Archive for: April, 2012

How do you say Vrgynya?

Apr 19 2012 Published by under awesomeness

If you don't watch Rachel Maddow, you should. She is smart and awesome. and funny. This segment is called "Virginia is for Vajayjay" and it is full of win.

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4 responses so far

Spring Cleaning

Apr 18 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

When I am in writing mode my office exists in one of two binary states: totally and immaculately spotless, or a toxic disaster zone. OK, it is probably not toxic. But you may find half a granola bar under that paper, so be prepared. ANYWAY. I am currently crazy busy, so yesterday, of course, I cleaned up my office. I am in this midst of writing my next R01 application, in addition to the two manuscripts on my desk (one is a review due in a month or so). I also have a lot of peer-review to get to, including abstracts from a conference where I am on the organizing committee, the applications I was assigned for my stint spying on study section, and a smaller internal pilot grant that I was asked to evaluate. In other words, the next six weeks are gonna be a little...exciting.

In the spirit of cleaning up before the disaster of the next six weeks, I have done a little blog upkeep. First, you will notice that you can now contribute to Scientopia! Just click on the little "donate" paypal button over there on the right. All the money we collect will be used to pay for operation costs so that we can keep the blogging going here. I also added a widget so you can share posts here on twitter or facebook, or even "like" or "+1" these posts. I have no idea if anyone does this, but it was pretty easy so what the hell.

Even though I am going to be crazy busy, I am pretty excited that I will be an "early career" reviewer at study section. I have booked my flight and have downloaded the three grants that I am assigned to review. I will try to follow the lead of PLS and share any general insights from this process. If there is something specific that you would like me to comment on, please let me know. So far, all I have learned is that there are significantly more grants this cycle than is usual, so the reviewers have been warned that the meeting will last a little longer than usual. Since I don't know what "usual" is, this doesn't mean that much to me.


UPDATE: DrugMonkey has a much better explanation of why we at Scientopia need the paypal button, plus a preview of some upcoming changes. Also, did you know that you could also buy Scientopia schwag? WIN!


7 responses so far

Equal Pay for Tax Day

Apr 17 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

Happy Tax Day, fellow Americans! I agree with DrugMonkey that we should all be proud to keep our side of the social bargain. I'm getting a refund this year, which means that the normal witholdings from my paycheck overpaid what I owed this year. But it's cool, I hope the government appreciates using my money for these last few months.

As a federally-funded biomedical scientist, I would like to thank the American taxpayer for supporting my work and research in general. I try to take time to go out and speak about my science to the taxpayers. It is both fun and challenging to talk about my research to the non-scientists that pay for it. But  us basic researchers need to get out and talk to folks if we want them to appreciate why what we do is important. So today, be proud of all the things that your tax dollars support. Fellow scientists, try to start a conversation with someone about why research is one of the important things that we as a society pay for.

Coincidentally, today is also Equal Pay Day. This is the day each year when the average woman FINALLY makes the same amount as the average man did in 2011. That is correct, women have to work over 16 months to make the same amount as men make in 12 months. Awesome, right? (no).


4 responses so far

When to disclose a second body

Apr 08 2012 Published by under academia, hiring

First, just to be clear. I am not talking about when to disclose where you have buried the second body (@Bam294) or thinking about a physics problem set (@eugeneday) or conjoined twins (@BabyAttachMode). I am talking about when you should disclose that you have a partner that will also need a position when you are searching for a tenure-track job.

The other day I was having a conversation with a colleague about their recent job search. If there is one thing that can really get you worked up, it is when your junior faculty search fails. You put in all that work, spent so much time with interviews, maybe had an uncomfortable (or damn unpleasant) faculty meeting, only to end up not hiring anyone. Now, Dr. Zen claims that folks in his part of the woods don't get irritated when they have a failed search. That is not my experience. We aren't upset at a candidate that decides to go somewhere else. But it is definitely not a happy time when we don't hire someone at the end of a search. Searches can fail for any number of reasons. A common reason,  the person you want to hire has several other offers and goes somewhere else. You can then find yourself chatting with a colleague trying to figure out why the job candidate didn't pick your department. Did they have an offer from Super Prestigious Uni? Did another program spend more on a startup than us? Did their adviser tell your friend that they really wanted to leave near a corn field? This is often just idle speculation, but after you put a lot of work into a search sometimes you just wanna know. You know?

Which brings me (finally) to the point of this post. When I was chatting my colleague, they seemed to think that their search had failed because of a two-body problem. Their top candidate had an offer somewhere else that was able to also provide a nice position for their spouse. Now, I don't really know if my colleague's dept. could have found (or even tried) something for the spouse. What caught my attention was that my colleague expressed the view that they wished candidates would disclose two-body problems up front in the job search process, even in the initial application.

My gut reaction is that this is a horrible idea. But I'm just one person. I went to twitter*:

There was a general consensus that no, you should not disclose this in your application. It is not relevant to your ability to do the job, and it is none of the search committee's business. All it could do would be hurt your chances of getting an interview. Dr. Isis put it bluntly, but this view was shared by many:

But there were a couple of tweeps that raised the same argument that my colleague had:

The argument here is that, if you did disclose your two-body problem, that this would give the department more time to come up with a "solution". The corollary is that if a dept. had no chance of EVER solving a two-body problem that they know that they shouldn't bother interviewing you. Because you would never be able to join their faculty. If you interviewed it would just be a waste of everyone's time. This is bullshit on so many levels. First, as I have argued before, IMO job interviews are almost NEVER a waste of time (for the applicant). There is a lot to be gained from interviews outside of a job offer. Second, I think that it is generally not a great thing when a search committee spends a lot of time thinking about IF a given candidate will choose to join their department. It is true that at some level "recruitability" is going to be something that the committee cares about (see above about not wanting to end up with a failed search). But it is not our job, as a search committee, to decide for someone if they want to take a job on our faculty. There are lots of people that live apart from their spouse. I don't have to, thankfully, but I would be pretty pissed if I wasn't offered a job because this was not an option. Who is the search committee to make this decision for me? DrugMonkey also brought up that another problem with gating on "recruitability" or "fit" can be the exclusion of anyone that is at all "different" (read from bottom to top):

It may be that I have not sat through enough searches, but my limited experience suggests that women are more likely to have a two-body "problem" during a search. I cannot explain this (men get married, too!). I suspect that women are more up-front about the second body.

What would you tell a postdoc that was getting ready to go on the job market with a second-body problem? Would your advice be different for a man vs. woman?

For those of us that have to sit on search committees: what do you think is the best way to handle a two-body problem?



Here is what I would advise my hypothetical postdoc: Bring up the second-body the minute you have an offer, and not a second sooner. At that point, the faculty has decided they REALLY want to hire you. There is incentive to "solve" the "problem". Instead of just avoid it.




*thanks to all the tweeps that jumped into the conversation!

36 responses so far

imposter? who, me??

Apr 05 2012 Published by under academia

Although things have been crazy the past week or so, but I have been reading with interest the posts about the Imposter Syndrome. The first I ran across was from Scicurious, and then Dr. Isis (and many others by now, but I don't have time to link to everyone--SORRY! I think there is a Carnival going on, so hopefully all the posts will be collected there.)

I have found that starting my own lab is both awesome and terrifying. Is this IS? I don't know. There is nothing more exciting than getting the keys to your own lab. But shit gets real very quickly when you are standing, alone, in an empty lab. Just a big room with empty shelves. So quiet. And empty. You can maybe hear the clock ticking. It's lonely. It is still hard for me to believe that I am not going to crash and burn in this job. My lab is still in the process of getting going. The room isn't empty anymore...but we haven't put out a paper from my group yet. I'm still learning how to be a good mentor. This is especially terrifying, because I have some really good students. If they fail it will be largely on me. My stomach churns thinking about this.

When I start freaking out too much, I try to take a deep breath. Maybe have a drink. And realize that, in the end, all I can do is try. Do the best I can. Write grants, interact with students, try to get experiments done so we can write papers. To carry on Sci's sports analogy (because I like to run, so it works for me): this job is like a marathon. You have to just keep going, even if it feels like you are running into a wall. In the end, it doesn't really matter if you finish first or last. As long as you finish. I don't look at it like a race against my competitors. When I race, I'm trying to beat myself. What is the absolute best I can do? If I end the race feeling like I really did give it my best shot, then I won. I am trying to have a similar attitude for my race down the tenure track. It can sometimes be very hard sometimes to NOT feel like a failure. Or that I am letting someone down. But then I remind myself that I am leaving it all on the track. If I don't make it to the finish line, it won't be because I held something back.

5 responses so far