Tag Archives: women

Wu and Watterson’s Theta*?

10 Feb

If you are doing population genetics, you probably heard of Watterson’s theta.
The paper where Watterson introduced theta is a classic. It is cited more that 3000 times.

Even if Watterson (1975) was a single-author paper, Watterson wasn’t working alone on this project. In the acknowledgments he says “I thank Mrs. M. Wu for help with the numerical work, and in particular for computing Table I.” In a similar situation in 2019, she would have likely gotten co-authorship on this paper and a PhD after a few papers. We would all have known the paper as Wu and Watterson (1975).

Screenshot 2019-02-10 16.04.53

I only know this story because a group of researchers from SF State and Brown University, including my amazing friend and office neighbor Dr Rori Rohlfs, did a study on “Acknowledged Programmers.”

Professor Margaret Wu

Margaret Wu was a programmer in the 70s, at a time when programming was often a job for women. She didn’t get authorship on Watterson (1975) and other papers she worked on, but much later, she did get a PhD and became a very successful professor.

If you would like to learn more about Margaret Wu, have a look at this insightful interview: http://genestogenomes.org/margaret-wu/.

Here is a video with her about the PISA rankings for countries’ educational systems: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Br93GTTnWr8 .

Paper and video on acknowledged programmers in theoretical population genetics

If you’d like to read more on acknowledged programmers in theoretical population genetics, have a look at the paper by Rori Rohlfs, Emilia Huerta-Sanchez and their students Samantha Dung, Andrea López, Ezequiel Lopez-Barragan, Rochelle-Jan Reyes, Ricky Thu, Edgar Castellanos and Francisca Catalan.

Plus!!! They made a really neat video about their project:


Here is a picture with most of the authors of the Genetics paper.


Authors of the paper in Genetics on Acknowledged Programmers: Illuminating Women’s Hidden Contribution to Historical Theoretical Population Genetics, Dung et al 2019.


* “Wu and Watterson’s Theta” was suggested by Tim Downing in a tweet.


Scientist spotlight : Jazlyn Mooney, PhD student UCLA

25 Jan

jazlynmooneyJazlyn Mooney grew up in Albuquerque New Mexico. She went to high school and college there too (Eldorado High School and University of New Mexico).

Sketching science created a lasting interest

I became interested in science in middle school. I had a science teacher, Mr. Pecknik, who made us draw everything we learned about (from central dogma to phylogenies) for class. So we kept a sketch book for our science class and I thought it was super cool.”

Not “cut out for MD/PhD” ?

Becoming a researcher didn’t always seem possible for Jazlyn. One summer, when she was an undergrad, she participated in an MD/PhD prep program. At the end of the summer, her summer advisor told her that she wasn’t cut out to be MD or PhD! Fortunately, she didn’t listen to him but instead listened to her other undergrad advisor, her family and herself and decided to continue her path to become a scientist! She did research as an undergraduate and then applied to PhD programs.

The history of Latin American populations

Jazlyn is now a PhD student at UCLA in the lab of Dr. Kirk Lohmueller and works to better understand the history of human populations using genetic data. She recently published a paper entitled: “Understanding the Hidden Complexity of Latin American Population Isolates.” In this paper she showed how Costa Rican and Columbian people are descended mostly from European males and Amerindian females, and a small number of African individuals.

The field that uses genetic data to understand the history of populations is called “population genetics”. Jazlyn got interested in population genetics when she was an undergrad and got an opportunity to do research with Dr Jeff Long.

Learning new things and presenting at meetings

Jazlyn loves learning new things and her favorite part of being a researcher is that it allows her to learn new things and create new knowledge. Jazlyn has presented her work at many conferences including : University of Chicago Research Forum, the meeting of the American Society for Human Genetics, the Bay Area Population Genomics meeting at UC Santa Cruz in 2018.


Link to paper about the history of people in Costa Rica and Columbia

Link to a free “prepring” version of the same paper

Tacos, R and Twitter

Jazlyn’s favorite coding language: R

Jazlyn’s favorite food: Tacos

Jazlyn’s Twitter handle: @Jazlyn_Mooney

Breaking the glass ceiling with a mandolin

5 May

This weekend my husband and I went to see a show of the bluegrass band Della Mae.
This band consists of five amazingly talented and inspiring young musicians, singers and songwriters. Their previous album was nominated for a Grammy award and Rolling Stone says they are among 10 new bands you should know in 2015.

It was so much fun to go out and hear them play!

What’s special about this bluegrass band is that it is an all-female band.

(In addition, for me, personally, what is special is that two of the members of this band were my teachers when I lived in Cambridge, Mass. I was learning to play honky-tonk music. Such a fun class!)

Only men play the banjo?

As scientists, we may sometimes think we are the only ones fighting against sexism and trying to break glass ceilings. Of course, this is not true. For example, the world of bluegrass is also dominated by men. Many bluegrass bands are all male, possibly with a female singer. I did a quick google search for images of bluegrass bands and you can see the result here.

Only men play the banjo?

Only men play the banjo?

So a few years ago the women of Della Mae decided to form an all-female band, which is probably more fun than each of them being the only woman in an otherwise male band.

Della Mae does a great job of shattering stereotypes while delivering great show! Thank you, Della Mae!

Five computational evolution meetings in a row with just one female speaker

28 Nov

Annoyed by the announcement of yet another mostly male meeting, and inspired by Jonathan Eisen’s recent posts about male-biased meetings, I decided to look at the series of meetings in France on Mathematical and Computational Evolutionary Biology of which the recently announced meeting is a part. Mathematical and computational evolutionary biology is exactly my field and the meetings take place in lovely places in the south of France, so initially, I was interested. But then I looked at the lists of invited speakers and found that in the last five instances of the meeting, there was exactly one female speaker each year. Wow. How sad!

Here are a few suggestions for the organizers to invite more women. This list is obviously far from complete, just women PIs who I happen to know and who came to my mind immediately: Sally Otto, Katia Koelle, Hanna Kokko, Doris Bachtrog, Katrina Lythgoe, Emilia Huerta, Sarah Cobey, Melissa Wilson-Sayres, Joanna Masel, Anna-Sophie Fiston-Lavier, Mercedes Pascual, Pardis Sabeti, Kate Hertweck, Amy Williams, Sohini Ramachandran, Angela McLean, Lindi Wahl, Maria Servidio, Hua Tang, Sally Blower. This list doesn’t include the many female postdocs in the field. Also doesn’t include the women who were invited by the MCEB organizers.

[Also Florence Débarre, Deborah Charlesworth, Maria Orive, Paulien Hogeweg, Charlotte Hemelrijk.]

Anyways, here are the data:

MCEB 2015 1 woman, 6 men (14%)

[Note added: the announcement says that this list is preliminary]

David Bryant (University of Otago, NZ)
Jukka Corander (Bayesian Statistics Group, University of Helsinki, FI)
Asger Hobolth (Bioinformatics Research Center (BiRC), Aarhus University, DK)
Philippe Lemey (Rega Institute, Clinical and Epidemiological Virology, BE)
Bernard Moret (Laboratory for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, EPFL, CH)
Ludovic Orlando (Center for GeoGenetics, Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen, DK)
Molly Przeworski (Columbia University, New york, USA)

MCEB 2014 1 woman, 7 men (13%)

Rampal Etienne (University of Groningen, NL)
Daniel Huson (Center for Bioinformatics (ZBIT), Department of Computer Science, Tuebingen University, DE)
Nicolas Lartillot (Laboratoire de Biologie et Biométrie Évolutive, Lyon, FR)
Arne Mooers (Simon Fraser University, CA)
Hélène Morlon (Ecole polytechnique, FR)
Rasmus Nielsen (University of California, Berkeley, US)
Adam Siepel (University of California, Santa Cruz, US)
Mike Steel (University of Canterbury, NZ)

MCEB 2013 1 woman, 9 men (10%)

Sebastian Bonhoeffer (ETH Zürich, CH).
Bastien Boussau (University of California, Berkeley, US).
Alexei Drummond (University of Auckland, NZ).
Ian Holmes (University of California, Berkeley, US).
Steven Kelk (Maastricht University, NL).
Darren Martin (University of Cape Town, SA).
Erick Matsen (Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, US).
Tanja Stadler (ETH Zürich, CH).
Niko Beerenwinkel (ETH Zürich, CH).
Gil McVean (University of Oxford, UK).

MCEB 2012 1 woman, 10 men (9%)

Cécile Ané (University of Wisconsin, US).
Michael Blum (CNRS – TIMC, FR).
Oliver Eulenstein (Iowa State University, US).
Arnaud Estoup (INRA – CBGP, FR).
Asger Hobolth (Aarhus University, DK).
Vincent Moulton (University of East Anglia, UK).
Noah Rosenberg (University of Michigan, US).
Alexandros Stamatakis (Heidelberg, DE).
Mike Steel (University of Canterbury, NZ).
Edward Susko (Dalhousie University, CA).
Asger Hobolth (Aarhus University, DK).

(2010 meeting link is broken)

2008 1 woman, 15 men (6%)

Elisabeth Allman: University of Alaska, US.
Vincent Berry: CNRS, FR.
David Bryant: University of Auckland, NZ.
Frantz Depaulis: CNRS, FR.
Laurent Duret: CNRS, FR.
Nicolas Galtier: CNRS, FR.
Olivier Gascuel: CNRS, FR, chair.
Junhyong Kim: University of Pennsylvania, US.
Mike Hendy: Massey University, NZ.
Daniel Huson: University of Tübingen, DE.
Vincent Moulton: University of East Anglia, UK.
David Posada: Universidad de Vigo, ES.
Allen Rodrigo: University of Auckland, NZ, co-chair.
Noah Rosenberg: University of Michigan, US.
Charles Semple: University of Canterbury, NZ.
Mike Steel: University of Canterbury, NZ.

2005 3 women, 12 men (20%)

Walter FITCH, University of California at Irvine, USA.
Anne BERGERON, Université du Québec, Montréal, Canada.
David BRYANT, Mc Gill University, Montréal, Canada.
Nicolas GALTIER, CNRS-Université Montpellier II, France.
Ziheng YANG, University College London, UK.
Susan HOLMES, Stanford University, USA.
Mark PAGEL, University of Reading, UK.
David SANKOFF, Université de Montréal, Canada.
Li-San WANG, Austin University, USA.
Nadia EL-MABROUK, Université de Montréal.
Bernard MORET, University of New Mexico, USA.
Mike HENDY, Massey University, New-Zealand.
Vincent MOULTON, The Linnaeus Centre for Bioinformatics, Uppsala University .
Mike STEEL, University of Canterbury, New-Zealand.

2003 4 women, 17 men (19%)

Hugues Roest Crollius, Ecole Normale Supérieure de Paris
Laurent Excoffier, University of Bern
Allen Rodrigo, University of Auckland
Joe Felsenstein, University of Washington
Rose Hoberman, Carnegie Mellon University
Matthew Spencer, Dalhousie University
Nicolas Salamin, University of Washington
Elizabeth Allman, University of Southern Maine
Vincent Daubin, Université de Lyon
Mike Steel, University of Christchurch
Carolin Kosiol, European Bioinformatics Institute
Vivek Gowri-Shankar, University of Manchester
Emmanuel Douzery, Université de Montpellier
Arne Mooers, Simon Fraser University
Bret Larget, University of Wisconsin
Dan Gusfield, University of California Davis
Cecile Ané, University of Wisconsin
Michaël Blum, Centre Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique, Grenoble
Eric Bapteste, Dalhousie University
Charles Semple, University of Christchurch
Daniel Huson, University of Tuebingen