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, August 26, 2009

Release Time and Other Financial Nightmares

So now that my lab has some funding and we are not going to go up in flames of financial ruin, I am coming to learn the intricacies of budgeted grants. Unlike my start-up, this money cannot be used for anything, but is dedicated to specific purposes. For example, I tried to order file folders so that we can organize papers related to the research. Unfortunately, I did not budget office supplies into my grant (apparently supplies and office supplies are not the same). So I can't use that money for folders. Instead I have to dip into my slush fund, which is a limited pool of money from my endowed chair that I am trying not to spend.

Similarly, I now need to come up with release time. For those of you unfamiliar, release time is where I pay part of my 9 month salary from my grants. I'm not sure that I'm actually being released from anything (in theory teaching, but in reality not so much). It is more like a tax. However, money budgeted as summer salary is not the same as release time, so yet again , I get to dip into my slush fund to keep the wheels greased. It is very frustrating to work within the specific confines of a budget. To a large extent money should just be money and if it is spent on stuff related to the proposal and we get papers it shouldn't matter.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Why my husband is awesome

In a few weeks my husband and I will go on a second honeymoon. We are celebrating 10 years of marriage. I've been thinking a lot about those ten years and it has made me realize that I am 100% where I am today because of the support and advice of my husband. So here are all the reasons why my husband is awesome.

1. When working in industry after my BS. at a job that I hated told me to quit and do what I *really* wanted to do which was to be a professor.

2. Followed me 4 times (after BS, to PhD institution, to post-doc, and to faculty position) without complaint.

3. Babysat 2 year old daughter while I traveled virtually every week for 3 months while looking for faculty positions.

4. Took same daughter to water park every weekend for 3 months while I wrote my dissertation.

5. Kept me from quitting when thesis advisers or others implied that my work wasn't up to snuff.

6. Planned entire move to postdoc institution with family (5 week old son, 2 yo daughter, cat and me) including finding the house, enrolling kids in preschool, getting nanny etc.

7. Doing all that again 2 years later when I started my faculty position.

8. Giving me tremendously helpful advice about how to spend money when starting my lab (Basically risks are good, spend money to make money) that has paid off with 3 NSF grants in 3 years.

9. Forcing me to learn more about commercialization and think about patenting the results of my work.

10. Planning most of our vacations and taking on most major household projects.

As you can see he is truly an amazing man.

Imposter Syndrome

I've written before about imposter syndrome, that feeling that you're not really smart enough to be a professor and everyone is just about to realize what a terrible mistake they made in hiring you, and thought it might be a nice time to revisit the topic.

I just got back from a small symposium in my field at which I was invited to give a talk on my work. The symposium included many of the biggest names in my field and I was very honored to have been selected as a speaker, and of course, a little nervous given that I am only a 3rd year Asst prof, I mean how much data could I really have in comparison to Dr. Important Full Professor. However, my stuff fit in nicely and we had more than enough. My feelings though are a great example of imposter syndrome. Thoughts like "the organizer must be really cracked to pick me" flitted through my mind while in counterpoint I thought "yeah but we ARE just about to submit that paper to Nature so how bad can it really be." I suspect that imposter syndrome will trail us throughout our lives. I know full professors (even an Asst. Dean) who profess to feeling this way, although I wonder if women are more susceptible than men, given our limited role models.

On another note, I was paired with a female graduate student host for the symposium and had a chance to talk to her about work-life balance, academic careers, etc. and am really grateful for the chance to be what I hope is a postive role model. Overall, a nice meeting.

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