Sep 2, 2016

Women in Probability

Are you a woman working in probability and related fields? Tai Melcher, one of the organizers of the Women in Probability group, writes:

Women in Probability is an organization for women engaged in research in probability theory and related fields. Our primary purpose is to provide networking and mentoring opportunities for early-career women, as well as to improve the visibility of women’s research in the field.

Since our inception in Fall 2013, Women in Probability has organized various activities to help early-career women develop interpersonal contacts, with the goal of facilitating their early career transitions and ultimately improving the retention of talented women researchers. These activities include regular networking events at national probability conferences, as well as an Early Career Peer Group (ECPG).

The networking events (often a dinner or other meal) are organized around existing conferences, and bring together women at all career stages for informal conversations on both professional and personal topics. These events give early-career attendees an opportunity to interact with their more established colleagues in a more direct way than the usual conference atmosphere allows.

The ECPG is typically for women holding postdoctoral research positions or recently appointed to tenure-track positions. The group meets about once a month during the academic year for online seminars. The seminars feature short research talks by a group member, followed by discussions of professional development topics relevant to early-career researchers intending to continue in academia. The talks are an opportunity for the speaker to begin putting her work in the context of the existing literature and defining herself as an independent researcher, for example, for those in postdoctoral positions, preparing for the job talk. These topics are suggested by group members in advance of the meeting, and in previous years have included questions like how to choose research topics, how to select journals to publish in, how to develop collaborations, etc., as well as some questions more focused on issues related to women in academia.

With these activities, we seek to establish another community within the broader probability community, in addition to the standard collaboration and research network many researchers naturally develop. This community provides yet another resource for the input, feedback, and other general support that all early-career researchers need to be successful. Interactions through the networking events and ECPG naturally foster relationships among contemporary women who will be colleagues throughout their academic careers, cultivating an improved sense of belonging which we think will encourage women to persevere through the sometimes trying early career stages.

Also important to the success of women in research is the recognition of their contributions to the field. On our webpage, our organization maintains a current list of women active in probability and probability-related research; this list serves in part as a resource for conference and seminar organizers looking for speakers.

This past May, Women in Probability also hosted the first meeting of its own series Conference on New Developments in Probability (CNDP). This series is devoted to current topics in probability theory; the first meeting was co-organized with the Emphasis Year in Probability at Northwestern University and was supported by NSF and Northwestern University.

CNDP is a continuation of, but variation on, the Workshop for Women in Probability series which ran for three meetings in 1994, 2008, and 2012. The 2016 CNDP featured plenary talks by Nayantara Bhatnagar (University of Delaware), Rodrigo Banuelos (Purdue University), Sandra Cerrai (University of Maryland, College Park), Ioana Dumitriu (University of Washington), Rick Durrett (Duke University), Vadim Gorin (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Davar Khoshnevisan (University of Utah), Lea Popovic (Concordia University), Gigliola Staffilani (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Elisabeth Werner (Case Western Reserve University), and Arnab Sen (University of Minnesota). The conference also included a mini-celebration of Alexandra Bellow’s 80th birthday; Bellow gave a short talk after an introduction by long-time colleague Roger Jones. We hope to host this conference every three to four years in changing locations.

For anyone interested in Women in Probability or our activities, please see our website

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