Co-first bullshit

(by gerty-z) Aug 25 2016

Academic credit is based on publications. This is not news to anyone, of course. Most papers (in biomedicine) have more than one author, which means that at some point there has to be a decision on what order to put the authors in. There is a standard sort of rule (again, in biomedical-type fields, other fields have their own conventions):

First author - the student/fellow/trainee that did most of the work.
Middle author(s) - people who helped out with experiments or contributed unpublished reagents, etc.
Last author - the PI of the group. In general, the person that you direct correspondence to regarding the paper.

For us biomed types, you get the most "credit" for a paper if you are the First author or the Last author. First author credit gets you a good postdoc, maybe a PD fellowship, and hopefully a job. Last authorship gets you tenure and grants. Middle authors get ... a pat on the back, a high-five for collaborating/playing well with others, a line on your CV (which can be a big deal).

Sometimes it is not that easy to decide what order the authors will be listed. Maybe two labs collaborated and one grad student from each group did a lot of work. Maybe a new postdoc picked up and finished up a project that had been started  by a different lab member.  Maybe you have a conjoined twin. Whatever. Discussions and wrangling about order of authors can get nasty, because we all recognize the importance of being First or Last author. Some folks have tried to get around this by designating Co-First authors. Maybe this placates someone who thinks they should get more credit. That's crap, as DrugMonkey and CPP, and probably a million others have said before.

The problem is, this is bullshit because there can only be ONE First first author. The second co-first author is NOT first. This came up on twitter today when I noticed a tweep proposing SWITCHING the order of co-first authors on a CV. This is a BIG NO-NO!! Yes, I understand that if the co-first authors were really equal contributors that it wouldn't matter. But that is not the reality. And if I read your CV and look you up on Pubmed and the author list has been changed, then I'm going to look at your application like CPP - with extreme prejudice. Maybe not everyone has the same view...but do you want to take the chance that your CV gets trashed? Don't do it.


24 responses so far

People call me "sir" (or, gender: I haz it)

(by gerty-z) Aug 20 2016

Of course I get the occasional (very frequent) email addressed to "dear sir". But that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about when the cashier asks me, "what can I get you today, sir?". It can be a server at a restaurant asking, "sir, can I bring you another drink?". It happens to me quite a bit - at least once a week, I would estimate. In other words, I get "misgendered" - I identify as female, but someone else assumes I am male. I misgendered someone once (that I know of). It was awkward and horrible and I apologized So Much. I didn't know them well, but I should have known better. Or to at least asked. Ugh. I'm still embarrassed thinking about it.

Being misgendered used to bother me. I don't present as super feminine, and I have short hair, but ... I don't know, it just bothered me. I have other secondary sex characteristics* that identify me as female, so being misgendered made me feel unseen. But I kinda also like it. I remember once, in 4th or 5th grade there was a substitute teacher that misgendered me (I have a gender-neutral first name). So I spend they day pretending to be a boy: I lined up with the boys for lunch and recess, etc. My classmates thought this was hilarious. I was ... ambivalent? Looking to be accepted? I don't even know. I went along with it, though. Until another teacher set things straight ad then I was just embarrassed. After that I let my hair grown out so I was more clearly a "girl". Because being a kid is hard and you do what you can to survive.

I think that maybe this is the problem - I've never been really comfortable with gender presentation. I don't feel comfortable lining up with "normal" female standards, but I don't consider myself male. I am coming to actually love that I'm a little androgynous, and I have started to actually play that up. I guess some would characterize me as "butch", but for some reason that doesn't really feel right either.

ANYWAY. Here is the point I was aiming at - this is not an easy place to inhabit as a jr faculty. It's pretty well accepted that women (especially younger women) get worse student teaching evals than men. I can't help but think that my evals were also negatively influenced by the fact that I am clearly gender-nonconforming GLBTQIA*. And also, I am relying on a (mostly old-white-dude) senior faculty to vote to give me tenure. But I KNOW I make some of these guys uncomfortable. I try to tone things down and just be generic, because I don't want to make this an issue.

I don't know what the best way to handle this is. I am just trying to stay honest to myself, but I can't pretend that the awkwardness of having to correct folks - at the coffee shop or in faculty meeting - don't wear on me. Chalk it up as another hurdle that non-cis-hetero folks have to deal with, I guess.




10 responses so far


(by gerty-z) Aug 16 2016

I love seminars. For real, no sarcasm. I go religiously, and I expect everyone in my group to show up every week unless they have a good excuse. There are so many times that I learn things in (seemingly unrelated) seminars that open up new ways to think about our research. New techniques, new insights ... all the new things!

This is why I take my seminar series committee appointment so seriously. It's not just for me - I want to make sure that every seminar is awesome. I want to make sure that we bring in a diverse group of speakers - diverse in research topic, in race/ethnicity, in what institutions they work, etc.

My diversity goal is a little selfish - I want to hear ALL the coolest things. But also, I believe that it is very important to have a diverse seminar series for the graduate students. I want students to see that lots of different kinds of people can be successful and do cool things. One easy way to start on the path to this goal is to make sure that you have a good representation of women and under-represented minorities giving seminars.

The argument I hear a lot is that there just aren't enough "good" women/URM to invite for a seminar. I think this is bullshit - it just is not an ingrained response to think of the non-white-dude. So, a while ago I made a post just to list women that give awesome seminars. I hope you will go add to that list, so everyone can use it. And feel free to add URM speakers, too (regardless of gender)!

I was motivated to post this because Dr. Zen mentioned me on twitter in response to a question about how to pick good seminar speakers. Thank you, Dr. Zen!!


One response so far

I'm going up for tenure!

(by gerty-z) Aug 15 2016

Hello, friends. I hope you are enjoying your summer break (or enjoyed, if you have already started classes again). This is a special year for me. See, I'm up for tenure, at a MRI that has an "up or out" policy. That means I either get promoted (with tenure), or I get fired because my contract will not be renewed.

I've turned in my tenure dossier - research statement, CV, teaching evaluations, list of folks that I think should write letters for me - and now, I wait. This sucks so much. I know that I did the best I could, considering*. But still, this is a Big Fucking Deal. And all I can do is wait. UGH!!!!

Well, that's not entirely true. Because there is other stuff to do. I have a few papers that need to get out. They should have been out already, in a perfect world, but it turns out that being a single mom*, teaching, running a lab, and all the other stuff took up some time so I'm a little behind on the paper submissions. But we have some good stuff, that is ready to go. It's gotten good responses at conferences. I think they will be good papers.

Now I'm stuck in this weird place between being tenured and being fired. Part of me is looking forward to what I might want to do if I get the Tenure. Another part of me is planning for when I don't. Reaching out to folks to see if they have job openings (your tenure packet is very similar to a job application, conveniently). I don't really want to leave my MRU - I have some amazing colleagues and incredible collaborators. But I have to be prepared. So, here I am, on the job market again. UGH.

I thought starting up the lab was hard (it was). This is another hard part. But I have such an awesome group, and a fantastic support network now. Even though I am scared and nervous and scared ... it's nice to know I have folks here on my side.


*details will probably follow. I miss writing here - it is good for me, and I want to pick it up again.

18 responses so far

grieving with my queer family

(by gerty-z) Jun 13 2016

This weekend, an asshole walked into Pulse, a gay bar in Orlando. It was Latinx night. It's Pride. The club was packed with dancing queers. Pulse was a safe place, maybe the only safe place for some of them. Until this asshole decided to start shooting. He shot over 100 people, and 49 have died.

My heart is broken. I can't stop thinking of all the folks whose lives have been shattered. The folks who lost loved ones. Those that were injured and will carry this with them for the rest of their lives. For all the queer folks in Orlando that had their safe place turned to carnage, and won't feel safe again for a while. For the folks that were outed by because they were at the club that night and now have to worried that they could get fired or lose their homes - because it is 100%  legal to fire and discriminate against someone for being gay in Florida.

I'm grieving for all my queer friends and my chosen family.

I'm so lucky that I can live openly. I am honored that I can be a role model, mentor, and safe place for others. One of the most gratifying parts of my jobs is cheering on the young queer scientists that are totally rocking it. But I'm scared. I know how it feels to have to consider where you are before you hold your girlfriend's hand. I have a habit of always scanning faces as I walk down the street so I know if I've caught someone's attention. I have had men (always men) leer at me if they saw me kiss my girlfriend. I have felt the anxiety of walking at night and coming across a group of guys and hoping they weren't a bunch of homophobes that might want to "convert" me to heterosexuality (aka rape). I've had strangers yell at me on the sidewalk and tell me that I'm going to burn in hell.  I've walked down a street with a gay friend and been concerned that he was going to get beat up. These things have all happened in what would be considered "safe" places. And I'm one of the lucky ones. I've not been beaten up for being gay, or fired, or evicted, or had my daughter taken away from me.

There is homophobia all around us. People that can't bake a fucking cake if gay people will eat it. Politicians that argue that same-sex marriage should be outlawed, and that pass "religious freedom" laws that make it legal to discriminate against LGBTQI* people (and the people that vote for them). Every news organization that didn't mention that the shooter targeted queers, and erased the victims of this horrible crime. Religions that teach it is sinful to be gay. People concerned about the gay agenda. Mix in easy access to fucking assault rifles and people die.

The LGBTQI* community is a target of violence. In the first 5 months of 2016 at least 10 transgender people have been murdered. Sexual orientation was a factor in 20% of hate crimes in 2013.

I am grieving. I am angry. And I am scared. So I'm going go grab a beer at my local gay bar. I will take comfort in my queer community, and we will start to heal together.

Because in the end, love WILL win.


A gathering of queers and allies outside Stonewall, in support of our friends in Orlando. source

4 responses so far

Mentoring Junior Faculty

(by gerty-z) Apr 29 2016

I'm nearing the end of my run as a assistant prof - which means that I am on the brink of either getting tenure or getting fired.* When I started my faculty appointment, there was a lot of discussion about how to mentor the jr faculty (me). Now I'm looking back on how things unfolded, and I have to say ... I'm not really convinced that the mentoring attempts helped me all that much. Which has started me thinking about how (if) the process could be changed so it was more effective.

First, how it went for me: in my department, each new faculty member puts together a "mentoring committee" of senior faculty that they choose. I picked several folks that I really respected (though I didn't really know them that well). We met once a year to discuss my progress, and then a letter was written (by them) and forwarded to the Chair for my file. The folks on my mentoring committee are awesome, and I know that they genuinely wanted to help me. But, TBH, most every one of our meetings could be boiled down to "Get grants and publish papers, and you will be fine". This is not exactly breaking news. I also had "unofficial" mentors - people who I got to know and who I would visit when I needed advice/sounding board for dealing with the everyday trials of running a research group (this group included many of my formal mentors but also other jr faculty and colleagues from other departments). These conversations were hugely helpful, as they helped me deal with situations in real time.

When I started, I thought that a formal mentoring committee would be super helpful. Now I'm not so sure. I'm wondering if there is a better way to mentor junior faculty. We don't need to hear (again) about how we just need to get papers and grants. We know that. There has to be a better way - but what is it?

Seriously. Is there something you do that is awesome for mentoring junior faculty? Does it ever work, or is this just a useless exercise to make the administrators feel like they are doing something?


*Knocks on wood, crosses fingers, makes sacrifice to gods of academia

16 responses so far

If it doesn't kill you...

(by gerty-z) Apr 18 2016

Lab safety is important. Really fucking important. We sometimes use some pretty crazy compounds in our work, and I expect the folks that work for me are trained and astutely follow the rules so that they (and their lab mates) are safe.

But labeling is out of fucking control and does more harm than good. Every fucking thing in our chemical room has some sort of "hazard" label - but it is not all hazardous. I get the "err on the side of caution" argument. But if every-fucking-thing is dangerous it is not always clear what you should actually be careful with.

And then there is the companies that try to profit off of a false sense of security. For example, ethidium bromide, a DNA stain commonly used to see your bands on a gel. Everyone is always told how horrible and terrible EtBr is. Turns out that is a load of horse pucky. The ridiculous hoops you jump through to "detox" EtBr are more dangerous than the actual chemical! But those "safe" alternatives to EtBr?? The ones that cost about 10x more and don't work quite as well?? Actually not safer (based on mutagenicity/toxicology).

Lab safety should be a real, thoughtful discussion. Not a knee-jerk-cover-the-university's-ass stupid exercise in pointlessness.

2 responses so far


(by gerty-z) Apr 13 2016

Subtweets are real. Sometime, I tweet about people and don't identify them. It amuses me. But here's the thing. I'm prolly not talking at you. Or about you. So I made a new hashtag to remind folks of this - #DINETAY (Dude, I'm not even talking at you). I get snarky about all sorts of things. Most of them are not you. Get over yourself.

You know who you are.

2 responses so far


(by gerty-z) Mar 15 2016

It's that time again. Lucky for me, a blog patron (I assume? I got an email) has picked up the mantle and totally organized a brackets-for-a-good-cause event (Yes, I'm totally cheating here...*).

Here are the deets (that's short for details):

We are trying to fund a student-lead engineering STEM program in a high poverty neighborhood, so invite your buddies to play as well! Players who are PIs are asked to donate $10 per bracket and students players are asked to donate $5 per bracket by Thursday, March 17th at 10 am EST. Pool manager bethann the great welcomes you back and is looking forward to another great tournament filled with epic upsets and buzzer beaters. This is an honor system, so be honorable 🙂 The winner of this year's bracket gets....BOOKS! You'll get three amazing and inspiring books on time and management that were featured on Good luck and tweet at us via @edgeforscholars or @mclneuro !

You can also find a bracket here



*The edge for scholars looks AWESOME - you should absolutely check it out!!

*OMG A REAL PRIZE!!! So Fucking Amazing

UPDATE: The project is FUNDED!! Here are some new projects that could also use some help:

Frog Pond FUNDED!
Metamorphosis FUNDED!
Microscopes! FUNDED!
Science kits for special needs classroom
Owl pellets

9 responses so far

My rescuers

(by gerty-z) Mar 10 2016

So, DrugMonkey has tagged me a blog meme. And I've been meaning to come back over here more now that things are settling down* So, here goes. Who are the five characters from movies/TV that i want to come in and rescue me from a "bad situation"

hmmm. i don't watch that much tv, but ...

  2. Rachel Maddow
  3. Michonne
  4. Arya Stark
  5. BanditoKat

I'm not sure any of my picks are "stable" ...


*hahahahaahhhaaa No they aren't, but whatev

One response so far

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