Tuesday, May 29, 2007

out sick

We're on day 4 of sick watch here in the Science household. A nasty stomach bug first hit Minnow then fish and I. Then this morning minnow got another round of vaccines and she's sound asleep in my lap right now. the fever will start in a few hours. The good thing? I'm currently only 1 pound above my prepregnancy weight. talk amongst yourselves.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The part-time post-doc

I've been meaning to write this post for a while, but ironically, I've been too busy working. In the last three days, I've logged about 25 hours doing field work on two different projects. Now, 25 hours is also the number of hours that I am paid to work each week. So, does that mean I'm done?

Working part time is making me much more conscious of my hours than I've ever been as a researcher. I come a lot closer to working my paid time and nothing more now than I ever did as a full-timer. Largely however, that's because my time is so limited by child-raising responsibilities. I've been working approximately half-days every day, but Minnow's daycare schedule and location give me only about 4 horus at work each day, which leaves me a couple hours short each week. (Add in a half-hour pumping break per half-day and I feel even more time-limited). The time costs associated with starting and stopping work also suck up a larger percentage of my work-week, leaving me even less time to get stuff done. I'm actually using a notebook to keep track of my work hours, so that I'll give myself credit for the few stolen evening hours (or conversely convince myself that I really do have to work at night). Most weeks I'm finding that I'm falling an hour or two or three short of my allotted 25, but the field work is more than compensating for that time.

I also find that I have to be much more organized than when I did research full time. I'm still juggling multiple projects, so I've got sections in my notebook for each project. At the end of each day I try to record what I've been doing and what the next steps need to be. I'm not doing lab work, so I don't have a lab notebook per se, but in effect I am keeping one anyway, just for my own records. Keeping the notebook is also (I think) spurring me to work more efficiently (I must have some progress to report each time!).

Finally, I am discovering that I have to be more realistic about timelines for getting things done. So far this has been the hardest thing because I have so many balls in the air and so little give in the schedule. I can't just pull an all-nighter or even stay an hour later at the office and weekends just mean full time mommying. Part of my pre-occupation with hours worked and recording my progress is because I know I will end up dropping something and missing a deadline. When that day comes, I want to be able to justify to myself (if not to my boss) why that happened. And if keeping notes helps me delay that ball-dropping day then it will have been even more worthwhile.

I'm really enjoying working part time for personal reasons, but I also think it is good training for me. The late-stage PhD and post-doc are really the only point in most academics' lives that research is a full-time occupation. Next year I'll be teaching too, and research will be squeezed in between grading papers and writing lectures (and raising a child). I won't even have the luxury of 5 half-days a week to work on research, yet the responsibilities will continue to grow. So in effect, my part-time post-doc is a relatively low pressure way for me to figure out strategies for maintaining research progress without getting to have it be an all-consuming affair. They say it can be done, now I've just got to figure out how to make it work for me.

As for whether I've fulfilled my work obligations for the week, the answer is yes and no. I'll probably work a little less each day this week, but I doubt I'll even take one day completely off. There's still a paper to review, analyses to complete, and revisions to undertake. And I'm sure there are other things needing to be done too, but those balls will just have to stay in the air a little longer. After all, I'm only working part-time.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Scientiae #6

Welcome to the 6th edition of Scientiae, the carnival by, for, and about women in science, engineering, technology, and math! I arbitrarily picked a theme of “mothers and others, those who influenced us along the way” and I got some great posts on the theme topic. But I also saw a ton of great posts on other topics as well, so read all the way through this carnival.

Magificent Mothers (and Dads, too)

Four bloggers took up the challenge to tell us about their mothers. Zuska at Thus Spaek Zuska tells us how her mom convinced her to retake calculus and how that made all the difference in becoming an engineer. Jenny F. Scientist at A Natural Scientist sings the praises of her normal, sane parents. Janet at Adventures in Ethics and Science presents a great interview with her mother (parts 1, 2, 3), who went back to school for astronomy when she had four young kids. (I’m impressed - Super Sally deserves her moniker.) Finally, I offer tribute to my mother, giving the top ten reasons she’s my hero.

Mentors of all shapes and sizes

Lost Clown at Angry for a Reason shares how she migrated from feminist theory to mathematics. Those of us who are/will be professors should strive to emulate the amazing physics professor who helped her along the way. Estraven at Proving Theorems recalls the algebraic topology professor who taught her how many holes a pretzel has and that a woman professor doesn’t have to look pretty to be a fantastic teacher and role mode.

Skookumchick from Rants of a Feminist Engineer from took a break from editing her dissertation to tell us about the Young Women’s Network that’s helped her through grad school. Pat at FairerScience commends Geena Davis for striving to ensure girls see more than boys and princesses when they turn on a movie or T.V. While we’re talking about Hollywood, Jokerine of hdreioplus.de explains why even though she’s not an actress, she’s just as deserving of fan mail.

Somebody needs to do a little mentoring for the male-dominated membership of the NAS. This year it only voted to induct nine new female members. Zuska offers her take, as does Am I a Woman Scientist?

Living the Scientific Life

Jenny F. Scientist questions why wearing a frilly dress should destroy her lab cred. (It’s a beautiful dress. You should click the link just to see what a handy seamstress Jenny is.) New mother Jane at See Jane Compute analyzes the good and bad parts of her institution and department. Addy N. at What an untenured professor shouldn’t be doing is dealing with a case of academic dishonesty exacerbated by helicopter parents.

Post-doc at Minor Revisions talks about the difficulties of straddling two lab groups and how she’s watched two colleagues approach the situation very differently is Troublesome Shoes and Resignation. Elli at Peanut Butter Cabal gripes about a fellow student who seems to espouse competitive feminism. But maybe there is a lesson to be learned here about self-promotion? Also, from Elli, a great post whose title speaks for itself: “Work. Life. Vagina. Pick two.

Continuing her theme of exploring identity, Veo Claramente writes about the good and bad of anonymous blogging at Clarity. Finally, FemaleScienceProfessor at wonders what exactly women’s insight in engineering looks like and whether someone hired for that job would have the respect of her colleages.

Speaking of Science

Holly from Field Notes from an Evolutionary Psychologist critiques a study that purports to show that a girls name can dissuade her from a scientific career. Jokerine discovers that the way chemists talk about bonding can reinforce gender roles, and even found a picture to prove her point. Rebecca at Adventures in Applied Math gives her readers some tips to avoid discouraging girls from entering math and science. She really wants Scientiae readers to help with other ideas.

That’s all for this edition of Scientiae. The next go-round will be at FemaleCSGradStudent on June 1. Thanks to all the willing contributors and those who I drafted off my bloglines reader. If I missed anyone, deepest apologies.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Last Call for Scientiae Posts

Get your posts in tonight or early tomorrow morning. I'll accept posts until 9 am Pacific Time Monday morning. Then I'll finish compiling and have the carnival for your reading pleasure bright and early Tuesday morning. To submit, see instructions here.

Remember, the theme is "Mothers and others, those who inspired us along the way." But posts on other topics are welcome as always.

And don't forget to call your mother and say thanks. Call your grandma too if you are lucky enough to have one.

My Mom is My Hero

I could try to write a long, articulate essay about all the ways that my mom has made me who I am today, but I would never finish it, because I could never do the topic justice. So instead I'll give you the highlight reel.

Top 10 reasons my mom is my hero:
  1. For being a woman science professor long before it was cool. When she got her faculty position, they gave her an office in the education building because they thought she "would be more comfortable" in a college where there were other women. She was the first female professor in her department and the second in the College of Science.
  2. For being strong enough to leave an abusive marriage and raise two little kids alone without the help of extended family.
  3. For raising my brother and I to look beyond stereotypes and to do the things that make us happy.
  4. For mentoring me on how science is done. She supervised my science fair projects for 8 years, and as my research interests took on a definite form beyond her scope of knowledge, she bought textbooks and even audited a course so that she could continue to help me.
  5. For teaching me to write well. In elementary school, every year she insisted I enter an essay in the PTA's Reflections contest. In middle school and high school she taught me how to write scientific papers.
  6. For saving for my college education since before I was born.
  7. For caring passionately about the natural world, instilling that respect in her students and her children, and for living the principles she preached.
  8. For loving deeply and giving generously to her family, even when that love hasn't always been demonstrated in return.
  9. For instilling in me a love of music. While I resented the piano lessons I took for years, I adored the cello lessons later on. I am grateful for the ability to read, perform, and appreciate music that years of listening, singing, and playing have given me.
  10. For adoring my daughter.
My mom left Utopia early this morning to return to the Midwest. I wish her the safest drive cross the country and hope that maybe next winter she'll come for a long visit in Mystery City. Happy Mother's Day.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Welcome Baby Jane!

Congratulations to Jane of See Jane Compute for completion of her biggest project to date. Jane now gets to join the select ranks of 2007 inductees into the scientist/blogger/parent hall of fame. Here's hoping that when Jane is adequately recovered (say, a year from now), she'll tell us about Baby Jane's arrival and how that is affecting her thinking about staying or going from her current institution.

Monday, May 07, 2007

It's a happy day

Professional Reason 1: I'm working on an analysis that I learned years ago in class but never had done on real datasets. Guess what? It works and it's not that hard. As long as all your data are right.

Professional Reason 2: In one of the above datasets I noticed an obvious error and I emailed the gov't agency responsible for the data. I got an email back a few hours later that said "You are so right" and gave me the correct number. Score one for the little people.

Personal Reason 1: I listed 4 things on Craigslist yesterday afternoon, and I have potential buyers lined up for each of them.

Personal Reason 2: After going on a bottle strike for 2 days last week and causing the daycare and myself much consternation and heartache, Minnow took 3 oz. from Fish today. That's not a lot given that I was gone 6.5 hours, but it is something.

Personal Reason 3: It's 80 degrees out and sunny. Spring at last!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Manic May

The next thing that comes across my desk, I am going to say "NO" to.

Here's what's on my plate this month:
1. Co-author a white paper (May 18)
2. Review a paper
3. Lead field work at least once (with baby) (Friday)
4. Meet with my undergrad and cajole/plead for him to finish writing his thesis even though he's graduated
5. Come up with something/anything to conclude from the fiasco that was project PPP
6. Start and complete 3 big analyses on Project Beta so that Dr. ABC can present it in early June
(Damn him for writing an abstract without having any data - or any plans to get it himself)
7. Continue to plan field season for Project Delta
8. Review text books for course I'll be teaching in fall
9. Spend my startup money and deal with logistics of getting things delivered to Mystery U.

Does that sound like a list that can be accomplished in 25 hours per week? I didn't think so.

And that's just the work-work. On the homefront I have to merely:
1. Be a good mom. Always. Especially those 4 mornings and 1 all-day that I am home alone with Minnow. And the 11 pm, 2 am, and 5 am feedings.
2. Declutter and intensively clean the house so it can go on the market June 1.
3. Major weeding of yard/gardens before house goes on market.
4. Fly to Mystery City and buy a house there. But maybe this will happen in June? Depends on when Fish can get a day off.

I'm not sure whether I feel more or less stressed after making this list.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Scientiae+ bonus post

Scientiae #5 is now up at Clarity. Head over there for some good reading.

Scientiae #6 will be here on May 15. The theme will be "mothers and others, women who have influenced us along the way." Of course, feel free to write about whatever you want. Submission instructions can be found at the Scientiae website.

I also want to point you to a late-breaking post on how girls names may (or may not) influence whether they go into science. I'm inclined to agree with Holly - the effect is undoubtedly small. I've got a pretty femine name and I can't see that it's had any influence on me.