Pod of the Week - Eugene OR

This week we are happy to introduce our Pod from Eugene Oregon. They are working hard to engage people in many different STEM or “STEM-adjacent” careers and to encourage mixing of science, industry, education, public policy, and the general public towards community-building that highlights science and active inquiry in everyday life. Read on to find out more about how they interact with their community. Thanks for taking time to answer our questions ladies!

Location: Eugene, Oregon

Number of women: 45 in our Google group.

Frequency of meeting: Events or meet-ups every month or two.

Social Media: Facebook - @Eugene500WS Twitter - @Eugene_500WS

Website: sites.google.com/view/500ws-eugene


Mission statement: The Eugene Pod of 500 Women Scientists is dedicated to improving diversity, equity and equality in science, whether it be in academic institutions, industry, education, or public policy. We aim to foster networking and mentoring opportunities for Eugene women scientists by allying with local, national, and international groups that support women, science, and technology. We aim to present a new view of what a scientist is by engaging with the public in a way that highlights science used by different people in our community and not just as part of an academic career. Even more we aim to get the message across that science is used by everyone in daily life and that you can be a scientist without having a string of academic degrees.

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

Eugene is home to people with interesting backstories - and we love science. Even though Eugene is a small city with an  estimated population of 166,575 people in 2017 (US Census Bureau), an estimated 93.4% of the population have at least a high school degree and 39% have a Bachelor’s degree or higher. With Eugene being home to the University of Oregon, a top-ranked public university and one of the largest employers in the city, perhaps these estimates should not be surprising. Our vision for the Eugene Pod is to engage people in many different STEM or “STEM-adjacent” careers and to encourage mixing of science, industry, education, public policy, and the general public towards community-building that highlights science and active inquiry in everyday life.


Can you speak to a few of the most successful events that you had in 2017? What were the outcomes?

The Eugene Pod was created early in 2017, and our inaugural event was the 2017 March for Science, but we really started to take off in 2018.  Once again, we March(ed) for Science, we launched a new website, and we decided to make the Science Salon initiative a monthly event in Eugene.  We have hosted four Salons to date, spanning from the gut microbiome to the search for habitable worlds. In addition to presentations on research and current science topics, these Salons feature a themed hands-on activity for audience members.  For example, at our gut microbiome event, participants were given a culture plate and a swab so they could culture their own bacteria!

The Salons are small, but fairly well-attended, and we have already started acquiring a regular audience.  Because we host these at a public location downtown, and on weekends, we are able to attract a diverse audience that includes friends and families along with the general public who would not normally attend a science event.  We found that this audience is partially composed of people who were unaware that an event was scheduled but end up staying for the duration and asking engaging questions. Our aim with these Salons is to engage with people who aren’t already aware of 500WS or who don’t consider themselves interested in science, and encourage them to learn more.

Perhaps the most unique and rewarding part of the Salons is the panel discussion at the end of the event, where we ask the speakers questions about their day-to-day life in their field, as well as what it’s like to be a woman in their field.  Speakers share their memorable field work misadventures, science hacks for solving technical challenges on the fly, how they embarked upon their science career, and how being a woman has presented unique challenges - from interactions with colleagues, to being judged on your outfit, to family planning around spring breaks.  These shared experiences help us build bonds, educate others on implicit and explicit bias, and reflect on the current state of equity in science.

How has your pod ensured a diverse group of women scientists attend the pod meetings?

 The Eugene Pod is small, yet devoted to growing our membership.  In addition to word-of-mouth recruitment, we encourage women to join our group and our organizational team through our Science Salon events.  We actively encourage graduate students, university faculty, women in industry, educators, and science enthusiasts to be a part of what we are building in Eugene.  In addition to scientists, we also encourage women from various science-, research-, or -technology-adjacent fields to collaborate with us. We have reached out to other local scientific or technological societies, as well as to the Eugene Science Center.

What upcoming initiatives are you planning for 2018 and why?  

Our main objective in 2018 is to host a monthly Science Salon and to make this a sustainable and continuous event series in Eugene.  The Salons require quite a bit of planning and coordination; in addition to finding two speakers for the same day and theme, we also need to generate promotional materials (posters and event pages), solicit sponsorship from local organizations, and put together the supplies and ideas to create an activity for the audience.  Our goal is to generate enough momentum behind these events that we are able to recruit speakers and event volunteers well in advance of each Salon to facilitate planning, to become a recognizable name in Eugene such that we can guarantee a stable audience size, and to be able to increase the total donated proceeds from an event to support a rotating non-profit organization. So far, besides CienciaPR, we have been able to raise money for Climate Reality Project and the Eugene Science Center.

We also hope to strengthen connections between our pod and other pods or STEM organizations in Oregon. There are a number of established organizations in the Eugene area that promote women, diversity, science education and outreach, and community events.  It is our hope that by working together, the Eugene Pod and its sister organizations can collectively improve our networking and outreach capacity, as well as expand the idea that you don’t have to be “a scientist” to work with science.

Pod Leaders: The Eugene Pod is run by a opt-in Pod Coordinators, that currently include Yoanne Clovis, Leslie Dietz, Sue Ishaq, Karen Yook, along with Theresa Cheng and Jessica Flannery.  However, we aim to be committee-run and encourage all members of our Pod to step into rolling leadership roles.