As I'm going through the final push through the process of getting tenure, I need to take a minute to say thanks to the folks that have helped me so much over the last 6-ish years.
I've been very lucky to have some really great mentors. I'm not really impressed with formal "mentoring committees", but I have absolutely benefitted from some great people who have helped me along in this journey. People that help me figure out what to do when there are issues managing my lab, or ordering, etc. And there are also those folks that sometimes take me out for a drink and (sometimes) give me a quick kick to the ass. Thank you to everyone!!
I want to take one small moment to shout out to DrugMonkey, who has been so incredibly helpful. If you don't read DM's blog you are missing out. Interacting with DM has helped me so much. I've gotten practical, realistic advice that has helped me learn my way around the NIH funding system. And I've gotten some of the best mentoring out there - advice, encouragement, commiseration.
I wanted to let you all know that I will be out of town for a conference...last week. ooops! Better late than never, right? Since you asked...the conference was a huge success!! This was a relatively large meeting for my field, but I have been around long enough that I feel like I know *almost* everyone. It was great to catch up with everyone, I laid down the foundation for a couple of collaborations, and I think that I may have a couple of nibbles for some postdocs (fingers are crossed!).
The most exciting thing about this meeting is that it was the first meeting that I took all my students to! They did great. More precisely, I assume they did great. I saw them at lots of sessions but they didn't spend a lot of time with me. I introduced them to as many folks as I could and they are all RAMPED now that they are back in lab! They are reading more papers and I have overheard several conversations about talks and posters they saw at the meeting. More importantly, they all seem genuinely excited about their own research projects and how they fit in with the rest of the field. Hopefully this will translate into some research results over the summer 🙂
The lab dynamic at meetings is interesting to me. For all my training I have been going to these meetings pretty much solo. I don't know why, but the folks that I have worked with before were never really "travellers". I guess after a point you don't have to be. And I was in pretty small labs, with only a couple of other students/postdocs. This meant that when I was at a meeting I didn't even have the option of hanging out with my fellow lab mates. But I know this is not really the norm, because a lot of the folks that I talk to at meetings hang out with other people from their home lab. A LOT! This confuses me a little, because I like meeting new people (and talking to folks that I can't see everyday) when I'm at meetings. So, I was actually pretty happy that my lab peeps were independent enough to navigate this meeting without my help. I guess now I know that next time I should plan ahead if we are going to arrange a lab-bonding experience at the next conference!
What do you think? Do you hang in a group with your lab mates at conferences, or are you more of a solo traveller?
As you may know, my department is in the middle of a junior faculty search. I went through the search process as a candidate last year, but this year I'm sitting in the room on the other side of the process. It is...illuminating. The process has certainly made me see some of my new colleagues from a very different perspective.
First, the statistics: we had almost 600 applicants for our position. 30-50 were very, very good. We picked less than 1/4 of these to interview.
I noticed that there were several women that disclosed in their application that they were married to male scientists that would also be looking for a job. Many of these women were REALLY good. In fact, I would say that all of the men were the trailing spouses. We did not interview ANY of these women (or men). I would like to know who gave these applicants the HORRIBLE advice to disclose this info in the initial job packet. Negotiating a two-body issue is something that happens after a job offer has been made. Please, women of the sciences that aspire to the tenure track: DO NOT MENTION YOUR MARITAL STATUS IN YOUR COVER LETTER.
And now, a thing that really pisses me off: the extra scrutiny. I have noticed that the white d00ds that I work with have a habit of looking at certain candidates a little more closely than normally. Not in a good way. For instance, when women did not mention a 2-body problem, there was generally some discussion about whether we could "guess" if there was a second body. This was NEVER brought up for male candidates, though I assume that the men were just as likely to be married to another scientist. But the real kicker was that EVERY single non-white sounding name would lead my colleagues to reveal that they are assholes. People would wonder whether their English was "understandable". Yes, we do some teaching in our department. BUT SERIOUSLY, these are folks that have had a very successful postdoc. They wrote papers and gave talks at conferences. Many have been in the US since they were undergraduates. WTF?!
And then, there were a few instances of bad behavior that made me so mad that I wanted to throw something. I am not going to go into details with these, because I would like to maintain some level of pseudonymity. These events often involved ridiculous statements made directly to candidates. And this is when everyone was supposed to be on their best behavior!! I tried to "nudge" my more senior colleagues when I witnessed these incidents. I tried to explain why their "innocent" statements were offensive (in the most respectful way possible). On one occasion I was so horrified that I even went to the Chair to make sure he knew what was going on.
So, here is a question for my esteemed reader(s): as a junior faculty, should I just shut my trap and keep my head down? Or should I keep pointing out when things are fucked up, in the hopes that I will be able to "nudge" the d00ds to behave better?
>So, what should you do when you think that a colleague is taking advantage of a graduate student?
First, some background. I moved across town to start my own lab. This has several practical consequences. First, and most awesome, I can move my experiments from one place to another with minimal interruption. But what I want to focus on today is that I already know most of the faculty that are my colleagues. Generally, this is good. I had a super postdoc and I get along with almost everyone in the community. But there are also bound to be kind of awkward times, as these folks have to accept me into the secret faculty club and realize that I know the handshake, too.
This brings me to the current situation. I was talking to a graduate student the other day. It was a hallway interaction, she had not searched me out for advice. I have known this grad student for several years, and she is one of the superstars in a highly-ranked graduate program. By every metric, she should be graduating. Now. Turns out, her advisor has been suggesting that she stick around for another year or two. In return, she can "take what she works on with her". WTF? That doesn't make sense. Where exactly is she taking this "new project"? To her postdoc in some other lab? We are in one of the biomedical fields where a postdoc is required to stay on the academic track, which is what she wants to do.
As I pressed further, Pre-doc superstar told me that she is the only person in the lab that knows how to work the Magical Data Machine. She is also, bar far, the most productive person in Dr. Advisor's lab. If she sticks around for longer, she will probably publish one or two more papers. But she will have a LONG graduate career. I think that Dr. Advisor is thinking more about his own lab than the career of Pre-Doc Superstar.
I told this student that I thought she should move on to learn something new. That I felt staying in the Grad Lab was not the best move for her, career-wise. I told her that it was not her job to worry about Dr. Advisor's lab, but that he should be more concerned about her career development. I also told her to ask other faculty in the program for advice. I generally get along with Dr. Advisor, though we have had our moments. Hopefully this won't come back to bite me in the ass.