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, July 31, 2006

Why being an academic can consume you

After almost a full month as a certified academic, I have been taking some time to reflect. One of the most interesting facets has been how closely being a professor parallels starting your own business. You have a limited amount of capital that must be divided between equipment, labor, supplies, and a rainy day fund. You have complete control of your product, but if no one buys it you will not succeed. You have complete control of your hours and how the job is executed.

It is this latter facet that has become meaningful for me recently. I have always strived to balance work and home. Having two kids while in grad school, this has at times been a delicate balance. Up until now I may have felt pressure or guilt to work more hours, but never desire. But now, I am so excited and enjoying what I am doing so much that it can be difficult to find my way home. I finally understand the professor who called his grad students at 3 AM from the TEM with 'awesome' results. Yet, I am past the point in my life where I can throw myself into my job; a balance must be maintained.

Today is my son's birthday. He turns 2. We spent the whole weekend celebrating with family and had a great time. Tomorrow I have the pleasure of bringing him to the dr for his 2 year check-up! I will also take the morning off to spend some time with him. With all the things I really, really want to get done at work this is hard. But you only turn two once.

Thursday, July 27, 2006


Well, I ordered my first pieces of equipment yesterday! and in 4-6 weeks (maybe less if I'm lucky), I will start getting things in. Yaay! Things have been pretty crazy. I got a new computer so I am trying to migrate everything over. I still have a couple papers hanging over me that I need to get out AND I am foolishly trying to write two grant proposals by Sept. 15. I'll keep you updated.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Still busy

I am still busy trying to get equipment ordered (this really takes forever). I also have a couple of papers from my postdoc to get out (one thankfully went to press yesterday) and two proposals to write by Sept 15. [hey that's plenty of time,right?]. Also, I miss the lab. I really want to get some experiments going, but as you can see from yesterday's post, I am looong way from doing anything in the lab. Well I better get on it.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Did I mention that it's hard to start-up a lab

To give you guys an idea of what its like to start a lab, I thought I'd start a weekly series showing you a lab in progress.

Lab Week 1 Lab Week 1

As you can see, I have been blessed with my very own completely empty lab!!!

Actually it is very exciting, but having to start from nothing (except the fume hood) is overwhelming. I recently ordered benches with an estimated three week lead time, so it will probably look like this for some time. But, I got to pick the color (who knew).

Monday, July 24, 2006

National Academies Report on Women in Science

Recently, the National Academies issued a report on women in science, which came to me through a Science Magazine summary. The science summary states "A reasonable goal would be no major disparity between the percentage of Ph.D. degrees awarded to women in a particular field and the percentage elected in that field. Most academies are a far cry from reaching even that level; the 2% figure for NAS women in chemical engineering, for example, pales beside the 14% of U.S. Ph.D.s awarded in the 1980s, much less the 22% awarded in the 1990s." Given that members are elected by exisiting members is there any surprise that this is the case.

To further that my sister, a grad student at MIT, just told me a lovely story about the brain and cog department. She told me that a prominent female faculty member was offered a position at MIT. That after receiving the offer certain senior male faculty members decided that they wouldn't collaborate with her and the resulting faculty pressure forced her to decline the offer. For more discussion go here. [Thanks to Honeybee and Sciencewoman for the links.]

And just the other day someone was asking me what is the bias against women in science...

Friday, July 21, 2006

Setting up a lab is hard!

I cannot tell you what the last two weeks have been like. Most of my time has been spent meeting with sales reps. Some are good, some are bad, but setting up a lab is HARD! I keep telling myself, when this product comes in I can finally do my first experiment. Then I remember, hey I need gas, and the gas cylinder has to be attached to something, and that requires facilities, and who is going to do the plumbing me or the facilities, because if it's me I have no tools. Darn! Mental note, need to buy tools and toolbox. And this is how my days have gone. It is crazy!!!!! I thought I might have my first experiments in a month or two from my arrival. Now I am not so sure. Despite all of this, I am having the time of my life and couldn't wish for anything more exciting.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Things are as crazy as they said it would be!

Well, you might have noticed I've been having trouble posting lately. I have to confess this is because I have been swamped, but in such a good way. So, rather than going all out for well thought out meaningful posts that ramble on for pages, I am going to try to give you brief updates each day. I have spent most of my time trying to finish papers for my postdoc and order lab equipment. You would be surprised how hard it is to start a new lab. I want to get all the equipment that I need but I also have to balance against cost. Starting a lab is so different because I have to order everything: weigh boats, weigh paper, spatulas, and the scale. I am so afraid that I will forget something, and I probably will! It will most likely take months for us to do our first real experiment. And when I say us, I mostly mean me. I have a postdoc starting in September, but probably won't have grad students until after Thanksgiving, and the probably won't be working in the lab until next summer! It's a lot to think about.

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