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Science Club for Girls: Chayes a Catalyst

September 10, 2013 | By Microsoft blog editor

Posted by Rob Knies

Jennifer Chayes 

For years now, Jennifer Chayes, a Microsoft distinguished scientist and managing director of Microsoft Research New England and Microsoft Research New York City, has been a passionate advocate for the study of computer science by girls.

That advocacy has attracted notice, witness the Women to Watch Award from the Boston Business Journal and the Women of Leadership Vision Award from the Anita Borg Institute, both presented last year.

Today, Chayes’ efforts are receiving official commendation yet again. She has been named a winner of a 2013 Catalyst Award from the Science Club for Girls.

The Catalyst Awards, reports the club’s website, “recognize individuals and institutions that are strategic, innovative, and effective in promoting diversity in science, technology, and engineering, and who are skilled and dedicated to effecting change from a systems down to a personal level to help individuals and groups realize their dreams. They embody those qualities that inspire the best in us: a sense of justice, dedication to excellence, and genuine engagement.”

For Chayes, the award is particularly meaningful because of her admiration for the organization presenting it.

“I’m really impressed,” Chayes says, “with how the Science Club for Girls creates mentors and leaders, as well as scientists.”

Others are impressed, as well. The citation for Chayes’ Catalyst Award reads: “Honored for her groundbreaking interdisciplinary research ranging from computer science to business and for her personal conviction and efforts to promote girls, women, and underrepresented groups in STEM [science, technology, engineering, and math].”

“Dr. Chayes makes being smart cool and solving complex problems exciting,” says Connie Chow, executive director of the Science Club for Girls. “Her accomplishments as a research scientist and a thought leader, and her grace as a teacher and a woman, make her a beacon for tentative young women and rising stars finding their path. Her dedication to mentoring and opening doors for the next generation further distinguishes Dr. Chayes for this award.”

Chayes will receive her latest award on Nov. 19 at the Microsoft New England Research & Development Center, the Cambridge, Mass., home of Microsoft Research New England. Also being honored with Catalyst Awards will be Shirley Malcom, head of education and human resources for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Cubist Pharmaceuticals, which has an outstanding record of diversity and corporate contributions to support STEM outreach advancing girls and women.

The awards ceremony will celebrate the participants and projects in the Science Club for Girls, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing free educational programs for young women from kindergarten age through high school. The event will be hosted by Mish Michaels, a well-known, award-winning meteorologist in the Boston area.

Chayes expands on the club’s fostering of leadership among its members.

“For the younger girls, the club provides hands-on experiences with science and engineering,” she says. “But for the older girls—eighth through 12th grades—in addition to proving great programs and even internships in STEM fields, the Science Club also provides the opportunity to mentor younger girls.”

It’s apparent that, for Chayes, the work that is garnering her acclaim such as the Catalyst Award simply exemplifies what is clearly a labor of love.

“I feel very lucky to be recognized for doing what I love,” she says, “both doing actual science and engineering, and helping to inspire other women to enter STEM fields. It’s essential that girls realize that science and engineering are creative and collaborative fields that allow us to help envision and build the future.

“It’s wonderful to look at the faces of these young women as I tell my story and to see them begin to imagine their own.”