Valuing chronically ill graduate students


Many states issue “special wage certificates that allow employers to pay disabled workers according to productivity rather than hours worked.” Working under these rules, a disabled person can expect to make less than $4/hour. Some people think paying disabled people less is a good thing, as shown by this response when Maryland ended sub-minimum wages for disabled people:

If a worker is less productive, should they be paid less? This is not an abstract question for me.

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Fixing problems in science (for white men)

Have you seen the Software Sustainability Institute’s petition on

We must accept that software is fundamental to research, or we will lose our ability to make groundbreaking discoveries.

The petition advocates for cultural and structural changes in how science treats software and the people who create it. It says that science has a software development problem. It doesn’t say why science has this problem, but several of the points in the petition hint at the problem. Continue reading

Are we really still talking about pseudonyms?

MASKS by flickr user cometstarmoon

MASKS by flickr user cometstarmoon

This summer I was at a conference in my field that had a tweet up. I don’t just tweet as @sarcozona – I also maintain a real-name, professional identity on twitter, and I went to the tweetup under that identity.

The conversation drifted towards the appropriate way to handle tweeting conference talks that go very badly. Someone said something to the effect of “it’s a good thing I don’t tweet under a pseudonym or I’d say some pretty mean stuff.” The group largely agreed that pseudonyms were a protective shield for poor behaviour. Some of them thought that if they were writing under pseudonyms they’d be saying much meaner and snarkier things. Writing under pseudonyms was disparaged and laughed at or considered bad behaviour by some of the people there. No one defended pseudonyms. Continue reading

Dealing with sexism from unexpected sources

A while ago, one of our readers asked us to write a bit about dealing with sexism from unexpected sources. I’m going to discuss two sources of sexism I found unexpected in my own life, imposter syndrome and sexism from other women. This is a topic that would benefit greatly from your stories, so please add your own in the comments.

I’m currently reading The Hidden Brain, which is about how much of what we do isn’t as nicely thought out as we’d like it to be. The author includes a particularly nice metaphor that describes how privilege works (excerpted by Maria Popova over at Brain Pickings). The author, an average swimmer, is having a lovely swim in the ocean and is feeling great. He pushes out further and further, but when he turns to go back, he realizes he’s been riding a current and now has to struggle for every inch to return. On the swim out, he was congratulating himself on his improved technique, enjoying his prowess. He never stopped to consider the external circumstances that might be affecting him.

Most of us — men and women — will never consciously experience the undercurrent of sexism that runs through our world. Those who travel with the current will always feel they are good swimmers; those who swim against the current may never realize they are better swimmers than they imagine.

The most unexpected source of sexism in my own life has been imposter syndrome. Continue reading

How to do a medical leave

I’m three-quarters of the way through medical leave. I’m going back to work soon and I feel ready, even though my health still isn’t perfect. I was anxious about going on leave and determined to make the most of it. Going on medical leave isn’t about going on a four-month vacation; it’s about getting better and learning to work around your illness (if it’s chronic) – and that takes work. Here’s my guide to making medical leave a success.

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Knowing when to stop

Whenever I brought up the possibility of dropping to half-time, my advisor shrugged and said something like “you’re still moving forward” or “you’re doing ok.”

But I wasn’t doing ok. I was too sick to work most days and my progress could only generously be called incremental. It was by no means satisfactory. As my program deadlines loomed, I became more and more concerned, but friends, colleagues, and my advisor just tried to be encouraging.

My advisor and committee wanted to know what they could do to help, but I couldn’t think of anything more they could do for me. So I went to my university’s disability services, explained the situation, and asked what kind of accommodations they could offer me. With little preamble, the disability advisor told to take a medical leave. Continue reading

Welcome to our new Tenure, She Wrote Bloggers

We put out a call for more bloggers awhile ago and got some great responses. I’m happy to welcome three new bloggers to the regular line-up here: dualitea, DrBotanista, and ProfColleen.

dualitea is a postdoc at a public research university. When she’s not studying the tiniest bits of matter, she’s fighting for acceptance and visibility of sexual and gender minorities in STEM, playing board games, or enjoying nice hot tea in the frozen northlands.

DrBotanista just completed her PhD and is enjoying a slower pace.  She is part-time adjunct faculty at a junior college in the west, teaches a class at a local private school, and enjoys spending afternoons with her two young children, her garden, and her chickens.

ProfColleen is a tenured professor at a large public institution. She’s bounced around the east coast and the midwest, and hopes not to move again for a long while. She spends time with her partner, 3 kids, 2 dogs and elderly cat, and does research in the public health field.

Some of the topics to be covered in their sure to be thought-provoking posts include when to have kids, dealing with death in academia, and why someone might choose to work part time. Keep your eyes peeled for their first posts in the next few weeks and give them a nice welcome in the comments!

P.S. We’re not looking for full time bloggers right now, but always welcome guest posts. Get in touch if you’ve got something to say.