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.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

The benefits of being a professor...(oh and some blatant harrassment)

So how happy am I that I am here right now.

Although I miss my kids terribly, I am having a fabulous time at the conference right now. It has probably been the single greatest networking event for me ever. I have had an opportunity to meet several senior scientists whom I have admired since I started my Ph.D. And more importantly, these are the folks reviewing my grant apps, my papers, and my tenure file.

On that note, this conference has given me a lot of perspective. I am very lucky and this has been an extremely good year.
* I got a grant funded
* I published two papers (from my postdoc but still good)
* My lab is set-up and we are producing data
* I had an invited presentation at an extremely prestigious conference in Europe.
* People thought the talk was good.

I think I deserve a bit of vacation.

On another note...
My roommate for the conference was propositioned last night by a much older researcher attending the conference (who is married with grandchildren). She managed to extracate herself from the situation without too much difficulty, but I was wondering if anyone else has had this experience...and how you might handle it. I know that it is not unheard of for researchers to have affairs and hook-up, but this is the first time that I saw it.

The roommate's take on the situation
So you think that a guy who has grandkids is fairly safe to hang out with at a foreign bar, but you might want to rethink that idea. Seriously, I didn't see that one coming. Nor did I see the next few lines. He was sure direct, and the crazy thing about the whole ordeal was he wasn't really going to physically be able to seal the deal until he took his pills, which he was headed for when I bolted. I should have listened to the alarm bells when he kept saddling up to me while I was working on the computer, but I tend to categorize old people as harmless, completely forgetting about the "crazy" old guys. The last quotes he gave me as I was running away as fast as I could was "I find you awfully sexy, so please stay and have some fun." Now I am going to go and curl back up in my ball and wait for the open bar tonight.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

First Grant Funded!

I just found out that I got a grant funded! It is only for one year, but the money is good, and as my colleagues like to say, helps me establish a track record of success. I am so excited that I celebrated by writing a bigger grant asking for even more money. Well that and having a really great lunch with my DH. I am really pumped. My students are also very excited because I will be able to pay them. Not there was a doubt for next year, but as the start-up funds dry out I will have to be more conservative and this gives me some room.

On another note, I will be away next week. I am giving a talk overseas. I only mention this because I stupidly sent my passport to be renewed a week or so before being invited to give this talk. And wouldn't you know it I didn't expedite my passport because who would ask me to go anywhere in the next two months anyway? Well, I got my passport back yesterday but you wouldn't believe what I had to go through for it. I tried calling the passport agency to expedite and they said I had to wait until two weeks before my trip. Then I tried to call and could not get a live human on the phone. I wasn't even allowed to hold for one. Finally, I got frustrated and called my congressperson, who godblessem got me my passport. Ridiculous the bureacracy though. So next week I will be sipping wine with a fabulous view while trying to dream up new grant proposal ideas and find new collaborators.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

New Resources on Work-life Balance

A friend recently brought this new resource to my attention: the national clearinghouse on academic worklife. It is designed as a location for information, articles and research on work life balance.

"The National Clearinghouse on Academic Worklife combines into a single
website information resources and community discussions to support those
who study or participate in academic work: faculty, administrators,
graduate students in the pipeline, staff.

Up to date articles, policy examples, and discussions are available on
topics ranging from family-friendly benefits, tenure attainment, and
faculty satisfaction to policy development, productivity, and
This one-stop website was developed at the University of Michigan Center

for the Education of Women through a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan

On another note, I am back from my first of several trips. It went well. My talk was well-received and several people commented on how comprehensible it was. A few years ago, I changed my tactics for giving talks. I now make them extremely visual, with very few words (try to limit to less than 10/page). I use powerpoint, but not the templates, and I try to label all graphs directly above the line or bar rather than in a legend. Also, I envision my audience as 1st year grad students. I see my talk as more of an opportunity to educate other scientifically inclined individuals about my research, more like a class, than as an opportunity to demonstrate my superior intellect. This approach has really revolutionized my speaking.

After the talk I went to my sister's defense and am happy to report that we now have two Drs in our family. It was really fabulous to see her defend and I finally enjoyed a defense party (since I was hugely pregnant during my own).

I got back this morning, just in time to teach my class. I won't see the kids til tonight, but I miss them.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Good, bad and crazy

Well, things here are going well, but I feel as if I am about to jump off a precipice and I better start learning to swim while free-falling in the air. I am being pulled in many different directions.

(1) Proposals. Last quarter I didn't do anything because teaching kept me so busy. This quarter I am teaching a smaller class so it is more manageable, but it still takes large chunks of time. And I really, really need to be writing proposals instead. Especially if funding rates continue to hover in the less than 10% range.

(2) Travel. I have been asked to give a talk by a friend and will be out of town this weekend and part of next week. At the end of that trip I will attend my sister's defense (you go girl!!!). I get back Wed. I am home for W and Th, then my husband and I fly off again for a wedding. I am home for two weeks, then I leave for a week to go to an international conference. It was a great honor for me to be asked to speak there, especially as a first year faculty. But, I will be leaving my husband (who is still in class) with two little kids the week before finals. Then I get back, give my final, and hop a plane for a 1.5 week family vacation. [Which in theory makes up to my kids for being gone a week.] On top of all of this I am supposed to be cranking out three proposals with successive due dates.

(3) Teaching. Still love it, still takes up too much time. It is now taking me about 1/2 a day to a day to prepare for each lecture. My class meets 2/wk so that with the teaching time included is about 1/2 my week spent teaching or preparing for teaching. It is hard to get anything done with all of that going on.

Well, next time I write may very well be from the road.

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