Archive for: December, 2017

2017 Resolution Revisit

Dec 27 2017 Published by under resolutions

At the beginning of this year we shared some of our goals for the upcoming year. Here are some updates on how we’ve done.

How has your year measured up to expectations? Please share your success (and failures) in the comments!

peírama: Last year I had three goals. To gain confidence in order to progress my career, to eat healthier, and to have a positive impact on my community. I have done pretty well. I would not say that I am much more confident, but I am somewhat more confident and I have gotten a new job where I feel respected. Also, in the process of actually getting a job and starting it, I have learned more about myself and the people around me that has made me more confident because it gave me a new lense on the world.

I have eaten healthier in fits and starts, although that has pretty much gone out the window with the holiday season. It feels good to know I can eat healthier, though, because it makes me feel in charge of my health and not as guilty when I do decide to choose the less healthy options occasionally.

As to having a positive impact on the community, I have done that through getting involved. I am involved in my local women in science group; I joined the leadership and advocacy team of Planned Parenthood, which supports reproductive health equity; and I joined the PTA and got involved in the fundraiser. Sometimes it feels like a lot, like maybe I’m doing too much. At the same time, it feels so good to be doing something to make the community I live in one to be proud of and to do my own little part to fight the bigotry and uncaringness that sometimes feels like it will swallow us all.

 

SweetScience: I accomplished my main goal – transitioning to a new job! It wasn’t what or how I expected at all, but I am so happy that this is happening. Unfortunately I am still transitioning out of my old position, but I think I am doing this as gracefully as the situation allows. I will definitely have some lingering tasks over the next months that will keep me tied there in my “free time”. I completely failed my resolution to be a better family member and gift-giver. But my new job will give me so much more flexibility that I am confident I can improve this in the future! My transition still being in-progress, I have not settled into a new community and local service as planned, but I have continued as much charitable giving as I could manage. Honestly, I’m just happy I survived this year.

 

Curiouser&Curiouser: My big goal this year was to transition to being a mom and it went really well. I love it (something I was worried about) and while I’m still learning how to deal with the lack of sleep this has been my happiest year ever.

I had to leave work a month early because of complications with the pregnancy so I asked for and accepted help more than ever the first half of this year (one of my 2027 goals). The project continued without me and while some things were not done as I would have done them, the project is ongoing and my transition out and back in has been pretty smooth. As for my other work-related goal, I’m not sure that I’m on track with my career but I’m working on it.

 


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Jealous.

Dec 22 2017 Published by under Uncategorized

Thursday night. Christmas tree glowing in the corner. Stillness. My husband is hanging out with friends. He won’t be home for hours. I hear quiet soft snores of my boys coming through the still evening air at me in waves. Cats trying to jump in my lap. Walking around me in circles. Looking in my eyes. Dog nuzzling me. Another gulp of wine.

My legs are still cold from sitting on the harsh concrete. I was sorting, looking, folding. Baby clothes. I still have them. From the time when my boys spilled all of their homemade food on them – quinoa, peaches, blueberries… From the time I tickled their tummies with my nose and they laughed hysterically and then grabbed my hair in a nonchalant fashion and tried to pull it in their mouths. From the time I cried, leaving them in their cribs, running into another room, listening to them cry, thinking how I couldn’t take it any more –there was only one of me and two of them. But they were babies. So chubby and lovely and sweet-smelling. That intoxicating smell of their heads. I don’t remember the smell, but I remember the oxytocin surge, filling my heart with pride, with love, with this immense feeling, larger than life, I never felt before and never thought I could until the moment that I did. Yes, the clothes, the clothes of the boys in the gigabytes of photos, with them smiling, or frowning, getting into mischief, or feeding the cat, or falling asleep sitting up.

My husband had a vasectomy exactly a year ago. We won’t be having any more babies. We are so grateful for the two amazing boys we have. Can’t believe they’re half-way done with first grade already. But I haven’t been able to part with their baby clothes. Yes, some went to some of my friends, and that felt good. But today was the last of the newborn – 12 month clothes I put together in a bag for a mom in need. I don’t know her. She is someone the PTA is trying to help out. I hope these clothes will be loved and snuggled with and photographed as many times as they were seven years ago. And the favorite ones, although snug, still getting yet another day, one more picture, one more laugh. Tomorrow when I drop them off, the emotional attachment to these clothes will finally be severed. We will have extra room in the garage.

I couldn’t have any more kids. It would break me, I am sure. Not sleeping, for what felt like eternity, after having twins. Not being able to carry on an adult conversations, not remembering simple things – basic science I learned in grad school. But I’m jealous. I’m so jealous of other women, who despite the hardships still want to have yet another baby. And do. And snuggle and bond. Gaze at them as they pop off the breast, falling into a milk coma. Or get that coveted smile that no one else in the room does. Or hold them and listen for their pouts quiet down, because at that stage, only mommy can do that kind of magic.

I chose my career – and that was the right choice for me. It fills me with a sense of accomplishment and joy, leaves me challenged and frustrated, hungry for more. There is only my immediate family at the end of the day. There is no room for a baby. But I still feel so much. Jealous.


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What’s in a name?

I defended 7 years ago this month…. and I’m still a Research Scientist 1.  I had hoped to be up for a promotion last year because I felt like I kicked butt all year. When I had my year end review, my supervisor said I did great and was up for the top merit bonus… but no mention of a promotion.  I mustered up the guts to ask how I was doing “in terms of career development” and he said “Great! You’ve only been with us for 2 years and it usually takes ~5 to get a promotion so you are right on track.”  I was bummed but I was also 5 months pregnant (and sick as a dog) so I had other things on my mind and I let it go.
It took me a little time to get back into the swing of things once I came back from leave in September.  But now I feel like I’m back and ready to take on really juicy interesting projects. I’m also looking around and seeing that other people in other departments are getting promoted and I feel like I am getting left behind. I’m starting to worry about my ability to transfer to a new company… will it be held against me that I’m still a Research Scientist 1?
Some days these thoughts/worries motivate me, make me work harder and try more.  I skip pumping sessions and pick up the baby late so I can squeeze more data out or be at a meeting hoping my presence and input might be the little bit extra to push me over the edge into an “early” promotion.  Other days not getting a promotion makes me question my ability and value as a scientist. Should I just quit and stay home with my new baby? Open an Etsy shop?  Paint?

I recently started talking with a new mentor in the Contracts and Alliances group who suggested I might be able to try out her group or Project Management. I thought about it long and hard (and after some twists and turns) I talked to my supervisor about it. He was supportive but also encouraged me to stay the course if I wanted to stay a scientist. I decided not to pursue it at this time but I still feel torn. It’s hard to move forward when I can see so many interesting options and feel under appreciated (sometimes). I think the idea of not being a scientist anymore is also really sad/scary to me… who would I be?  Would I be happier in a different profession?  For now I’m just trying my best at work and sorting through the options hoping for the patience to take the time to see how things go in the new year.


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The current state of science career paths

Dec 14 2017 Published by under advice, alternative career, women in science

We recently received an email asking the following: “I just wondered if you had any words of advice on how to manage the love/hate relationship with the current state of science career paths?”

peirama answered in a previous post. Here are a few more answers:

Danielle: I became very jaded during my PhD, it seemed like I was trapped in a low paying job that I couldn’t quit. All I could see were the problems with the field. The toxic advisors, the low pay, the uncertainty, the lack of benefits and stability. With some distance from that experience, I know that for me that was a necessary part of identifying what kind of a scientist I want to be. Being a PI and running a research group is not a realistic career option for me. I love research, but I also love my family, making a better income, and weekends. I could not commit to the protracted low-pay of the postdoc training period or the geographic uncertainty of the faculty job search. I love working with scientists on infrastructure issues and systemic issues that impact research and scholarly communication.  So, I am taking my wet-lab neuroscience training and using it to work to work on systemic issues, infrastructure, and policy. When you see the flaws in a community, a system, a company, or other organization perhaps it might mean you’re in the position to do what needs to be done and improve it.*

 

I’m focusing on improving access scientific research and data, as well as opening access to the profession of science in the hopes of making research reproducible and making the field a realistic career option for others. Want to get inspired by all the people working for science to be an awesome, inclusive, career? I encourage you to check out VangaurdSTEM,  Mozilla Science, Software and Data Carpentry, OpenCon, Rescuing Biomedical Research, Bullied into Bad Science,  Future of Research, and ASAPBio. People are working for a better future for science – and you can get involved!

 

* I do not advise this person to continue their graduate training if it will lead to debt and stress, and if they’re not enjoying the day to day research environment (which can be quite miserable depending on the research group!). As a non-traditional student myself (started the PhD at 31), I know that I was in part proving something to myself. You can do amazing work without a PhD. You can have enormous impact on the world without a PhD. Many of the smartest and most successful people I know do not have PhDs – heck, some of them didn’t finish high school and others never went to college. This person already has a master’s degree.  A Master’s degree is an awesome accomplishment. I’d encourage them to question why they feel like they need to get a PhD, why they want to continue in academia, and where they want to be in 5 years.

 

SweetScience: It makes me so sad to think of all the amazing talent lost due to discriminatory or even harassing work environments. As one of the rare women in science who doesn’t feel like these pervasive issues have actually affected me or my career directly, I won’t say much on this topic, but I can tell you what I do to stay on the love side of the love/hate relationship the reader mentioned. When I see writing, especially editorials in scientific journals, or hear speakers at scientific conferences calling out discriminatory practices or discussing them in any light, it makes me so happy that people are talking, labeling this as unequivocally unacceptable, and bringing it to the attention of those who need to hear it most. I try to make sure this feeling outweighs the sadness that comes along with reading the distressing stories, and to do that, I consciously remind myself that this is the beginning of the change! I also try to do everything I can (now mostly as a mentor) to support individual young women in science, again with the idea that this is the only way we can move forward from a toxic history.


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