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.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Fire in the Hole!

I submitted my tenure package on Friday.

The funny thing is, I don't feel any different. It was kind of like one more thing on my to-do list that got checked off. I thought I would feel some fear or trepidation, but since I've already talked with most of my department members about this, I think I know how things will go. I also thought I might feel relief, but I don't. I guess tenure has never been that important to me in the scheme of things. My personal goals for my group are substantial enough that I would definitely get tenure if I achieved them, and we are well on our way to achieving my short list.

This kind of reminds me of "teaching to the test" in school vs. learning for the love it. I don't think about what kind of science to do, or how to present it, or the activities I will participate in based on whether or not I will get tenure. Instead I try to work on projects that are the most interesting to me, that fill a need in the field. And I try to do service activities that support my personal goals: leadership in a professional organization and bringing science to kids.By doing these things, I find that I make myself and my organization happy.

Well wish me luck. I probably won't find out until a month or so....and then not final for several more...

Monday, August 23, 2010

Do I want a job at really big U?

So a little update. Things are going well, really well. I just had a fairly high impact publication and just submitted three papers to awesome journal, really cool journal, and meh its a journal. I have tons of funding and am going up for early tenure. (Yeah its okay to hate on me, I use to hate on people like this too, but read back some pasts last year and you'll see it hasn't always been this way). Suddenly, there are a number of people asking if I am interested in moving, planning to move, or unhappy at midwestern R1U. Even my husband is talking about whether or not I should "step-up".

To be clear, I am not looking for a job. I do not have any offers, former or informal, and have not even had hints of a job. I *love* midwestern R1U. It has nearly everything I need for my career to be successful. I have smart and eager collaborators, supportive colleagues (in every sense of that word), talented students, and an incredibly supportive chair. I really haven't considered leaving to this point, but, a small but persistent but, it is true that I would have more opportunities at really big U.

The students there are more likely to be on fellowship (= free) to me. They are also probably smarter, although this does not translate directly into laboratory success. I would probably have more space and easier access to funding. Downsides, I would still be near the bottom of the totem pole so teaching and service duties may not be what I would like. I also know that really big U's tend to be super-competitive and if I went there as anything less than a full professor, there could be difficulties with promotion and tenure. Often they will hire people as an Associate professor without tenure and make you apply again in a year or two after arrival. All in all, I probably wouldn't want to go to a Really Big U until I am a full professor. However, if that is a goal, not now but ever, I will need to do certain things to make that a career possibility. So, this is something that I am thinking about. What do I really want from this job?

Thursday, August 05, 2010

More on the Uri Alon Videos

So, I was sent the videos in the last post by a colleague who has met Alon and thought that I would enjoy his work. I do. What he talks about is what I have been trying to say and live ever since starting grad school. Academics is more than just the science that we do in the lab. It is about growing the whole person so that we have competent researchers. Students needs to learn how to choose research problems, how to formulate those problems into appropriate proposals, how to manage research groups, how to express research results to maximize their impact, and how to accept rejection (because there will be some). These are generally *not* skills taught as part of the formal graduate education. I think they are intended to be left to the mentor and taught throughout the research execution phase of the Ph.D. (and postdoc), but I know many, many times this does not happen. Why not? Why isn't this a formal part of our research education? These are the truly important skills.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Check this out

Check this out. Click on nuturing science and watch the videos.

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