Pod of the Week - Fort Collins

Location: Fort Collins, Colorado

Number of women: 55 on the email list. Meetings are usually 5-10 women.

Frequency of meeting: approximately once a month


Mission statement: The Fort Collins Pod is committed to inspiring young women scientists through outreach activities, and supporting women scientists through mentoring and networking activities, as well as participation in local and state legislative process on topics related to helping women thrive in the workplace.

How did you come to this mission, why is it relevant to your city and state?

Outreach was an overwhelming area of interest for the women of Fort Collins. Most of us came to be scientists through some sort of outreach initiative when we were younger, and now we would love to be able to give back. In regards to the local and state legislative interests, most of us felt like we didn’t understand or know how to become involved in impactful ways in politics. We have sought out guidance for our local (Fort Collins) as well as state (Colorado) government officials to see what ways we can become more involved. As a result, we have learned about committees in the local community that address many areas of interest, including women’s issues, as well as met with our state legislators to discuss parental leave issues in Colorado. Unfortunately, despite Colorado being progressive on many issues, parental leave is not one of them. Currently, the state only allows Family Medical Leave (FMLA) or disability, without any other parental leave incentives statewide. In addition, Colorado has some of the most expensive childcare costs in the country. Parental leave and the cost of childcare are known issues impacting retention of women in the workplace, and therefore we as a pod have attempted to raise awareness about these issues and impact change at the local and state level.


What brought about the idea for the Request a Woman Scientist program? What is the goal of this initiative?

One of our pod leaders, Liz McCullagh, along with member Kate Nowak saw a need for increased collaboration between women scientists and better representation of women scientists in the media and at conferences. The goal of this initiative is to increase the presence and impact of women scientists by raising awareness of women who are available and willing to speak to journalists, represent their research on panels at conferences, be involved in outreach, and many other things. There can no longer be an excuse that “no women scientists in that field could be found for my event, story, etc.”


Your pod is also involved with the Take Action Tuesdays initiative. What have been some of the best outcomes of these calls to action?

One of the weekly outputs of 500WS are the Take Action Tuesday posts, which Jessica Metcalf posts on Tuesday. This provides an opportunity each week for a small group of us to take a step back and think about what is going on, and how it relates to women and science. Each week, we try to come up with one or two simple actions that we can do to advance the 500WS mission of making science open, inclusive and accessible. Sometimes these actions are very specific to our organization and ourselves (inward facing) and other times more focused on policy (outward facing). It’s an opportunity to be accountable each week


Your pod has a mission of outreach. Tell us about some of your activities/initiatives?

Prior to the founding of 500 women scientists, Liz McCullagh was organizing the Northern Colorado Expanding your Horizons (NOCO EYH) conference at CSU. The women of the FOCO pod, have really stepped up since in helping to organize and make this conference a success. NOCO EYH is a one day conference held in April for middle school girls to interact with women STEM professionals and attend hands-on workshops involving anything from guppy biology to coding their own chatbot. NOCO EYH is in its third year with the conference scheduled for April 14th. In addition to NOCO EYH, Jessica Metcalf has sought out resources to create a mentorship workshop series for graduate students and postdocs with the goal of retaining women in science. She was awarded funds from the CSU graduate school to lead two mentoring events this spring semester, which she will co-organize with pod Co-leader Megan Machmuller, a postdoc at CSU.


Pod Leaders: Liz, Megan and Jess

Liz McCullagh is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Colorado Anschutz campus. She studies auditory neuroscience and is particularly interested in hypersensitivity to sounds in people with autism. 

Megan Machmuller is a postdoctoral fellow at the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory at Colorado State University. She received  here PhD from the Odum School of Ecology at the University of Georgia. Her research attempts to span the levels of organization- molecular to landscape - in order to more accurately predict how our ecosystems will function in the future. 

Jessica Metcalf is a microbial enthusiast and likes to studying gross and decaying things. She is an Assistant Professor at Colorado State University. You can read more about her research and activities here and follow her on twitter @DirtySci