Mathematical Sciences Research Institute

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Support for Women in Mathematics

MSRI provides a number of services to support women in the mathematical sciences.

  • Family Services: Schooling and child care assistance, and family-friendly events for mathematicians who are members of each semester's scientific programs and/or workshops.
  • Family Support for Women - Child Care: Grants to women researchers of our programs and workshops with school-aged children; intended to offset the cost of child care and enable mothers to focus more easily on research while at MSRI.
  • Complementary Program: For mathematicians who are the partners/spouses of MSRI program members.
  • Nursery: Private room on site for parents to nurse or feed infants.
  • Connections for Women Workshops: Workshops which provide an enhanced opportunity for women researchers to interact with other women with similar research interests and to showcase their research.
  • Summer Graduate Schools: Additional support for women nominated for MSRI's Summer Graduate Schools.
  • MSRI Advisory Committees: Rotating committees tasked to ensure equitable representation and build community among women and underrepresented minorities in MSRI's research programs and workshops.
  • Summer Research for Women in Mathematics: Support for small groups of women mathematicians to work on a research project at MSRI.
  • Noetherian Ring (organized by the UC Berkeley Math Department): A community for women in math both from MSRI and the Math Department with regular informal gatherings.

Family Services

MSRI strives to maintain a diverse community of mathematicians in its programs by actively assisting mathematicians with partners/spouses and children. The Institute has a dedicated Family Services Consultant, Sanjani Varkey, on staff who assists mathematicians in finding schools and childcare in Berkeley. Between Fall 2014 and Spring 2018, MSRI's Family Services coordinator assisted 169 members with securing childcare services and school enrollment for over 200 children. Learn more: Family Services →

The Institute hosts occasional family-friendly gatherings for scientific program participants with children, including potluck dinners for mathematicians with children to meet each other, and outings to local parks and family-friendly venues.

Thanks to the generous support of private funders, the Institute is now able to provide Family Support to women participants of our programs and workshops who have children ages 14 and under. The funds are intended to offset the cost of child care to enable mothers to focus more easily on research during their residencies at MSRI.

Recipients may use these grants for child care expenses from local resources in Berkeley, or for any other form of child care (such as hiring a nanny at home, bringing a caregiver with them to Berkeley, etc.) in order to give recipients the freedom to use these funds in the way that is most useful to their family. Please note that because these funds are taxable, they are available only to US Citizens and Permanent Residents, and foreign visitors with a visa status that allows for compensation, such as a J1).

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Complementary Program

The Institute gives special consideration to applicants of the Complementary Program who are partners/spouses of an invited member of a Core Program. MSRI’s Complementary Program is for mathematicians whose interests are not closely related to its Core Programs. Interested partners (spouses) should include their partner (spouse’s) name in their cover letter.

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MSRI is pleased to be able to offer a private room for parents to nurse or feed infants. For information and access, contact Chris Marshall, MSRI Program Manager.

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Connections for Women Workshops

Every semester-long research program at MSRI starts with this 2-day workshop (immediately preceding the weeklong Introductory Workshop). Workshop speakers are women mathematicians, while (as is the case for all MSRI workshops) registration is open to all interested persons.

While different programs have approached these workshops in diverse ways, one of the principal objectives, strongly supported by the SAC and HRAC, is to provide an enhanced opportunity for women researchers to interact with other women with similar research interests.

From 2012 to 2017, 27% of attendees all MSRI scientific workshops were women and 6% were underrepresented minorities in the mathematical sciences. During the same period, 72% of women participants in the Connections for Women workshops remained in attendance for the subsequent week-long Introductory Workshop. As a result, the percentage of women participating in Introductory Workshops was 6% higher than that of Topical Workshops held later in the semester.

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Summer Graduate Schools

Every summer MSRI organizes several summer graduate schools (usually two weeks each), most of which are held at MSRI. Attending one of these schools can be a very motivating and exciting experience for a student; participants have often said that it was the first experience where they felt like real mathematicians, interacting with other students and mathematicians in their field. Graduate students from MSRI Academic Sponsoring Institutions or from Department of Mathematics at U.S. Universities are eligible for nomination.

Additional support is provided to those Academic Sponsoring Institutions that nominate women students to attend. For full-level academic sponsors, MSRI provides support for two students per summer; a third student will be supported if at least one nominee is a women or is a U.S. citizen/Permanent Resident from a group that is underrepresented in the mathematical sciences (URM). MSRI will support four students from a full-level academic sponsor if at least one nominee is women and at least one other nominee is a URM.

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MSRI Advisory Committees

The Institute engages in a number of efforts to increase participation of women in MSRI activities. All Institute programs and workshops have women mathematicians on the organizing committees, and women participate in all levels of scientific membership, from graduate students to Research Professors and program organizers.

The Human Resources Advisory Committee (HRAC) is a rotating group of ten mathematicians (50% women / 50% underrepresented minorities in the mathematical sciences) which augments the Scientific Advisory Committee's care for human resources issues. HRAC members help to recruit participants from under-represented groups and develop new MSRI activities to promote these groups' involvement in the mathematical sciences. In addition, it advises on selection of special programs aimed at under-represented groups (such as the Blackwell-Tapia Prize and Conference) and aids MSRI in the evaluation of its programs and diversity efforts. Learn more: HRAC members →

The Committee on Women in Mathematics is a rotating group of six mathematicians (66% women) who work collaboratively with the Directorate to create annual plans for activities to increase the participation of women in MSRI’s major programs and associated fundraising for such initiatives. Members also interface with the Institute's academic sponsors on projects that could be undertaken at many universities with the goal of increasing the participation of women in mathematics, and periodically review MSRI's existing program for women.

The committee's recommendations led to the creation of the Summer Research for Women in Mathematics program; increased funding for family support for women mathematicians; and two named postdoctoral fellowships (honoring mathematicians Dusa Macduff and Karen Uhlenbeck). Learn more: CWM members →

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Summer Research for Women in Mathematics Program

The Summer Research for Women in Mathematics Program provides space and funds to groups of women mathematicians to work on a research project at MSRI. Research projects can arise from work initiated at a Women's Conference, or can be freestanding activities.

Groups of two to six women with partial results on an established project may submit an application to the program. Each member of the group must have a Ph.D. in mathematics or advanced graduate standing. Each group may apply to be in residence at MSRI for a minimum of 2 weeks.

Summer 2017’s pilot project hosted 16 women. Summer 2018 saw a plethora of applications and over 20 women were funded for visits of 2 or more weeks. We are expecting to be able to fund a larger number of women for the summer 2019.

In exit surveys, participants have remarked on the benefits of distraction-free, in-person collaboration; the value of candid discussions among peers regarding family and work/life balance; and their unexpected sense of relief and comfort in sharing partial or incomplete ideas and asking questions in a women-only setting.

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Noetherian Ring (with UC Berkeley)

The Noetherian Ring of the University of California, Berkeley's math department invites you to participate in this community of women in math during your stay at MSRI. The group has semi-regular meetings on Monday evenings; sometimes members meet to chat over dinner, and other times there are special discussions on topics ranging from work-life-balance to self defense.

All Noetherian Ring events are listed on the group calendar, and if you would like to be added to the email announcement list, please inform Chris Marshall at MSRI. Individuals often co-organize just a single event, so if you have a specific idea, you can contact Katrin Wehrheim to discuss how to make it happen.

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