ASU professor, champion for women in science, named AAAS Fellow

By

Skip Derra

Bianca Bernstein, who has devoted her career to advancing young women in science and technical fields, has been named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Election as an AAAS Fellow is an honor bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers, and is given to members who have advanced applications in science that are technically or socially distinguished.

Bernstein was cited for her “distinguished contributions to the field of counseling psychology to further opportunities for girls and women.”

It is no secret that men make up the vast majority of those working in many fields of science, especially in the physical sciences. This fact makes it hard for young talented women to break into their chosen field and overcome formidable obstacles, especially when they have few, if any, role models to follow.

Bernstein and her research team started the CareerWISE program at ASU in 2006 with a grant from the National Science Foundation. The program helps women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs find ways to better manage the challenges in their immediate environments and expand personal skills for thriving in their future career environments. It has allowed Bernstein to focus on the application of psychological science to the career advancement of women and underrepresented minorities and the development of effective learning environments for graduate education.

“We focus on student success at the graduate level of science and engineering,” Bernstein said. “Our work is unique in that we go beyond identifying challenges that women face in fields where they are outnumbered, to actually designing resources they can use for maintaining confidence and staying the course. It has been tremendously rewarding working in this area because we can reach so many women around the world with our online training, and also contribute to the scholarship around women’s careers,” she added.

“We have found that the women pursuing these highly demanding careers are eager to learn new strategies and to hear from others who have had similar experiences,” Bernstein explained. “Our effectiveness trials show that we have developed something that can make a real difference in the careers of women graduate students – and making a difference in peoples’ lives is what is most important to me.”

When she received the notice from AAAS, Bernstein said she was “tremendously excited, surprised and humbled. It’s a wonderful thing to be a counseling psychologist honored by the world’s most prestigious scientific organization.”

This year’s AAAS Fellows will be recognized on Feb. 14, 2015 at a special fellows forum at the annual meeting of the AAAS in San Jose, California.

AAAS is the world’s largest general scientific society.