I’m thankful for lots of things….

Right now I’m especially thankful for friendship, the kind that stays with you through everything and anything. Not the shop-talk kind of friendship- the real life and death, ups and downs, share your joy and sorrow kind of friendship.

We spent our Thanksgiving holiday taking a roadtrip to visit a dear friend of mine and her family. She is one of my non-science friends, but a working mother of two with whom I spent an enormous amount of time doing this and that with all the kids (who, by strange coincidence, are exactly the same age), before she and her family  moved away several years ago. She kept me sane during my last years of school and during the end of my academic training, and during the time when DrMrA was going up for tenure. I did my best to return the favor when her dad died unexpectedly. We laughed a lot, we cried a lot, we de-briefed each other after visits from our respective families (ok, mostly our mothers!). We both hoped for a second child, and, as luck would have it, we were craving ice-cream and pickles at the same time,  delivering healthy babies 3 months apart. Then, our babies shared a nanny.

As we watched our children grow up together, we convinced each other that although babies are cute, we were pretty darn happy with the ones we had, and we held each other to that. I would call her up after visiting so-and-so and cute newborn in the hospital… ooohing and aaahing over the newborn adorableness (that’s not even a word, but this is my blog and I can say whatever I want here), and she would remind me that I said I was done with that stage of my life. I returned that favor too.  When she told me that her husband was being transferred and they were moving, I was just very, very sad.

Now she and her family live in another state, and although we of course keep in touch,  I have totally missed her in the last three years.  Maybe it was just lucky that neither of us had family visiting this Thanksgiving, maybe it was a sign- if you believe in such things.  In any case, we had to go- the whole family- and we had such fun! When we got home this evening LittleA hugged me around the waist, buried her face in my tummy and let out a sob (of course that became Niagra falls). … a sign of what a great time she had and how sad she was at leaving good friends behind.

I knew just how she felt.

Mendacity. You know what that is. It’s lies and liars.

***Soapbox alert***

This pisses me off. For those of you that don’t want to go to the link the headline from the NYT is:

Kennedy Barred From Communion by Bishop

and the low-down:

Widening a growing rift, Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy, a Rhode Island Democrat, said on Sunday that the Roman Catholic bishop of Providence had instructed him to refrain from receiving communion because of the congressman’s stance on abortion.

and in a letter to Kennedy the Bishop said…

“In light of the Church’s clear teaching, and your consistent actions,” the letter said, “I believe it is inappropriate for you to be receiving Holy Communion and I now ask respectfully that you refrain from doing so.”

Normally I’d probably just say meh- whatever. The dude can be Catholic if he wants, and the Catholic church can have whatever rules it wants. But I’m kinda sick of people parroting the line Continue reading

From Non-TT to TT In This Academic Job Market??!!

A reader of the blog recently wrote me the following question:

I noticed in your bio you list your past experience as including a stint as a non-TT faculty member, and I was hoping you could detail a bit more about what that position entailed (rights and responsibilities, degree of independence) and offer some advice on how to make the transition from that to TT.

So, I’ll oblige.

Indeed, my first faculty position was a non-tenure track position. In my case this was a faculty position in title only (i.e. I was not was not yet independent), and was awarded to me basically so that I could submit my own grants. I had no service responsibilities, neither did I have any rights. In my institution truly ‘independent’ non-TT positions (where you are not reliant on another PI for space, salary etc) are incredibly rare. More usually- those on the non-TT faculty track remain employed in their postdoc lab… and are simply elevated to grant submission status. Continue reading

Becoming an Ally

A couple of years ago I wrote a post about a lot of cryin’ on the part of senior male faculty about the rate at which their young female grad students were dropping out of science after finishing  their Ph.D.s., coupled with an inability on the part of said faculty to educate themselves to recognize the reasons behind this phenomenon. In private, I did my best to provide the resources to these potential allies so that they might better understand this leaky pipeline… and on this blog, I implored said faculty to get off their asses and do something about that… think outside the box, become an ALLY. I offered a few suggestions, …. turns out you don’t even have to think very far outside the box.

This week I received an email from a colleague, it read:

Dear DrdrA:

I am organizing XYZ meeting, and I was wondering if you could help me out. I was looking over the schedules from previous XYZ meetings, and I was struck by the fact that the list of keynote speakers looked like this:

2008   Great Scientist, White Guy, Ph.D.

2007  Great Scientist, White Guy, Ph.D.

2006  Great Scientist, White Guy, Ph.D.

2005  Great Scientist, White Guy, Ph.D.

2004  Great Scientist, White Guy, Ph.D.

2003  Great Scientist, White Guy, Ph.D.

2002  Great Scientist, White Guy, Ph.D.

2001  Great Scientist, White Guy, Ph.D.

2000  Great Scientist, White Guy, Ph.D.

1999  Great Scientist, White Guy, Ph.D.

1998  Great Scientist, Woman, Ph.D.

1997  Great Scientist, White Guy, Ph.D.

1996  Great Scientist, White Guy, Ph.D.

I am sure you can appreciate the paucity of women and minority keynote speakers at past XYZ meetings, and that is so obviously wrong.  I wonder if you could help me identify some great women and minority candidates who might be interested in giving the keynote talk at this meeting.

Thanks for all your help!

Senior Faculty Ally.

HOLY COW!! I couldn’t make up that list fast enough.

I’m totally thrilled that this colleague looked at the data, realized the overwhelming bias in favor of white guys (no offense to you white guys), thought about it, and took the next step to try to even out the balance. So, to add to my previous list of all the ways to encourage young women to stay in science… how about choosing EXCELLENT WOMEN SCIENTISTS and EXCELLENT MINORITY SCIENTISTS as your keynote speakers from time to time. And for all you women (and/or) minority scientists out there, how about making a mental or actual list of excellent women and/or minorities in your field that might be keynote speaker candidates… so that when an ally asks for your assistance, you are ready.

Notes In The Daily Folder

I’m fielding a couple of questions to be turned into blog posts, but this is going to take me a little time to get them into a readable format, so bear with me a little bit.

While I’m swamped I’ll just report a little on my family life. We got 3 notes home in the daily folder from school last week, reporting behavioral issues from LittleA. She had lots and lots of behavioral/disciplinary issues in Kindergarten a few years ago- these were mostly developmental in the sense that she is a bit young for her class and the personality match between her and her teacher was less than optimal. Those incidents were enormously stressful for me at the time, and actually we almost moved her from public to private school.  She’s been very VERY well behaved at school for the last two years. Until last week.

Note #1.:  LittleA was behaving loudly in the bathroom.

Ok, so we had a talk about keeping our voices down in the bathroom at school.

Note #2.:  While writing sentences at recess (25 of those ‘I will behave properly in the bathroom.’ type sentences), LittleA was having a great time, and was behaving too loudly with her friends (who were also writing sentences).

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Seems to me you want your kid to take their punishment with a good attitude- on the other hand, you might think they would have learned their lesson the first time. LittleA told me that she actually liked writing the sentences, and it improved her penmanship. Another set of sentences was ordered.

Note #3:  Please talk to LittleA about cutting a friend’s hair at school.

OH SHIT.

Go Play Gender Bias Bingo

How do you teach people in your academic sphere about gender bias without waving a copy of various books on the subject in their faces and expecting them to actually READ them? ‘Cause- you know, it is pretty darn rare that you can get your colleagues to purchase, or even crack open your copy, of Virginia Valian’s fine book: Why so slow? Hmmm. I think there might be a new approach for this one…

I found this website for the Gender Bias Learning Project this morning, and I promptly started playing Gender Bias Bingo, and taking the little pop quiz. I’m in education, so I’m all about pop quizzes. And because many times I feel like I need an instruction book to navigate some of these biases, the GBLP has also provided a section on strategies for surviving gender bias, complete with short video presentations from some relevant experts. I haven’t watched many of them yet (meetings, manuscripts, and experiments all day), but I will later.

If you find this site useful, pass it on (and I’ll tweet it!). I think this is a great, and quick way to educate about, and teach people to recognize gender bias, in a simple, straightforward, and relatively time sparing way.

How To Get Scientists To Embrace Web-based Networking Technologies.

If you were looking for an answer to that up there, you’ve come to the wrong blog. I’m totally messing with you. PSYCH!

Seriously. I’m banging my head against that one, and I was reminded of my frustration about this in a post put up a few days ago from my blogging brother-in-arms Drugmonkey. I’ve been ruminating on that particular post for about three days now. At issue is a whole lot of grant money being spent to develop a web-based social networking technology for scientists.

I SO agree with DM that spending buckets full … entire banks full of federal grant dough…on inventing a whole new system so that scientists can network with each other seems pretty looney. The technology for people to network with each other across the web is out there, and I know that if you are reading this blog- it is highly likely that you are savvy to this already. Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, FriendFeed, Linkedin, …and Google for EVERYONE (and others I am undoubtedly  forgetting, and I’m not linking I know you people can use google to find those web addresses)!.  These sites have this networking thing DOWN, tons of users, and been out there on the web for quite some time. My gosh, if you can find your mother’s uncle’s ex-wife’s daughter’s third husband that you lost touch with in 1980 on Facebook… surely you can find (and network with) that guy you met at the Gordon Conference that works on the importance of the 52nd amino acid in your favorite protein. Right?  Maybe he could have all his protocols and all his clinical collaborators listed on one of the sidebars? So that inventing a web networking tool for scientists thing… kind of seems like re-inventing the wheel to me already….seems smarter and faster to adapt existing networking technologies to ‘fit’ scientists…

But here is the problem with scientists and social networking- it is just like DM said they don’t understand or see the usefulness of it. Mention that you use Facebook or Twitter or Google Reader even (and that’s not even networking!) or heaven forbid… that you BLOG-  to your faculty colleagues, and you’ll be met with a bunch of blank stares.  This will be rapidly followed by comments on how your faculty colleagues would not want to, or have time to, read on Twitter about that ham sandwich XYZ person ate for lunch. I hear myself explaining for the 16 thousandth time that I’ve never read about what anyone ate for lunch on twitter… it DEPENDS if you follow the kind of people who post about their lunch, or not. You could always follow the kinds of people who post interesting techniques or papers that you care about… I’m just sayin’..

Anyway- your faculty colleagues have this mind-set not because they are not smart or savvy or whatever… simply because they aren’t convinced of the usefulness of social networking, or other kinds of web-based communication, like this to their career/project/lab etc. I’m telling you though- if there was a place on the web that I could hang out with a bunch of glycobiologists that work on O-antigen, or techie geeks who do biology in high throughput with robots and computers, or people who develop databases and tools to handle large quantities of various kinds of data… you wouldn’t be able to drag me away. I’m totally down with those topics and I want to talk to other people who are too. Web based social networking can connect me to all of those different kinds of people quickly and all at once… and that works infinitely better for me than having to contact people that might have the right expertise one at a frickin’ time.

So- if you all are sold-… how do we sell the other 99% of the scientific community on the uses and benefits of web based social networking to them. This is our challenge.  I say we all write editorials and opinion pieces for our society publications… to do a bit of re-educatin’

P.S.: And as an aside- we shouldn’t forget those ‘networking’ areas directed specifically toward scientists… even journals have their sites… like Nature Network…like PLOS (you can set up an account here and have a profile, but it is not really networking… far as I remember) and the PLOS blog… and even the societies are getting in the game now-… the American Society for Microbiology has its own site now called ASM Community,

P.P.S:  There is a brief related Post over at NeuroScoop.

P.P.P.S: Sorry for the lack of proper linkage in this post… I’m tired!!