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, June 20, 2007

Research and Resouces

Recently the research of several young professors that I considered postdocing with has been highlighted in trade journals. This has really spawned a lot of thought on my part. I want my research to be featured in trade journals too. Of course these faculty all have several years up on me (about 5) and are at very prestigious universities. And I have to ask my self if it is likely that I could achieve a similar goal in the same time frame.

Based on the feedback that I received in the last year, I would have to say that signs are good, but there are several differences between myself and them. The most obvious is that my university, while an R1U, is not as prestigious as theirs. This means that I don't have access to the resources that they have, particularly students. Even if I am technically and intellectually as skilled as these individuals, will I have the people and tools necessary to achieve that kind of success? This is a more difficult question that can't really be answered yet.

On the other hand, if I tried to do well so that I could move to a very prestigious university, I don't think that I would be happy. I finally pinned down a couple people on expectations for me at full throttle. The basic plan at R1U (for research anyway) is a couple of papers a year, support two grad students, and generate a couple months of release time (bringing in summer support for 3 months + 2 more months of salary). These are pretty achievable goals that I can accomplish without driving myself crazy.

Now if I were at very prestigious university, I believe that this would be much less likely. There I would be expected to support a much larger group meaning I would need to bring in substantially more money. More publications would be expected from me and just more in general. So while I would have increased resources, they come at a substantial cost, especially in terms of my work like balance (and sanity).

So I have to ask myself is it possible to have research success on limited resources without driving yourself crazy? And the answer is I don't know, but I'll tell you in a few years.


At 12:52 PM , Blogger FemaleCSGradStudent said...

Just speaking from my own experience, I sometimes think that the "Prestigous" universities need such "good" students is because the "advisors" can't manage worth a crap. These students have to magically intuit what is needed in order to get the job done.

If you have any kind of management skills, you'll kick some serious ass.

I look forward to seeing good things from you. Good luck with the job search.

At 5:39 PM , Anonymous tenured(butstillstressed) said...

Personally, I am at peace with having a small lab group. I really don't want to be responsible for all of those people's salaries and enjoy working closely with a few good students. Nonetheless, I can relate to those pangs of doubt. However, odds for tenure at those heavy hitter schools can be really low, (even with a strong record) due to tenure caps and infighting. People on the street don't know who the "famous" scientists are within most fields so I'll settle for respected and knowing my kids better, thank you very much.

At 11:05 PM , Anonymous Flicka Mawa said...

I agree with tenured(but still stressed). I am a current grad student who honestly considers purposely going for a less than R1 school in order to have some more work-life balance. So I think if you are managing at a R1 university with a 2 person lab group and a few papers a year and also raising a family, that sounds pretty darn successful to me!

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