Graduates in Nanotechnology Special Seminar: Science Is Too Important to Be Left Just to Men

Event Details
  • Date/Time:
    • Monday March 9, 2020
      1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
  • Location: Pettit Microelectronics Building 102 A&B | 791 Atlantic Drive | Atlanta GA | 30332
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Quinn A. Spadola, PhD, MFA
Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology
Director of Education NNCI and SENIC
Georgia Institute of Technology
Atlanta, GA
404 894-2194


Summary Sentence: How good can American science, engineering, mathematics, and technology (STEM) be when we are missing more than two-thirds of the talent? (i.e., everyone who is not white and male).

Full Summary: No summary paragraph submitted.

Graduates in Nanotechnology Special Seminar: Science Is Too Important to Be Left Just to Men

March 9th  2020 | 1:00 pm - 2:00pm |  Pettit 102A/B
Debra R. Rolison† - Arlington, VA  22203, USA

Abstract: How good can American science, engineering, mathematics, and technology (STEM) be when we are missing more than two-thirds of the talent? (i.e., everyone who is not white and male). The now-false and tired contention that “the statistics of small populations” is the operative reason for the slow advancement of underrepresented groups (women and people of color) in science and engineering, especially to positions of power and impact, has too often been used to deflect action that would transform the culture of STEM research–intensive institutions to one that adapts to the diversity of scientific talent endemic to all of humankind. Teaching academic survival skills, such as COACh (the Committee on the Advancement of Women in Chemistry) has done in workshops held for over fifteen years, without addressing the still-too dysfunctional culture in which one seeks to thrive has been shown to lead to minimal improvement in recruiting, hiring, and recognizing female academic chemists.[1] As noted in coverage of these findings: “Perceptions of inequality remained constant across younger and older faculty, racial and ethnic lines, and levels of experience in administration.”[2] Similar difficulties are apparent among the scientific staff of national/federal laboratories.

So how can we change the world of science? Subvert the standard operating procedure. Create a microclimate that shows―over time―how new patterns of operation and inclusiveness yield productive, innovative science—including incorporating undergraduate researchers for full time (six-to-twelve months) of off-campus research. Use the scientific capital and street credentials accrued over time, thanks to the humane but challenging microclimate and the concomitant research productivity of one's team, to challenge the status quo with reasoned and bold arguments for change. Remember the importance of uppity behavior and applying “tipping point” mechanisms to move beyond initial reactions of dismissal to―over time―accepted inevitability (such as greeted my audacious suggestion in March 2000 to withhold federal funds from non–diversified chemistry departments through application of Title IX).[3] And do not forget market forces—the most important resource in research is smart, motivated students and the most important product of funded research is not peer-reviewed papers, but the critically thinking graduate. It is time to assemble a faculty diversity index that delineates who enters a group to do research, how long to degree, and where each student goes after leaving the group—all disaggregated with respect to gender, race, and ethnicity. This prize demographic—the STEM majors seeking a research program—can then make an informed decision with respect to which universities and departments and groups win their talents. We can then see who among the lovers of the status quo in the research-intensive universities really wants to play hardball. It is time to “out” the toxic departments and research groups.

Bio: Debra Rolison heads the Advanced Electrochemical Materials section at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC. Her team designs, synthesizes, characterizes, and applies three-dimensionally structured, ultraporous, multifunctional, hold-in-your-hand nanoarchitectures for such rate-critical applications as catalysis, energy storage and conversion, and sensors.

Rolison was a Faculty Scholar at Florida Atlantic University (1972–1975; B.S. in Chemistry). She received her Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1980 after demonstrating the Pt-like character of RuO2 electrodes in nonaqueous electrolytes, helping to establish polymer-modified electrodes, and ensuring frequent pick-up games of killer volleyball. She joined NRL as a staff scientist in 1980.

Rolison is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Association for Women in Science, the Materials Research Society, and the American Chemical Society. Among her major awards, she received the William H. Nichols Medal (2018), the E.O. Hulburt Award (2017; NRL’s top science award and the only female recipient in its 64 years of bestowal), the Department of the Navy Dr. Dolores M. Etter Top Scientist & Engineer Team Award (2016), the ACS Division of Analytical Chemistry Award in Electrochemistry (2014), the Charles N. Reilley Award of the Society for Electroanalytical Chemistry (2012), the ACS Award in the Chemistry of Materials (2011), and the Hillebrand Prize of the Chemical Society of Washington (2011).

Her editorial advisory board service includes Chemical Reviews, Analytical Chemistry, Langmuir, Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry, Advanced Energy Materials, and the inaugural boards of Nano Letters, the Encyclopedia of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, Annual Review in Analytical Chemistry and ACS Applied Energy Materials. Rolison also writes and lectures widely on issues affecting women (and men!) in science, including proposing Title IX assessments of science and engineering departments. She is the author of over 230 articles and holds 39 U.S. patents.


† Rolison heads the Advanced Electrochemical Materials Section at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL). The views are those of the author and are not necessarily those of the NRL or the U. S. Department of Defense.

[1] J. Stockard, J. Greene, G. Richmond, P. Lewis, J. Chem. Educ. 2018, 95, 1992–1499.

[2] A. Widener, C&EN 2018, 96(31), 20 (30 July).

[3] D.R. Rolison, C&EN 2000, 78(11), 5 (13 March).

Additional Information

In Campus Calendar

3D Systems Packaging Research Center, Georgia Electronic Design Center (GEDC), Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology, NanoTECH, The Center for MEMS and Microsystems Technologies

Invited Audience
Faculty/Staff, Postdoc, Public, Graduate students, Undergraduate students
Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology, Women in STEM, underrepresented groups, academic inequality, Peer Review, toxic research leaders, power dynamics
  • Created By: Christa Ernst
  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created On: Feb 21, 2020 - 9:58am
  • Last Updated: Feb 25, 2020 - 8:35am