Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Immigrants Need to Join Society

Retired NASA Chemist, Winifred Huo, was born in Guangzhou, China two weeks before the start of the Sino-Japanese war.  She recalls the first eight years of her life as looking for a safe place to live, and a place where her father could work. (see post one.) Winifred's highly-educated father was assigned to Guangdong to help build the impossible: the Burma Road. (see post two.) Two years after arriving, the Japanese invaded and the family had to make a quick escape. (see post three.) Thanks to Winifred's mother, despite all the moving about, Winifred excelled at her studies.  And, when she finally landed in Hong Kong for high school, she found her passion in the sciences.(see post four.) When she graduated--while the University of Hong Kong would not accept her because of some British rulings--she got a place at the University of Taiwan. (see post five.) In 1957, her father was offered an exchange post at Purdue University. This coincided with Sputnik--and was a time when America needed scientists--and he was offered a green card, the family was welcome to the U.S. (see post six.) She pursued graduate studies in science at the University of Chicago where she was often the only woman in the class. (post seven.)  Upon graduation, Winifred taught in a number of prestigious universities. (post eight.) In 1978, she found NASA, which turned into a lifelong rewarding career. (see post nine.She had wise words for women, including the thought, "You're as good as any man." (see post ten.)
For young Chinese immigrants, she also had some thoughts.
“In order to—if you want to stay in the United States—then you have to be part of the society instead of a special section."
"It’s really much more comfortable to be with someone that you share the same language and same worries than someone you don’t know as well. But you cannot work successfully if you don’t try to integrate. Try to understand how American society functions.”

(With gratitude to Winifred Huo, this concludes our interview.) 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Losing Gifted Scientists to Social Pressure

Retired NASA Chemist, Winifred Huo, was born in Guangzhou, China two weeks before the start of the Sino-Japanese war.  She recalls the first eight years of her life as looking for a safe place to live, and a place where her father could work. (see post one.) Winifred's highly-educated father was assigned to Guangdong to help build the impossible: the Burma Road. (see post two.) Two years after arriving, the Japanese invaded and the family had to make a quick escape. (see post three.) Thanks to Winifred's mother, despite all the moving about, Winifred excelled at her studies.  And, when she finally landed in Hong Kong for high school, she found her passion in the sciences.(see post four.) When she graduated--while the University of Hong Kong would not accept her because of some British rulings--she got a place at the University of Taiwan. (see post five.) In 1957, her father was offered an exchange post at Purdue University. This coincided with Sputnik--and was a time when America needed scientists--and he was offered a green card, the family was welcome to the U.S. (see post six.) She pursued graduate studies in science at the University of Chicago where she was often the only woman in the class. (post seven.)  Upon graduation, Winifred taught in a number of prestigious universities. (post eight.) In 1978, she found NASA, which turned into a lifelong rewarding career. (see post nine.)
Winifred said it was important for women to remember:
“You are as good as any man."
“There’s a program set up by the former astronaut Sally Ride—after she retired from NASA her focus was to try to understand why girls do not excel in engineering and science and how do you get them interested. I went to one of her seminars."
Astronaut Sally Ride on Sesame Street
"She said she went to schools and talked to kids. All kids love to talk to astronauts. She said before 3rd grade—3rd grade and below—she found boys and girls both asked questions, asked very similar questions. After 3rd grade you see the deviation. 
"First, boys asked more questions. The girls kept quiet. Or they asked less-relevant questions. It was more important for them to be interested in stuff that is considered, ‘womanly.’ 
"I was surprised.
“We lose half the population because of social pressure.  It’s very difficult for a young girl to fight social pressure. The only way to overcome it is to buddy with another girl who is, say, interested in science. You need companionship. You cannot fight it on your own."
(To be continued.  Next and final post: Immigrants Need to Join Society.)

Friday, April 14, 2017

NASA Rewarding Career for Women

Retired NASA Chemist, Winifred Huo, was born in Guangzhou, China two weeks before the start of the Sino-Japanese war.  She recalls the first eight years of her life as looking for a safe place to live, and a place where her father could work. (see post one.) Winifred's highly-educated father was assigned to Guangdong to help build the impossible: the Burma Road. (see post two.) Two years after arriving, the Japanese invaded and the family had to make a quick escape. (see post three.) Thanks to Winifred's mother, despite all the moving about, Winifred excelled at her studies.  And, when she finally landed in Hong Kong for high school, she found her passion in the sciences.(see post four.) When she graduated--while the University of Hong Kong would not accept her because of some British rulings--she got a place at the University of Taiwan. (see post five.) In 1957, her father was offered an exchange post at Purdue University. This coincided with Sputnik--and was a time when America needed scientists--and he was offered a green card, the family was welcome to the U.S. (see post six.) She pursued graduate studies in science at the University of Chicago where she was often the only woman in the class. (post seven.)  Upon graduation, Winifred taught in a number of prestigious universities. (post eight.)
In 1978, Winifred's husband got a job offer from Bank of America in San Francisco. That is when she found NASA. It was a rewarding place to work as a woman. She was there until her retirement in 2006. (Even today she still goes in once or twice a week.)
In 1994 she received the NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal.
“It was for the study of Entry Environment, and I worked with an experimental group to study—in the early 80s—to try to study the Shuttle’s protective shield because there was worry about the shuttle design. We tried to devise an experiment to measure the temperature, the pressure and the speed of the shuttle.”
(To be continued. Next: Losing Gifted Scientists to Social Pressure.)

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

No Place for Women

Retired NASA Chemist, Winifred Huo, was born in Guangzhou, China two weeks before the start of the Sino-Japanese war.  She recalls the first eight years of her life as looking for a safe place to live, and a place where her father could work. (see post one.) Winifred's highly-educated father was assigned to Guangdong to help build the impossible: the Burma Road. (see post two.) Two years after arriving, the Japanese invaded and the family had to make a quick escape. (see post three.) Thanks to Winifred's mother, despite all the moving about, Winifred excelled at her studies.  And, when she finally landed in Hong Kong for high school, she found her passion in the sciences.(see post four.) When she graduated--while the University of Hong Kong would not accept her because of some British rulings--she got a place at the University of Taiwan. (see post five.) In 1957, her father was offered an exchange post at Purdue University. This coincided with Sputnik--and was a time when America needed scientists--and he was offered a green card, the family was welcome to the U.S. (see post six.) She pursued graduate studies in science at the University of Chicago where she was often the only woman in the class. (post seven.) 
Upon graduation, Winifred did a post-doc at Harvard, taught at Rutgers, the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie-Mellon and University of Notre Dame.  I asked if she ever ran up against discrimination.
She said that she did, adding, “I’m pretty thick-skinned. It didn’t bother me much. But when I moved from Harvard to New Jersey, because my husband was teaching in New Jersey, my professor contacted three places for me. He contacted AT&T, Rutgers, and Princeton. 
"Princeton said, ‘We don’t have a position for females.’ 
"AT&T said, ‘We don’t take women employees in physical sciences.  You could be a secretary, but we don’t take women employees.’ 
"This was between ‘67-‘69.”

She managed to get a research position at Carnegie-Mellon, although she was way beyond the researching phase in her life. 
“My boss was trying to get me into a regular teaching position.  He said he was upset because one of the comments the other faculty made was, ‘She’s doing pretty well, as a woman.’”
(To be continued. Next: NASA Rewarding Career for Women)

Monday, April 10, 2017

Protected as a Foreigner

Retired NASA Chemist, Winifred Huo, was born in Guangzhou, China two weeks before the start of the Sino-Japanese war.  She recalls the first eight years of her life as looking for a safe place to live, and a place where her father could work. (see post one.) Winifred's highly-educated father was assigned to Guangdong to help build the impossible: the Burma Road. (see post two.) Two years after arriving, the Japanese invaded and the family had to make a quick escape. (see post three.) Thanks to Winifred's mother, despite all the moving about, Winifred excelled at her studies.  And, when she finally landed in Hong Kong for high school, she found her passion in the sciences.(see post four.) When she graduated--while the University of Hong Kong would not accept her because of some British rulings--she got a place at the University of Taiwan. (see post five.) In 1957, her father was offered an exchange post at Purdue University. This coincided with Sputnik--and was a time when America needed scientists--and he was offered a green card, the family was welcome to the U.S. (see post six.)
Winifred continued her science education at University of Chicago, a time when not many women were going to graduate school--and certainly not as a science major.


“I think I was protected because I was a foreign student. I was different anyway.  The first couple years of graduate school, I frequently was the only woman in class. I remember there was one professor who was away and got his assistant to give his lecture for him. This substitute, each time he showed up, he would look at the class and say, “Lady and Gentlemen.” 
(To be continued. Next: No Place for Women.)



Thursday, April 6, 2017

Sputnik Changed Everything.

Retired NASA Chemist, Winifred Huo, was born in Guangzhou, China two weeks before the start of the Sino-Japanese war.  She recalls the first eight years of her life as looking for a safe place to live, and a place where her father could work. (see post one.) Winifred's highly-educated father was assigned to Guangdong to help build the impossible: the Burma Road. (see post two.) Two years after arriving, the Japanese invaded and the family had to make a quick escape. (see post three.) Thanks to Winifred's mother, despite all the moving about, Winifred excelled at her studies.  And, when she finally landed in Hong Kong for high school, she found her passion in the sciences.(see post four.) When she graduated--while the University of Hong Kong would not accept her because of some British rulings--she got a place at the University of Taiwan. (see post five.)
Winifred’s father also moved to Taiwan to work with a friend of his in a vocational school. Shortly thereafter Purdue University in Indiana suggested teacher exchanges. They invited Winifred's father to the U.S. as an instructor in 1957. Then came Sputnik.
"Sputnik Changed Everything."
"Sputnik Changed Everything.  The U.S. changed its immigration policy. For scientists and engineers they encouraged immigration. So my father took the chance, applied for a green card and got it. So because he had a green card, he could get his family out. Our whole family moved to Chicago. My mother, sisters and I came in 1958.”

(To be continued.  Next: Protected as a Foreigner.)

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Disappointment Opens Door to Better Opportunity

Retired NASA Chemist, Winifred Huo, was born in Guangzhou, China two weeks before the start of the Sino-Japanese war.  She recalls the first eight years of her life as looking for a safe place to live, and a place where her father could work. (see post one.) Winifred's highly-educated father was assigned to Guangdong to help build the impossible: the Burma Road. (see post two.) Two years after arriving, the Japanese invaded and the family had to make a quick escape. (see post three.) Thanks to Winifred's mother, despite all the moving about, Winifred excelled at her studies.  And, when she finally landed in Hong Kong for high school, she found her passion in the sciences.(see post four.)
When Winifred graduated from high school, she discovered that she could not apply to the university in Hong Kong.  Hong Kong was under British rule at the time, the University was under the British system, and the administration would not accept applicants from a non-British high school...without an extra two years of education.  Although disappointing at the time, it turned out to be fortuitous, “That year was the first year that Taiwan had an open solicitation of students from the Hong Kong/Macau area. So I took the exam and I got into the Taiwan Normal University.”

Taiwan became a lily pad from which she jumped to the U.S. in yet another fortuitous time.

(To be continued.  Next: Sputnik Changed Everything.) 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

One Good Teacher Makes Difference

Retired NASA Chemist, Winifred Huo, was born in Guangzhou, China two weeks before the start of the Sino-Japanese war.  She recalls the first eight years of her life as looking for a safe place to live, and a place where her father could work. (see post one.) Winifred's highly-educated father was assigned to Guangdong to help build the impossible: the Burma Road. (see post two.) Two years after arriving, the Japanese invaded and the family had to make a quick escape. (see post three.)
When the war ended, they returned to Guangzhou. Although they had lived so many places, and spent lots of time and energy moving and getting settled and moving again, Winifred had kept up with her studies.  Her mother—although not highly educated—had insisted on it.
“She came from a somewhat untraditional family. My grandfather was against bound feet, an unusual view for his generation.  He insisted that none of his daughters should have bound feet."
The practice of foot binding lasted a millennium, from the 10th-20th century.
“She never worked. But she always admired women who worked, and always told us, ‘Look at so-and-so. She’s having a career. She’s able to be independent.’ So she was very emphatic about that.”
Winifred’s mother’s tutoring and concern paid off. For, after the end of the war, when they returned to Guangzhou, the school system tested all the children to see what grade they should enter. Winifred tested two years ahead. 
While they thought they were done with all this moving around, 1949 (the takeover of the Communists) came. So, once again, Winifred moved to Hong Kong. 
“I finished my high school in Hong Kong. The high school I went to was originally established by the American Baptist church. It was a missionary girls’ school. I had a very good science teacher.”
Winifred had discovered her passion.
(To be continued. Next: Disappointment Opens Door to Better Opportunity.)

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Wartime Escape Just Like Movies

Retired NASA Chemist, Winifred Huo, was born in Guangzhou, China two weeks before the start of the Sino-Japanese war.  She recalls the first eight years of her life as looking for a safe place to live, and a place where her father could work. (see post one.) Winifred's highly-educated father was assigned to Guangdong to help build the impossible: the Burma Road. (see post two.)
Two years after they moved to the wartime provincial capitol of Guangdong, the Japanese occupied the area. Winifred remembers what it was like to escape.
“It’s just like what the movie looks like. Everyone—young and old –some carrying the bedding. It’s really like that. Since my father was working for the Department of Public Works, they had trucks. Because my mother was pregnant at the time, they arranged for her to ride on the truck. My mother and I rode on the truck. So we had not too bad an experience except that, as you went along the mountain, the truck driver would say, ‘Well this is where the local bandits are.’ So they would stop and negotiate.  And, then sometimes you would get to some place and the driver would say, “We cannot take this route because the Japanese have occupied it.” So you had to turn around and go back and find a different route.  It was an interesting experience looking back, but at the time—I didn’t know better—but my mother was very worried.” 
(To be continued.  Next: One Good Teacher Makes Difference.)