In this episode I welcome good friend and renowned Gastroenterologist Dr. Marian Rosenthal. A gastroenterologist is an internal medicine physician who diagnoses and treats conditions that affect the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine (colon), and biliary system -- the liver, pancreas, gallbladder, and bile ducts -- to the Rocket Girls Podcast. Dr. Rosenthal, though now semi-retired (she loves her work too much to be fully retired), has served as Chairman of Regional Gastroenterology Committee for Southern California Permanente, Chief Physician of Gastroenterology Section for Kaiser West Los Angeles, and past President of the Southern California Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, and is currently an Assistant Clinical Professor for UCLA’s Department of Medicine.
Favorite Segments from the Interview:
Dr. Rosenthal discussed the “old days” of gastroenterology, barium enemas, x-rays and rigid scopes as if this was at the turn of the century, rather than the 1970s.
She also talked about being one of the few women in medical school, a phenomenon that no longer applies today in medicine, though it still rings true for physics and engineering majors. “Being a woman in medical school when there aren’t that many women you always felt that you did have to prove yourself. You had to do well you couldn’t sluff off in the class; you had to show that you belong.”
I’m thrilled to post my interview with Astronomer at the Lick Observatory and UC Santa Cruz Professor Emerita Sandra Faber, Ph.D. to the Rocket Girls Podcast. Dr. Faber, according to her faculty webpage at UCSC, “focuses on using the lookback power of large telescopes to study the formation and evolution of galaxies.” She has made important discoveries about how the the brightness of galaxies is related to the the speed of stars within them, co-discovered the Faber–Jackson relation, and played a significant role in designing the Keck telescopes in Hawaii. She was recognized by Discover Magazine as one of the 50 Most Important Women in Science, received the National Medal of Science from President Barack Obama in 2013 and the Gruber Prize in Cosmology in 2017. Dr. Faber earned her B.A. in n Physics with minors in Mathematics and Astronomy from Swarthmore College, and earned her Ph.D. from Harvard University.
Favorite Segments from the Interview:
Dr. Faber compared the creation of our universe to the rising of a bubble seemingly out of nowhere in a glass of Coca-Cola.
“We’ve all seen a glass of coke Coca-Cola. So, isn’t it amazing that, lets hone in with our little microscope on a little piece of the fluid there while it’s still a fluid, and then just, just like that probably due to a quantum fluctuation, a little bubble appear out of nothing right? So, the surface of that bubble is really like the space in our universe except as we know a surface has two dimensions whereas space and our universe has three. If you’re willing to forget the difference between two and three for a moment and think that we were living in a two-dimensional universe; like flat creatures slithering around on the surface.
Then the appearance of that bubble and its expansion, that’s the point. The new bubble just appears; somehow the motion of the space there just appears out of nothing. We have fluid and a microsecond later we’ve got this surface and then the surface gets bigger. This is really what the big bang was like in our universe. There’s something like the coke and we don’t really know what that something is. Which pre-existed our universe and then suddenly a little seed appeared that had within in all the potential of the space of our universe. That’s the little microscopic bubble and it’s been expanding ever since, but no I would say we’re not creating new space it’s just the space that appeared as the bubble appeared out of nowhere. It’s simply since then getting bigger.”
The Existence of Our Galaxy is Due to Tiny Quantum Density fluctuations at 10-35 seconds (that’s a really, really short amount of time) after the Big Bang.
Advice to Girls Passionate about Science
Read magazines like Discover Magazine and Scientific American. Google things you want to learn about. Read.
Study math and physics in high school.
Attend a summer institute to do authentic, publishable, scientific research
Lise Meitner had stayed too long. At the time, however, it didn’t seem that way. Thirty years had earned her the position as the head of the physics department at the Kaiser-Wilhelm Institute in Berlin, a level of scholarship and respect to which no woman before her had risen.
After all, growing up in Austria in the late 1800s, education was not deemed necessary or important to women past the age of 14. Women did not attend university — the local University of Vienna was in fact closed to women until 1897, when Lisa was already nineteen years old. Whereas the high school curriculum prepared boys to pass the Matura, or college entrance exams, women had no such preparation or entry point.
Lise, determined to enroll in the university, engaged a private tutor to pass the Matura.
Rozsa Peter was born on February 17, 1905 in Budapest, Hungary. Rozsa initially studied chemistry, but switched to mathematics. For 18 years after graduation, she had difficult securing a position, so she tutored and substitute taught at the high school level. Peter earned her doctorate in 1935, and was known as one of the founders of recursive function theory.
Hidden Figures had a powerful impact on me on me and I imagine so many others who have seen it. A story weaving together the historical narratives of the beginning of the United States space program, the civil rights movement and the emerging role of working women during and after World War II has so much deliciousness to work with, and Hidden Figures did it with aplomb.
It laid bare the injustices people “of color” fought against in the sixties without being heavy-handed. And it even showed how a handful of well-positioned white colleagues were able to see past color, and embolden these women to aim higher.
At a time when fewer women pursued college degrees, let alone higher degrees in math and science, when a woman’s place was either at home raising her children, or in the workplace as a secretary, sales associate or teacher, these black women defied norms to become NASA mathematicians, computer programmers and engineers.
My best advice for young people interested in pursuing a career in the sciences is to never lose your curiosity. Because curiosity, once lost, is difficult to reinvigorate — difficult, but not impossible. So, if you’re curiosity’s a little rusty, here are five ways to re-engage with it.
Questions are not just the byproduct of a curious mind, but also the root of curiosity. Even if you’re not curious, just the act of asking questions builds your curiosity muscle. Ask questions about anything and everything. When participating in a conversation, don’t be thinking of how to interject or respond, just listen to the person talking. Reaching answers or diagnoses too quickly dampens the inquiry process.
“My mother made me a scientist without ever intending to. Every other Jewish mother in Brooklyn would ask her child after school: So? Did you learn anything today? But not my mother. ‘Izzy,’ she would say, ‘did you ask a good question today?’ That difference — asking good questions — made me become a scientist.” - Isidor Rabi, Nobel Prize Winning Physicist
Curiosity is the first and most important quality of a Rocket Girl. Curious people want to find out “Why.” Rocket Girls, like all good scientists, never stop asking questions.
There are 10 traits that Rocket Girls must have to launch them in a scientific career, whichever field, such as biology, medicine, chemistry, physics, geology, astronomy and engineering.
Trait #1 - Curious
The first of these traits is curiosity. Rocket Girls must be curious. Science is all about figuring things out. The curious mind is always questioning phenomena around it. So much of what we teach our science students are answers. What we need to teach them is how to question.
Leonard Susskind, known as the Father of String Theory explained to me that
“The object of a scientist is to follow his curiosity and figure out how and why things work, how and why the world works whether it's physics or biology, or [the other] sciences; indulging your curiosity.”
What do you want to know? Reengage with your curious mind.