Wednesday, March 28, 2007

From the inbox

(Minnow is sleeping in her own bed! All by herself! I'm staying up past my bedtime because I'm just so excited to have some freedom! I'll regret it (and the use of so many exclamation marks) tomorrow!)

Occasionally I get correspondence asking me to promote something, write about a news story, or even seeking advice. I thought I'd do a bit of a in-box dump here and dispense with a bunch of it at once.
From a correspondent (altered for anonymity):
"I have a daughter who is currently majoring in Science at a large university. She is an excellent student and is planning on pursuing a PhD. I am always at a loss as to what to say to her when she asks if she is wasting her time. Is this a viable field for her to be successful in? ...She loves what she is doing and I want to encourage her to do what makes her happy."

My response:
A Ph.D. is hard work, but I don't think it is a waste of time if your daughter is interested in asking and answering original science questions or going above and beyond what she can do with an M.S. If she is passionate about her field and a hard worker, she can be incredibly successful. However, she needs to think about what she wants to do with her PhD and what her job prospects are. I'd encourage her to think about careers (other than being a professor) that might require a PhD in her field. For example, she could be an environmental consultant or work for a non-profit. I think PhD programs and advisors often push students to become professors and don't advise well enough about other career opportunities. Then, if upon completing her PhD, she can't get a professoriate job right away, she may feel disillusioned. But if she starts the process with her eyes and options open, I see no reason why her future can't be incredibly bright.
The email synopsis: Jackie from elementlist discovered that the Discovery Channel Promotes Sexist Stereotypes by seeking a male to host a new show about engineering. She emailed me and asked for my thoughts.

My thoughts? I'm honestly not that surprised. Just look at their programming in recent years. It seems to be striving for an ever lower lowest common denominator. Unfortunately, I could also imagine a casting call that sought a woman host for a new show. It would probably read something like "seeking attractive female, preferably blond and curvaceous twentysomething who knows a little about engineering..." Am I being too harsh?

The email: "Here's an interesting thread about a grad student who went to an interview with her child. I know it was not the best thing to do but frankly, some of the responses are apalling."

My thoughts: I haven't read the comments, but I can guess at what some commenters might have said. Stating up front that you only want to work in the lab 3 days a week is probably not the best way to get accepted or funded, but at least the student was being honest. And if she's willing to work from home (on classwork, writing, etc.) the rest of the time, I see no reason why she couldn't complete a degree just as fast as someone who didn't have that schedule. Besides, speed is not everything. Hopefully quality counts for something too. Right? I say that if the student is otherwise a good candidate, she deserves all the support the advisor can muster. That's what I would do.



I’m writing to you on behalf of L’ORÉAL to let you know of the 5 women scientists, who received the L’ORÉAL-UNESCO AWARDS For Women in Science on February 22nd.

This program, which began in 1998, each year recognizes five outstanding women researchers, one from each of the five continents, who have contributed to scientific progress and serve as role models for the next generation of young women. In addition, there are 15 international fellowships offered to young women scientists at the doctoral and post-doctoral levels. Detailed information about these women and their accomplishments are available on the website <>.

The 2007 Award laureates are Pr. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim from Mauritius (Laureate for Africa); Pr. Ligia Gargallo from Chile (Laureate for Latin America); Pr. Mildred Dresselhaus from the USA (Laureate for North America); Pr. Margaret Brimble from New Zealand (Laureate for Asia-Pacific); and Pr. Tatiana Birshtein from Russia (Laureate for Europe).

We hope you will consider supporting the L’OREAL-UNESCO program by including information on your site. Attached you will find a document including information on this year’s Award laureates and fellows, general facts on the L’ORÉAL-UNESCO partnership, and current figures on the under-representation of women in science. We can also provide you with logos, photos and illustrations in the format that best suits your needs.

Thank you so much and please let me know if you have any questions.


Jackie DaSilva


Anonymous said...

I am a student at a large tech university and I receive a surprisingly large number of announcements from various networks looking for female hosts for science/engineering shows. It's my impression that they decide how many women and how many men they want in advance and then advertise the positions accordingly. I always thought that was sort of a stupid way to do it, but the ads don't read as bad as you imagined. They are typically looking for creative people who have good communication skills and are enthusiastic. (At least that's what they say in the ads :-)

Lab Lemming said...

You might want to point the writer of the first letter to Julianne's Cosmic Variance post about salaries of the scientifically educated:

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