Getting past a poor third year review

For many academics, the third year review means make-or-break time. You’ve had a few years to settle in, get your own research started, mentor some students, develop and teach new class preps. In my field, funding is definitely expected by this time, and publications from your new line of study should be beginning to roll out.

Ideally, anyway.

For me, many things that could have gone wrong in my first three years, did. My research technician crapped out on me and cost me a good half-year of productivity while I was figuring out how to handle that situation. The research I had started wasn’t really taking off anyway–both the original Plan A as well as my back-up Plan B. I went through a divorce and was learning to handle single mom-hood. My departmental mentor just wasn’t sure what to do with me.

I dug out my own third-year review earlier this semester. Continue reading


Conferencing while female

In the past month, I’ve been to 3 different conferences. It’s been exhausting, especially as I’ve noted that I try to be picky about the work travel I do. I felt that all of these meetings would be important for different reasons. One would introduce me to people in a related field in my new state of residence; two others were small meetings with high-level experts in my field, so I’d have a lot of time for networking and discussion, and to make sure these people were familiar with my work.

The ratio of men to women in these different meetings and conferences varied greatly. At the first one I went to (we’ll call this Conference 1), the “new people in a related field” one, I was one of only 2 female speakers (out of 14 total) the day that I attended and gave my talk. To be fair, this is a male-dominated field, but even so, it doesn’t skew *that* male. Not even close. Continue reading

On the other side of tenure

Could professional women receive any more mixed messages? Lean In*. Sit tallWork longer. Do more. Other bossy two-word tropes. Meanwhile, recline. Get out. All while being fabulously fit, tanned, well-dressed, put-together, towing along a perfect set of gender-matched children, a supportive “no dear, I LOVE to change diapers” type of partner, a Pinterest-worthy house and a gourmet 7-course meal in the oven every night.

Okay, perhaps I exaggerate a bit, but it certainly feels like we’re getting that message. Nothing is ever good enough; we have to fight not only for equal footing and equal pay at work, but also weather the mommy wars at home.# At the same time, we should ignore those telling us all this discouraging news, relax, treat ourselves to a massage, live in the moment. Oh, and do that all effortlessly. Continue reading

The necessity of habit

My ever-present “to-do” list: the bane of my existence, the slip of paper that sometimes keeps me up at night, the talisman that protects me from wholly succumbing to the absent-minded professor stereotype, the composition I celebrate by throwing it away and starting another anew.

My list has had items on it this semester that are not the norm for me. I’ve moved my lab several states over and many hundred miles from where it originated, so I’ve spent far too much time looking at equipment specs (and, of course, prices–ouch) and trying to downsize physically while figuring out how to maintain productivity. I’m not there yet. Continue reading

On the timing of procreation

There are several obvious answers to the question of “when is the right time to have a baby?” One is, whenever the baby comes is the right time—don’t freak out too much about trying to micromanage his/her arrival. Another is that there’s never a right time—as an academic, every level of advancement is fraught with time sinks and the numerous difficulties that come with juggling work and the rest of your life.

Sure, having kids is never easy, and will never neatly fit into any kind of professional’s schedule.  So with all that acknowledged, I want to share my experience with having kids at two very different times during my academic career, and the pros and cons I’ve found thus far. As with any parenting posts, your mileage may vary. Continue reading