Dr. Mom, My Adventures as a Mommy-Scientist

Discussion of my journey from grad school to postdoc to tenure with two kids, a husband, (and a bit of breast cancer) in tow.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Navigating the rat race

It seems that scientists are a breed apart. The general perception is that scientists are so obsessed with their work that little else can supersede that, think Einstein and Curie. Occasionally, we get a free spirit, like Feynman, but most scientists are perceived as kind of nerdy with little connection to the real world. It would be entirely inappropriate for a scientist to choose this career to pursue fame, recognition, awards, or money. And yet, it is my perception that many scientists do just that.

It is so difficult to maintain a successful lab and not lose sight of the beauty of science. Conducting competitive research is much more difficult now than 200 years ago. With the internet and ease of travel, I can know what is happening in a competing lab in 6 months, or less if we are friendly. It becomes increasingly difficult to not be scooped [the secret fear of most scientists I know]. In this environment, how do we maintain our focus on the beauty of science, the thrill of the discovery, and further understanding the rules that govern our physical world? In the book Feynman's rainbow by Leonard Mlodinow, Feynman asks Mlodinow why he thinks that people studied rainbows. After flubbing the answer, Feynman responds, "because they are beautiful." I hope that we never stop searching for rainbows to study.

2 Comments:

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At 12:19 PM , Blogger wildvineyard said...

I, too, am a female PhD in science. I am on the tenure track in an Environmental Science Department and have two kids (3 and 6) and one husband (not divorced yet!). I have started a blog called Mom Seeks Tenure (http://momseekstenure.blogspot.com/). Let's keep in touch. Good luck with your new position!

 

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