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A University of Portsmouth cosmologist will be joining a select group of opinion-shapers to discuss women in science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) over lunch at the House of Lords next week.

Dr. Karen Masters, Reader in Astronomy and Astrophysics at the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation, is among 30 people from industry, academia, government, and the military due to take part in the Dialogue on Women in STEM on Thursday 5th May 2016.

Dr. Masters was invited to attend by Baroness Jolly and Dr. Wanda Austin, president and CEO of The Aerospace Corporation.

She said: “I feel delighted and privileged to be given this opportunity to take part in such a high-level discussion about the contribution of women to STEM subjects.

“I’m particularly interested in discussing what we can learn from the fact that more than 20 years of effort at improving the gender balance at A-level physics has resulted in basically no change at all since even before I did my A-levels in physics.

“I would also like to discuss the role of unconscious bias in maintaining the status quo.

“Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I would like to check that women of colour and LGBT and disabled women have been explicitly invited to join this dialogue.

“It’s vital that the voices of all women be included in these discussions.”

Professor Bob Nichol, Director of the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation, said: “Karen is a great ambassador for our community and University, and is passionate about promoting equality in the sciences.

“I hope such meetings will reinforce ongoing efforts to make science an exciting and attractive career for everyone, as we increasingly need a skilled and scientifically engaged public and workforce.”

Dr. Masters’ research interests are in the area of extragalactic astronomy, typically using data from large surveys like the Sloan Digital Sky Surveys, and making use of crowdsourcing in Galaxy Zoo to learn about the types and shapes of galaxies.

She studied for a PhD in Astronomy at Cornell University, and spent three years working as a researcher at the Harvard College Observatory before returning to the UK.

In 2014 – the year she was appointed senior lecturer at Portsmouth – Dr. Masters had the honour of being named one of the Women of the Future for Science, and was included on the BBC’s 100 Women list.

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