Archive for: July, 2012

time flies on by

Jul 26 2012 Published by under mentoring, queer, Uncategorized

This week has been a little ... crazy.

First there is only what can be considered a mentoring FAIL. I am writing a review article with a grad student, and I think it is fair to say that I royally botched it. It became clear (a little late in the process) that I had not given my very new graduate student enough guidance. This is not hir fault. My expectations were totally out of whack. So now I have spent the last week spastically writing the thing over, and will have to work to make sure that ze does not feel like a failure because so little of hir sentences show up in the final version.

But then things looked up! My wife sent me a picture of a super-cute fuzzy little puppy. And he gets to come and live with us! YAY for PUPPIES!

zOMG! It's a super-cute puppy!

And finally, today is my anniversary.* Nine years ago, my wife and I stood with a small group of friends by a nice stream, said some nice things, and then had a super dinner. It was awesome. We told Mini-G about the anniversary this morning and her immediate response was "so what are we doing?". It was super cute.


*A question that I always get when people hear it is my anniversary is: "Really? I didn't think that gay marriage was legal". Please don't be that person. My relationship is not recognized by the government, but that does not change the fact that today is my anniversary. FFS.



36 responses so far

We'll miss you, Sally Ride

Jul 24 2012 Published by under queer

Sally Ride died yesterday from pancreatic cancer (NASA obituary). She was only 61 years. When I was a little girl, Sally Ride was definitely a hero of mine. I had pictures of her on the space shuttle tacked up on the wall of my bedroom. I read her biographies, over and over. She was an inspiration to me, and probably a million other girls over the years. She will be missed.

I did not realize, before yesterday, that Dr. Ride was also a lesbian. She had been with her partner, Dr. Tam E. O'Shaughnessy, for 27 years. As Dr. Ride's sister, Bear Ride* said,

"I hope it makes it easier for kids growing up gay that they know that another one of their heroes was like them."

Sally Ride on board Challenger during STS-7 in 1983. Source: Wikipedia (

Rest in peace, Dr. Ride. And thank you.


*who has the best name ever, and also identifies as gay.


13 responses so far

This week in crazy

Jul 19 2012 Published by under exhaustion, This week in crazy, venting

UPDATE: When I wrote this, I was pissed off at how idiotic everything seemed. About the meanness. This morning I woke up to news of the Aurora theater shooting. Now I'm just sad, and kind of at a loss. My thoughts are with everyone affected by this tragic event.


I don't know what the hell is going on, but it seems that the heat is starting to get to people. Or maybe it is just getting to me. In any event, there was a lot of crazy stupid shit in the news this week. So today I'm gonna do a modified Fuck You Friday* to make you all share the pain.**

The first openly-gay engineer at the University of Kansas doesn't get tenure, and is left to wonder whether it is because the Dean is a stupid-ass homophobe.

The Lt. Gov. of Florida is accused by a former-staffer of being caught in a "compromising" position with a female colleague, but claims that this is impossible because she doesn't even look like a lesbian. What in the name of all fuck?! From Jezebel:

Get out your Awful Things To Say Bingo Cards and go right ahead and put a chip on the "Single bitch is just jealous of my awesome husband and life," "Lesbians all look the same," and "Marriage proves that I am moral and just" icons. Also, put a chip on the "Accuse someone of being a lesbian like it's an insult" card, because the crap is flying from both sides, folks.

For the record, Lt. Gov. doesn't actually deny the alleged lesbian encounter. Saying that "generally" women than look like her don't have relationships like that is both stupid and vague. I mean, generally, folks that look like her aren't Republican, but what-the-fuck-ever. Perhaps she is retroactively straight?

Dear Prudie decides that a PhD doesn't earn you the title of "Doctor".

It is not bragging to use Dr. if you are an physician, ... I have more of a problem with people with Ph.D.s using the Dr. title, which I think is better reserved for those with medical degrees.

Dear Prudie: STFU

Clorox's multi-cultural team comes up with bleach designed especially for Latinos. Because white folks like Lemon scented bleach, but the Latinos really dig the "Fresh Squeezed Lemon". Sigh. The new line is named Fraganzia, making everyone wonder what the "crack team" was smoking when they came up with this marketing strategy.


Some dude in Idaho used Craiglist to try get his wife raped.

Two GROWN MEN brutally beat the shit out of a TEENAGE GIRL while yelling anti-gay slurs in front of a church in Kentucky. Real fucking brave, assholes.

Zimmerman claims it is "God's plan" that he killed Trayvon Martin.

Fuck all this shit. What is fucking wrong with people? And how am I supposed to finish this manuscript if I can't stop swearing??


Pretty much the only redeeming thing about this week is that Sarah Silverman offered to scissor Sheldon Adelson in a bikini bottom (to fruition) if he would give his cash to Obama instead of Romney. If you haven't watched the video yet, DO IT NOW.

So there you go. Consider this a kind of open thread where you can bitch about the crazy in your world. Or share examples that might help restore my faith in humanity.

h/t to @drrubidium and an anonymous friend (that bought a pitcher of beer) for their help with this post.


*don't you miss Hermitage?

**Sweet baby jeebus, it is only Thursday and I can't take it anymore. I'm posting early, in the hopes that closing this post will make the crazy stop.

17 responses so far

out on the tenure track - sad story

Jul 16 2012 Published by under academia, queer

There was a fellow, Albert Romkes, who got a tenure-track position at the University of Kansas in Mechanical Engineering. When he came up for tenure, he got approved by his Department and School, but then was denied by the University level administrators (full story here). He was the first and only openly gay faculty member in the School of Engineering. There is no way to know why the Dean decided to deny tenure to Dr. Romkes. Some of the faculty and other members of the KU community feel like he was not treated fairly (there may have been some shenanigans with the "rules" applied by the P&T committee) because of his sexual orientation. KU, obviously, denies discrimination.

Romkes doesn't feel like he was actively tormented as an openly gay faculty member at KU, though it was apparently a little awkward to bring his partner to events. Still, this is what he has to say about the situation now:

"In hindsight, I should have mentioned it in the interview because I could have avoided a lot of misery," he says, "If anybody would have had a problem, they wouldn't have hired me, and I would have been better off. I would have done my work anyway, but at a different place. And I wouldn't have to deal with this issue."


h/t @bam294 for the link

19 responses so far

Gerty goes to study section, part 3

Jul 15 2012 Published by under academia, tenure-track OTJT

It is about time! I got a little distracted, but it is time to finish telling you all about my study section experience. In case you can't remember, in part 1 I wrote about how I ended up as an ECR on an NIH study section, and in part 2 went on about what I did leading up to the meeting. Now part 3 - the meeting!

You guys, the meeting itself was exhausting! We started at 7:30 am, and went until 6:00 pm. We were meeting in a conference room with a giant table. Everyone had an assigned seat, and you got a seating chart so you would know who everyone is. The first few minutes are milling about and getting coffee/pastries*, setting up your computer and getting it connected to the wireless, etc. Then the meeting starts with the SRO welcoming everyone and explaining the rules. You all check your COI form to make sure that it is correct. Then she hands the meeting over to the Chairperson of the study section.

The Chairperson then starts the review process. The first grant is announced, and anyone that is in conflict leaves the room. For each review, it basically went the way it is shown in the movie made by NIH. Each reviewer announces their primary impact score. Then the first reviewer gives a short description of the grant and what were the strengths/weaknesses that led to its score. Then the other reviewers add anything that they considered to drive their score. At this time, everyone else is listening and looking over the grant, particularly the Project Summary and Aims but you could pull up the whole grant on your computer.

After all the reviewers spoke, then anyone could ask questions. There were lots of questions. Questions could be about the science or the scoring. For example, you could ask a reviewer why they gave a grant a 1 but had many concerns about the approach. Or you could ask for clarification about what experiments they were (or were not) proposing. Or you could ask about the interpretation of the preliminary data. The reviewers answered the questions (which is why it is so important to make sure they have all the information they need to advocate for your project!). After 10 minutes or so the Chairperson summarizes the discussion, and asks the Primary Reviewer if there are any concerns about animal use or reagent sharing (seriously people, don't forget to fill these sections out). Then the original three reviewers announce their final impact score, which may (or may not) have changed. This sets the "range". The Chairperson then asks if anyone will be voting outside the range, and you have to raise your hand if you are. If you didn't say anything at all during the discussion but then indicate you are voting outside of the range, the Chairperson may ask why. They mostly want to know if it was something in the discussion or something else. Then everyone enters their score on the online form. And then on to the next grant.

The order that the grants were reviewed was based on preliminary impact score. The R01 from ESI were the first group, with the "best" scored grants first. We only discussed the top half, the rest were "not discussed" (aka triaged)**. But every grant was announced and we all had to agree to triage, so if one person wanted to discuss the grant, then it was discussed. After the ESI R01, we went through all the top half of the rest of the R01 applications. Midway through this group we got a 30 min break for lunch (seriously, it was a LONG day). Then we started on the R21 and R03. There were so many R21. SO MANY. After about 10 hours of this, we stopped and all of us went to dinner, which was pretty awesome. The SRO made sure I got introduced to everyone, especially the BSD in my field that were there, which was awesome. The next morning we met again to finish the R21. We worked through lunch, and finished early in the afternoon. It was crazy.

The whole process was fascinating, really. We all know that there is no formula that derives an impact score, but it is really amazing how each grant was evaluated differently. For some grants, the approach was KEY. But there were some where the reviewers noted significant concerns about the approach but still gave it a very good impact score because of the investigator, or vice versa (for instance). Every so often the SRO would interrupt the discussion to make sure that we were following the rules. For instance, we were not allowed to say "This grant would be better if they had controlled for widget frequency". You could only raise concerns. This was to prevent people from assuming if they did everything the reviewers "suggest" that they would get a better score. Because who knows? There were also some times that the SRO would ask someone to clarify their score, if it wasn't clear that they were following the scoring system rubric. This was to try to avoid score compression. There was also a program officer there, but she didn't say anything during the meeting, just watched.

Being on study section was really interesting experience. I think that I knew many of the concepts of what was happening (thanks for folks like DrugMonkey and PhysioProf, etc.). But seeing it in person really brought it all home.

Now all I have to do is translate this experience into my own successful grant!

Do you guys have questions, or requests to expand on something? I don't have a plan for a Part 4, but I am open to suggestions.


*apparently this is the last meeting that will have these, though. New rules prevent the NIH from buying food or coffee for these meetings.

**You get notified that day if you are triaged, based on my personal experience. But you don't get to see your preliminary scores for a while after that.

8 responses so far

Say it with me: XX are not inherently "bitchy"

Jul 10 2012 Published by under academia, gender

Today as I am flitting about spastically trying to get shit done before I leave town tomorrow, I was distracted by a conversation on twitter that pissed me off SO MUCH. I don't know how it started, I noticed when someone made a comment about hiring (I think it was Namnezia [ed: OK, so it was apparently ProfLike Substance. My bad - gz]) wondering if the boilerplate diversity statement "woman and minorities are encouraged to apply" actually did anything to encourage women or minorities to apply. A fair question, I think.

And then shit went off the rails. There are apparently a lot of tweeps that are urging their PIs to hire men for open positions in their lab. Not because the XY candidates are more qualified or anything. But because there are already "too many" females. Now, I think that most labs have too few members to make an argument about over- or under-representation (statistics of low n and such). I tried to ignore this conversation - I have a lot of shit to do! But I couldn't resist pointing out that the XX faculty are pretty underrepresented where I am. Other folks chimed in that this was true for them, too. Now this is just another anectdote, I know. But there is a certain amount of hand-wringing about the "leaky pipeline" that I think XX representation in science IS actually a problem*.

So why do the tweeps (many of them XX, btw) feel the need for more XY lab mates? Because "too may XX - more conflict/bitchiness/problems in the lab".

OH FOR FUCK SAKE PEOPLE. Can we stop with this already? Men are just as conflict-prone and bitchy as women. It is just that we hold it against the XX. This is the classic no-win situation. Please, stop this shit. Everyone. It drives me insane to hear WOMEN make this argument. Ladies. We can do better than this.

I think I may have bitched about this topic before.


*again, I'm a little swamped so I don't have time to look up the stats.

25 responses so far

Recruit and retain

Jul 07 2012 Published by under lab management, queer

One of the things that I struggle with as a new PI is recruiting the right people into my lab. I have been very lucky to get some excellent students, but it can be harder for new Asst. Prof.'s to get good postdocs. Recruiting and managing people is one of the biggest part of this job, IME. And it is scary! What if you recruit the wrong people? Yesterday on twitter, @drew_lab, who just opened last week (CONGRATS!) posed an important question:

I want to set up a lab that is both supportive of, and welcoming for, all kinds of diversity. Anyone have tips on how to recruit and retain?

I think that there is no doubt the Drew Lab is going to be an awesome place to work. Lab diversity is something that I have thought about quite a bit. I would love to hear what kind of tips you have to offer for the Drew Lab and me! I was specifically asked by the leader of the Drew Lab, @labroides, if it was OK for a straight man to put a rainbow sticker on his laptop* to show he was supportive of queer folk. In our conversation he even said he was not interested in a "straight but not narrow" version,

"I feel like it's saying I support gay rights, but please don't think of me as gay. As if that would be a bad thing."

I totally agree. All I can say is HOORAY for allies and increased visibility. RAINBOW STICKERS FOR EVERYONE!

Please, if you have other tips that can shape lab culture to be welcoming of diversity (in all its forms) please share in the comments 🙂


*this fantastic idea was put forward by Daniel at Grains of Sand, and included in the DiS Pride Carnival

11 responses so far

It's here! The DiS Carnival #17 - PRIDE!

Jul 05 2012 Published by under queer, Uncategorized

As promised, it is now time for the Diversity in Science Blog Carnival-PRIDE edition, brought to you by! This year, I asked queer* scientist and our straight allies to write in and describe what it means to be an "advocate". And we got a LOT of great entries! This is the first time I've ever hosted a blog carnival, but here goes 🙂

Jeremy Yoder, at Denim and Tweed, is going to the streets being a political advocate to introduce an amendment into the state constitution defining marriage as "one man and one woman" (same-sex marriage is already not recognized by law in MN). Basically, he is calling voters, one by one, and asking for permission to get married someday. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to have to try to calmly discuss such a personal thing with strangers, many of whom don't agree that you should have this basic right. I am cheering from him from far away, and hope that Minnesota can be the first state where the majority doesn't vote to restrict the rights of the minority. Visit the Minnesotans United for All Families site to learn more.

Other great examples of queer advocacy include Trey at Genomes Are Us, who is trying to convince software companies to make it possible to recognize "non-traditional" families in pedigree/geneology software. And there are some good videos up at Talk Nerdy to Me that are accessible descriptions of literature about whether being gay is nature vs. nurture. The description of the genetics seems reasonable to me, but the anatomy arguments I find more difficult to assess. But one of my favorite organizations for queer advocacy in STEM is NOGLSTP (the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals). NOGLSTP hosts an "Out to Innovate" career summit that looks FANTASTIC! You can read more about it at the Minority Postdoc site here.

Even though there are so many folks out there doing what is easily recognized as "advocacy", I was surprised to find that the over-riding theme that emerged from all the entries was that for many of us being out and visible is a major part of our advocacy. I think that this is really important, and the reason that I encourage everyone who can (safely) be out to do so. Being visible makes people realize that they KNOW someone who is queer. Obama mentioned that knowing queer families helped him "evolve". But being out also means that you are showing folks that you can be both queer AND a scientist. Jeremy may have spent the day collecting signatures for MN United for All Families at Pride, but he is an advocate every day because he is a gay man that does good science. I like his idea of queer advocacy:

I think that the point of advocacy is to try and leave the world a little bit better place for the next generation of queer kids, the ones who are just realizing they have to figure out how their orientation fits into the lives they've only just begun to build. In the spirit of It Gets Better, if good examples of how to be gay are what helped me come out, how can I not do my best to be a good example of how to be gay now that I'm out?

There were some entries from queer students that made me realize again how important it is to be visible. REALLY visible, if you can. This may be as easy as just showing up. Sarcoza, at Gravity's Rainbow, went to a brown-bag lunch event for LGBTQ at the Ecology meeting and was wondering where everyone was. She wonders if the queer scientists leak out of the pipeline because many of the jobs are in places that are unpleasant (or even unsafe) to live as a queer family. I know that local politics influenced where I was willing to apply for jobs, but I also agree with Zwitterionique and Moose (a guest post at Grain of Sand) that academic institutions tend to be pretty happy, liberal enclaves, though we definitely still have room for improvement. But I wonder if there is any data about the proportion of gay academics and state politics? Daniel, an ecology grad student that blogs at Grains of Sand, also noticed a lack of queer faculty. He wondered it there was an unwritten "don't ask don't tell" policy. Daniel started a local queer scientist group, and this has helped him to find a local community. Moose has also benefited from a local Queer Science group (I love this quote!):

I’m no longer that weird queer in a geek space or that weird geek in a queer space...

Being out and visible helps. From my own experience, I know that after I came out in graduate school there were some faculty that came out to me. I don't think many of them were generally out, but it was still great to have someone that I could talk to about some of the different aspects of being gay and on the academic track. Moose alludes to this also, telling how having an out faculty member made it easier to enroll in grad school. Like when to come out on the job market. Daniel thinks we should all stop apologizing for being gay when we go on the market, and embrace that being gay could make us stronger as candidates, perhaps highlighting the service work that we do as advocates. I think this would be great, but is a little optimistic. First, at least in my field, service work doesn't count for much when it comes to the job search**. Second, I think that it is still a little risky. I made the choice to be fully out during my tenure-track job search, and I will never know how much this affected my job search. I do know queer scientists that have been discriminated against in job searches. I think that everyone has to make the choice that is best for them and their family in this situation.

One great thing that I got from reading the posts from some of our young queer advocates out there are awesome little tips about how to be MOAR visible as a faculty member. One simple suggestion from Daniel was to put a rainbow sticker on my laptop, so folks could see it when I was lecturing. I LOVE THIS IDEA, and am totally doing it next year when I lecture. I was shocked the other day when I happened to mention my wife in front of some graduate students and one of them was really surprised that I was gay. This student then came out to me, which was pretty cool, TBH.

Advocacy, and visibility, can also help with our straight allies. Zwitterionique raised the importance of straight allies, who can advocate for queer issues as the "independent and impartial" viewpoint.

My most effective moments of advocacy are those when a straight someone advocates for the LGBT community.  That’s going to happen more often if people know someone who is queer.  So I’m fantastically out – all the time.

I will never understand WHY people who are less effected by laws that influence queer families are seen as better able to discuss these laws, but that is a whole other issue. We had some AWESOME posts from allies for our carnival. In an anonymous guest post, an out-and-proud ally wrote about how s/he works to make sure that queer folk are treated fairly in hir academic world, and makes sure to include LGBTQ-specific topics in lectures to medical students.

It means that when I teach bacterially transmitted infections that I point out which diseases are found in LGBT populations, so our future MDs know what to look for and which questions to ask their patients.

Mentioning the queer population to future MD's is great, IMO, and something that I hope more medical school faculty start to do. InBabyAttachMode realized when she was having a baby how not being able to check the "married" box [link added-gz] made things harder, administratively and emotionally.

I can only imagine how left out you must feel if you cannot take part in all aspects of a society just because of the gender of your partner.

Finally, Scientist Mother and Dr. 24 hours tell their stories of how they became allies, but not without hitting some speed bumps along the way. Scientist Mother raises some really important points about how cultural influences can make it even more difficult to safely be out. And I really appreciate how she described her transition into an ally:

To realize that you can do better, you’ll make mistakes and that you can become an ally by simply understanding that people are more than just who they love.

We all have to learn to be allies and I'm glad to know she is advocating for us! Dr.24hours recognizes that there were some great people along the way that helped him realize why he should be an ally. And he makes a super point that highlights what is important here, and what we are striving for with our queer advocacy:

Marriage, freedom, is not a zero sum game. I am not less free because someone else has the same rights as I do! My right to marriage is not less valid because someone else has the right to participate in another union which is also a marriage. My liberty is unrestricted by extending it to all. In fact, it is deeply, and greatly, enhanced.

NOTE ADDED IN PROOF: As I was finishing this post, I got another email with a great set of blog posts solicited by Stanford computer science professor Luca Trevisan in honor of Alan Turing's 100th birthday. They are all fantastic!  There is one by Luca Trevisan, who talks about how easy it was to come out in the CS field. Sampath Kannan also feels that the environment of CS and IT make it so that there is no reason to be in the closet for fear of negative reaction in the workplace. Günter Ziegler wrote a letter to Turing dedicating the Berlin Pride Party in his honor, which is fantastic. Irit Dinur also finds it easy to be an out lesbian in CS, except when it comes to traveling abroad to the US for postdoctoral work and sabatticals (GRRRR, USA. GRRR). There was also an essay from Oded Goldreich, a straight ally, who discusses practical and cultural aspects of being queer in TSC/TOC. All in all, from these posts it seems that the CS fields are pretty open and welcoming to queer colleagues, which is GREAT!

ANOTHER NOTE! Stephanie Miller has a great essay on the Minority Postdoc site about building coalitions in a networked world. She has some great points about the value of diversity and how the queer community can organize to increase our advocacy and integrate with other minority groups. Good stuff!

Thanks to everyone that contributed to the carnival! And feel free to add your thoughts about queer advocacy in the comments 🙂


The NEXT awesome edition of the Diversity in Science Carnival will be on the topic of "Disability Awareness, Disabled Community". You can find the complete schedule here. Don't miss it!

SOME OTHER LATE ADDITIONS [updated for new posts]:

Glacial Till has a post up about struggling to decide how to be a scientist, and finding "community".

There is a really fantastic post at En Tequila es Verdad that you shouldn't miss: On Tides, Visibility, and Quiet Revolutionary Acts.



[edited to add in Dr24hours post, which I missed. sorry!]
[edited AGAIN, this time to put in the DiS flair I forgot. Like I said, this is my first carnival! :)]

*For simplicity, I am including all non-cis and/or non-heterosexual folks with this term.

**I'm familiar with tenure-track job search in biomedical science. Other fields may be different, please tell us what it is like in your academic world in the comments!

18 responses so far

I'm back! And #DiS Pride Carnival is on the horizon!

Jul 01 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

I am back in town after a fantastic vacation with the family. I survived the heat and altitude, and didn't even do any work while I was gone! This is a new experience for me. Of course, that means that I'm now swamped but it was totally worth it.

Anyway, now that I'm back I will also be getting the Pride Carnival all organized :). So far there are some really excellent posts that have been submitted. I hope to get it out on Thursday, after the 4th of July (so the Americans here don't miss it). That means if you haven't submitted anything there is still time! See here for the full description.

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