Maria Mitchell Women in Science Symposium Awards Maria Mitchell Women in Science Award to Four Recipients at Its First Meeting

For Immediate Release
October 22, 2018
Contact: Jascin Leonardo Finger, MMA Deputy Director and Curator

 Maria Mitchell Women in Science Symposium Awards Maria Mitchell Women in Science Award to Four Recipients at Its First Meeting

October 5th and 6th

MMA Caps Off Its First Highly Successful Symposium by Awarding Dava Sobel, Jill Tarter, Ph.D.; Meg Urry, Ph.D.; and Kate Kirby, Ph.D.; the Award

Nantucket,  MA – The Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association awarded its Maria Mitchell Women in Science Award to four recipients – all women well-known in the STEM field in the United States – at its first Maria Mitchell Women in Science Symposium (MMWISS) held at the Babson Executive Conference Center in Babson Park, MA on Friday, October 5 and Saturday, October 6, 2018.  The award was announced at the closing of the MMWISS on October 6, 2018.

The Maria Mitchell Women in Science Award was originally founded in 1996 by the Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association and was designed to recognize an individual or group whose efforts have encouraged the advancement of girls and women in the natural and physical sciences, mathematics, engineering, computer science, and technology.  While there are many awards for scholastic and professional achievement in the various fields of science, the MMA believes it is equally important to recognize the people whose influence and support and make it possible for girls to become engaged in science and for women to reach the same high levels of accomplishment as their male peers. The first award was presented on October 4, 1997.  It took a hiatus after 2006.

The MMA believed then and still does today that a significant legacy left by Maria Mitchell was the vision and quality of education she gave to her students. The women she trained during her twenty‑three years at Vassar College went on to make an enduring contribution to the progress of women in all fields of science, education, and beyond. Teacher, mentor, role model  ̶  Maria Mitchell epitomized the full measure of what a woman scientist could be.  Were she with us today, her remarkable energies would surely be focused on academic and social reform, as well as career advancement opportunities for women in science.  The MMA hopes this award will be a bi-ennial event, along with the MMWISS.

Awardees are:

Dava Sobel – former New York Times science reporter and author of several books including, Longtitude, Galileo’s Daughter, The Planets, and a More Perfect Heaven, and recently The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard College Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars;

 Jill Tarter, Ph.D. – Chair Emeritus and former Director of the Center for Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI);

Meg Urry, Ph.D. – Israel Munson Professor of Physics and Astronomy and           Director of the Yale Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics;

Kate Kirby, Ph.D. – Executive Officer of the American Physical Society.

All four women were keynote speakers at the first MMWISS, along with panelists that included but was not limited to: Colette Salyk, Ph.D. of Vassar College; Dr. Ann LaCasce of Dana-Farber; Heather Goldstone, Ph.D. of WCAI; Shirley Malcom, Ph.D. of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Cecilia Aragon, Ph.D. of Washington State University; and Susana Widicus Weaver, Ph.D. of Emory University.

More information about the awardees and panelists can be found on the MMWISS website at

The MMWISS is meant to promote and support women and girls in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields.  The Symposium also honored the 200th birthday of Maria Mitchell, America’s first woman astronomer.

Jascin Finger, MMA Deputy Director and Symposium Coordinator stated, “This Symposium is designed to serve as a source of inspiration and support and to be a hands-on experience in which all attendees are actively participating and problem solving.  We were thrilled with the reception of this first-time, sold-out event with almost 150 attendees from college students to women in late-career – it was a fantastic group of people working together to problem solve and to hear from people of all walks of the STEM world.  And we were very excited to have our keynotes – and to surprise them with this award as we re-institute it.”

The Symposium is named after Maria Mitchell, America’s first woman astronomer.  2018 marks the 200th anniversary of Mitchell’s birth. Mitchell, who went on to teach Astronomy at Vassar College, promoted hands-on learning and encouraged women to study science.

The themes that the Maria Mitchell Women in Science Symposium address are persisting issues that hindered women in science in Maria Mitchell’s time and still affect them today. The Symposium also addresses where women are today, how to recruit women and girls into STEM, how to address the challenges that women still face in STEM, and how to broaden participation and leadership. Maria Mitchell believed in learning by doing and the Symposium will continue this philosophy by encouraging all attendees, female and male of all backgrounds and educations, to actively participate, problem-solve, and learn through a hands-on experience.

The two-day MMWISS was made possible thanks to the generous support of the National Science Foundation, American Philosophical Society, Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, Vassar College,  Mount Holyoke College, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, D. E. Shaw Company, Kenan Institute for Engineering, Technology & Science,, MA Space (NASA) Grant Consortium, American Astronomical Society, Schwartz Hannum PC,  Novartis, Tupancy-Harris Foundation, Linda Loring Nature Foundation, Nantucket Conservation Foundation, Sheila David, Ned & Merrilou Symes, the Red Sox Foundation, and Jascin Leonardo Finger and Eric Finger.

The event is organized by the Maria Mitchell Association, a private non-profit organization. Founded in 1902, the MMA works to preserve the legacy of Nantucket native astronomer, naturalist, librarian, and educator, Maria Mitchell. The Maria Mitchell Association operates two observatories, a natural science museum, an aquarium, a newly opened research center, and preserves the historic birthplace of Maria Mitchell. A wide variety of science and history-related programming is offered throughout the year for people of all ages.