Happy 2010!!

I’ll get back to regular posting soon, I promise. But for now I’d just like to say- 2009 has been a tough (but good) year for me, and a very tough year for several people close to me. I hope that we can turn the page on those difficulties and move forward in 2010. I think we can, and maybe we have already?.

Tonight my family is together (mostly) and my friends are closer than ever. Thank you all for continuing to visit this blog, and for contributing to the discussion. Happy 2010 everyone!


Research program first, teaching second?

Ok, well I’m back. Not that I was holidaying it up or anything. I feel like I’ve spent the whole of December lying on my back in bed. First that little GI thing I got from my daughter and then the nasty sinus head cold that I’ve had for the last 5 days. Imagine cooking Christmas dinner for a houseful of guests, and walking 3 households worth of dogs like that. I’m better today, thanks.

Now I’m starting to think about January and February, and all of the competing responsibilities I have for the next few months.  See, I think I’ve taken on a lot….rather, I KNOW I’ve taken on a lot. Writing and teaching are going to be especially heavy in the next couple of months, and I’m always asking myself how much I can logically take on in any given time period, and of those tasks- where my efforts need to be focused most and what can get less attention, at least in the short term. There is triage going on in my head, and the triage is based first on what needs to be done to get grants goals accomplished and get grants renewed, and second on everything else.

Anyway, as far as getting grant goals going and grants renewed. I know that in order to get these things to happen I have to get the new people that I have hired up to speed and working, and I have to push out papers. I have 3 papers that I want to turn out relatively quickly, for one I have a nearly complete manuscript, for a second I have to motivate my postdoc to give me some text, and for the third I need to put my head together with my collaborators and we have to turn out a manuscript quickly or we are going to get scooped on the story. I’m DELIGHTED to have all this writing to do, writing about actual data, that is. It is this, and getting the lab moving now that I have filled up the group, that I really want to be doing. The fact that I want to be doing the writing makes it easy to have this as my top priority.

There are also lots of tasks that are less fun, or let’s say that I get less personal satisfaction from, that also need to be done.  I’m teaching here and there in various courses in the spring, and for two of these courses it will be the first time I am delivering the material. For one of the courses, taught out of my home department, I am taking over some established course material and I am charged with updating the content. I don’t find this fun (I’m not sure anyone does), but I know it needs to be done. For the second course there was a bit of a crisis and I decided to be a good citizen and help out. Now, I know what you are all saying… (you… VOLUNTEERED?…WTF)… but I think these things need to be done from time to time, and this teaching is in a department where I have a joint appointment- so it is a bit of calculated pay-it-forward.

This all seems pretty straightforward when you look at it from the research intensive faculty perspective. Individual research program first, teaching second. Right? But the problem with this is that this is not how the institution seems these responsibilities- or it is, at least, not how they talk about them. I hear about a bazillion hours of stuff in meetings on curricular redesign, how and where lecture hours are to be delivered, and the needs of the professional/undergraduate students, and absolutely zero on developing a strong research program and managing and running a productive group. I spend countless hours fighting for small amounts of resources, mainly facilities type resources, that are necessary for me to get research done- it just doesn’t seem to be a priority of the institution. Sometimes it feels like their triage is the exact opposite of my triage… theirs is teaching first research second… and mine is research first… teaching second.

2nd Annual BLC Holiday Roundup

And so it goes. Another year. I’m going to try this holiday letter thing again- because hopefully I can only improve upon last time- so here goes.

We’ve had a busy year in the DrdrA Laboratory. A few high points included securing our own independent funding, publishing a few nice papers, putting in the tenure package, and graduating our first Ph.D. student. These were community efforts, if ever there were such, with everyone pulling 150%. My trainees now understand that my crazy-burning-the-midnight-oil hours have helped to keep them in their jobs for a few years more. In return, they know that I expect a lot from them this coming year. And I do mean A LOT.

But there are always a few low points, and to those I think we should confess- lest I repeat the same mistakes again in 2010. I’ve got to get faster about reading/editing and otherwise turning over manuscripts that come across my desk. There are still too many piled up here and they should be out, out, out the door. 2010 will be the year for this. Second, mentoring. Since I am shifting away from grant writing, I’m shifting back toward mentoring- and not necessarily more mentoring- but better, more effective mentoring. I realize I have trainees with all different personality types and that one size does not fit all for them. I’m going to enjoy getting to know them all better and figure out what works for each of them, and they are going to get pounded- each in their own way- to work on their own set of skills –bench, written and oral presentation. Data- and troubleshooting, do you ever find that you don’t look at the data enough? I just haven’t had enough time to ponder the data. And I need time for that. I’ll gladly reclaim that time in 2010.

As for the life part of the work-life balance, well, we’ve had quite a year there as well. BigA is a mid-career 6th grader with a 16 year old attitude. We are riding the roller coaster of teenage personality, wondering what happened to our quiet, well-behaved and ever-agreeable 5th grader. But we’ve been told that could even itself out in the 7th grade. BigA is very bookish (which we encourage), musical (which we also encourage), and full of interesting and mostly useless factoids (just like her dad, and of course he encourages that) that will someday make great cocktail party conversation. She likes mythology and the clarinet. Anyway, we are trying to teach responsibility, politeness, inquisitiveness, two languages, and a strong work ethic… she’s learning and we love her. She reminds me of myself at her age, a champion debater.

LittleA is, well, LittleA. Ever into mischief- can be the most loving and the most naughty child all at the same time. She’s the sporty one, playing the soccer goalie and really loving it. Fortunately for her parents she’s been pretty well behaved in school this year, and she seems to fit in there better than in the last couple of years. I suppose that was only a matter of maturity. Both girls love cooking, being outdoors, reading, pets (of which we sadly have none), and traveling.

As for me, well, I continue to work like mad, be a good parent/spouse, blog when I can, monitor my own aging parents, keep up with my sister and with friends. I do the best I can to balance all of these areas, and I think this usually works out. When things falls through the cracks once in a while I’ve stopped beating myself up about it- or at least I’m trying to. I’m older, and maybe a little bit wiser, and generally content with our state of affairs. DrMrA and I have our goals for the next few years set out in front of us and I feel like we are working on them together. We have solid jobs/careers that we enjoy, we have great family and friends, and we are all relatively healthy. I wish all those things for you now and in 2010.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to you all!

Anyone familiar with this site: Under the Microscope?

I noticed these guys following me on Twitter- so I followed the links to their site which can be found here.  Their mission is to:

Under the Microscope collects stories from women involved with science, technology, engineering, and math with the goal of publishing a survival guide for young women in science. Under the Microscope also publishes news, tips, interviews and profiles.

More specifically:

Because women are underrepresented in science, technology, engineeringand math, the goals of the Women Writing Science project are:

  • To increase for young women and the general public the visibility of women working in scientific fields and engineering.
  • To raise awareness about how women enter scientific careers inside and outside traditional pathways.
  • To provide young women with role models, images and accounts of women working in STEM fields.
  • To provide young women with widespread access to essential STEM concepts in especially interesting and socially-relevant ways.
  • To help parents and teachers use their influential positions and wisdom to encourage young women to pursue STEM fields.

Go on over there and have a look around if you have a minute!

For lack of a better topic…. (UPDATED)

I’M ALIVE!! Ok, I don’t really have any deep post topic today. I’m feeling constrained by that medium right now- so I’m just going to riff and we will see where that goes. Feel free to stop paying attention at any time.

I can’t believe it is 7 pm and I am only just now getting started with the things I want to do today. I told DrMrA just last night if I could get this blasted book chapter and a second piece of writing that I’m working on off my plate this week, I’d be a happy camper over the holiday. I could relax and polish up a manuscript- and maybe even submit it between the holiday and the new year…. We carefully went through the weeks negotiation about who would be home early on which nights this week, and who was taking care of what responsibilities with which kids… and when. The handoffs with the babysitter were carefully choreographed. Yeah, well, THAT was last night.

This morning the shit hit the proverbial fan. What’s that they say about the best laid plans?? Ours were bloody beautiful. But a couple of unexpected crises at my job are going to suck some of the little time that there is out of Monday, Tuesday, and probably Wednesday. Leaving Thursday (not my night to work late), and Friday (which, as it happens is an important family birthday for which we have dinner reservations, and the day I pick littleA up from school at 3 pm)…. for writing.


Ok, I’m calm. I can do this, NO SWEAT.

BUT- I’m not doing another book chapter until …say….2015. Don’t EVEN ask me. (I’m still learning about how to set boundaries)

I expect you all to remind me I said that when I pop out some chirpy sentence in the middle of a blog post somewhere about how delighted I was to be asked to do another.freaking.book.chapter.

Yikes. 7:22 now, better get cracking!

**UPDATE** And it just keeps getting better every time I turn around. Last night when called home at 9:22 pm- the kids were still up. The three of them (the kids and their dad) got a tongue lashing about bedtime being at 8:15, and about I don’t want to hear ANY whining about how tired everyone is this morning. Sheesh.

THEN, when I arrived home at 9:45 pm…. DrMrA announced that I am now also taking care of the neighbors dog for two days (WEDS, WAS my night to work late, and THURS)…. cause a relative passed away and they have to travel. (Seriously though-I don’t mind. Really.)

Just keep piling it on. I KNOW I’m being tested.

Early X-mas gifts

Child with fever and GI issues give me an early X-mas gift.

Two Actually:

Fever and GI issues.

I’m totally wiped out.

Lovely. She’s going to have to learn to wipe her own bottom.

(p.s. actually I can’t complain too much, we’ve had about a 1 to 1.5 year run with no illness at our house. An accomplishment unimaginable when my girls were younger.)

(p.p.s.- Gross- I know, but if you are going to have kids, you are going to have to toughen up.)