Women of Science

On February 11th, it was the International Day of Women in Science.

Deborah preparing a sample for analysis (KRW Consulting, Dec 2018)

The notion of women not choosing to enter in a science, math or engineering discipline is the failure to encourage teen girls is pure balderdash. My sis, Ginny, had interests in physics and math ranging back to the 7th grade, in the late 1960s. She was the “go-to” girl if you needed help with math. Yes, she is that good. The male students, who were perceived to be more knowledgeable than Ginny, well, they weren’t. Ginny can explain a complex math concept in easy to understand terms. Having difficulty with a math problem? She shows you how to solve it. As an undergraduate, Ginny was highly sought as a tutor, making a fair bit of money along the way. She has continued as a private tutor to present.

When her daughter was failing to pass the required math proficiency test for placement at university, Ginny sat down worked out every problem in the study guide. She quickly found the problem – the study guide was replete with errors. The math department was selling an error-filled guide. In turn, she showed the department chairman all of her work and the mistakes in the guide.  The problem, as she saw it, was leaving the guide to be constructed by engineering graduate students who overestimated their own math skills and proficiency. But, moreover, they did not care. The department contracted Ginny to rewrite the study guide. And, that led her to pursue her MS degree, specializing in numerical and statistical analysis. When her mentor retired from the University of Colorado, Dr. Blade introduced Ginny as his “best student ever”.

Over the 10+ years of teaching at the university level, she has noticed incoming undergraduates were ill-prepared for university-level mathematics. The students, believing their high school AP coursework made them ready, they were not. They had problems understanding algebra, the basic foundation for calculus.

In my own family, science is part of our life. Andrea, my first wife, her nursing degrees are “science heavy” with chemistry and biology coursework. They are comparable to chemistry and biology degrees layered with nursing. Laurie, my wife, she’s a trauma surgeon. Her undergraduate degree is in biochemistry. Our three daughters, Elizabeth has a chemistry degree while Deborah and Tara both have biology degrees. With the girls in med school, there was no push for them to pursue a medical career or enter the sciences. They studied what interested them. Most surprisingly, though, was how closely aligned their interests are.

Tara pipetting a sample aliquot into a reaction flask (Biochem Lab – University of Colorado, Feb 2017)

Bringing women into science, math and engineering is to stimulate their imagination, “Hey, that’s what I want to do.” It worked for Andrea. It worked for Laurie. Andrea did not want to follow her dad into the restaurant business, which was fine with him. He did not want his personal dream to become the dream of his children. “America is the home of dreams – you can become whatever you want to become.” If not for nursing, Andrea has said it would be a life of having to settle. Laurie had poor grades. It was a field trip to a hospital on career day in high school that seeded the notion she could become a trauma surgeon. If not for that field trip, she might be coaching high school football. Laurie was already running the scout team in high school, and was a better passer than her brother Tom, who was the JV and varsity quarterback in high school. And, it worked for our daughters.

Ginny said programs to encourage girls into science do little for them. Calling the science fields, math and engineering, STEM, does little. The acronym trivializes the individual disciplines. Teaching a young girl how to code a webpage is okay, but it does not take them to the next step – why science matters. Diseases deemed to be incurable have become curable, treatable or immunized against. It has introduced raw computing power into handheld devices (smartphones and tablets) for the purposes of entertainment and convenience. And, much more computing power can be found on the desk. Science can offer solutions to the more daunting problems.

Elizabeth finishes preparing a rack of samples for analysis (KRW Consulting, Aug 2016)

It is about discovery. It is about learning. It makes no distinction about who you are, or where you’re from. It is about human endeavor.

The greatest thing about science, it is stepping into the unknown.

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North Ranch: The First Year

A maze of boxes, small and large, filled every corner of the house. The furniture wrapped with heavy plastic. The first night, studio chairs and sleeping bags. A fast food dinner. With Christmas a few days away, Amanda had cut and decorated a 7-foot spruce as her housewarming gift.

before the boxes: empty view of the kitchen, living room and dining area

The next morning, the dining room table and its chairs were unwrapped. Our food, transferred from their dry ice chilled coolers and boxes into the refrigerator. Cookware, tableware and china unpacked. Bed frames and mattresses moved near to their respective rooms. More moving of boxes to roll out the Oriental area rugs.

boxes and furniture: the living room and front room maze

On Christmas day, much of the furniture remained wrapped. Each of our lives, and the rest of our household, in carefully labeled boxes. The girls and I quickly unwrapped some of the furniture and hastily arranged it near the fireplace. The kits were ever appreciative, able to take a proper nap after playing among the boxes.

Over the months, we have rearranged the furniture a few times to find that certain symmetry and intimacy that says “we are settled.” Similarly, we’ve also rearranged our bedrooms to find that more private, more intimate setting.

Whether it is moving a 50-pound bale of premium hay in the cold, or mucking a horse stall with biting flies on a hot day. Each day, every day, begins long before sunrise, ends long after sunset. We have loved every minute of the ranching life.

The horse riding, our daughters have loved the extra time. Their horses are their lives. They have become better riders for the experience.

As the song goes …

“These are the moments
I know all I need is this
I’ve found all I’ve waited for,
And I could not ask for more”

Notes

“I Could Not Ask For More” – music and lyrics by Diane Warren.

Riding: The Nationals

Beginning their season on the world stage, they are ending their season on the world stage.

graphic courtesy of Blenheim EquiSports

They are the Nationals in Las Vegas. Part of the World Cup tour, the CSI4* rated show is the most important show of their season. The stage is larger. The expectations are greater. The anticipation higher. The field of riders they are competing with, in the World Cup qualifier, are among the best professionals in the world. Yet, “it is no different from any other show,” my daughters have said. “It is about riding, giving your best.”

“A rider must fully trust themselves and their horse,” Trish says of competing at this level. Having competed on the world stage herself, Trish speaks from experience. “The girls, they can compete with anyone. They have the intangibles.” With no guarantee of success, “they are unafraid,” Trish adds. “Count them among the best in the world.”

training day sunset: quiet moment between Tara and Cameron (RRC, Oct 27 2018)

They are ready. Their horses are ready.

Ride now, ride forever

Colorado In Fall: Coming Home

A warm hearth awaits, along with stories and tales to be told.

Dino and Pebbles were first, when they were baby kittens in 1989. Then, it was Egypt in 2005. On the equine front, Cara and Magician came in 2003. There’s something about October, something about the fall season, when it is time to come home.

Soon, another October addition will come.

Tara riding then two-year old Shelby (Double N Ranch, TX – May 2016)

Shelby is destined be Tara’s future show jumping horse. In the two years since Tara’s first ride with Shelby, the paint has undergone a growth spurt and now stands at 17.3 hands tall. At four years old, Nicole says he’s going to be a talented one. Shelby is jumping at the one meter level. Nicole believes his time has arrived to learn and develop with a talented rider. For Tara, Shelby reminds her so much of Jasper.

With Shelby, Tara notes, “Second chances rarely come. We’re going to make a good run at being the best.”

Twenty Three

A special post by Andrea Kanakredes, RN, MSN.

Oh, how my heart skipped when I learned you were conceived. It was pure joy, to know another babe was on the way. I asked dad, “Girl or boy?” His answer came easily. “Girl. They are sweeter and finer.” Such a sweet, kind answer.

shaded yet bright: Elizabeth flashing eyes and earrings (age 5)

Our second princess, Elizabeth, is twenty three. Dad and I are so proud of who you have become. Gorgeous, inquisitive, talented. We so love how close you are with Deborah. And, with Tara. A heart full of love.

The chapter you’ve just begun will prove to be most challenging of your life. Dad and I know you will give your best effort, learning and perfecting your skills. Whatever your life’s work may be – physician, rancher or equestrian – you will be successful.

kindred spirits: Elizabeth and Lilith on an autumn walk (JN Ranch, October 2016)

Another beautiful princess, we are so blest. A princess who still slips us love notes and listens to our hearts flutter with love.

My perfect princess, your dad’s perfect princess.

Happy 23, baby!

mom and dad
xoxo

The First Week

 

The determination is the same. The scrutiny is the same. Proving themselves, no sweat. The gear, the tools, are different. Welcome to medical school.

My daughters began their first week of classes on Monday. While a few of their classmates wore their white coats, they did not. They would describe themselves as still being very new to the regimen, a while from white coat time. It is understandable. In their backpacks, though, are their stethoscopes and diagnostic kits. The girls have described the first week as fast paced and detailed. “Not quite thrown into the fire, but close enough.”

They’ll be home most weekends, riding and staying sharp on the saddle. And, have some downtime.

downtime ride: Tara and Brie having fun