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.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Situation for Women Faculty

Before I launch into today's topic, I wanted to wrap up my discussion from last time. I didn't get to many comments from people who actually *know* what happens when you run out of money, although it seems like lots of you are interested. I can tell you what happened in my conversations with my colleagues and chair though.

Many of my colleagues believed that it wouldn't happen. I'm glad they have so much confidence in me, but given an ~8% rate at NIH/NSF (at least in my programs) I'm not so sure. I pushed a little harder and was told that when the money dries up labs contract and scale back. That's pretty obvious, but what happens when you haven't even ramped up yet? Here the conversation with my chair was more helpful. As a new faculty, it seems that most universities want you to be successful and will support you as best they can to make sure that happens. I was encouraged to make use of all the internal and external funding that I could (i.e., university NIH training grants, NSF IGERT programs, NSF graduate research fellowships, NSDEG fellowships), but most of these only apply to domestic students, and right now all my grad students are international. I was also told to apply for small pots of specific money (i.e., targeted to a small area). For example, many NSF programs have seed grants SGERs that I could go for that are small, but might support a student for a year. Alternatively, I could seek out TAs to pay for my students for the short run.

As an aside, I know that many faculty simply move universities to address this problem (hey new start-up package new 3 years of funding!). I think that if you really are doing a good job and the university you are at doesn't want to lose that investment they can be prevailed upon to help you out for the short term, but that does seem a bit like dirty politics.

At any rate, I have about a year and a half before this becomes a real problem for us, so I think I will just chill for now.

On another note, I wanted to talk about a new study put out by MIT on women faculty hiring. This is really disturbing. Basically the study says that shortly following the last report there was an increase in the hiring of women, but that after interest waned, the numbers of women either remained flat or declined (with the noticeable exception of chemistry). This is just sad. It implies that if permanent measures to encourage the hiring of women (and other minorities) are not taken, we will never see the increases that we need to. I just don't know. Our department is aggressively pursuing women so I feel that there is little more that I personally can do here, but it is really depressing.


At 10:04 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You might have a look at an alternate view point on the studies run at MIT.


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