Projects Undertaken by the Chair

An Online Community for Women in Science and Engineering Sharing Stories

There are few women in Science and Engineering. Whether they are University students, graduates already working in industry or in academia, or even girls at school interested in math and science, women in these areas often share the same experiences, frustrations, and inspirations. Dr. Vassileva and her student Zina Sahib, have developed an online community called WISETales. Here women can share their experiences and tell their stories. Why? Because it is fun, educational and at times, it vents frustrations. Writing a story can help us reflect and learn about ourselves, about others and from others just like us. We hope that this community will help bridge the distance across space and generations and will help women scientists and engineers build supportive networks.
 Visit the Community at http://WiseTales.usask.ca !

Science Ambassadors: A New Approach for Aboriginal Science Outreach

Together with colleagues from the University of Saskatchewan, Dr. Vassileva has pioneered a new science outreach project for Aboriginal students: Science Ambassadors. The project was piloted in 2007/2008 with two ambassadors in three communities in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.  Read more about this project here.

Connecting existing science outreach activities across the Prairies

Another project of the Chair is to connect existing outreach activities that go on the Praries. There are many grassroots initiatives, like students visiting schools to talk about their research, organized outreach programs, such as science camps, science roadshows, fairs, etc. The  Saskatchewan Science Network has the goal to provide a compendum of such activities, a shared calendar of events, a resource repository and people / volunteer directory to facilitate sharing experience and people. The official launch of the SSN network is scheduled at a pre-conference workshop on Science Outreach in Saskatchewan, together with the ScieMatics'2008 Conference on October 9, 2008 in Tommy Douglas Collegiate in Saskatoon. If you are starting or running a science outreach program that you want to be included in the Network, please, let us know!

Connecting and sharing resources with the other four Chairs across Canada

To help the four regional Chairs share resources related to Women in Science and Engineering, meeting notes, agendas, and discuss issues, Dr. Vassileva has set up an online community - ComtellaWise. Currently the access is limited to the four Chairs and their project coordinators and assistants. Possibly at a later stage there will be open access to some of the repositories.

Representing Canada as Ambassador in the ACM-W

Dr. Vassileva serves as Ambassador for Canada in the ACM-W, the Women's Section of the ACM (Association of Computing Machinery), the main international organization of Computer Scientists. This is a 5-year term appointment and the role of Dr. Vassileva is to maintain a website with information about Canadian Women in Computing, send an yearly article in the Ambassador's blog and send an yearly report on the activities going on to attract and support women in Computer Science in Canada.  The Canadian Women in Computing site was launched in the fall of 2008. It has a searchable database of female CS faculty and staff across Canada.

Studies of Attitudes of Females towards Science

Working with colleagues in psychology and sociology, Dr. Vassileva will investigate the attitudes towards Science of undergraduate students at the UofS, of girls, their parents and teachers at the high school level in Saskatoon and rural communities on the Prairies.

 Currently, a journal paper describing the results of the study has been submitted.

Science and Engineering Enrolment at the UofS: Gender-Based Analysis of Trends

It is important to know the trends in undergraduate enrolment in academic institutions. Gender-segregated statistics are hard to find. While the UofS publishes statistics about student enrolment, these statistics are not for individual disciplines. The Chair has analysed enrolment data for individual science and engineering departments from 2001 to 2007 and has identified some worrisome trends about female enrolment. More information.

A Study of the Attitudes of Computer Science Faculty towards First Year Curicullum in Computer Science

The design of an introductory course serves a dual purpose: first it teaches the techniques and mundane basics necessary for higher level classes in the disciplines, and second, it has to excite the students and attract them to the discipline. It is very hard to combine these two purposes. Serving just the first one results usually in dull courses full of technicalities, which repels students, especially female students. Serving just the second one creates courses with interdisciplinary flavour, application-oriented that can be attractive to students (esp. female), but doesn't prepare them well for the next courses that they will have to take if they choose to major in the discipline. Opinions among faculty about which of these purposes is more important in intoductory class and what can be sacrificed vary vastly. These opinions are anchored in different beliefs about the definition of the "core" of a science and its relationships with other disciplines and applications. Based on their opinions faculty decide the direction of new intro courses. After a decade of fairly uniform Introduction to Computer Science using Java and Object-Oriented programming, that were fairly dry, technique-oriented and one possible reason for lack of interest and low enrollments not only by female, but also by male students, we are currently seeing a increasing variety of approaches - from custom-tailored courses for particular student audiences (e.g. Georgia Tech), to return to imperative style programming using the C language (University of Saskatchewan). What do Computer Science faculty in Canada think is the right way to go? Working with colleagues in computer science, Dr. Vassileva plans to carry out a study the attitudes of CS faculty towards introductory CS classes. This study will be a tool for creating awareness, it will gauge the popularity of narrow/broad definitions of Computer Science and show how current CS faculty envisage to solve the problem of decreasing attractiveness of Computer Science to a broader range of students.