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, November 18, 2009

First High Impact Paper Submitted

Today was a banner day in the Dr. Mom group. I submitted two papers on the same day (yeah I know I'm pushing papers right now) and one of them was our first to a high impact journal. Keep your fingers crossed.

I tried once when I was in grad school and I was rejected. I sent my paper to just a little bit lower impact journal where it was accepted and published. So this is a relatively new experience for me. Also, even if the paper doesn't actually get in high impact factor journal the fact that we have research coming out of our lab that even *could* get into a high impact journal is a huge success. And wait for it...wait for it...we are actually preparing a 2nd paper for submission to a different high impact factor journal that should be ready soon.

Of course all of this is the culmination of three years of hard work and also much failure. It is interesting. In February, my lab was almost out of money, I hadn't had any publications in over a year, and I was contemplating Plan B. Now I have had 3 major grants funded and 2 subawards, we have had 3 research papers published, 3 are in submission, and 2 are in preparation. Just goes to show what six months can do.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Let's Talk About Personal Statements

It's that time of year again! Time to submit your application to grad school, fellowships, etc. So I thought it would be a good time to discuss personal statements.

Dr. Mom's Top 10 Things to NOT Put in your Personal Statement

  1. Quotes from famous people. Although this seems like it could be a good idea, it almost always signals a poor personal statement. I don't care what famous guy said, I want to know what YOU think.
  2. Any sentence starting...Ever since I was a little kid I have always wanted to...I don't want your life story, I just want to get a general idea of why you are interested in this field/problem.
  3. The phrase...getting this admission/fellowship would help me so much because... You think? But wouldn't it help anyone who is applying?
  4. Anything kitsch-y. Do not write poems or puzzles about yourself.
  5. Anything inappropriate. The story about how you took that cross-country roadtrip with all your buddies and then ran out of beer money...not helping your admission chances even if you do think it shows your leadership skills.
  6. Description of why you want to be a XXX. I know it seems like that is what should go in a personal statment, but really what I want to know is why I should admit/give money to you. I certainly hope you want to be an XXX or you are applying to the wrong program.
  7. Comments that indicate you have no knowledge of my program. Telling a school with no animal labs that you can't wait to operate on pigs. You should make sure that the school you are applying to actually has a program in XXX. Also, it is helpful to throw in the names of a few faculty working in XXX, at that school as possible mentors. It shows you actually read the website.
  8. Sob stories. I would have had a higher GPA if I hadn't gotten so strung out jr year that I wrecked my car and then had no way to get to school for two weeks...Some stories are legit (i.e., I had a battle with breast cancer), but you better be able to back it up and it needs to be pretty significant to justify special consideration. Hint: unless there was abuse involved, breaking up with your boyfriend probably doesn't count.
  9. Sucking up. I can't wait to get to school XXX so I can work with the world famous and honorable professor so and so. It's pretty obvious when you do this and we don't appreciate it. On the otherhand, saying I am looking forward to opportunities in the field X, which prof Z works in, is fine. Just don't go overboard.
  10. No description of prior research or skills. The real key to a personal statement is to convince me that you have skills that I want. Tell me about your prior research even if it was washing dishes, at least I know you've been in a lab before. All the better if you can say, I really want to work in field X and already know how to Y and Z from my undergradaute research experience.
I can't wait to read your scintillating personal statements. Go forth and prosper!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Transitioning from Starting Up to Started

I've been thinking a lot about my previous post and the problems that I have been having coping and I think the real problem is that my lab is transitioning from the "start-up" phase to the "started" phase. I no longer have to beat down doors for students and collaborators. Funding and papers are forthcoming (although more is always better in both categories). Up to this point, my criteria for selecting grad students was basically a pulse. Now, I can afford to be more selective and honestly, I'm not quite sure how to do that. This same extends to collaborators, requests for proposals, etc.

So basically my lab has moved past the part where you scrape your way out of the giant hole that is starting a faculty career and now we are on the surface trying to decide in which direction to start walking in.

A question that has leaped into my mind is what is my goal? Initially, I wanted to get my lab up and go in a certain direction. As we are now making progress, I need to adjust my plans to a horizon a little further out. (*It would be great if I had the time to actually think about those goals, but alas that is difficult*).

The most basic thing seems to be developing a filter to identify things that are good for the lab/my career vs. bad and to use this to select students, collaborators, speaking engagements, etc.

Hit Counter by Digits Who links to my website?