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.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Either the dust is settling or I'm getting used to the smoke

Well, things are finally getting better for me. I think. It is also possible that I am just getting used to the pace of this job. I am in the process of preparing a paper for a special journal issue, preparing a proceedings article, and preparing a grant proposal all due in a month. But I am NOT panicking. In fact, I think everything is moving along pretty well. I must be crazy.

I appreciate all your thoughtful comments about the pre-proposal gosh I knew you'd get it because you're a woman comments. I especially liked the comment from anonymous, "You wrote an excellent proposal which deserved to make it. In the past, it might not have succeeded, because you are junior and female. And while your proposal was as good as - or better than - those of some senior males, it was not twice as good, which would have been necessary back then. But the university has noticed this problem and tries to fix it. Which is why your deserving proposal made it." This is what I think everyone was trying to say, but it just didn't come out right. However, the thing is that even pointing out that I am a woman diminished the win in some way, and for that I am sorry. I can't wait for the day when people do not see me as a woman scientist and see me as simply a scientist.

I am also getting excited because I have begun to do limited teaching, guest lectures in our freshman seminars. I put a lot of thought into how best to educate students. I evaluate the teaching methods that have been used on me, that are currently used on my husband, and that my colleagues use. It always seems to come back to two things. (1) You have to actually want your students to learn and (2) Keep it simply, stupid! I am inspired as always by Richard Feynman. In his autobiographies, he discusses his teaching style. He says that his teaching goal is to try to break down the material into the simplest explanation possible and then expand from there. I think about how to do this almost everytime that I assemble a talk or a lecture. What do I want my students to know? What is the simplest way to convey that information?

Well, I should probably get back to work. I am giving one of those seminars in about 30 minutes....


At 7:36 PM , Anonymous indigani said...

I am a chemical engineer, about to start a postdoc at MIT, and I have been flying through your archives with unabashed enthusiasm. I, too, am interested in being (someday soon) a mother and faculty member while maintaining a work/life balance. Your blog has been/will be a terrific resource for me.

I am inclined to comment on this post because it stuck a particular chord for me. You say, "I can't wait for the day when people do not see me as a woman scientist and see me as simply a scientist".

Really? You don't want people to notice that you are a woman? I think that you have overcome some serious gender-specific obstacles to get where you are, and you are helping to populate an engineering field with more female faculty members.

While I do understand the gender anonymity that you crave, I believe that the fact that you are a WOMAN scientist should be celebrated. You give hope to people like me, and in the course of time, you will change the world.


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