered equally valid.

    By posting on this website, you are giving your consent to have your comments considered for use in the research discussions and publications.


    • RHH: thoughts re length of time for international experience
      July 25, 2014 at 7:54 PM #

      In response to the question that Dr. Tull asked us to consider at breakfast:

      The best amount of time for a international experience would seem to vary based upon the specific goal. I would think a week is fine for initial goals such as networking at a conference to find potential collaborators, getting an initial glimpse of the challenges of collaboration specific to a country, evaluating the accessibility to a particular culture, or learning of logistical issues related to travel.

      For goals such as understanding the local culture and how it might affect collaborative work, two weeks might be better, particularly if one can spend time outside of a sterile hotel environment. Two weeks might also be appropriate when one begins the due diligence of assessing potential of several collaborative partners. Once a collaboration begins, I could see a project kickoff lasting a week or more.

      Not having previously initiated an international collaboration, these thoughts are not informed by experience. I’d be very happy to hear of case studies or others’ experience as answers to this question.


    • AOA
      July 25, 2014 at 10:21 PM #

      A question was brought up on Tuesday attempting to understand why underrepresented students do not participate in international experiences. My simple answer was the lack of exposure and motivation.

      I will give my view as an undergraduate engineer at a HBCU. Students at HBCUs were not exposed to the option or the idea of conducting research abroad, in return students remained ignorant to the world of international research. My university was a unique HBCU and to my knowledge the only HBCU that had a program (GEAR-UP-Global Education Awareness Research Undergraduate Program) that promoted minorities in international research. Also, my undergraduate institution is the only HBCU, out of over 100, that had an Engineers Without Borders chapter and a study abroad program.

      I am from a traditional engineering background where many of my peers went off to companies like Microsoft, IBM, Goldman Sachs, and Exxon Mobil and mentioned that turning down a high paying internship at a well respected fortune 500 company was more important than traveling aboard to do research. Students did not have the interest in conducting research and was not interested in leaving the comfort of western culture (constant electricity, accessible haircare, fast food, accessible premium cable, etc…). I believe that many of my peers, inside and outside of my specific university, do not take the concept of globalization to heart. From my previous conversations with my peers, I believe that a cultural must be in place to enable student researchers and expose them to the importance of research and the option to conduct research abroad. The universities need a cultural shift where promoting research versus industry engineering jobs , especially at locations that claim to be “research universities.”


  2. July 17, 2014 at 9:12 PM #

    Question 1:
    For those participants who are preparing for the LACCEI conference in Guayaquil, please share your general thoughts over the next few days regarding your experiences with international collaborations, preparing for an international conference, observations as you travel, challenges, and expectations.


    • LAM
      July 22, 2014 at 2:27 PM #

      So far traveling has been fine. I left home at 1:30 AM to be at the airport at 3:30 AM since the flight left at 6:20 AM and I had a 2 hour drive. The flight to Panama was smooth. In fact, I am happy about the great service Copa Airlines offers. Flight attendances are very active helping people with their luggage and they provided breakfast. Nice to know there are still some airlines that care about the service. I made a stop in Panama airport, where I had to walk a lot but it was a good exercise. So, I arrive at gate 5 and I have to walk all the way to gate 29 (which basically was from one side of the airport to the other) and then…. after seating for 5 minutes…. they have changed the gate to number 9. I do not complain, it was a nice walk surrounded by so many cultures and a nice setting of stores of all types. Panama airport seems to be nice for shopping, they have just everything.

      On the first flight I slept because I was exhausted.. not only from the trip preparations… but from the CAREER proposal I submitted Monday morning. On the second flight I organized my thoughts and prepared myself for the trip. Given the proposal I was working on and my 1-year old baby… I really did not have much time to prepare. I just made sure to have my passport, some $ and decent cloths. However, I printed out all the e-mail, this blog and information I found on the web about Guayaquil. From my learnings about the safety in Guayaquil, I am very glad that we were arranged hotel shuttle transportation. It seems that one of the greater dangers are related to taxi robberies. So, everyone please be aware… let’s stick together. Other than that, it seems to be a pretty city. I am looking forward to learn about the culture, differences with our educational system (search for things we can learn and copy), and look for collaboration opportunities. I really enjoyed reading everyone’s posts. We all seem to have similar expectations and we are all very excited and thankful for the opportunity.

      From the topics of discussion, work/life balance is the challenge for me. I just had a baby a year ago and my life has changed 180 degrees. The first 6 months I really did not do much work. After my maternity leave was due at 3 months , I just survived those other 3 months with still dedicating most of the time to my baby. After that I realized I needed to work really hard to catch up and improve my evaluation that at the time was at zero productivity. (Perhaps I should not have felt that way but my university does not have the “stop the clock” policy and my year is evaluated as any other year… That is a whole other topic… and I just try not to think about that) In 6 months I believe I did it! With the help of daycare 7-3 PM and my mom as the afternoon nanny I feel I accomplished more than what I expected. My husband also helps, but he also has a demanding job that is less flexible than mine. The months of April and May were crazy… in which I traveled 4 times and I took my baby along (with my mom/dad or husband). Summer was crazy too… I gave a summer class, I had a summer camp and then I submitted a CAREER proposal … all of this back/back. In summary, I feel I accomplished work/life balance from the point of view that I dedicated 6 months focused on my baby, I worked really hard the other 6 months but I still breastfed him fully until the 12 months. Still, I feel a little guilty for not spending as much time the last months and being too stressful about work. To this trip I am not taking him along and I miss him already.

      Since I gave birth, this is the first time I take time for myself…. because this conference is more than our technical backgrounds…. is about life, education, culture, etc. I am sure this will be like a retreat for the soul. At least, that is how I think about it. I am specially looking forward about NSF presentation on Wed. I strongly believe in international collaborations and I look forward learning NSF thoughts on that. So, let’s the fun begin.


    • HM
      July 23, 2014 at 8:46 AM #

      Answer to Q#1:
      I have had the pleasure of participating in LACCEI before, and the main feeling that overcame as soon as we were confirmed to participate this year was: “what am I going to share with undergraduate students?”

      This question had, and has been, circling my thoughts this past year as a result of previous conferences, and the opportunities I have had trying to guide some of my current undergraduate research assistants. The only concern I have regarding international collaboration is that everyone wants to do something for the greater good (no problem at all there!), BUT there seems to be a barrier due to the fact that the participants in this group are not in the same location, and the planning and execution of a big strategy then has a new bar of “difficulty” since there has to be even more and better coordination.

      I strongly believe that anything is possible, and that our team players are extremely capable, and this will eventually lead to a positive and desired outcome. I am looking forward hearing the new and sexier paths that will eventually lead to reform how engineers are trained and ultimately rearrange pedagogy methods to prepare more people to make a change.


    • July 23, 2014 at 8:48 AM #

      Coming here has been an enriching experience. I have attended several international conferences before, but this is my first time in South America. In addition, I have always valued the importance of inter cultural experiences specially for young people or researchers in this case. Leaving the comfort of someone’s country or home brings new challenges of course, but is always a rewarding experience. Not only it makes vault more what we have but opens the mind to new ideas, new food, new people and the most important, it breaks or increases stigmas that we may have of a culture or country. I’m looking forward to read about your experiences.


    • HM
      July 24, 2014 at 1:25 PM #

      Thoughts about FLEEI

      I greatly enjoyed this FLEEI, since the experience from last year I believe wasn’t there at all. The coordination of the team from ESPOL was awesome, and it felt just right. They were able to get many students that are currently in their undergraduate programs, and that are trying to find out about opportunities to study abroad. Some of the questions that were brought up during the discussion of the student panel revolved around how to apply and mainly WHEN to do it. This made me think that we have to inform students even before the times we are selecting to do so. I believe that it is never late to do something, but regrettably application deadlines don’t have the same idea. We definitely need to do this on a rolling basis, have more and constant information updated to help them ease into this process.

      The talk that kept me captive was Dr. Jaime Bonilla’s, and it helped me validate my thought process regarding guiding students. He kept emphasizing on the concepts regarding making a student, engineer in this case, UNIQUE, and how each one of them has to be able to standout from the many that are pursuing the same degree at a university.


    • July 24, 2014 at 1:28 PM #

      Thoughts about Tuesday’s sessions

      I found Dr. Thomas Kailath’s presentation invigorating; the invigorating aspect was after the talk, when I got a chance to speak with him briefly. I was explaining to him that I mainly do research in x-ray image acquisition and processing, and that thanks to him mentioning that he shifted his focus from controls to signal processing because he wanted to do so for a project. I considered the option of having to use other tools regarding some of the radiation protection projects we have, this will potentially help me solve the big questions we have in my lab about dosimeters.

      During the parallel technical sessions, I really liked the talk given by professor from Universidad de LA Salle, CO, Carlos Andrés Arango L. He was able to maintain the room’s attention by explaining his method to teach cybernetic process in his undergraduate classes. More professors should adopt this technique, since the students have to understand the GAME RULES, to play the game. This approach is great to emphasize the key concept of what is being taught, and it can be ubiquitous.

      I have never had the pleasure of hearing Miguel Nino speak in public, even though we are good friends, and his talk was really great. I knew before hand the topic of the talk, and I was mostly curious of hearing him deliver the message, and see how he handled questions. Miko, if you’re reading this; that was awesome!


    • AOA
      July 24, 2014 at 2:05 PM #

      LACCIE will be the first conference I attend in South America. The international conferences I have attended were in South Africa and Canada, and were all centered around human-computer interaction, appropriate technology, and professional development within engineering. As soon as I was informed that I was selected to attend the conference, I began to plan out my work schedule for the days leading up to my flight. At the time, I was in the process of wrapping up a research project within educational technology and moving into international appropriate technology research.

      A lot of moving parts were involved in getting ready for travel, but it is a blessing for the opportunity to meet future collaborators especially as I move into this new field in appropriate technology. I instantly began creating a list of goals because I wanted to capitalize on the opportunity to meet one-on-one with potential research collaborators and new friends. My intentions are to meet people who could act as a mentor and/or a soundboard into how I can potentially approach research in countries outside of the USA. I strongly believe that one cannot expect to create solutions for a problem without knowing the culture that surrounds it. I would like to not not only understand the culture of the environment, but the culture that engineers might face in the country. I would like to to understand if their is gender inequality, lack of government support, communication, or any nuances that exist in a country that impact a research experience.

      Unlike my previous international travel, I had the opportunity to finally meet a past bridge to the doctorate fellow that Dr. Tull has told me about for nearly a year. In the past, I traveled with students who I was familiar with because of the many hours I spent with them completing activities and projects for those travel opportunities. This time around, I didn’t know the party I was traveling with, but it was more beneficial than I could have even imagined. I spoke with the fellow and his wife about research, navigating through graduate school, postdoctoral plans, and international experiences. The couple gave me information on how I could approach international research and groups to talk with.

      The conversation was great throughout my trip, but I encountered the same challenge I deal with in every plane, bus, subway rail, and most car rides. LEG ROOM! The plane was not as spacious I would have hoped for, but I did get to Ecuador, so I figure it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. I dealt with a couple in front of me who creatively found a way to rip open a can of soda between their seats, then preceded to give my left leg a Sprite shower, it was sticky shower. What does this all mean? Discomfort is always a factor that I worry about when traveling over seas. Given the fact that I could replace college basketball centers, my height plays a huge role. I have met people who allow discomfort play a role in traveling abroad. My technique to combat the discomfort that comes with plane seats digging into my knees is to decompress with music and videos. My song of choose during this flight was “For The Cross” by Brian and Jenn Johnson of Bethel Music, and viewing pre-downloaded podcasts from Elevation Church. I find preparing music and videos ahead of time helpful when it comes to traveling and even after a busy conference day.

      Appropriate Technology- Appropriate technology (AT) is technology that is designed to be “appropriate” to the context of its use. The most appropriate technologies are sustainable, small, and appropriate. (


  3. Anonymous
    July 17, 2014 at 10:38 PM #

    I am excited to travel to the conference with everyone. I don’t have any international collaborations and am looking forward to learning the prospects of making contacts next week.

    When deciding to attend the conference I was faced with a common work/life balance issue, childcare. The opportunity not one that I wanted to pass up. However, arranging childcare was proving to be a challenge. I reflected on the times when I’d left my girls to attend conferences and wasn’t comfortable while away. During these times I know, in hindsight, that I wasn’t fully able to (mentally) participate in the conference because of this unease. So this time I decided to bring them along.

    I expect to have an awesome time!!!!

    I am particularly interested in learning about the similarities and differences in the challenges that women face in and out of the US. I am familiar with global women’s’ issues but this conference will provide an opportunity to hear about issues for women of color specifically outside of the US.


    • July 24, 2014 at 1:42 AM #

      During the Promoteo presentation this morning I noticed something that I hadn’t ever seen explicitly stated. The application process for the program requires letters of support, as is usual for these types of programs. However, part of the scoring includes the h-index of the reference letter writer. That caught my eye for several reasons:

      1) I wonder if that, or similar, metric is explicitly or implicitly used in the US. Typical advice includes getting leaders in the field, prominent researchers, etc. to write letters if possible, but the h-index is a metric that I hadn’t considered when determining who to ask.

      2) There is research indicated that women and minorities tend to publish less than majority researchers. I wonder whether using this publication metric introduces a bias against groups who tend to publish less.

      There was also mention of impact factors though I don’t recall explicit references to that in the evaluation criteria.

      I thought the program was interesting though I’m not sure how/if I could go away for a month and leave my family behind.


  4. July 19, 2014 at 4:36 PM #

    A1: International experiences always allow me to reflect on my research in the U.S. I have attended three conferences outside the United States (Greece, France, Canada). I know this may sound strange but outside of exchanging currency and printing out all reservations, I also prepare by researching how women dress in that country. While I enjoy international fashion, I mainly do so to avoid being perceived as an outsider. I feel like it’s much easier for my not-so-colorful friends to fit in and not appear to be a tourist in Europe than myself. However I am proud to say that during a recent layover in Germany, I was mistaken for a Deutsche (German)!

    Although I am unable to attend LACCEI, I am planning an international collaboration in the future. I’m beginning discussions with a postdoc in my lab to partner with his former research lab in Mexico. I am excited to introduce a cross-cultural component to my project and strengthen my Spanish skills!


  5. williameasley
    July 21, 2014 at 1:05 AM #

    Up until this point in time, the only international conference in which I have attended was the 2014 ACM Computer Human Interaction conference in Toronto, Canada. I have not yet had the opportunity to collaborate with anyone from outside of the United States but I hope to in the near future. One of things I have learned is that contributions to academia come from different people from different walks of life from different cultures. It is truly an international community. As a result, it is important to always be respectful of cultural differences. While preparing for this conference, I mainly focused on things such as what clothing would be acceptable to wear. well preparing for this trip, it was also of important for me to tie up all of my loose ends with research because I made find myself with limited access to the internet and my email. My expectations for this trip are to interact with people from a variety of different backgrounds and to learn a lot about different cultures. I also expect to learn more about the education systems in countries other than the United States. In addition to this, I also expect to learn more of the Spanish language. While, I have taken Spanish classes for over 5 years, but have never been in an environment where I was fully immersed with the language. All of these factors make this a once in a lifetime opportunity for me.


  6. RHH
    July 21, 2014 at 6:51 AM #

    A1: I’m looking forward to discussing STEM education with people coming different educational systems. For example, different systems move students toward specializations at different times, which I imagine creates challenges specific to each system.

    It’s always enriching to spend time in places where one’s unconscious assumptions are challenged. Looking forward to reporting on those as the week progresses.

    The travel itself was easy. No lost luggage, no passport issues. I think the customs official was trying to make a joke with me about something. Unfortunately, my Spanish is terribly rusty, and her English wasn’t very good, plus we were talking through a glass shield, so after about three attempts she just smiled and stamped my passport. But it is nice try to engage that part of my brain again. Hopefully by the end of the week I’ll get some of my vocabulary back – which of course will be just in time to fly back to the States. Ah well. 🙂


  7. July 21, 2014 at 7:35 AM #

    A1: I have been looking forward to attending an international conference that was outside of the United States. However, cost has been one of the major barriers. I always thought well once I got a real job I could go wherever I wanted.

    When I heard that I would have the opportunity to travel Ecuador I was very excited. Two years ago I attended the International AIDS Conference in Washington D.C. and it was amazing for me to meet people from all over the world and to learn about their scientific discoveries and community health projects. I look forward to having a similar experience this week.

    The flight to Ecuador was great. We got to sit in the emergency exit so we had a lot of leg room. I was only a little worried about my luggage. I always try to pack light just to make sure that I have all my clothes with me when I get to my destination. So I was a little worried when I found out that I had to check my luggage at the gate due to space limitation on the airline. It was great to see that all my belongings were at the airport waiting for me.


  8. LAM
    July 21, 2014 at 6:15 PM #

    I am looking forward to travel tomorrow and meet the whole group. I am excited because this is not just any conference, it is the Latin and Caribbean Consortium of Engineering Institutions (LACCEI) – which involves many opportunities to meet a diverse group of potential collaborators. It is my first international conference, but not my first international experience. As a graduate student I spent a whole summer in Brasil… but I do not know how I did it.You have to consider so many things when traveling internationally. In addition to that, it is the first time I travel without my baby. That’s the hard part. Since he born I have done 4 trips in which he has come along. So, I am sure I will miss him much and I am worried he will miss me too. On the other hand, I am excited! It has been a busy summer… I gave summer class to exchange students, I directed a summer camp for high school students, and I just submitted a proposal. I am sure this will be a great opportunity to relax and think. I am planning to read a book in the airplane and to just relax. I will reflect about the past and plan for the future. See you soon!


  9. RHH: some session thoughts
    July 22, 2014 at 7:58 AM #

    Session with Dr. Thomas Kailath:

    Although the preconference session at ESPOL was intended for undergraduates, there was a lot of information relevant to the group as a whole. Thomas Kailath at Stanford answered a number of questions about his process of generating research. Most interesting to me was his progression from working more or less alone on theoretical problems to working in large teams on larger teams. I don’t know that there is any actual correlation, but to me his experience parallels the general trend of innovation moving from smaller teams in specialized fields to larger, interdisciplinary teams.

    The other point he made, which happens to be a weakness of mine, is to always write about one’s progress, even if it does not appear to be progress. Dr. Kailath described at least one situation in which he felt that he was not able to solve a problem, and his advisor told him to write up the report describing the issues. During this process of consolidating all his thoughts, an idea that led to the eventual solution came to him.

    Session with Dr. Jamie Bonilla

    In the final session, Jamie Bonilla went over a lot of interesting points, but my central takeaway was his description of a formal process for professional development. One can assess a capability on a scale by describing the abilities one would have as he or she becomes more skilled in a capability. For example, someone less skilled in dealing with ambiguity would individually react to change after it happens. A very skilled person would anticipate changes and have plans in place to smoothly transition complete teams.

    Once one can find himself or herself on the scale, a next step is to define a plan that allows for growth in the areas necessary to move up the scale.


  10. RHH: thoughts on inter-lingual conference
    July 22, 2014 at 8:20 AM #

    This is my first conference in which the primary language is other than English, and also my first in which there is an attempt to make the conference accessible to multiple languages. In the preconference sessions at ESPOL, several of the presentations utilized translators, and one could appreciate the challenges that it can present.

    The first issue I noticed was that the speaker and the translator have so have some synchronization to ease the tension between the speaker making his or her points in a fluid manner and a translator’s limitations to convey long or complex information. Simultaneous translation with headphones, as I’m told will be employed in the main conference, should resolve this easily, although I’m curious about other potential issues related to timing and humor.

    A second issue is that it seems that a lot of speaker personality can be lost through translation. Of course enthusiasm and body language conveys a large amount of personality. However, if, for example, the speaker expresses self using subtle humor through the choice of words or perhaps a cultural reference, then that is likely lost. I found that in the session that humor could work, but it can be difficult since the timing between the words and facial expression or body language is lost.


    • RHH: thoughts on inter-lingual conference
      July 23, 2014 at 7:34 PM #

      The simultaneous translation during the plenary worked well. I had to learn to ignore the speakers, who tended to be louder than the translation in the earphones. Ironically, my understanding of Spanish made using the headphones more difficult since at times I would hear the speaker say familiar words, my brain would start trying to process them, and then I would miss the English translation.

      I did notice that having the translation available freed my brain for higher level cognition and critical consideration of the content of the presentation instead of having to concentrate on mere understanding.


      • Anonymous
        July 29, 2014 at 11:24 AM #

        As someone who is currently trying to plan a tri-lingual symposium like LACCEI, I am curious as to whether my colleagues could provide some insight on how to improve the experience at inter-lingual (should we be saying multi-lingual?) conferences such as LACCEI to promote collaboration and professional development for the participants . For the record, I believe that a conference like LACCEI providing engineers an opportunity to publish in their dominant language is essential for creating a culture of publication and more important for participants than the audience. In the last few years, I have had an opportunity to go to hospitals in LAC and have been impressed by some of their electronic health records system or by the innovation of techniques developed in remote areas with few resources and how those innovations have moved into the mainstream. Yet, that knowledge is not disseminated and when it has been, others have taken credit for the innovation because they published their results. Offering engineers the opportunity to publish in their native language will do much to improve the situation. However, at the conference, I realized the difficulty in doing so.
        When my colleagues and I first ran the first Symposium of Health Informatics in Latin America and the Caribbean, we decided to use only English because it is considered the language of science, but many complained, even though we let presenters of technical papers pick their language of choice. At LACCEI, Spanish was the primary language and presenters picked their language of choice, and people could have interpreters available through headphones. Yet in the smaller sessions, people were supposed to present in the language of the paper. Now as a professor of Spanish speakers, I believe that being able to disseminate knowledge in English is a very important skill and developing it is one that should be encouraged at a conference like LACCEI. Any thoughts?


        • RHH
          July 29, 2014 at 6:17 PM #

          I had a number of thoughts as a read your questions. Hopefully at least one is relevant to your concerns.

          Your first question was how to enhance the experience at a tri-lingual conference. If the primary goal of the symposium is to disseminate knowledge in English as the defacto language of science, you might consider issuing headphones and receivers from a central location, and then having each workshop broadcast a simultaneous translation on a unique channel. Obviously, this is resource intensive since it would require a translator (or even two for a tri-lingual conference) at each workshop location. The other challenge would be translating the conference proceedings into English (assuming the conference does not require its papers to have an English version). Again, resource intensive, but perhaps there would be people interested in a discounted rate or some other incentive for volunteering to do the translations. Another option is to pass the cost of the translations to those who request it, or perhaps you factor the cost into the registration fee.

          To your second question, whether or not a conference like LACCEI should encourage English development, I think the answer, particularly when applied to students, should be yes. One could also argue for Mandarin and Spanish as other crucial languages for collaboration. This is especially true since the major technical conferences are all in English. However, I have noticed that, while the papers and presentations are all in English, a lot of communication outside of the formal sessions are in Chinese, Spanish, and Portuguese. Thus I wonder if English alone is adequate for establishing the type of relationships necessary for the types of successful collaborations that we see in question #4.

          How many participants at conferences like LACCEI understand English? I asked a similar question during the conference, and the guess was that most understood English fairly well, although many are not comfortable speaking. Would you expect that to be true of your symposium, or would you expect a lot of participants to not understand English?


  11. July 22, 2014 at 10:12 PM #

    Today was a great day at the conference. I’ve been to international conferences before but this was the first one that included session talks that were not in English.

    It was wonderful to meet the rest of the group today and learn about the diverse backgrounds (gender, ethnicity, discipline, etc.) that are represented.

    After learning a bit more about everyone I realized that this is one of the few times I have been able to attend a conference that was for *my* professional development. I have rarely attended conferences without presenting a paper or giving a talk. Throughout my career funding to attend conferences has fluctuated however now that I am at a HBCU attending an international conference without presenting or having my own grant to pay for the expense it not an option.


    • LourdesMedina
      July 23, 2014 at 12:12 AM #

      Hi quincykbrown,

      I agree, it is a beautiful diverse group. I have really enjoyed the day learning about the different backgrounds and experiences. Following on your thoughts, I think that attending this type of conference has a key component on professional development to help us advance in our careers. It is about finding new inspirations. For instance, I never thought about the impact an international collaboration could have on my research.


    • July 23, 2014 at 5:55 PM #

      I think it’s an interesting point that you make about using conferences as a site for professional development. Prior to being a part of PROMISE, my conception of conferences was that they mainly served as platforms to share ones research and to learn about the most current research in my field. However, since being a part of PROMISE, I discovered that conferences serve multiple functions, such as building professional networks, offering workshops on publication, acquiring funding and learning how to communicate one’s knowledge to diverse groups of people who share common/diverging interests. I also learned that writing papers about one’s teaching is a good way to meet fellow colleagues who share a passion for grooming the future generation of scholars and improving effectiveness in the classroom.

      With respect to teaching, one of the common issues that I’ve experienced as well as heard at the LACCEI conference is the limited institutional support to train students. I learned that there were people who were thinking outside the box and beginning to incorporate new approaches to learning such as the use of games to teach leadership and peer-partnership. There are some professors who have strategically thought of ways to acquire resources outside of their university to facilitate student and faculty research at the undergraduate level. For example, Dr. Patricia Ordonez, a computer scientist at the University of Puerto Rico- Rio Piedras, is doing some amazing work with her students in developing programs for people with disability.

      As a social scientist I wonder what happens to people who don’t have the time, knowledge or access to networks that would help them to acquire resources outside the institution. Moreover, if professors are already overloaded with the responsibility of teaching, research and service plus especially for women having to meet the demand of their family, what suffers in the process as individuals try to do it all? How can we as a community of scholars figure out ways to change the paradigm that we use to guide the balance of research, teaching and family?

      I’ve thought about staying in the academy after I graduate and there a few things that makes me think that perhaps this occupation might be asking too much. When I see professors, especially women work the second and third shift, often with little sleep, I wonder is it worth it? Am I willing to sacrifice my health and well-being to get tenure?


      • July 24, 2014 at 11:17 AM #

        MBH, I like your line of thinking about changing the paradigm to support career life balance. So often, too often in my opinion, women are told how to “play the game like the men do”. I am often frustrated by this advice because it places an undo burden on women to 1) be ourselves, 2) deal with the “extra” responsibilities, e.g. mentoring other female students, 3) do our main responsibilities, e.g. teaching & research, and then on top of all of that – figure out how to behave like a man, but not too much so that you don’t turn off others because you’re too manly. I’d like to see the conversation shift more towards how we make the climate and process manageable for everyone.

        Perhaps advice from yesterday’s panel regarding joining societies and winning awards will help us increase the number of women in leadership positions and in turn change the game.


        • July 24, 2014 at 2:58 PM #

          Quincy, I also get frustrated by the double standards that they have for women. For women to advance in Engineering and other fields, they often to have to adopt the model of success that has been charted by men. But part of the major discussion of this conference has been about learning from the old paradigm and adopting new ones that can advance us as a society. I think the discussion about collaboration and partnership is not only something that is pertinent to the scientific breakthroughs but paradigm shifts must also take place in the home, community, and other institutions in society.

          We could learn a lot from the research done by Dr. Loretta A. Moore and colleagues at Jackson State University on the “Academic Woman of Color.”


  12. July 22, 2014 at 10:25 PM #

    The preconference at the Escuela Superior Politécnica delLitoral (ESPOL)—the public university of Guayaquil, Guayas Province in Ecuador—set the tone for my experience at the LACCEI conference. Undergraduates from the Foro Latinoamericano de Estudiantes sobre Educación en Ingeniería (FLEEI) organized a great set of panels and presentations that provided professional development opportunities for their peers.

    As a sociologist, whose research focuses on how minority groups formally and informally organize to address social problems in their communities, it was great to observe some of the strategies and tactics FLEEI used to address issues of access and equity in Engineering. One of the common approaches that I have seen across fields and topics is peer-led programs and interventions. Some fields refer to this type of approach as cultural sensitivity, which broadly means considering the factors that shape unequal outcomes from minority perspectives and developing programs and policies from their standpoint or experience.

    In her presentation, “Student Mobility” Dr. Renatta Tull presented on the graduate school application process for undergraduates at ESPOL who were considering or in the process of applying to graduate school in the United States. She invited us to share tips based on our own experiences as graduate students.


    • July 22, 2014 at 10:26 PM #

      I thought the student mentoring segment of Dr. Tull’s presentation was really important because it provided the space for undergraduates to ask graduate students about the process. I also felt that the graduate students, particularly those who were from Latin American countries who had prepared for the GREs when English was not their first language was important for students who were considering doing the same thing. I had taken the GREs but since English was my first language my concerns were different and it was informative to hear about the issues that undergraduate students at ESPOL had about the process.

      The undergraduates had a lot of questions for the graduate students. I only wish we had more time. Perhaps next time there could be two sessions, one where the paper is presented and another where the students can have interactive activities where graduate students and undergraduates can interact.

      What do others of you think?


      • williameasley
        July 28, 2014 at 1:33 AM #

        I agree that Dr. Tull’s section on preparing for graduate school was extremely important. Ade and I were introducing students to that had seen her presentation, had questions for her, or just wanted to meet her.

        I found this session to be extremely informative as well. Prior to attending this session, I did not realize that students who do not speak english as a first language needed to prepare for two exams instead of one (TOEFL & GRE). This makes preparing for, and getting into graduate school even more of a challenge. I think that English speakers often times take it for granted that they grew up speaking such a dominant language. You can go almost anywhere in the world speaking only English and be able to communicate with someone on some level. On the other hand, if someone that travels to to the United States and does not speak English, they will often be expected to learn it. One of the things that this conference has showed me, is the importance of being at least bilingual. Especially when collaborating internationally.

        I did have the opportunity to attend the SPEED (Student Platform for Engineering Education Development) meeting Tuesday afternoon instead of visiting the Malecon. While there, I had the opportunity to talk with other students about our experiences with school, as well as our plans for the future. This more than made up for running out of time during the Q&A session (for me at least).


  13. LourdesMedina
    July 22, 2014 at 11:55 PM #

    First day of conference has been great! I specially want to highlight the networking part. During lunch I had a nice conversation with a professor and two master students from Colombia. I have learned about the particular challenges faculty face there and I was even asked to collaborate. I finally met the whole group. I already felt like a mentor for graduate students and a mentee from faculty that is ahead of me. I finished my day calling home and checking on my little one!


  14. williameasley
    July 23, 2014 at 2:43 AM #

    During lunch on Monday, we had the to travel to the Escuela Superior Politencia del Litoral (which has a beautiful campus by the way) to attend a pre conference event. While there, I had the opportunity to participate in a panel on how to prepare for graduate school in America. My advice to the students was as follows; create a schedule that enables you to balance course work, research, and your personal life. Since beginning graduate school, I have found time management to be the area in which I struggled the most.

    In addition to this, there was a presentation by SPEED, a student run organization with goals similar to organizations such as the National Society of Black Engineers. They invite all students in Latin American and Caribbean countries from all disciplines of engineering to come together and solve the engineering problems of their countries. Networking and collaboration a strongly promoted by this organization. In fact, much of their collaboration takes place online between members in different countries through resources such as Facebook, Dropbox, and Google Drive. My takeaway from this is that in this day and age, no distance should be able to hinder collaboration. All it takes is a little saavy.


    • williameasley
      July 23, 2014 at 3:18 AM #

      During the Enhancing Undergraduate Education session session, a computer science professor at a university in Puerto Rico spoke on issues with the way that programming is often taught in introductory courses. He made the argument that a one-size-fits-all approach will not work and that schools should offer classes on a wider variety of programming languages. The programming language being taught to students should be contingent on factors such as the discipline of the students as well as the size of the class. For example, it may be more beneficial to teach mechanical engineers Matlab, Octave or R rather than languages such as Java or Visual Basic. His point was that not every student is going to have a career in programming and they should learn the skills that can help them the most in the future. If the language has a larger learning curve, it would be better to teach it in a smaller classroom setting. This way, students can receive more individualized attention and in turn be less likely to struggle and fall behind. I would have to say that I agree with this view 100% found this it to be worth sharing.


      • July 24, 2014 at 1:57 AM #

        I heard the same talk and though I agree, in spirit, with his overall point, I’m not sure that I bought into a few of his arguments. As wonderful as R may be. In my opinion, it has a steep learning curve. Though he uses it for everything, I can’t imagine having to teach that to novice programers. Also, he noted that one reason not to use Visual Basic was that the teaching materials were lacking and it was too much work for him to make up his own slides. Though I don’t think VB is a good first language, I wouldn’t use that rationale as part of my objections.

        I also think that part of the overall issue with many first or second courses is that the “weed out” mindset still exists – but that’s an entirely different discussion.


        • williameasley
          July 26, 2014 at 4:48 PM #

          Very interesting. I had previously only heard of R in the context of statistical analysis and have never had a use for it.

          I agree with your sentiment that “too much work” is not a good reason to avoid teaching. On the other hand, having taking courses with textbooks that were ineffective, I can completely understand not wanting to teach a course with materials that do not get the job done.

          I also agree with your statement on the “weed out” mindset. I believe that teaching resources were used to make sure that all students in the classroom can succeed. Not just a few.


    • Deanna
      July 31, 2014 at 3:35 PM #

      Box is nice too-it’s very similar to dropbox and google drive, but it gives you more space than dropbox I believe. Also skype and google hangout for meetings! I completely agree with you William-distance is no longer an excuse for furthering collaborations with others!


  15. LourdesMedina
    July 23, 2014 at 10:06 AM #

    Good morning! I am looking forward for a great second day of conference. So far, I have enjoyed breakfast learning that Ecuadorians eat “tapacones” (fried plantains) in the morning. In Puerto Rico we call this “tostones” and it is a side dish for lunch or dinner. Latins, we are all similar but different at the same time!


    • LourdesMedina
      July 23, 2014 at 12:48 PM #

      Very empowering talks by NSF program directors Dr. Dr. Bernice Anderson and Dr. Sonia Ortega. I feel inspired and look forward coming up with ideas to broaden participation and international collaborations. For the benefit of graduate students, I want to add an NSF program that was not mentioned. It is East Asia and Pacific Summer Institutes for U.S. Graduate Students (EAPSI). This is for graduate students to apply directly and has due date in November.


      • July 24, 2014 at 1:28 PM #

        Thoughts about Wednesday’s sessions

        Yesterday was a very informative session, Dr. Bernice Anderson touched key points to consider regarding funding opportunities that pursue international collaboration. I found the moment Dr. Sonia Ortega began talking about opportunities for graduate students incredibly conflicting. This had to do with being incapable, referring to myself, to touch these opportunities. This last portion is due to the fact that I was not part of the Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP), even though I am a former Bridge to the Doctorate fellow, and the programs mentioned are not available for people outside that program. I felt like the little kid walking in front of the window of a candy or a toy store, and mom telling me she’s not buying one. I only had the privilege of “seeing” it, but will never get to hold them!

        I was a little bit at ease later on during the evening, since I had the privilege of speaking with Dr. Ortega, and Dr. Yaihara Fortis-Santiago, while Yara, my wife, and I were commuting to the gala dinner. I mentioned my concerns, which are in the paragraph above, and they offered advise on other, different, programs for which I could be a candidate. Looking forward to these programs!


    • July 24, 2014 at 1:52 AM #

      I love fried plantains!! I try to make them on occasion but they mostly end up burned. I was thrilled (literally) to see them at breakfast this morning. I won’t mention how many I ate but I’m looking forward to breakfast again tomorrow just to get more.


      • July 25, 2014 at 10:40 AM #

        The food is amazing here!!! Like Quincy I love fried plantains. The seafood is amazing. My husband and I tried a new soup called cauzuela, we had the one which had a plantain based. It reminds me of a kind of porridge my mom used to make for us in Jamaica when we were kids.


        • williameasley
          July 28, 2014 at 1:42 AM #

          I agree with you on the food!. Churrasco and eggs, and seco de pollo were the two Ecuadorian dishes that were recommended for me to try during my stay. I had the opportunity to try both during the week and both were great! My other favorite dishes were the grilled shrimp from the seafood restaurant that we went to (next to the Loja Cook), and the fried shrimp and shrimp cocktails from the hotel. The empanadas from the Parque Histórico were great as well.


  16. July 24, 2014 at 1:43 AM #

    During the Promoteo presentation this morning I noticed something that I hadn’t ever seen explicitly stated. The application process for the program requires letters of support, as is usual for these types of programs. However, part of the scoring includes the h-index of the reference letter writer. That caught my eye for several reasons:

    1) I wonder if that, or similar, metric is explicitly or implicitly used in the US. Typical advice includes getting leaders in the field, prominent researchers, etc. to write letters if possible, but the h-index is a metric that I hadn’t considered when determining who to ask.

    2) There is research indicated that women and minorities tend to publish less than majority researchers. I wonder whether using this publication metric introduces a bias against groups who tend to publish less.

    There was also mention of impact factors though I don’t recall explicit references to that in the evaluation criteria.

    I thought the program was interesting though I’m not sure how/if I could go away for a month and leave my family behind


    • RHH: thoughts on inter-lingual conference
      July 24, 2014 at 8:41 AM #

      That caught my eye as well. I’d be surprised if the H index is commonly used in this way in the US. My guess is that the letter is given increased weight if the reader is familiar with the writer or is impressed by the results of a quick Google search of the writer’s name. Use of the H index might be a way to reduce this subjectivity, but I’m also conflicted about how much the H index of a reference necessarily reflects a candidate’s strength.


      • July 24, 2014 at 11:46 AM #

        I have heard enough “academic pedigree” conversations but wonder if h-index is used by some informally. I agree that it may not reflect the candidate’s abilities as much as their network.

        Coming from a smaller liberal arts teaching institution, I also wonder about the bias that these types of things introduce. It seems a bit counter towards broadening participation when one takes into account the numbers of minorities at the different institution types.


  17. July 24, 2014 at 1:51 AM #

    Another thought I had was about the various disciplines within STEM. Though generally low, the number of women in STEM fields does vary. I tend to think of this variance with respect to my field, Computer Science. At times in the STEM conversations, I tend to feel left out as I’m not always sure where CS fits in and in some circles it not even mentioned. I think that’s interesting given that there is a CISE directorate at NSF. Dr. Anderson ( I think) presented data revealing that 87% of CS research funding comes from NSF (I hope I a) remembered that correctly and b) interpreted the information on that slide properly).

    It’s also been great to talk to faculty in the group who are pre-tenure and discuss our common issues and concerns.

    As a former BD fellow, and GK-12 fellow, it was awesome to see Dr. Hicks present the LSAMP model and data from those efforts.


  18. July 24, 2014 at 3:42 AM #

    Question 2a:
    What did you learn from the Wednesday plenary and the Women in STEM and Diversity panels?

    Question 2b:
    Is there a research benefit to meeting someone in person versus using technology to connect?


    • RHH
      July 24, 2014 at 9:08 AM #

      2A: For some time now, I’ve had interest in using my computer science background to address energy and environment issues through the use of smart systems. I’ve had limited success advancing those interests through my workplace. Now knowing that those topics are explicitly listed as NSF interests, I will investigate using NSF as a vehicle to contribute to those challenges.


      • Nandadevi Cortes
        July 24, 2014 at 2:39 PM #

        I agree with you, I have always wanted to use biology and GIS technology to address environment issues It is just hard to know what NSF wants or will be willing to fund without having the information we were given yesterday.


    • RHH
      July 24, 2014 at 10:27 AM #

      2B: There’s research (also sponsored by NSF) that examines the group dynamics that one experiences as a function of one being physically or virtually present in the group. In short, over time the virtual participants were more or less ignored by the physical participants. This was termed “collocation blindness.” [1][2]

      There’s not a direct connection between that work and this question, but I could imagine that if a potential collaborator with limited time was prioritizing his or her communications, then the individual with some positive personal interaction could get more attention.

      [1] Bos, et al. “In-group/Out-group Effects in Distributed Teams: An Experimental Simulation.” In Proceedings of CSCW 2004. New York: ACM Press. pp 429-436.
      [2] Bos, et al. “Collocation Blindness in Partially Distributed Groups: Is There A Downside to Being Collocated?” In Proceedings of CHI 2006. New York: ACM Press. pp 1313-1321.


      • LourdesMedina
        July 24, 2014 at 11:35 AM #

        Thanks for looking into the literature. I agree with you, the one with access to meet in person will have advantage. Technology will never be able to replace person-to-person meetings. I believe that most fruitful research collaborations are when you build up a friendship with your collaborations. It must be a relationship of trust and commitment. Therefore, when you meet in person your are able to make tighter relationships that go beyond work issues… and that is when the friendship starts to build up. Technology is very important too. When we are not able to meet in person, technology allows to meet frequently and cheap. Also, it has worked out pretty well for me from a work/life balance stand point. I left my baby (1 year old) for the first time. So, I have been able to see him through face-time, and receive text updates – with pictures.


        • RHH
          July 24, 2014 at 2:58 PM #

          Yes, good point about collaborations being facilitated by a personal connection, which of course is easiest with in-person interaction.

          Just in defense of my computer science brethren working with virtual and augmented reality, I do envision a day in which technology could provide a means of providing an in-person experience. I know of work that simulates essentials such as body language, eye contact, and physical touch. With proper fidelity, the experience of being in the presence of another person could be provided through hardware. What would be really interesting is if it turns out that there is some other essential component of in-person interaction that we find missing once we mimic the ones we are consciously aware of.

          (ok, getting off soap box and back onto topic)


    • LourdesMedina
      July 24, 2014 at 11:15 AM #

      During the plenary session I was happy to learn the importance NSF provides to international collaborations and the different programs I can apply for. I am inspired to apply for these opportunities to broaden the participation of my students (Hispanics and Women) into international collaborations. We have to provide our students with real-life experiences. To support this, Dr. Sonia Ortega (NSF’s Program Director of International Science and Engineering Section at the Office of International and Integrative Activities) provided statistics of how the different countries are advancing with R&D investments.


    • July 24, 2014 at 11:29 AM #

      Q2A – I mentioned the bit about h-index usage in my earlier post. But I also learned about the importance of awards and honors. My first thought, before hearing Dr. Grant present, was “Uh, one more thing women have to do on top of everything else”. Honestly, I had often viewed the application process for these awards as too time consuming and have rarely applied for awards because of this. I am definitely going to rethink my attitude towards honors and awards.

      From the plenary I liked learning about the priorities of NSF. I have 2 active awards from NSF and was unaware that I could request supplemental funding to support international collaborations. I do plan to look into the process for applying for these funds more when I return.


      • LourdesMedina
        July 24, 2014 at 12:44 PM #

        Hi quincykbrown,

        I am also rethinking my attitude towards “awards and recognitions”. Before, I thought that I do not work for awards but because I am passionate about my work and my students. However, if receiving an award will help me have a greater impact to broaden the participation of of my hispanic and women students… then I should rethink it. Thanks Dr. Grant for sharing your wisdom with us.


        • Nandadevi Cortes
          July 24, 2014 at 2:43 PM #

          Hello Quincy and Lourdes,

          I didn’t really know about the H index before, a friend of mine from Mexico told me about it. On the awards, as I mentioned during lunch yesterday, women are more hesitant when asking for raises or awards (I am sure this applies to minorities as well). I feel I would have to be REALLY good to self-nominate me for an award. But like Lourdes mentions, getting an award can have a big impact not only on my career, but also can impact young Hispanic scientists.


          • September 1, 2014 at 7:30 PM #

            At the end of the day – usually – only a few folks know if you are not successful in getting an award. But as you try again and again – you will learn more about the process. When you get that award – you WILL be celebrated!!! At that point – it is worth the work!! Dr. Grant


      • July 25, 2014 at 9:26 AM #


        I also enjoyed Dr. Grants presentation. Honestly, I had not thought of gender equity from the perspective of prestigious awards. But the currency of academia is not only publications. Awards signal to your peers, boss, and funders that ones research is important and worthy of support. This was something that was mentioned not only in Dr. Grant’s presentation but at other presentations yesterday.

        One of the other things that I liked about the presentation was that it not only posed the problem in the field but Dr. Grant provided tips to deal with this issue. Dr. Grand focused on individual level advocacy. She talked about taking matters into our own hands as women because our advisors and mentors may not do it for us. This approach, requires that we see for ourselves and research as valuable to the world. For some this may require a new personal paradigm.

        The presentation caused me to wonder about how we could work as collectives to support women as they advance in their careers, what would collective advocacy look like? Then I realized that I was participating and benefiting from a collective. The fact that we had that panel to attend involved the effort of many women who decided that there was a need and that is was important to not only identify the need but help women and others in the audience to address that need. The fact that I was sitting in the audience involved the effort of a collective of people who made it a priority for us to be there. Thanks Dr. Tull and everyone that made it possible.

        It was a little disappointing for me to see such a low attendance at the presentation on Women in STEM. It made me ask, do others really see the work of women as valuable? I think that we all could have benefited from the information that all the women panelists along with Dr. James Hicks from the NSF presented. They provided great insights about how to navigate the funding process of NSF.


      • September 1, 2014 at 7:25 PM #

        Thank you for the comments on my presentation – I learned alot during the preparation of the talk. There are so many women that have been celebrated via awards and honors – now it is our turn. My goal is to empower others to know the facts and go for the small, medium and gigantic awards……Stay Empowered!!! CS Grant


    • July 24, 2014 at 11:37 AM #

      Q2B – I think that beginning a collaboration via face to face meetings would be much easier. If time zone and language differences are factors then it would be especially important for me to connect in person first. There was some mention in the session yesterday about discussing authorship, responsibilities, etc. up front in collaborations. I imagine that the initial conversations might be easier in person.


    • Nandadevi Cortes
      July 24, 2014 at 11:38 AM #

      Question 1. In the plenary, Dr. Anderson’s talk was informative and I learned a lot on how to develop ideas for international collaborations,specially those that advocate national priorities such as environment and sustainability or education and workforce development. In addition, after listening to Dr. Sonia Ortega, I realized there are many opportunities that I may be able to take advantage of. Within my research, I have been interested in working on wildlife disease propagation using my biology background. Interestingly enough, there are some laboratories that do this kind of research. Maybe it will be a good idea to approach them and talk about a partnership.


    • July 24, 2014 at 11:41 AM #

      A # 2a. 1: I thought the “Women in STEM and Diversity” panel was very informative. It made me think of the concept–the glass ceiling effect. The term ‘glass ceiling’ has been used to describe the underrepresentation of women in top leadership positions in powerful organizations. This concept elucidates the persistent patterns of gender inequality despite gains made in education and women’s entrance into the formal labor market. The glass ceiling effect is not only an issue observed in wealthy countries but it is a part of a boarder global issue. This was one of the things that were conveyed at the “Women in STEM and Diversity” panel discussion. In addition to this insight, I came away from that panel learning three new things, see the blogs below.


      • July 24, 2014 at 11:42 AM #

        A #2a.2: First, it was shocking to see the data from one presentation which showed that the National Science Foundation (NSF) funds 87% of basic academic research in Computer Science. The data caused me to think about not only how women are marginalized in terms of making contributions to the field but also how they may be barred from the economic benefits. Computer Science is one of the highest paid fields in STEM and the distribution of federal funding for research in this area is a part of the story that I had not considered before.


    • RHH
      July 24, 2014 at 11:42 AM #

      2B: My personal experience suggests that establishing context allows one to utilize less interactive forms of communication. Until then, either in-person or highly-interactive technology (e.g. video chat or phone) is better to allow for rapid clarifications and redirecting.

      Frances mentioned the example of early project development. In this case the participants are all attempting to establish the context for a successful project which include common goals, frame of references, approaches, and vocabularies. If the team was relying on, for example, email to do this, then the team is limited to text-based communication to explain potentially complex concepts. Another risk of email is that a long email message could be based on an faulty assumption. In-person, that communication could have been short-circuited with a clarification, thus saving time.


    • Nandadevi Cortes
      July 24, 2014 at 11:52 AM #

      Question 2a – STEM panel: Ever since I attended the Conference on Conflict Resolution through Economic Development and Innovation at the University of Massachusetts Lowell from the Women in Public Service Project in 2013, I noticed that the importance of having more women in power can lead to change. This change can be positive, not only in policies and laws that apply to women but also will bring gender equality. The panel addressed some of these issues and showed how these women from different perspectives and fields are making a change and promoting the increase of women scientists reach their full potential (as stated by Dr. Muhoro – AAAS fellow at USAID). I have no doubt that little girls will have role models when they look at women like these.

      The gender equality fight has been going on for more than 50 years and is NOW when we can start seeing a change, but there is still much more to be done.


    • July 24, 2014 at 1:41 PM #

      I believe I answered question #2A as a reply to Dr. Medina’s comment regarding the NSF opportunities above.

      Answer to Q#2B

      I prefer face-to-face conversations, without using technology (I’m just clarifying in case video chat falls in this category), to discuss research. In what I am currently working with, I can definitely explain our research via technology connection, but it is even better if the person can come and see what it is. I feel that the sense of inclusion is important, and that the connection is much more significant in person.


    • AOA
      July 24, 2014 at 2:29 PM #

      2A: A better understanding of what I can do as a brother (biologically and spiritually), significant other, and friend to continue to promote and support the many women in STEM in my life. I am have two sisters (MD/PHD and PhD student) who are in STEM, and mother who received a STEM degree. As a result, I am a huge advocate of increasing the number of underrepresented populations within STEM, so this is a issue that means a great deal. I began to understand some of the subtle problems that women deal with as double minorities. I found the section on prizes and promotion unique. The prizes and promotion not only continue to motivate the recipients, but is method to disseminate one’s name within the research/academic/professional communities. I plan to now take back what I have learned to NSBE and other organizations. Also, as a HBCU graduate the gender inequality in minority serving institution s disturbed me. I an now interested in learning and hearing about the experiences that women within STEM might have in different cultures. I from a country (Nigeria) where culture plays a huge role in policy, academics, and other things. So now I am inter sited in seeing if cultures outside of the USA have an entirely different challenges that they face because of the huge role culture plays. So hopefully someone can respond and give me some insight.


    • AOA
      July 24, 2014 at 2:52 PM #


      Monday I discovered the Student Platform for Engineering Education Development (SPEED). It was first initial opportunity to meet with students who who want move forward various initiatives of Engineering Education. I honestly would not have heard of this program if it wasn’t for LACCIE. The group is currently looking for methods to span over the North America as well, and I have offered to help with anything possible and connecting them with two organizations ( Engineer without Borders & National Society of Black Engineers) I am heavily involved in.

      Having the opportunity to discuss in person plans for research and collaborating have been extremely beneficial this week. Not only do we discuss the plans, but have time and the opportunity to get to know people in and outside of the conference setting. We learn more about each other’s personalities and how each other interact to see if research is even possible. These are crucial areas of a relationship that you do not have the opportunity to acquire over email, phone, or social media. Many of the student leaders of SPEED connected me instantly with other students and professors at the conference that I got to know over coffee breaks, lunch, and in between sessions. The aforementioned method of interaction trumps a CC on an email or link to someone’s LinkedIN profile any day of the week.


    • williameasley
      July 25, 2014 at 2:04 AM #

      #2a: What did you learn from the Wednesday plenary and the Women in STEM and Diversity panels?

      Having an older sister who is currently working on a PhD in bioengineering has already made me conscious of many of the struggles that she faces on a day to day basis. In addition to this, being part of a Bridge to the Doctorate cohort with women working on PhD’s in fields tending from neuroscience to biology to chemist to math has given me insight into what it is like to be a female minority in STEM. This panel furthered my understanding on this topic. It also gave me a better idea of how important it really is to be a part of all of these peoples’ support system.

      During this panel, I also really enjoyed the portion that discussed using assistive technology in order to help promote the participation of women in STEM. The story of development of a plugin to make integrated development environments more accessible for a female PhD computer science student with muscular dystrophy was shared. My areas of research interest in both health information technology and assistive technology and (as someone with a visual impairment) I thought that this story was truly amazing.

      #2b: Is there a research benefit to meeting someone in person versus using technology to connect?

      In my opinion, absolutely yes. when communicating through technology, you are most likely going to receive a lower fidelity of contextual information than you would from a face to face meeting. Things such as emotional cues and body language can easily be missed; even when teleconferencing. This is not disparage computer mediated communication. I just believe that it should be used as a supplementary method of communication rather than a primary one. Use Skype to discuss smaller details, just not to plan out your entire research project. Otherwise, thing will get lost in translation.


    • July 25, 2014 at 6:04 PM #

      Answer #2b
      While I know it may be better to meet in person, personally I have had great experiences using video chat to accomplish research tasks for remote collaborations. I think the modality plays a key role. Technologies where tone and context are implied (e.g. phone calls, emails, text messages) tend to be ineffective. Further, I agree with others, a relationship with the collaborator is key.


  19. July 24, 2014 at 11:02 AM #

    Thank you Renetta for letting us know about the blog! I wasn’t able to attend but was looking for updates on FB but only saw Patti’s. This blog is perfect!

    It was very difficult to not be able to attend this conference because I’m interested in expanding my international experiences. However, I wasn’t able to attend for a variety career and life-balance reasons so reading LAM’s and other posts about how they have managed life balance were inspiring.

    RobinB: Your posts were insightful and funny as well. I never thought about preparing for international conferences by looking at what women wear in the county but I will never travel internationally again without taking that into consideration.

    Quincy Brown: I loved your post about Promoteo program. It was interesting to hear that the H-index of one’s recommendation writers is considered and that applicants are aware of that when applying. I wonder if and how many organizations in the US use similar metrics but don’t make it explicit that they are doing so. I’m pursing faculty positions in the next couple of years and was recently reminded that one’s publications are evaluated in terms of number, type and level of the journal, and the number of citations one receives. This reminder created questions for me on how this is done on search committees. I wonder if this is also a place where H-indices are considered explicitly or implicitly. I think these are important questions and pieces of knowledge for career advancement for women and people of color; however, for some reason, we are not always aware of these requirements or face barriers in completing them. Quincy, I’m a current AAAS fellow and I think you will be soon also. Regardless, I look forward to meeting!

    Q2b: Concerning research benefits of meeting someone in person versus using technology to connect, yes I think there is a definite benefit to meeting in person, especially to start projects. Meeting in person allows a common ground to be established that can be used to build the research efforts. Without opportunities to meet, I think work does not move forward slowly. I think using technology has benefits that vary depending on the type of technology. Email is often cumbersome for starting research or mentoring projects. So more interactive methods such as telephone and video chatting are extremely helpful to move research forward. They provide some of the interaction that is missing from email, which allows individuals to brainstorm, answers each other’s questions and understand issues more rapidly.


    • July 24, 2014 at 11:41 AM #

      Frances, I’m sorry that I could not meet you in person. I will be starting my fellowship in Sept and will be at NSF. We should definitely talk offline once I return. I’ve met 2 current fellows here and appreciate current and former fellows sharing their experiences with me.

      I actually did read something online about how women dress and learned that shorts are not typically worn. I brought my daughters (13 & 16, I’m the “Anonymous” poster further up the page) and one had to repack because she’d packed several pairs of shorts.


  20. July 24, 2014 at 11:06 AM #

    Edits for clarity:
    Q2b: Concerning research benefits of meeting someone in person versus using technology to connect, yes, I think there is a definite benefit to meeting in person, especially to start projects. Meeting in person allows common ground to be established that can be used to build the research efforts. Without opportunities to meet, I think research moves forward slower than without opportunities to meet. I think using technology has benefits that vary depending on the type of technology. Email is often cumbersome for starting research or mentoring projects. So more interactive methods such as telephone and video chatting are extremely helpful to move research forward. They provide some of the interaction that is missing from email and allow individuals to brainstorm, answers each other’s questions and understand issues more rapidly.


  21. LourdesMedina
    July 24, 2014 at 1:18 PM #

    In addition to the amazing plenary and Women in STEM sessions, yesterday was a very productive day in terms of my learnings and identification of collaboration opportunities. I felt motivated by the talk by the Museum of Science in Boston. They are making an excellent labor educating K-12 students about what is engineering through active activities at the museum and at schools. They have developed a robust curriculum with a broad range of activities. While the talk was not about broadening participation or international experiences, they are addressing both issues. At the museum, they always try to attract what they call the “reluctant learners”. Girls are great examples of this, in which they mirror their mothers with comments such as “I can’t do it”. At the museum they are able to motivate girls with pink building block and additional reinforcement. They also address international issues given that all their engineering activities involve a “story”. These stories are about boys or girls around the world. Finally, at the Museum of Science in Boston they are also doing research. I have talk with them and I look forward finding some collaboration opportunities.

    After the museum’s presentation I attended some research sessions. For my surprise, I found a collaboration opportunity at one of the sessions. I look forward collaborating with Dr. Ordóñez given that we seem to be passionate about similar things – “let’s THINK Big about medical innovations”.

    Finally, the evening finished “con broche de oro”. We had a nice dinner with Ecuadorian music and dancing. Some of us reflected about medical services around the world with personal/friends/family anecdotes. Overall, I was delighted to hear Dr. Sonia Ortega traveling stories. What an amazing day and night!


  22. July 24, 2014 at 1:54 PM #

    This morning, I had breakfast with Lourdes and we talked about Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.” We were talking about the very active roles that our husbands and families are taking, and how they invest time and effort in our careers. We discussed husbands who cook, parents who take care of children, having an extension of friends, family, and others (sometimes people who are paid to help with home – based tasks, and they become extensions of the family). I appreciate that my husband makes my health one of his priorities. It should be my priority, but I admit that I need help. I couldn’t do what I do without help and encouragement from others.

    Dr. Deidre Wheaton’s talk about having an alliance of spouses discussed ways that spouses “adapt” their own lives to accommodate the academic life of the woman. She also mentioned having the understanding of family. I smiled when she mentioned having family understand reasons for missing the family reunion. I will be leaving Ecuador in time to catch the end of my own family reunion that usually includes more than 100 members of our family. With regard to technology in general, my extended family keeps up with my activities through my personal blog and Facebook. There are those who view Facebook as a waste of time, but I find it essential for maintaining relationships with friends and family. I even keep up with my church family and services through Facebook and USTREAM. These technologies have facilitated access to necessary, personal relationships. I started posting photos and experiences on my own personal blog to reach family and friends who aren’t on Facebook. I need to officially thank our staff in the Graduate School at UMBC and the university leadership who not only support my professional activities, but they check in with me to make sure that I am taking care of my health. I also sincerely thank my family, and especially my husband who quite literally takes care of me so that I can facilitate opportunities for others.


    • LourdesMedina
      July 24, 2014 at 2:22 PM #

      Hi Renetta,

      We are lucky to have wonderful husbands that support us in this career. This week my husband is leaving work earlier to take care of our baby. Since I started graduate school, he has supported me in all my adventures which have included traveling (e.g. a whole summer in Brasil), cooking and cleaning. He even gives me feedback on my research work. In summary, we help each other. I can’t speak for him, but I am sure I have also impacted his career in terms of professional advancements and education.

      Unfortunately, this mutual support (which includes husband/wife, parents & friends) is not the case for everyone. Therefore, I want to ask… how do we CHANGE this? What are your experiences? We have to come up with innovative solutions!


      • Nandadevi Cortes
        July 24, 2014 at 2:50 PM #

        I am glad you are talking about women scientists and their families. In her talk, Dr. Wheaton mentioned also the single woman side. As you may know, I am single. However, my experience in past relationships hasn’t been all that good, some of my boyfriends started feeling intimidated and did not really understood the process of getting a PhD, it was hard for me to make them realize that it requires a lot of work and that is not the same as earning a bachelors. This is something I talk with my single friends back in Mexico, some men still can’t deal with a successful woman that has a higher degree than them, they feel less or intimidated.

        Sometimes it was hard to explain my family why I had to go to school on Saturdays or even when I had no classes (like in the summer). I would like to know your experiences about this.


        • RHH: Dr. Wheaton's presentation
          July 24, 2014 at 3:13 PM #

          I think it would be interesting to explore the differences between the families that Dr. Wheaton researched with families of white males in high-demand positions. Perhaps the benefit of support as described in Dr. Wheaton’s work would appear there as well. Or perhaps a white male led family is common enough such that the local culture already adequately supports it.

          One thing Dr. Wheaton did not mention was support for the family (in addition to teaching the family to be supporting). That kind of training may be helpful as well.


          • July 25, 2014 at 12:06 AM #

            During the 1970s, 80s and 90s social scientists conducted a lot of research on work family life balance as more women began to enter the workforce in places such as the United States. Part of the debate in the field and the larger society revolved around concerns about the implication that such a change would have on the children of these women. There was also concerns about whether women’s increased entrance in the workforce would lead to higher divorce rates.

            In the post above, both Quincy and I talked about the double standards that are held for professional women. For women who want to have it all, some have often had to take on a double or triple shift. But there are some women whose husbands take on some of the workload at home, like Dr. Tull and Dr. Mendia explained.

            I know that it was great for me to have my husband deal with the logistics of the travel planning to come to Ecuador this week. I was doing work at dissertation house, from Tuesday to Friday and so it was a great relief to have him take the lead on the travel arrangements. My husband is very supportive of my academic career. Part of the reason I think he is so supportive is because he is also getting his PhD. Despite his support, there are times when I wish he would do more housework.

            Nadavdevi, I’ve had friends of mine who are single tell me that family members tended to have different expectations and demands of their time than they do for other family members who are married. They have also talked about the intimidation that men have once they find out that they hold advanced degrees. In addition, I’ve heard of family members blaming women who are single for not being “feminine enough.”


            • July 25, 2014 at 12:47 AM #

              I’ve become much more comfortable with not having the “perfect” life. When I was on the faculty at Wisconsin, I wanted my life to be perfect, which included a house that looked like it came out of a magazine. It was beautiful, and decorating became a bit of a hobby, but with advancement, I found that I needed to use free time in different ways. For example, going to the gym became a priority for health. If I’m too tired to clean, oh well. If the laundry is overflowing, oh well. My husband cleans certain areas, and he does that very well, so, I’m satisfied with that. We have mental maps of who has responsibilities for certain rooms, but sometimes, there is more peace in just letting something go for a few days.

              As a proponent of career-life balance, I’m still working on models for what works. For starters, I’ve begun to ask myself what I need to do to have a happy home life. This includes doing things that will make my husband happy. I’m trying a new thing: take as many calls and answer as many emails as possible before walking in the door, especially around dinner time. This has been a challenge because now I find myself finishing up a last email on my phone as I’m walking up to my front door. However, the payoff has been great. I don’t always finish everything on my list, but I always at least finish my 1-2 “MUST DO” items (I have a daily list that has a MUST DO item, and as long as I finish that, I am refusing to be disappointed.) Since I travel often, I am more and more aware that the time at home is precious, so as long as we are happy, healthy, and clean, I’m good to go.


            • Nandadevi Cortes
              July 25, 2014 at 10:24 AM #

              Michelle, that is totally true, my aunts were single (very successful, professors within their fields) and they were the caregivers of my grandparents. In Mexico single women tend to live home (this trend is changing now though) but it is expected of single daughters to take more care of parents because they don’t have a family of their own.

              What we all want in the end is someone that can be there when we are dealing with other things, like you said, Robert helping with the logistics because you have other things to do, plus, he understands the dissertation process. 🙂


            • July 25, 2014 at 11:35 PM #

              One thing that I started consciously doing this past fall was to not work on Sundays. There have been a handful of times when it was unavoidable but for the most part I’ve been able to stick with it. When I started doing this it was very hard for me to not work or be online at all. But now that almost a year has passed I hardly think about it. There are still times when I’m completely bored, but then I think about how awesome it is to not check email, write papers, read papers, etc. for a full 24 hrs.

              I had to get over feeling as though I was missing out on something by being offline. It’s been great for work-life balance. And now I have many weekends when I don’t work on either Saturday or Sunday!


          • Anonymous
            July 25, 2014 at 12:34 AM #

            Thanks for opening up on this. In fact, I have many successful friends with Ph.D. that are single. They are having a hard time finding a couple. Perhaps, what Nandadevi is sharing is the true of many women. I think this is all related to the fact that historically “women” had the role of taking care of the house, the kids & the husband, and men were the providers bringing the money. However, it should not be a competition. All roles are equally important and it should not matter who brings most of the money. I guess we have to educate that it is not “my” success, but “our” success because we help each other.

            RHH, you are right! Family could also be an issue. My parents have been able to understand how demanding my job is because they had the opportunity to interact with department heads and faculty. In fact, my parents were amazed to hear the story that some foreign women faculty when they are untenured and have a baby they will send the baby to their country for her parents to take care of him/her. Then, when the child is old enough to start school, he/she comes back to the US. From that point on, they are more supportive. However, not all families have this chance. For instance, my sister (who is a professional with Ph.D. on her field) still criticizes me and do not understand me.


  23. July 24, 2014 at 2:01 PM #

    Blog Day One…

    Since this blog is trying to chronicle some life/career balance issues, I will start by saying that I tend to work hard but listen to my mind and body. My summer has been filled with several efforts at trying to do professional development, rethink my courses and improve the curriculum, establish collaborations for research and for the university and my students, and do presentations to get visibility. These activities have required traveling between San Juan, PR; Laurel, MD; Washington, DC.; Cambridge, MA; Los Angeles, CA; and now Guayaquil, Ecuador. All this travel has occurred since June 6th. I have tried to incorporate down time in all this work on one or two weekends to see the fireworks on the 4th of July and visit with good friends in Cape Code and family in Bogotá, Colombia. Unfortunately, even on these down times, I have needed to work, but I have found that working in beautiful libraries helps take the pain of having to work on weekends like the libraries I found in Cambridge and Cape Code. However, by the time I was going to Guayaquil, I was burning out. I tried to incorporate a longer vacation in Guayaquil to get to know the area, but unfortanately, things happened in my family life and plans fell through before I arrived on Monday.

    So disappointed with the unexpected change of plans and exhausted from the hard work leading up to this trip,instead of polishing the two talks that I needed prepare, I decided to spend Monday enjoying the privilege of attending conferences in beautiful hotels and decided to re-energize to prepare for the conference by pampering myself. I knew I need to recharge my batteries before the conference began if I was going to be effective and so took advantage of the spa, pool, sauna, hair salon that the hotel provided to relax from the long trip and prepare for the conference. My body and mind were calling for it and I listened.


  24. July 24, 2014 at 3:14 PM #

    Blogging has been a bit of a challenge during the conference. While we socialize during the conference and in between talks, some of us really wanted to take the time to document the lessons that we’ve learned in detail at the conference on the blog. I’m learning more and more that blogging is a skill and that perhaps for this event it is better to think about blogging like Tweeting. Convey our thoughts in small bits.

    My personal challenge is that I don’t typically communicate with peers through blogging. It’s even more of a challenge when we I seen my peers every day. What do others of you think? What has been your challenge?


    • RHH
      July 24, 2014 at 5:30 PM #

      One of the original intended purposes of blogging was to share thoughts that may not yet have completely solidified. My challenge is that I tend to prefer to complete and formalize my thoughts before sharing them in a written format. For example, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about engineering breakthroughs since Dr. Kailath’s prenary presentation and have written and rewritten the post several times. Now I’m thinking would have been better to have posted my intermediate thoughts just to have started the conversation.


  25. July 24, 2014 at 11:17 PM #

    Question 3a:
    Please describe the impact of having a mixed group of faculty (external to your university) and graduate students.

    Question 3b:
    Has this trip facilitated any collaborations or research ideas that move you closer to your academic goals?

    Question 3c:
    How can an excursion like this one contribute to career-life balance?


    • AOA
      July 25, 2014 at 8:09 AM #

      3A.) The mixed group has given me a more enlightened perspective on how to navigate as a researcher, what it means to be a faculty member, and the high/low moments of being a research faculty.

      These past couple of days have been nothing but bliss. As a graduate student who is currently transitioning from a masters to a PhD, I have a million questions. I had the opportunity to ask faculty members a number of questions that have sat in my notes and ran through my mind for the past couple of months regarding international research and graduate school. In a normal situation,my questions and topics would be addressed by making an appointment for office hours, sitting in a workshop, or another formal setting. I find the formal setting isn’t always the best route when asking questions that have multiple layers such as applying to phd programs or international research. The layers I am referring to are the number grey areas that may exist in finding a lab abroad, advice on current research, and applying to a PhD programs. The grey areas can’t be addressed with one simple answer and one meeting. In addition, our meetings back in the states would have a limited amount of time for discussion. I find the informal setting allowed the group to have a more natural and full discussion, and the pressure to answer a question within a 30-minute meeting does not exist. Professors and students have been able to tell stories about their experiences within research and shared contacts over the course if the week. Lastly, real-time relevant advice has been beneficial. I’ve had different members of the group come and give me advice they remembered while sitting in a paper session or having a discussions with another conference attendee moments before .


    • AOA
      July 25, 2014 at 8:09 AM #

      3B.) I currently keep a notebook on anything relating to research, and the notebooks contains new research ideas, methods, or areas to look into. The notebook has doubled since I have been here. Nearly every conversation and workshop I’ve experienced this week has lead to something new and important to add to my research notebook. I was recently informed about an international research NSF grant that aligns with my new research project and would help establishing a relationship with international researchers. I met with students leaders from all over Latin America who are willing to work with me not only on research, but increasing the awareness of engineering education. I have received a number of friend requests on my social media outlets and we have already began interacting virtually.


      • July 25, 2014 at 8:40 AM #

        AOA, this is a great way to use social media.


      • LourdesMedina
        July 25, 2014 at 1:23 PM #

        Dear AOA,

        The notebook idea is great. I have made multiple attempts to keep a notebook but I end up with multiple notebooks. I agree with you, this conference has been very fruitful for finding collaboration opportunities. But the challenge is how to keep those collaborations moving after we leave. Before, I had tried to conquer the world and it becomes too challenging to build too many collaborations at the same time. My new strategy is to focus in 1-2 collaborations and build up from there. I start putting a meeting in the calendar and after we meet setting up the next meeting.


        • AOA
          July 25, 2014 at 9:30 PM #


          I suffered from the multiple notebook problem for a long time.

          I would like to make a quick correction… I use a virtual notebook now (image: It is much easier to handle notes, once I moved them to a digital world.

          I think I will take your 1-2 collaboration method. I’ve experienced being overwhelmed by too many collaborators.


          • LourdesMedina
            July 25, 2014 at 9:57 PM #

            Dear AOA,

            Thanks for the notebook information. I will try doing that! Now, that I have used my Ipad during this trip I beleive I can do it.


        • Nandadevi Cortes
          July 25, 2014 at 10:12 PM #

          I do take multiple notes as well. After a conference it is always good to send a follow up email where you can tell people that it was nice to meet you and if they are doing similar research maybe they can collaborate with time. I have kept in touch with people that I have met in conferences and I have collaborated with a few of them (1-2), doing small papers (still in prep). My only problem is keep in touch with some people, daily activities deviate my attention from that. Something I have to work on in the future.


    • AOA
      July 25, 2014 at 8:18 AM #

      3C.) It helps breaking the monotony of academic life. Everyday is the same routine.

      Wake up, workout, eat, lab,watch the sunset, snack, lab, and watch the sunrise (still in the lab).

      The conference takes up much of your time, but it has been beneficial to get away from the same old routine. Coming to new area has even produced new research ideas that I would not have thought of while watching the sunrise from a lab in Catonsville. The trip has been a perfect mix of work and pleasure, surprisingly, the pleasure often consists of conversations with collaborators so we are working essentially.


    • July 25, 2014 at 8:36 AM #

      3c. I now consider traveling aboard as part of my career-life balance. It has been great to have my husband here with me. He’s the Engineer in the family so I get to come along and benefit. Seeing Quincy with her children here showed me that other family members could benefit from traveling to conferences aboard.


    • RHH
      July 25, 2014 at 10:40 AM #

      3A: At my workplace, it is preferred that mentor-mentee relationships are formed such that the mentor is not in the mentee’s supervisory chain, and preferably outside the department altogether. This of course encourages more candid conversation as needed given less potential for political issues. For graduate students, having contacts with faculty outside of one’s university could easily serve in a similar fashion as a safe place to ask for advice.

      For faculty, they have the opportunity to receive feedback from students without the dampening effects of the unequal power dynamic.

      Finally, there is the opportunity for students to see faculty as “human.” Particularly for new graduate students, to rise the rank of their professors may seem quite daunting. However, mixed interactions can show graduate students that the people who become professors are not superhumans, and that joining their ranks is a quite achievable goal.


    • Nandadevi Cortes
      July 25, 2014 at 10:42 AM #

      3a. A mixed group not only opens your mind to new ideas, but it is really enriching. We are all here because, lets face it, we like learning, we enjoy opening books and finding new things. Otherwise we wouldn’t have gone to graduate school. My laboratory in Maryland had people from multiple areas in biology and from different countries (4 nationalities at one point) and it created very interesting debates on how things are done in Mexico vs Australia for example. I have always been interested in intercultural relationships, even though is not my primary field of study.

      3b. YES! When I was listening about PROMETEO I was getting all this ideas that I will try to develop soon. Knowing there is a program where I can work for a couple of months in Ecuador can facilitate new collaborations.

      3c. I want to say that I try to have a balance between my career and life. I try to exercise to decrease stress and read for leisure to have a general idea of what is going on in the world (not just about birds). Maybe not having my family here can be a challenge, but I take advantage of new technologies such as Facetime or Whatsapp and I keep in touch with them daily. Sometimes I call my parents during dinner and they leave the camera there so I can “be in the room” with them 🙂 I have to say I enjoy that. Maybe being single makes it different than if I was married or had children but still, I try to balance my life and career.

      In this trip I have been able to go to the gym, and later today I will go to the SPA (just for fun). In the meantime I have been working on my lecture for Monday, I have been reading a paper that I have to review and I have been making some corrections to my own paper.


    • RHH
      July 25, 2014 at 1:59 PM #

      3B: Yes! I was not able to attend the talk due to a conflict with the plenary, but there was were two technical talks related to power grid. As mentioned in a previous post, this is an interest of mine, so I’ve started a discussion with the authors, which I look forward to continuing once I return home. The authors are from Ecuador and Puerto Rico, so it will be interesting to gain their perspective of the challenges related to power supply and energy. Ideally, there may be a collaboration opportunity as I look to apply rapid system adaptation research to the smart grid.


    • RHH
      July 25, 2014 at 6:54 PM #

      3C: I find that anytime that I take the time to experience the local culture in addition to focusing on the conference, then I’m able to have the dual benefit of enhancing both career and life. If the local culture is experienced with conference attendees whom I have not previously met, then that is another double benefit in which I both build a relationship that potentially helps with collaboration, and also have a chance to learn from others’ life experiences.


      • LourdesMedina
        July 25, 2014 at 10:07 PM #

        Dear RHH,

        I agree with you. Being able to do excursions with conference attendees’ and potential collaborators is an ideal way to embrace work/life balance. In addition to talking about work, you get to know your collaborators better and build a relationship. A good relationship, hopefully friendship, is very important for successful collaborations. Furthermore, after very busy days it’s nice to take a break and learn about the culture.


    • HM
      July 26, 2014 at 3:23 PM #

      Answer to Q#3A

      I greatly enjoyed the participation of a mixed group, and by having faculty outside our home campus we were able to connect to create new potential collaborations. This conference also allowed me to get to know better graduate students from my own campus, and understanding different goals that they have set for the short-term. I believe this will evolve to developing bigger projects in which we’ll be able to bring that interdisciplinary participation.


    • HM
      July 26, 2014 at 3:30 PM #

      Answer to Q#3B

      This trip has definitely facilitated research ideas that will move me closer to completing a section of my next phase in the PhD program. Regarding future collaborations, I am looking forward developing a plan, in which I will be able to assist professors, maybe one from our cohort in LACCEI 2014, to impulse the research they are conducting at their home universities. This will enhance my view of what I would ultimately like to accomplish, and understand better some of the best engineering education practices.


    • HM
      July 26, 2014 at 3:37 PM #

      Answer to Q#3C

      I feel that an event like this promotes the “looking outside your little bubble” aspect. I look forward the next academic year, and hope it will bring many more experiences that can help me redefine goals, both personal and professional, for the better. I agree with AOA above, breaking the monotony helps, and some times it is just what is needed to help you accomplish the next steps. This excursion provided the career aspect of discussing topics and issues encountered in research, and what needs to be solved; and it also immersed us in the culture, allowing the exploration a new culture to many of us.


    • William Easley
      July 28, 2014 at 3:53 PM #

      3A: I feel that traveling with a mixed group of faculty and graduate students has made this trip extremely enriching. It has enabled me to speak candidly with faculty (and graduate students) about research and to solicit them for advice. I was able to talk freely about everything from my concerns with school, my plans for the future, how to approach a research problem, to applying for different scholarships. Having just completed my first year of graduate school, I received a lot of helpful feedback from people who have already been in my shoes. All of these discussions were on a level of friendship and not one in which I was made to feel like a subordinate.

      Being in a group of people from a variety of different backgrounds and disciplines has also given me the opportunity to view things from a different perspectives. It is very enriching to see how people in different fields process the same information. Few people have the opportunity to partake in an experience such as this.

      3B: This trip has not facilitated any collaborations for me per-se. It has however provided me with new ideas and motivation. On Wednesday, I attended the Telecommunications and IEEE session. My favorite presentation during this session was by Dr. Patricia Ordóñez and it focused on the promotion of interdisciplinary hackathons in order to solve issues within health care. The goal is for these hackathons to eventually be organized on a global scale. This was of particular interest to me, because in the field of Human Centered Computing, an emphasis is placed on user centered design. Involving all stakeholders in the design process can lead to well systems that better addresses the needs of the users. It is refreshing to see this approach being used from the health care perspective because the needs of end users are often times overlooked.

      My areas of research interest are in health information technology and accessibility. This session was motivational to me because I was able to see that great work across the globe in the area in which I hope to make my impact. I really want to be a part of it.

      3C: An excursion such as this contributes to career-life balance by allowing for a change in scenery and a break from routine. I would say that this trip helped me get my career-life balance back on track. Even though days were long and busy, and sleep was often lacking, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I traveled to places I could have never visited and met people that I would have never met if I was back at home. You could say that I really “lived” during this trip. Even though I am physically tired, I am now far more mentally motivated and prepared for the Fall semester than I was two weeks ago.


  26. williameasley
    July 25, 2014 at 1:04 AM #

    A note about my blog posts:
    I was to unable to bring my laptop on this trip and have had to compose all of my blog posts from my cell phone. These devices are great for menial tasks but can sometimes be unreliable when trying to be productive. In fact, I actually ended up losing 4 of my completed posts two days ago. While using my phone, I have found that composing posts significantly lower than it would on a laptop. Since free time is limited during conferences, finding the spare time to write had been difficult. In addition to this, battery life and Wi-Fi access have been limiting factors as well. Due to these factors, my posts have become totally asynchronous to the progress of the conference.

    This personal experience does raise an interesting question for me. During the “Funding Opportunities for International Collaboration and Engineering Research” plenary session and panel, I learned that there is concern from international researches revolving around not being able to receive funding directly from the NSF. In some cases, researchers are unable to receive funding from within their country and have rely on a collaborator from the United States to apply for funding. If the finding does not work out, what happens to the collaborators that are in need of the money. Will they have to resort to using devices that limit their productivity? Should more be done to ensure that all international collaborations have access to the same resources?


    • July 25, 2014 at 2:37 AM #

      Will, you make a good point. Dr. Anderson mentioned that there will be a need to rely on technology to facilitate collaboration when resources are too scarce to fund in-person connections. One of the speakers discussed a need to develop more apps for cell phones because it seems like there is more access to cell phones than computers in developing countries. (If anyone has a reference for this, please post it.) It’s interesting that you’ve broached this topic since we struggled a bit with our own delegation decision regarding use of an app for our daily coordination. We discovered that some apps invaded privacy more than others, and after considering and trying WhatsUp/WhatsApp and GroupMe, we decided that Google Hangout was the most efficient and the least invasive.

      I am a face-to-face collaborator, but have had to rely on a series of technologies to move international projects forward. These include the combination of Skype, email, and Twitter *in combination with* phone calls and texts with the members of teams in the US. However, in some cases, things only moved forward with visits to the site or face-to-face meetings at least twice a year. Sometimes these meetings took place at other conferences and they included talking and planning over dinner, or something social. Perhaps the levels of social interaction and technology use depend on the topic of the research. Perhaps the topic of the research can be matched to one’s personality or need/desire for human interaction.


      • July 25, 2014 at 4:16 AM #

        Here is an image from the plenary that speaks to this topic:


        • Nandadevi Cortes
          July 25, 2014 at 10:29 AM #

          That image really shocked me…I have been a professor a few years, not only University level but middle school level and every day in more and more schools professors are seeing as a facilitator, someone who is there to debate with them and not just lecture. I am not sure if it was Dr. Bonilla during the workshop that said that students want a professor to teach them something that cannot be found on the internet. That is true, but in the end is not just having random facts but knowing how to apply the knowledge and those facts to solve problems. That is what separate us from other intelligent species, being able to problem solve.

          I was commenting with Dr Medina, that we rarely go to libraries as everything can be found on line. Not long ago, 15 years during my undergrad I would go to the library and request papers that can only be sent through the library system as photocopies, now, it is so easy to find everything on line in seconds…


      • July 25, 2014 at 10:19 PM #

        Dear Renetta,

        I would like to add that the effectiveness of technology in collaborations could also be related to the culture. In the U.S. we are very technology dependent and are used or at least try to answer fast. Meanwhile, in latin america that is not the case. You need to build tighter relationships with people to grasp their attention.


    • July 25, 2014 at 9:46 AM #

      Will I was also thinking about the distribution of resources for international collaboration and partnership. That came up a few times during the different presentations at the conference. Some of the barriers that I had not thought about were the ways in which the structure of government funding streams could be a challenge particularly for researchers outside of the US.

      I really enjoy the presentation by Dr. Petrie, who talked about the new organizational mechanisms that they were developing to facilitate international partnership. Like Dr. Petrie other, presenters talked about different ways that they were forming organizations to foster innovative collectives. This would make a great social science research project! If this model of organizations work, it could serve as a model for other groups across the globe.


  27. williameasley
    July 25, 2014 at 1:09 AM #

    Tuesday evening I attended the cocktail party at the Bankers Club. While there I noticed that the interactions between people attending this conference were unlike anything that I have come to expect from a research conference. Complete strangers came together during this event in order to fellowship, share laughs, and dance. Friendships were formed. As the trust in these relationships grows, collaborations will develop. I would also think that collaborations formed at events such as LACCEI are less likely to have conflicts between the investigators due to the fact that both parties involved will already know and respect each other on a personal level. These connections between people were not forced in any way and occurred naturally over the course of several days. LACCEI is entirely unique from every conference that I have ever attended, and in a good way.


    • williameasley
      July 25, 2014 at 1:16 AM #

      I also the gala dinner and awards ceremony Wednesday night at Plaza Baquerizo Moreno. All of my observations from the cocktail party were in line with my observations from this event. The sense of community and camaraderie was even greater with even more talk of future collaboration.


  28. July 25, 2014 at 3:47 AM #

    Question 4:
    How does this photo convey collaboration and international engagement?

    From the promiseagep instagram:


    Embed by


    • AOA
      July 25, 2014 at 8:30 AM #

      This picture represents what I mentioned earlier about getting to know people outside of the conference setting. During this excursion shown above I had to time to talk with the students about Ecuadorean tradition and life. I personally think yesterday’s excursion can be compared to an academic meetings back at UMBC when professors and students ask each other out to discuss business. The only difference is the opportunity to explore parts of a new country which adds to a person’s own knowledge, and I am sure the experience will help in someone’s academic/research life. Research aside, knowing and being immersed in another culture and lifestyle helps people develop as an individual within their personal lives, research, government, and much more . I know every single travel experience I have had outside of the USA has made me a better person and researcher.


      • July 25, 2014 at 10:54 AM #

        First let me say that the food was amazing at this local restaurant. I forgot the name but its only a few blogs from the Hilton Colon Hotel.

        We often take food for granted but I believe it is important to develop relationships that I believe is essential for collaboration, partnership and trust. The students from ESPOL have been amazing at not only providing us with the opportunity to learn from them at the preconference but for us to share our knowledge throughout the conference. They have been great ambassadors for the school and the conference.


    • RHH
      July 25, 2014 at 9:00 PM #

      I see it as a reflection of the results of the previous work invested in forming a successful collaboration. Dr. Tull has spent the last year (two?) investing in ESPOL, and the graciousness of Diana shows how much they are also invested in her. The meal we shared did not have the feel of business partners, but rather of the trust between friends.


      • William Easley
        July 28, 2014 at 4:27 AM #

        My thoughts on this question are in line with yours. I view this as friends enjoying lunch together in a very relaxed and laid back setting. I see international engagement when I look at this picture. Especially on the parts of Diana and Juan, who took the time to show us around and teach us more about Ecuadorian culture.


    • Nandadevi Cortes
      July 25, 2014 at 9:49 PM #

      It shows relax communication and people having a good time. This relaxed communication can lead to more complex topics and people can find that they have things in common such as research questions, technologies they would like to try and so on. This to me seems like the beginning of deeper conversations.

      Similar to what AOA mentions, here I was talking to our Ecuatorian friends about local dishes and what they did for a living. That also shows the importance of having locals showing us around, bringing us to new places in town or out of the hotel.


    • HM
      July 26, 2014 at 3:47 PM #

      Answer to Q#4

      This photo depicts what I mentioned in my post for Q#3C towards the end. This shows how being immersed in the culture of where you are currently present enhances the experience, and at some point becoming one of the group. I had the grand pleasure of becoming closer to Diana Patiño and Juan Carlos Chia, at the beginning our tour guides/organizers, at the end friends. We will definitely confirm international engagement in the near future, since there is interest in visiting our home campus, back in Baltimore, MD. We will look at potential research options for them to be involved with, and potentially pursue a graduate degree there as well.


  29. AOA
    July 25, 2014 at 7:52 AM #

    3A.) The mixed group has given me a more enlightened perspective on how to navigate as a researcher, what it means to be a faculty member, and the high/low moments of being a research faculty.

    These past couple of days have been nothing but bliss. As a graduate student who is currently transitioning from a masters to a PhD, I have a million questions. I had the opportunity to ask faculty members a number of questions that have sat in my notes and ran through my mind for the past couple of months regarding international research and graduate school. In a normal situation,my questions and topics would be addressed by making an appointment for office hours, sitting in a workshop, or another formal setting. I find the formal setting isn’t always the best route when asking questions that have multiple layers such as applying to phd programs or international research. The layers I am referring to are the number grey areas that may exist in finding a lab abroad, advice on current research, and applying to a PhD programs. The grey areas can’t be addressed with one simple answer and one meeting. In addition, our meetings back in the states would have a limited amount of time for discussion. I find the informal setting allowed the group to have a more natural and full discussion, and the pressure to answer a question within a 30-minute meeting does not exist. Professors and students have been able to tell stories about their experiences within research and shared contacts over the course if the week. Lastly, real-time relevant advice has been beneficial. I’ve had different members of the group come and give me advice they remembered while sitting in a paper session or having a discussions with another conference attendee moments before .


  30. AOA
    July 25, 2014 at 8:07 AM #

    3B.) I currently keep a notebook on anything relating to research, and the notebooks contains new research ideas, methods, or areas to look into. The notebook has doubled since I have been here. Nearly every conversation and workshop I’ve experienced this week has lead to something new and important to add to my research notebook. I was recently informed about an international research NSF grant that aligns with my new research project and would help establishing a relationship with international researchers. I met with students leaders from all over Latin America who are willing to work with me not only on research, but increasing the awareness of engineering education. I have received a number of friend requests on my social media outlets and we have already began interacting virtually.


  31. July 25, 2014 at 8:14 AM #

    A 3a:
    Dr. Tull, I prefer in-person communication because there are many social cues that one can pick up put on through that kind of communication. The very practice of doing this blog has exposed to me that there is a particular skill set that is required to effectively blog. Perhaps blogging and the use of distance communication should be something that institutions training Engineers and others for participation in the global society need to teach.

    Much like Spanish, English and Java, the effective use of technology to communicate is like learning another language. We can’t assume that just because generation y or z uses technology that they can do so in a way that is appropriate for the business or research world. How do different groups define effective communication? What does it mean to be proficient or fluent in blogging? What kinds of skills does this require, especially when we are asking Engineers to forge partnerships with researchers, governments, industry and community to deal with major social problems that we face today in the world?

    Another theme that I saw in the presentations at the conference was the need to develop the soft skills of those in the STEM fields. Though this was not a major part of the discussion at the conference, the take away for me was that the development of social skills to communicate research findings, speaking to sponsors, forging partnerships and collaborations is also crucial. How does one develop trust through the use of technology, especially trust across the global, economic and social divide?

    For some of us who are shy, communication for business may be a bit intimidating, whether it is in-person or via the web. One of the things that was really telling was the discussion that we had with students from ESPOL. RHH asked the students to raise their hands if they were shy. Most raised their hands. His advise was that success is not just academic or technical, they will also need to learn to engage in small talk in the academic and business world. I shared the importance of communicating with your advisor especially during the writing stage of the dissertation. Now that I look back at my experience the communication with ones advisor is training for the work world.

    Perhaps next time when come to this conference, we can invite the students from FLEEI to join us. I think that would be great practice. One of the challenges may be again language– English and Spanish.

    If we should have the opportunity to do this again, I also recommend that we try doing video blogs. It’s faster and I presume that if we were to use technology to collaborate with researchers globally, we would probably use skype, google chat and/or another technology.


  32. LourdesMedina
    July 25, 2014 at 12:56 PM #

    3A: The first days, the person-to-person interactions were more fruitful than blogging (I guess that many of us were learning how to blog). Now, the blog is helping us to make deeper discussions about specific topics in which everyone is involved. Since I arrived, I have looked for opportunities to talk with everyone. Through these conversations I have felt as a mentor and as a mentee. I see real benefits of having such a mix of faculty/graduate students from different universities, backgrounds and engineering fields. For instance, having people from different universities have enriched the overall experience throughout our sharing of thoughts about the conference and the Ecuadorian culture. We have found common interests, collaboration opportunities and overall life lessons. We have been able to value “diversity”. In addition, students have been provided with the opportunity to learn about and potentially visit other places (e.g. UMBC, JSU & UPR).


  33. July 25, 2014 at 1:56 PM #

    Being in Ecuador for 5 days has been an amazing experience. During breakfast we were talking about whether or not the time that we had to be in the country was enough for international engagement. I think that if the goal is to expose graduate students to the idea of the importance of international travel and collaboration then 5 days is a good amount of time to start.

    There is a theoretical model that is used in public health research called the transtheoretical model of change. The transtheoretical model identifies 6 stages of change. They include: (1) precontemplation, (2) contemplation, (3) preparation, (4) action, (5) maintenance and (6) termination.

    For some students, international travel may not have been part of their research career plan. I know that for me personally, the most I’ve thought about attending international conferences mainly consisted of presenting my research to others. I had not thought about how such a conference could serve as a mechanism for future research or collaboration.

    I see the NSF funding for us to attend LACCEI as important to the preparation and action of our international careers. The funding helped to remove some financial, environmental, psychological and social barriers that might have been present for many of us. Having Dr. Tull and other graduate students from UMBC definitely makes the trip less daunting.

    I’m interested in how we can maintain projects such as these. It’s great to have a forum like this to share my ideas and experiences.


    • July 25, 2014 at 11:00 PM #

      I think that 5 days for an initial visit was a fair amount of time. However, to truly conduct research more than 5 days is needed. At least 2-3 weeks depending upon the work done and the amount of pre-travel work completed even more might be needed. But from a work life balance perspective, 2 weeks may be the longest I can realistically leave home. I am at a teaching institution with a 3-4 course/semester teaching load. And during the semester, it’s difficult to miss more than a day or two of teaching. I can’t imagine how I would miss multiple weeks of teaching would impact the students I teach.

      Another barrier that I think is certainly financial. I was very excited to learn about the funding opportunities at NSF for international travel. But I’m not sure how to initially start such a collaboration without some seed funding to establish and nurture the initial collaboration. Coming from a smaller institution, I am certain that there is no funding to support this type of travel in my department. So, I think that faculty and students at less funded institutions may be at a disadvantage from this perspective. And students who’s advisers are the gate-keepers to their having funding to support this type of travel maybe disadvantaged as well.


  34. Nandadevi Cortes
    July 25, 2014 at 9:22 PM #

    I forgot to mention that tomorrow we went to a different part of town, Diana and Juan Carlos went with us and it keeps showing how warm people are with foreigners in general. They went with us and showed us around. We went to a different part of town, where high up people live. It reminds me of the differences in social classes that can be seen in every country I have been, some show a bigger gap than others. It is sad that in some Latin American countries government forgot that they are elected to make things better, but they forget, power can be a very bad enemy when people have no values.

    Also, today we went with Dr. Moscoso from Wichita State University (Kansas), we were talking about international collaborations and when would be the best time to invest in them. It may be harder to do them in the early stages of a professor’s career, but maybe once they have tenured they can have more flexibility to collaborate internationally.


  35. AOA
    July 25, 2014 at 10:05 PM #

    Earlier today I was asked about my research trip to the Philippines and what are some of the major differences between that trip and Ecuador. Overall, my experiences both yielded potential research collaborations and a better understanding of the country’s culture. What differed was the level of interaction I had with the local students and faculty. I find it in interesting that I think I forged deeper relationships with attendees at this conference than some of my summer lab and faculty members while in the Philippines. I am still in contact with the people I met in the Philippines, but it’s more on a social level rather than research. I do feel that my maturity level as a researcher did play a role in my intensity and willingness to ensure strong collaborators. In the Philippines, I was focused on completing research and didn’t take an active approach to create strong relationships. This current trip, I was more mature as a researcher and understood why and how I want to make collaborations. Also, I think having a clearer trajectory helped on this trip.


  36. July 25, 2014 at 11:35 PM #

    Question 5: This morning we discussed career-building strategies.

    5a) How did this international engagement experience influence your career strategies? (Please be specific.)

    5b) How will you encourage and model career-life balance for your current and future female mentees.


    • July 26, 2014 at 12:17 PM #

      5A: After this experience, I would like to be conscious about including international engagement as part of my career path – not only for myself but for my students. Prior to this trip, my international collaborations were just by luck. If an opportunity was offered I would say “yes”, but I was not actively searching for them. Now I feel I can make an international impact to learn best practices from one another, share resources and help women in particular. Women in STEM need a lot of help in this career because family and friends are not always supportive. We have observed that in some of the discussions of this blog. I will provide a greater discussion in relation to women in the answer to question 5B. To have a better world, countries need to share resources. Perhaps many countries do not have the resources that we have in the Unites States, therefore, sharing resources is a greater service to the world. But we also have many things to learn from our international collaborators. We should not want to reinvent the wheel if some of our research has been already conducted in other country. I realized that our “exhaustive” literature reviews that justify the need of our research is not really “exhaustive”. Did we revised the literature of other countries that is written perhaps in spanish, french, portuguese, mandarin, and other languages. I would guess that the answer to that question is “no” because we do not understand those languages. Therefore, international collaborations allows us to expand our access to more literature that may be relevant to our research plans. To conclude, international engagement should be part of our career strategies in order to make this world a better place. NSF is supportive about it, we should be supportive about it. Accordingly, we should write proposals that would facilitate these international collaborations and that would also benefit our international counterparts.


      • July 26, 2014 at 12:40 PM #

        5B: While career-life balance continues to be a challenge in my life, I will work towards being more conscious about it. I need to start with myself in order to become a role model for other females. For instance, I should start finding time to do exercise and reading. Meanwhile, I will try to come up with ideas to embrace my females mentees to advance in their careers but maintain a career-life balance. For example, after a big accomplishment or working really hard on something (e.g. paper submission) we should take a break and celebrate. I usually try to do research group reunions were we can eat and share experiences that are not necessarily related to the research tasks. I would also like to submit a proposal that would help me have more resources to help women. In fact, during this trip I talked with potential collaborators that are passionate about the same kind of problems. This could include providing them with workshops, but also with international experiences. Furthermore, I will encourage my students (with family – husband and kids) to include them in our activities. I feel good when people values my family and invites them to form part of the experience. For example, during the first ADVANCE Hispanic Women in STEM Network an activity was specially prepared to include families. It was a motivational talk about how we attempt to be “super” women trying to take care of everything. Kids were entertained in other room while adults (women and their husbands) enjoyed but also learned from the talk. The talk helped me realize that “we do not have to do it all” and at the same time it helped my husband understand the stress that I am going through. This is an excellent example of how we can embrace career-life balance in our female mentees through innovative ideas.


      • RHH
        July 27, 2014 at 9:48 PM #

        5B: To the extent that the question focuses on specifically female mentees, I would encourage them to be aware of the culture pressures they may encounter.

        Historically, males are “allowed” to focus solely on being breadwinners, and if their careers cause their domestic life to suffer then it can almost be seen as commendable or a heroic sacrifice. However, a career female may risk a certain stigma if she does not have a clean house, well-manicured kids, and dinner on the table every night. Thankfully, I see evidence of this double standard changing, but it is still ingrained in the culture. I would encourage my female mentees to be aware of the external cultural pressures they may encounter as well as the pressure they may place on themselves from having internalized the culture.

        As for more general advice, I agree with HM’s strategy of leaving work at work. Also, I think that including one’s family in career events, such as conferences, allows the family to share in the career.


    • July 26, 2014 at 2:53 PM #

      5a. This international experience reminded me of how important it is to surround oneself with a diverse set of people. LACCEI is my first Latin American and Caribbean conference. Based on the information presented I realized that we have more commonalities than differences.

      As for my career, I was reminded again that it is important to long-term and short-term career plans. Dr. Tull explained that some career goals require time to execute. She also explained that it is also okay to change careers goals. It has taken me a while to feel comfortable with the fact that my route to research and the university may not be the path often traveled. I enjoy studying and working to build organizations that were created to advance equity for underrepresented groups.

      This conference has exposed me to people who have created different organizational structures to level the global playing field. My career strategy will be to learn more about the leaders in the field that are doing what I want to do and develop my own strategy based on the lessons learned.


    • July 26, 2014 at 3:03 PM #

      5b. I think one of the things that I can do is tell them about my experiences and share strategies that I learned from others on the trip. Such as considering taking one’s children or spouse on international travel if that is possible.


    • HM
      July 26, 2014 at 11:29 PM #

      Answer to Q#5A

      This international engagement experience helped me open my eyes about opportunities outside the United States. I was not aware of different programs that many countries are offering to bring people in, and help them further prepare in their respective fields. Specifically, I learned that Germany is trying to bring in new talent, and they are offering scholarships to obtain a graduate degree. This made me think about potential post-doc opportunities, or research grants as a professional.


    • HM
      July 27, 2014 at 1:54 PM #

      Answer to Q#5B

      I would like to express that I had a hard time understanding the need for specifying giving advice to female mentees. I just had an insightful conversation with MBH and my wife, and it led me to partially understand why this is mentioned this particular way. The suggestion I always make, and I will continue making because I feel it is extremely effective, and to a certain extent sacred and it does not matter whether you are a male or a female: WORK IS DONE AT WORK!

      I greatly enjoy spending time with my family, and when I get home from work, my time is completely devoted to what my wife and I are planning to do. I try to maintain a strict work schedule, and whenever there is something work related, it has to be finished during my 8-10 hours of work. I do not take work home, unless there is a special or unexpected circumstance; otherwise, you have to plan accordingly.

      On the note of making a distinction between males and females, I am still uncertain on what was intended. From a work environment standpoint it is not of my concern how you perform a job if you get the job done. If you are a capable individual, female or male, and are doing the assignments you need to do, and meeting deadlines, hat’s off to you!

      Again, my advice or encouragement, do not let work run over family time; or whatever free time you get that allows you to keep a healthy/balanced QUALITY life.


      • July 27, 2014 at 5:35 PM #

        HM – I completely agree with you in theory but “work at work” is difficult to do for many people. As a grad student with a family (husband, children, & a dog) it was impossible for me to stick to that? My typical day involved getting up early to get my kids ready for school. After putting them on the bus I’d go to work however unlike other students, I had to leave work in time to get them after school. Childcare is expensive and on a grad student salary, it was more than I could afford. So, I would switch hats and go home to be mom and help with homework, after school activities, dinner, etc. Then once they were in bed I could switch back to grad student mode. After a few weeks the work would accumulate and I’d end up going to work on a Saturday to make up for lost time. My husband is incredibly supportive but works a traditional 8-5 job and did not have the flexibility. Days when school was closed completely screwed up my schedule.

        Once, I was asked to provide a schedule for when I was on campus so that a group meeting could be scheduled. I provided a schedule that did not include the times when I was taking care of my children. I was then told my a very senior professor that my schedule didn’t look like I was real graduate student. At the time I didn’t even know how to defend myself against such a statement. Was my work getting done? Yes. Was I meeting the requirements of my program? Yes. Did he think I was progressing like a real graduate student before then? Yes. I honestly thought that if I told him I was feeding the homeless during those times instead of taking care of my children he would have thought differently of me.

        Now, as a professor I encounter many students who have to work to pay for their education. They schedule classes around their work schedules and I’ve met quite a few who work 3rd shift as well.

        Granted, some of my schedule was due to choice, but I took my responsibility to my family very seriously and switching between mommy mode and grad student mode during the day enabled me to attend their events at school, field trips, etc. while progressing with my work. There are other students who have other family members, spouses, parents, siblings, etc. who they balance caring for as well. And for so many reasons these responsibilities tend to fall more on women than men.


        • HM
          July 27, 2014 at 9:39 PM #

          Response to quincykbrown @ 5:35 PM (July 27, 2014)

          Thank you for the insightful response Dr. Brown, and this is what I was expecting to read about in hopes of receiving a response to my post. The separation between hats worn during different times of day is what I wanted to specify, and you made this explanation really simple. I guess I have to modify my suggestion “work at work” but I have to make sure I can account for:

          – Not letting work overlap with family time: you mentioned that you would switch back to work-mode AFTER finishing your mommy activities. This means that family came first, and you made sure everything was taken care of before going back to your graduate student work.

          – Not letting work become an impediment to attend commitments: you were able to participate in your children’s activities that weren’t part of a routine schedule (trips, events).

          Between the two NOTs, I am trying to make the point of not letting work run on what you find most important in your life. Again, you were able to balance graduate school, and being a role model to your children and husband. I can’t think at the moment of how to adjust my advice to make it a single sentence, but in essence, it has to include regardless of location, you can work at home, without cutting time for your regular home duties and plans. This takes care of having to commute back to the lab or office, and restarting the work-mode, thus saving time. I will think of a stronger single sentence advice (motto?).

          I am curious to see what a “real” graduate student schedule looks like. I sometimes feel I don’t have one either, from what I hear from everybody else’s experience in my department, I would rather NOT have one like that! All the “yes” answers you provided demonstrated it was not of his concern how you got the job done! Again, hats off to you! You were able to balance work and family, and met every single goal set. If your progress were compared to a “real” graduate student’s progress, IN PAPER (having work only related information), in that professor’s brain, no such statement would have been generated.

          Lastly, your last sentence, “… tend to fall more on women than men”. I am not sure how to say this one, but I feel it is a cultural belief. It is something that has been passed on generation to generation by legacy. I am just mentioning what I think this is, and why it is like that. I grew up outside the United States, and our culture has harsher thoughts on roles. I don’t believe any of them, and promote he or she who has the time, and there are things to be done, DOES THEM! It is like getting first pick on things to check off a list, if I wake up first, and we need to do dishes, well, I go back sleep and “wake up” after my wife gets up. Ok, kidding, I try to have a less cluttered kitchen by the time she wakes up.


    • William Easley
      July 28, 2014 at 4:45 AM #

      5a) I learned that it is possible to become both a professor and an entrepreneur. It is possible to build up your research as an enterprise and then to let it run itself. I also learned that it is possible to participate and maintain active leadership roles in multiple organizations globally. All that it takes is the dedication.

      You never know what opportunities might arise from speaking to a complete stranger at a conference. If you always put your best foot forward when introducing yourself. The amount of professors who spoke about educational reform was a very pleasant surprise. To me, it means that change in the classroom is coming. Some of the issues that I have faced with the educational system in the United States are being encountered in Latin America. Some approaches just do not work. As a result of this conference, I am very interested in the different approaches to education reform that will start happening in the near future and possibly getting involved.

      5B) The older I get, the more I realize just how different every person in the world is. When mentoring female (and male) students, I will encourage them to learn as much about themselves as possible. Nobody can accurately say what the right career-life is for someone else should be. I will stress the importance of knowing what your limits are and respecting them. At the same time, I would also share the advice that Dr. Thomas Kailath shared during his plenary session; never quit too early.
      Also, knowing the importance of having a strong support system, I will stress the importance of finding the right mix of people to surround yourself with. I also would encourage them to attend events such as the ones provided by the PROMISE AGEP in order for them to find a community at their institution in which they feel comfortable.


      • Deanna
        July 31, 2014 at 3:51 PM #

        Did they mention any specifics? Was this with respect to matriculation into STEM graduate programs in general? I agree that many changes need to take place-not only at the college level, but in high school, middle school, and elementary school as well.

        Also, I believe the strong support system is key. For many people, that is the make it or break it factor in terms of their success. I have met extremely brilliant people who have quit due to a lack of support either from family, friends, people at school, etc.

        I really like Dr. Kailath’s advice, “never quit too early”. I have met so many people that have quit early because they got caught up in the politics or complications of the educational system, or had a lacking support system. I hope that when I complete my degree, I can help others avoid quitting too early!


    • July 28, 2014 at 11:47 AM #

      5A.) It served as another eye-opener and an opportunity to collaborate with others. I hope to work in an area of international engineering.

      I believe attending LACCEI moved my career closer to accomplishing my goals. Those goals are to build relationships outside of the united states and have more of a global perspective on engineering and it’s impact. LACCEI served as an outlet to not only meet other students interested in STEM, but building relationships with future collaborators. I work in an area called appropriate technology, and most of projects are outside of the USA, so meeting with potential collaborators who are also in STEM pushed me further along.


    • July 28, 2014 at 12:29 PM #

      5B.) As backwards as this may seem, but I would encourage my female mentees to have mentors that are females. I do not intend to dump the work of being a mentor on other people, but I think having first-hand insight on situations would be better than my attempts to comment on it. I do believe I have insight on the lifestyle and experiences of females in STEM go through because of the women(mothers, sisters, and significants others) in my life, but that is sufficient all the time.

      I believe my plan to encourage a female mentee who is a wife vs single would be different. I would encourage my mentees to take into consideration what makes them happy. If they feel making a certain decision would have a negative impact on their lives as a wife or a mother, I would tell them to make sure they are conscience and aware of all aspects that surround their decision. I would encourage them to look at the reality of being a female within their field, and ensure they have a strategy to navigate through having career-life balance.

      Attending LACCEI with female STEM professionals and attending the females in STEM forum enlightened mho is traveling away from home. The mother would have to decide if leaving the child(ren) is a better option vs bringing the child(ren) along.


    • RHH
      July 28, 2014 at 1:22 PM #

      5A: I haven’t been outside the country since 2010, and had forgotten how much I enjoy experiencing new cultures. At work I typically seek out domestic opportunities for conferences, since it appears to be generally easier to get approval for cheaper trips. However, I’ve become aware of some other funding resources at work, and as part of this trip I thought more about traveling could make for fruitful collaboration opportunities. Thus, I will no longer limit my ambitions to domestic trips!

      This also touches on some of the career-life balance topics, since typically I bring my wife along on trips so that we can share in experiencing new places together.


  37. July 26, 2014 at 7:58 AM #

    Question 6:

    Based on your opinions and observations, please list:

    a) 5 things that impede underrepresented graduate students and faculty in STEM from taking advantage of international research or collaboration opportunities.

    b) 5 suggestions for increasing the numbers of underrepresented graduate students and faculty who will develop international collaborations.

    c) 5 ways that international research and collaboration travel threatens or challenges the concept of career-life balance.

    d) 5 ways that international research and collaboration travel can facilitate career-life balance.

    This is the final question for the week. Thank you for participating! Stay tuned for more information on this project. Our webinar series will begin Fall 2014.


    • RHH
      July 26, 2014 at 10:57 AM #


      1. Lack of personal contact with others who have had international experiences.
      2. Concern about engaging in the risk of a new experience alone.

      I remember being skeptical of the PROMISE retreats until I happened to meet someone who 1) had heard positive things and 2) was willing to go together.

      3. Not understanding the benefits of international research
      4. Allowing day-to-day commitments to prevent investing in long-term benefits.

      It can take discipline to take time away from daily fires to “sharpen the saw.”

      5. Inability to obtain answers about lower level logistical concerns.

      Questions such as “where can I get my hair done” or “where can I get a refill of my prescription” may not appear in the FAQs


      • RHH
        July 26, 2014 at 11:24 AM #


        1. Allow previous participants to engage potential participants through a webinar or personal contact. Previous participants could focus on answering concerns and questions mentioned in my answer to 6A.

        2. Send participants in pairs or groups, or sending a guide to help the participants settle but may not remain with them the entire time.

        3. Give participants contacts of people living in the area that they may contact for assistance.

        4. Make international experience a curriculum requirement

        5. Provide a US contact that friends and family can ask to contact a participant in case of an emergency. This could be as elaborate as someone who knows the language and the area and could enlist the help of hotel or police help track down a participant, or as simple as just having the cell phone numbers of the group.


        • RHH
          July 26, 2014 at 12:21 PM #

          Parts of my answers are inspired a very interesting conversation some of our group had with Dr. Yaihara Fortis-Santiago (2012 Science & Technology Policy Fellow; NSF Directorate for Engineering; CienciaPR)


        • July 26, 2014 at 1:52 PM #

          I think all the suggestions made by RHH would be helpful. I would add the following:

          Inform the advisors of students about the benefits of international travel and partnership. If they emphasize the significance of this type of work and are themselves given opportunity to take students, it may help to remove some of the barriers.


          • Nandadevi Cortes
            July 26, 2014 at 1:56 PM #

            Yes, maybe some advisers didn’t have to make international collaborations to have their current position at the university, but in this global world of knowledge, that is not possible anymore.


          • July 26, 2014 at 2:00 PM #

            I would add offering child care options to men and women who would not otherwise participate because they need to take their children with them.


    • July 26, 2014 at 1:46 PM #

      1. Being responsible for family members who may be too young to travel.
      2. Money or cost of travel
      3. Lack of knowledge that such opportunities
      4. No international travel experience may make the process daunting.
      5. Demands of tenure may be a barrier for assistant professors who may be concern that the the process might be too time consuming to develop relationship with international partners and get the research off the ground.


    • Nandadevi Cortes
      July 26, 2014 at 1:54 PM #


      1. Not having someone who can tell them about these experiences. We tend to do things if people already have done them.
      2. Being afraid of leaving the comfort of someone’s hometown, for good or bad that is all that some people know and they are fine with that because they don’t know other things.
      3. Not having a good mentor – maybe that one relates to #1
      4. One that is very important is funding. As graduate students we don’t really make that much money; therefore, it is hard to travel (hotel, flight, food etc tend to be expensive). Some societies offer grants for graduate students to cover part of the travel, the academic department has some funding for students who have already passed their prelim, GSA (graduate student association) from UMBC has up to 2,500 for traveling purposes. Personally I have taken advantage of those and have reduced the money I have spent when traveling.
      5. In some laboratories they may not be given the opportunity to travel unless they complete a lot of work.


    • July 27, 2014 at 11:33 AM #

      6a – Impediments to international activities –
      1) Lack of international connections from previous experiences or from being from another country. In hindsight, most of the faculty I know who have international collaborations do so in their country of origin. I suppose that if I’d grown up in another country or obtained a degree elsewhere that it would be easier for me contact a colleague still in that country and start a collaboration.

      2) Limited travel funding. Many students are rely upon advisers to finance their travel. If the adviser doesn’t have funding or does not see the need for international work it may be difficult for them to go.

      3) Overworked. As an assistant professor, there are certain things that I have to do to get tenure and promotion. In addition to the basic milestones, adding an international collaboration to that list does honestly seem a bit daunting. However, know that I know there are funding supplements available from NSF, it seems a more doable.

      4) Ignorance of the benefits. Prior to attending this conference, my thought was that international activity was needed to be promoted from assistant to associate professor. Though the thought was intriguing, it seemed as if this was something I needed to focus on later.

      5) Family commitments. As a graduate student with children I doubt that I would have been able to leave home for more than a week. Now that my girls are older, 2, 3 at the most, might be the longest that I feel comfortable leaving them.


    • July 27, 2014 at 12:11 PM #

      6b – Suggestions for increasing international collaborations

      1) Increase awareness. At conferences it might be helpful to share information from those who have traveled abroad for research, mechanisms for funding, and benefits of international collaborations on career development. I also think that emphasizing the importance of such activities on ones career rather than on the research is important. It is possible to have a research career without international activity, however knowing the career benefits that extend beyond research puts this in a different light.

      2) Provide funding. If it had not been for the the funding that Dr. Tull received I would not have visited Ecuador or begun to think about international collaborations. Though I have grant funding, none of it would have supported my travel for this trip. Perhaps seed funding or mini-grants for faculty would be enable us to start collaborations and develop them enough so that they are mature enough to be written into a proposal.

      3) Arrange travel in cohorts. Traveling to Guayaquil with others made the experience more manageable. I don’t speak fluent Spanish and it would have been a less enjoyable experience if I was unable to get out of the hotel and see the city because of my lack of fluency. Traveling with others who can share information about travel logistics, places eat, touring the city, etc. was great for me.

      4) Acknowledge the challenges. Despite all that I’ve written on this blog, I think that some of the issues that have hindered these collaborations are complex. At times, it feels as if people don’t either “get it” or trivialize the effects of not wanting to travel somewhere when feeling confident that I may be the only African American women at the entire conference. I’ve been in that situation before and it’s hard to be so far from home, not speak the language, and look around and see no one who looks like me for days. Most times I can handle it but there are times when I just don’t feel like putting myself in that situation (again). So, having some way of validating those experiences and teaching people how to cope might be helpful too.

      5) Provide local contacts. If there is someone at the local university who can serve as a guide, logistics contact, etc. that would be great. The support and assistance of Diana (I hope that’s how to spell her name) was awesome. If there was a “Diana” to meet online prior to traveling and then assist once there people might feel more comfortable.


      • Nandadevi Cortes
        July 27, 2014 at 5:39 PM #

        1. If students from another laboratory are traveling overseas with their advisors, talking to them would be a good idea.
        2. Take advantage of opportunities like these, I know some students couldn’t make it because of work or other responsibilities, but the experience will definitely have a long term impact on our careers.
        3. It sounds easy to say but: DON’T be afraid of taking the leap and travel, leave the comfort of your home. Maybe you will be the FIRST one of your family to go outside and meet new people, experience new cultures and learn from that. That will open the door to a new world of possibilities and opportunities.
        4. Look for funding, maybe if a student is interested and approaches with that question, send them to the study abroad office where they can have more information on how to go abroad, what to do over there, what is the best place to go depending on their interests and how to be prepared both financially and with enough information to travel
        5. Like Quincy mentioned, traveling with a small group can make the transition easier. Specially traveling with locals who have an understanding of the language and the area make it easier and a more enjoyable experience.


    • HM
      July 27, 2014 at 1:55 PM #

      Answer to Q#6A

      1) Lack of access to information: if do not know about it, you can’t take advantage of it.
      2) Not being able to detach from family, and can’t bring them to the conference.
      3) Job is not allowing the time off from “work” to participate.
      4) Other commitments that fall outside immediate family, or work.
      5) Fear of visiting a place outside your “bubble”.


    • July 27, 2014 at 1:56 PM #

      Answer to Q#6B

      1) Word of mouth, we discussed this in our group a couple of days ago, it is more likely for anyone to pursue something if you hear from it from someone that went through that experience.
      2) Find appropriate conference or collaborations for the participants. Make sure they are of interest for them.
      3) Make the experience more involving, I find it harder to adapt to certain “talks” if there is a person giving information about it. I like the panels, discussions, and if possible showing what has been done, maybe have a project available to see.
      4) Organize outside the work schedule activities as part of the whole package. Getting immersed in the culture enriches visiting other countries.
      5) I agree with RHH’s #4 above, make it mandatory, if you as an institution would like to expand your international collaboration, make it a class that students have to do and take them out-of-country, and have a faculty accompany them.


    • HM
      July 27, 2014 at 1:58 PM #

      Answer to Q#6C

      1) Quality time limitations, you might have to work different hours outside your regular schedule based on culture/work requirements.
      2) Workout schedule, you might not be able to maintain this outside your country.
      3) Eating habits, host country might not be as accommodating as home country.
      4) Language limitation, some opportunities might be bypassed due to not understanding fully what is required, this even happens in your native tongue.
      5) Amount of traveling, if the participant constantly travels between host and home countries, there might be a lot of work being done while traveling, or potentially no work could be done while traveling.


    • HM
      July 27, 2014 at 1:59 PM #

      Answer to Q#6D

      1) Time off from work, if all responsibilities back home are taken care of.
      2) Opportunities to visit whole new worlds. These might be in many people’s bucket lists.
      3) Providing the sense of having participated or worked in something greater than oneself.
      4) Personal development opportunities, this is mainly focused to getting to know more people in the field, and from a different culture.
      5) It can be looked at as a vacation after the work is accomplished!


    • July 27, 2014 at 11:25 PM #

      a – Things that impede underrepresented graduate students and faculty in STEM from taking advantage of international research or collaboration opportunities (grad student view):
      1. lack of collaborations at other universities
      2. lack of funding
      3. lack of an international aspect to research
      4. fear that it may take more time to complete a degree
      5. lack of knowledge about international research needs


    • williameasley
      July 28, 2014 at 2:36 AM #


      1) A lot of work goes into planning international travel. This goes all the way from making sure that your passport is ready, to booking travel/board, to planning finances, to packing. It is stressful. You might arrive at your destination already tired and stressed out.

      2) A lot of time can potentially go into becoming acclimated with one’s environment. Especially if you are traveling to a country that is very different from the one in which you reside.

      3) Long projects can leave you feeling isolated from your family. I have known people who start to get homesick after a week or so abroad. Not being able to hug loved ones or see them faced to face really bothers them.

      During the trip, I used Skype to communicate with my family back home. This did not work particularly well for me though as there were latency issues. Most of my conversations mainly consisted of me repeating myself for clarity. In addition to this, I brought an international Blackberry with me that contains a GSM radio in addition to the CDMA one that it uses on Sprint’s network in the US. This worked very well for me because there was very good cellular service in all of the areas in which we traveled. However, I had to keep all of my calls very short so that I would not accrue a high bill.

      4) It is very easy to fall behind on work and emails from back home. In my case, I already know that I will have a very long week ahead of me.

      5) If you will be traveling for a short period of time, it may lead to cramming. Many researchers will want to accomplish everything that they set out to achieve, even if it means running themselves into the ground because there is not enough time.


      • williameasley
        July 28, 2014 at 2:49 AM #


        1) Traveling abroad for international research of collaboration might almost feel like a vacation for some people. Even though you will be working hard everyday, you will have an opportunity to take a break from the monotony of your day-to-day life.

        2) International research and collaboration can potentially lead to breakthroughs in your independent research. While traveling, you may be introduced to new methodologies or ways of thinking that may help you when you return to your own work. Progress in your work will advance your career and afford you with more time to enjoy life.

        3) International travel can be very relaxing. You just need to find an activity that works for you. For example, I really enjoy sightseeing. Going sightseeing in the afternoon to places such as Las Peñas was a great way for me to decompress. Other members of the group took the opportunity to visit the hotel spa.

        4) Sometimes, your collaborators become your connections. It is an excellent way to meet influential and forward thinkers within your domain.

        5) Have the opportunity to learn about and be immersed in different cultures can make you a better and more complete individual.


        • RHH
          July 28, 2014 at 10:33 AM #

          Most of my sentiments regarding 6D are captured in Will’s post, particularly the first three points. Changing the day-to-day routine is invigorating for the brain, and many day-to-day concerns such as cooking and laundry are alleviated, allowing one to focus on research.


      • williameasley
        July 28, 2014 at 3:14 AM #


        1) People who already participate in international research or collaborations should spend the time to share information about their experiences. Who is a better recruiter for this than somebody who is already doing it?

        2) Encourage students to find international mentors or committee members. The collaborations will then come naturally. This might also help students (who need it) get out of the shadow of their advisors.

        3) Start the trend early by sending more undergraduate students abroad. Make the opportunities that exist more visible and accessible. As an undergraduate student, I was unaware of any international opportunities or anyone who had participated in them.

        4) Make it easy for students to transfer credits for the classes that they have taken abroad, back to their home institutions. (Perhaps through the international development of curriculum?)

        5) Provide monetary incentive. When these international opportunities do arise, will the student or faculty member have the necessary funding to take advantage of it?


        • williameasley
          July 28, 2014 at 3:39 AM #

          #6B (Previous post actually addresses 6C)

          The older I get, the more I realize just how different every person in the world is. When mentoring female (and male) students, I will encourage them to learn as much about themselves as possible. Nobody can accurately say what the right career-life is for someone else should be. I will stress the importance of knowing what your limits are and respecting them. At the same time, I would also share the advice that Dr. Thomas Kailath shared during his plenary session; never quit too early.

          Also, knowing the importance of having a strong support system, I will stress the importance of finding the right mix of people to surround yourself with. I also would encourage them to attend events such as the ones provided by the PROMISE AGEP in order for them to find a community at their institution in which they feel comfortable.


          • William Easley
            July 28, 2014 at 4:47 AM #

            My previous post was actually my answer to 5B. Please disregard.


      • William Easley
        July 28, 2014 at 4:43 PM #


        1) Being unaware that these opportunities even exist. You may only hear about these opportunities if you are apart of certain circles. In my case, I did not know of any international opportunities until I became a graduate student and got involved with PROMISE.

        2) Not being encouraged enough by their advisor to take advantage of these opportunities. Not every advisor is supportive. I have been lucky, but I know many underrepresented students in with advisors who do not support them. Years into their programs, some students do not even know if their advisors likes them or not.

        3) Lack of funding. I know of many students who cannot afford to fund themselves in these opportunities.

        4) Not being able to speak another language well. Not being able to communicate effectively with other is scary.

        5) Having low confidence in your ability to succeed in these opportunities and basically removing yourself from the race before you even start. This can stem from students being conditioned to have low expectations for themselves because of having teachers who are not supportive and have NO expectations for them whatsoever. Some minority students may start to encounter this at a young age which is really a shame. In my case, I first experienced this in middle school.

        An interesting anecdote: Before my freshman year in college, I had one of my middle school teachers (from the magnet program that I attended) approach me and tell me that he was surprised that I even made it to college (talk about having no expectations!). I’m sure (I hope) most people have never had this happen to them but I am just speaking from my personal experience.

        6) Being afraid of traveling to an unfamiliar location in which you will become even more of a minority.

        This goes back to conditioning. It isn’t uncommon to be the only minority in a classroom. In middle school, out of the 100 students in my magnet program, there were only 4 African American students, including me. Because of my experiences in middle school, I refused to attend another magnet school for high school. The trend of often times being the only minority student in my class continued however. To make things worse, people will sometimes, both intentionally and unintentionally do things to make sure you are well aware of the fact that you are a minority. Some people want you to feel unwelcomed.

        For me, my race somehow became a factor with my education and it shouldn’t have been. The focus should have instead been placed on merit. One of things that I have slowly come to realize is that some people will only view you as a product of affirmative action. They will discount you no matter what you do or accomplish in life. I have found that the way to get past these people is to ignore them and find new ones. You need to find the right set of communities and mentors that will support you and help you build your confidence back up.

        Dr. Tull has been a great mentor to me and the PROMISE program and my Bridge to the Doctorate cohort have been my support systems and the communities in which I am a part of. It wasn’t until I became a graduate student that I realized all that I have shared. Two years ago, I would have likely passed up an opportunity such as this. Now I am looking forward to international collaborations in the future.


        • Deanna
          July 31, 2014 at 4:24 PM #

          This is a really great post! I think you touched on some really key points that I have encountered, as well as many of my friends. In a lot of programs, having 1 or 2 minority graduate students is impressive. Instead of being proud of this and maintaining this, the difficult questions need to be asked and addressed-such as why are there only 1 or 2 in the first place? Part of this is because of poor communication between those with opportunities and potential recipients of opportunities. I have definitely experienced this during my graduate studies.

          Language barriers and cultural barriers are huge as well. I think that’s a primary reason why people leave their programs. The cultural barriers also go hand in hand with lack of encouragement from my personal experience. This then can lead to the low self-esteem that you mention in your post. I did not have a language barrier, but definitely cultural barriers that I have had to overcome when I was transitioning from a smaller to a larger university. It is much easier to transition and adjust to the culture of graduate school with a support system or a community of people where there are cultural similarities; especially when there are situations where people feel the need to single you out because you are a minority lie you mentioned above. The issue here is that it is difficult to create or have that community if there is only one student in a department or program facing these hardships.

          I’m glad that you have Dr. Tull as a mentor, and the fellowship of the PROMISE program and the Bridge to Doctorate cohort!


    • Nandadevi Cortes
      July 28, 2014 at 8:28 AM #

      1. Being away from home can be challenging, for example, getting use to a different language if that is the case can disrupt the balance. Not being able to communicate well outside of the University setting can lead to depression or feelings of insecurity. The only way to get around this is to stop being afraid of speaking their native language, it may not be perfect in the beginning but after a while it will be a rewarding experience.
      2. For women with families or young children, they need to have an understanding and supportive partner or family members. Otherwise it would be nearly impossible to conduct research outside the country.
      3. Food allergies can be a challenge, here in the USA people is aware of them and in some places they make informational notes on the ingredients of food. However, in some countries they do not list the allergens that can be found in the food.
      4. Being outside removes the immediate support network of the researcher
      5. Working out schedule may change, this changes almost everyday with daily activities but abroad it may even be harder to join a gym or run outside (maybe the weather doesn’t permit it)


    • Nandadevi Cortes
      July 29, 2014 at 11:20 AM #


      1. The main one for me is the opportunity to travel to new places, meet new people and overall try new things. Sometimes it makes us appreciate little things that we usually take for granted
      2. The opportunity to travel can be also relaxing (staying in a hotel, not worrying about preparing meals and enjoy the gym daily can be rewarding)
      3. Like Quincy did during this trip, bringing children to experience new countries is something that will give them a new perspective on things. And the researcher can enjoy time with them in a different setting, and they will have fun and enjoy while traveling with their parents.
      4. Learning new technologies or methodologies that may not be used in the researcher’s country.
      5. Networking will open up new opportunities worldwide and that brings a sense of security.


      • July 29, 2014 at 5:42 PM #

        1. International research and collaboration may force one to depend on existing support networks such one’s spouse, other family members, students or colleagues. This can help to foster new leadership and delegation skills for everyone.

        2. Opportunity to see how others balance the demands of work and life. For example, do families in other countries outsource aspects of home care or hire others to help them balance and manage it all? Are there different cultural expectations about how one should manage career and life?

        3. Like Dr. Cortes explained, one may discover new and innovative ways to communicate with colleagues and loved ones. Prior to going on the trip, my 50+ year old mother told me about the telephone app called Whatsapp. I didn’t need to use it since my husband was with me and we were only away for about a week.

        4. Allows us to see the commonalities that we share as researchers across disciplinary and cultural divides.

        5. Exposure: seeing beyond the familiar and comfortable.


    • July 29, 2014 at 12:29 PM #

      a) 5 things that impede underrepresented graduate students and faculty in STEM from taking advantage of international research or collaboration opportunities.
      1. Much more difficult in terms of bureaucracy at least in Puerto Rico to do work outside of the Puerto Rico than in Puerto Rico or in the United States
      2. Since national collaborations take less paperwork then it takes less time to do them and since there is a lack of time to do all that is required as an Assistant Professor then less is done on an international level.
      3. Travel is more expensive than national travel thus since there is a limited travel, often people rather to two trips to US than one international trip.
      4. Many of our students depend on scholarships to attend conferences. Many of the international conferences do not offer scholarships, but the US ones do so then attend national conferences instead.
      5. The culture of publication is not there among my students. They are big into hackathons and diversity conferences, and many do interdisciplinary collaboration, but few of them ever publish. English is not their first language.

      b) 5 suggestions for increasing the numbers of underrepresented graduate students and faculty who will develop international collaborations.
      1. A conference like LACCEI opens opportunities for students and faculty to express themselves in their native language, gain confidence and then be mentored to convert their paper into English for publication.
      2. University could have an office dedicated to helping establish international collaborations.
      3. Conferences like LACCEI and workshops that provide professional training on how to establish and fund international collaborations
      4. Workshops on writing papers would promote the culture of publication in LAC and at these workshops people may find collaborations.
      5. More funding agencies should promote international collaborations by providing funding for these collaborations.

      c) 5 ways that international research and collaboration travel threatens or challenges the concept of career-life balance.
      1. International travel takes more time that time tends to come out of family/home time.
      2. International collaboration requires more paperwork and more time that tends to cut into family/home time.
      3. Hours for conference calls between international collaborations can cut into family/home time because of different time zones.

      d) 5 ways that international research and collaboration travel can facilitate career-life balance.
      1. Can bring family along to conferences and combine career and life so that children can experience international travel that they may not have experienced otherwise.
      2. Exposes us and family to more cultures to make us more globally aware
      3. A lot of work can get done on a plane.


    • July 29, 2014 at 12:33 PM #

      6A: I am focusing more on the women’s point of view. From Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead”, the obstacles can be divided in two groups: internal and institutional barriers. Without getting into the dilemma of what must be handle first (what Sandberg call the “ultimate chicken-and-egg situation”) both type of issues are important:

      1. Internal barrier – We are very close to family, so perhaps we are our own limitation sometimes. Personal responsibilities of having to take care of family – kids and husband, are definitely a challenge that many of us face. On this I have to quote the book because it uses the perfect combination of words to explain some of the issues. “Women continue to do the majority of housework and child care. We compromise our career goals to make room for partners and children who may not even exist yet” [1]. “During the same years that our careers demanded maximum time investment, our biology demanded that we have children. Our partners did not share the housework and child rearing, so we found ourselves with two full-time jobs” [1]. For this reason, “highly trained women are scaling back and dropping out of the workforce in high numbers” [1].

      2. Internal barrier – Lack of support from family. We may have few people in our family with similar experiences. From personal experience my mom has always encouraged me to stop traveling. In fact, she did not think I should work during the summer because I should take care of my baby. I must also say that I do not have daycare in the summer and she has been helping me since I gave birth.

      3. Internal barrier – Self-confidence, fear and priorities. In the book, Sandberg [1] provide two examples in which women picked finding or maintaining a partner over an international experience: “They told me that the most eligible women marry young to get a “good man” before they are all taken.” “I rejected the idea [to apply for international fellowship] on the grounds that a foreign country was not a likely place to turn a date into a husband.” “Like me, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, deputy director of the Council on Foreign Relations’ Women and Foreign Policy Program was encouraged to prioritize over career.” When she received a fellowship to Germany, her girlfriends “expressed shock and horror” that she would leave her boyfriend for a year.

      4. Institutional barrier – Discrimination, sexism and stereotypes. Opportunities may not be granted or offered because of our race or gender. While we try to help each other, this help is limited since we are all underrepresented. Few underrepresented people are in leadership positions.

      5. Both – internal and institutional barrier – Economic limitations because fruitful international collaboration may require some traveling. Note that statistics also show that women earn less money.

      [1] Sandberg, S. (2013). “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.” Lean In Foundation.


      • July 29, 2014 at 12:35 PM #

        1- This trip is the best example of the kind of things that should be done – providing underrepresented faculty and graduate students the opportunity to attend an international conference.
        2- Continue building support networks to help each other through mentorship programs and workshops. Usually these networks are done within the same university, but what if national and global networks are built. At this conference we have seen the benefits of having underrepresented graduate students and faculty from different universities.
        3- We need to continue educating about the benefits of international collaborations. For women, men are part of the solution – supporting women in the workplace and at home [1].
        4- Federal organization such as NSF can continue helping as a support system and encourager of innovative solutions.
        5- We need more underrepresented people in leadership positions.


    • July 29, 2014 at 1:43 PM #

      6C – Threats or challenges to career-life balance

      1) Additional time it takes to establish the collaborations – this could potentially be done in addition to ones’ existing projects and responsibilities. There is a finite amount of time in the day and additional project, especially considering potential language and time differences, requires time.

      2) Travel required – At some point the collaboration will require foreign travel. For reasons, described on this blog, this may be a serious threat to work-life balance.

      3) Cultural Differences – Some cultures may be more, or less, welcoming of STEM women researchers. Having to navigate these issues requires extra mental energy that can, over time, become stressful.


    • July 29, 2014 at 1:51 PM #

      6D –

      1) Ideally, having a true partnership may allow for the workload to be evenly distributed. Not having to do all of the work alone can free up time for a personal life.

      2) When international travel is necessary, the researcher already have a personal relationship with someone in the foreign country who can assist with travel arrangements and logistics once they arrive. This might make the trip less daunting.

      3) There is the possibility of bringing family while traveling. This can be cost prohibitive for many people though. However, I know that I wouldn’t have been able to attend this trip if I didn’t bring my children with me.


    • July 29, 2014 at 5:31 PM #

      6c. International research and collaboration could challenge the concept of career-life balance in the five following ways:

      1. Research and collaboration aboard could disrupt daily routines which may be crucial to balancing career and other responsibilities outside of work.

      2. Several people mentioned that a challenge could include difficulty communicating with loved ones based on the availability of the internet and other forms of communication. I believe that access to means of communication could make the thought of doing international research and collaboration difficult especially if the study requires that one be away for weeks or months.

      3. Like Will explained, traveling can be stressful especially if it is something that one is not used to doing. The stress can be related to the preparation phase of the travel but it could also occur while working aboard. The thought of not having ones support systems to cope with stress may be a deterrent for some.

      4. Having to communicate or learn another language may be a challenge especially if the research project requires that one build collaboration with research teams whose native language is not English.

      5. Having to deal with a new system or way of doing things. Some countries may be more laid back while others may be more structured on the 24/7 work day. This mismatch may make the flexibility of balancing career and work difficult for some. In addition, concerns about medical needs and conditions could also be a challenge.


    • July 30, 2014 at 2:06 PM #

      Exposure, Not having a culture that supports international research or collaboration, Funding options, family responsibilities, and career-life balance (time)

      b) Workshops to expose the group to international collaborations, target research advisors and principle investigators to include their students in on collaborations, targeting underrepresented professional groups(NSBE, SHPE, etc..), a way for current international collaborators to tell they success stories, and incentivizing

      c) Taking time away from family, taking time away from current research work in the US, neglecting responsibilities one might have in the US(church and organization leadership positions), Resting (traveling takes a huge toll, and it easy to get burnt out), Traveling can be stressful.

      d) Being exposed to new scientific cultures, new ways of processing information, new ways of thinking/perspective, a break from the monotony, meeting new researchers, exposure to new environment.


    • AOA
      July 30, 2014 at 2:09 PM #

      a.)Exposure, Not having a culture that supports international research or collaboration, Funding options, family responsibilities, and career-life balance (time)

      b) Workshops to expose the group to international collaborations, target research advisors and principle investigators to include their students in on collaborations, targeting underrepresented professional groups(NSBE, SHPE, etc..), a way for current international collaborators to tell they success stories, and incentivizing

      c) Taking time away from family, taking time away from current research work in the US, neglecting responsibilities one might have in the US(church and organization leadership positions), Resting (traveling takes a huge toll, and it easy to get burnt out), Traveling can be stressful.

      d) Being exposed to new scientific cultures, new ways of processing information, new ways of thinking/perspective, a break from the monotony, meeting new researchers, exposure to new environment.


    • LourdesMedina
      July 30, 2014 at 11:14 PM #


      1. International travel requires bigger time investment for planning.

      2. Travel represents time being away from family.

      3. While traveling, work gets accumulated representing a bigger workload while we travel and when we return.

      4. International travel imposes limitations to communicate with family given that it might be expensive or dependent of an Internet connection.

      5. Traveling requires us to arrange day and night care for our kids.


      • LourdesMedina
        July 30, 2014 at 11:16 PM #

        Sorry, this is 6D!


        • LourdesMedina
          July 30, 2014 at 11:18 PM #

          1. Family could participate from traveling to international locations.

          2. It is a chance to relax and take a break from the daily routine.

          3. Can work (networking with potential collaborators) while learning/enjoying (site seeing and good food) about a different culture.

          4. Taking care of family and the house is sometimes perceived as a second full-time job. So, traveling takes us away from that letting us focus on our career.

          5. It is an opportunity to advance in our careers.


  38. July 26, 2014 at 8:47 AM #

    The trip is almost over, but the experiences will remain in our memories. I am excited to see my baby soon, which I left for the first time since I gave birth.
    While I missed my baby deeply, it was a good decision to leave him home this time. Usually when I travel with him (and daddy or grandma) I feel bad about leaving them for long times. So, I end up walking back and forward (from the conference to the room), and missing some of the afternoon/night activities where important interactions do happen. This time I can say it was worth coming alone because I was able to focus on the conference, while I also rested and took time for myself (which I did not do in the past year). I am going back rejuvenated. I leave inspired from my learnings and excited about the synergies I will be doing with new collaborators. This conference is a perfect example of work/life balance because it provided with a wider range of experiences. While most of the time we focused on the conference and work, at the end we were able to take some time to learn about the Ecuadorian culture. Some of us ate Ecuadorian dishes that are made with plantain: “cazuela”, “patacones” (these are same to Puerto Rican “tostones”) and “bollos”. We also learned about “hayacas”, “fritada” and “resbaladera”. Among the various places we visited, I would like to highlight the market because of the interactions I was able to made with local artisans. There we had to practice or perhaps learn negotiation skills. In summary, this was my first international conference and I am thankful for the opportunity. This trip was fruitful – for my career and overall persona. I look forward going to LACCEI 2015!


  39. August 1, 2014 at 2:06 PM #

    I have some thoughts regarding leading a delegation abroad. I’ve written them on my personal blog, but all of the content for the following post can be used as part of the study that is outlined on this page for International Engagement and Broadening Participation.



  1. Thoughts on leading the NSF US Delegation to Ecuador, July 2014 | Renetta Garrison Tull - Living Life Online - August 1, 2014

    […] NSF International Engagement/Broadening Participation in Engineering BLOG […]


  2. “The Jessica Effect” and Women in STEM (Mujeres en STEM) – En memoria de Jessica | Renetta Garrison Tull - Living Life Online - August 12, 2014

    […] (Agenda – Broadening the STEM Research Participation of Women-URM-Disabilities), lead an international National Science Foundation delegation, and participate in a national conversation on career-life balance as part of the ACE and Alfred P. […]


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