By: Majken B. E. Christensen, KIF board member
The annual meeting for Danish Women in Physics was held on Wednesday the 10th of October 2018 at the Geological Museum (a part of Copenhagen University and home of Center for Star and Planet Formation) in Copenhagen. The meeting was traditionally followed by the general assembly, where KIF chairwoman and Associate Professor Christa Gall announced that she would step down from the chairmanship.
In this article we dive into Christa’s achievements and ask her about her learning and experience during her time as leader of Danish Women in Physics, KIF. Christa got elected as chairwoman in January 2017 (after the annual meeting in December 2016), so she has had the post in about 2 years. You can read about her background below the interview.
There are many excellent women physicists and scientists out there and we need to keep up working on every level to create a new culture in science, which is more inclusive and gives women and general talent a fair chance. I believe if everybody makes an effort to overcome biases and try out new ways, the environment of science will change to the better, will become fairer, but of course, the big improvements need to come from the top.
– Christa Gall, KIF Chairwoman 2017-2018
What inspired you to be active in KIF?
Having experienced the ‘downsides’ of working in heavily male dominated places and field of research for many years has initiated a strong urge in me of wanting to change the situation. I saw KIF as an opportunity to reach out to other physicists at all levels, female and male, students and professors, making everyone aware of the situation but also to motivate to think about actions and solutions. I genuinely believe that all talented people, independent of gender, culture, nationalism etc., should have equal chances for a successful career in any field.
What did you learn from leading KIF?
To be patient, but I also learned to appreciate that different people with common goals do not necessarily envisage the same ways of reaching these goals.One needs to accommodate different levels of ambitions, views, or ways of working.
Tell us about some of the achievements under your leadership?
I assumed the chairperson-ship of KIF with the aim of building it up and making it visible again and to establish it as an active organization.
I hope I managed to motivate and inspire the board members, gave some directions and implemented a more structured way of working, e.g. to work together as a team and in teams. I implemented a new motto, logo and a new visual representation. KIF became a ‘new’ organization which may now be more widely appreciated. This way we could organize a very successful annual meeting in 2017, which had a high attendance of physicists at all levels of their careers. There, we also motivated more wonderful women to join the board, making KIF even more visible and active, offering several events. I would say that I succeeded in that and achieved the goal I set out to do. Now its up to the new board to keep it going and improving.
Which were the biggest challenges?
Finding time to do the things I wanted to do. As a young ambitious scientist I also need to concentrate on my day job.
Why do you think KIF is important?
Perhaps, it gives women physicists a space to connect with each other but also there are some urgent goals and imbalances to correct and KIF has an important role to play, and a voice.
What will you miss?
Working on something of societal importance, but I am also happy I can now spend more time on research. And no doubt I will find other challenges along the way, and will not stop working for these goals, just not as a chair of KIF.
The KIF board thanks Christa for her hard work to create awareness on Danish Women in Physics.
Professional background of Associate Professor, Christa Gall:
I work in the field of Astrophysics. To explore and discover the secrets of the Universe and our origin is a path I have been pursuing since childhood.
Driven by the dream to either fly to the Moon or to win the Nobel Prize I chose to educate and train myself in as many areas as possible: I have a background in electrical engineering, master degrees in physics and mathematics, astrophysics and space science and computer science management, and a PhD in astrophysics (did my PhD at DARK Cosmology Centre). After my PhD I got offered a prestigious independent fellowship at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center where I stayed for 2 years.
I came back to Denmark for a postdoc in Aarhus and won in 2015 an independent Carlsberg grant to work in Copenhagen (at DARK), which I started end of 2016 in the position as an associate professor.