Use your Academic an Professional Societies as Advocacy Machines

In which @Scitrigrrl begs for your help to generate a list of questions about advocacy to ask candidates seeking election for Professional-society positions.

[Disclaimer: I’m focusing on Society for Neuroscience here because that is the organization with elections going on right now. But this is broadly true for all of our major academic professional societies.]

Advocacy is one of the main missions of almost all Academic and Professional societies – not just the sciences  (American Historical Association has News and Advocacy as it’s first link on the menu bar; Modern Language Association has advocacy right there under Resources; Association for Psychological Science includes it front and center in its missions statement…I could go on). Right now when we think of advocacy we think about lobbying for support from congress, but we should be thinking more broadly than that. Workforce issues, public policies, public education about research and research ethics, supporting and yes, advocating for underrepresented groups in the field, I could go on.

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Summer Plans

It’s summer.

Well actually it’s that odd time – between the end of the semester and the start of summer proper, when we still have a few administrative tasks, time set aside for graduate student committee meetings and qualifying exams, and the other things pushed until after exams are done. The weather is also in between – or rather up and down (though that’s also climate change). Either way I am trying to plan out my summer – my personal plans, travel, and writing goals, determine my really specific (and manageable) goals, and sketch out a (reasonable) schedule to make them all happen.

There have been a few posts around – by @duffy_ma at @DynamicEcology and by @ProflikeSubstance – on planning a sabbatical (I am sure I’ve missed posts on this – please add links in the comments!). Planning summer feels similar – but without the external pressures of still being asked to do service. The common theme is: How do I make the best use of this time when this CHUNK of un-scheduled time stretches out in front of me? There are some good comment threads to those posts too and I’d love to hear what your summer plans are, and what works (or doesn’t work) for you. Continue reading

When trainees go bad

Toxic work environments – including lab environments – are bad for everyone. They are utterly destructive to those involved, to the rest of the lab, and to the PI. We have discussed toxic mentors, problematic advisors, and mentoring styles, with the goal of understanding how to identify toxic situations and how to survive and get out intact. These situations are especially despicable due to power imbalances between PI and trainee.

But what happens when it’s not the mentor but a trainee that is the major source of problems in the lab? . This is a very different issue from toxic PIs – there isn’t the same kind of power imbalance, and there is much more protection for the PI than there is for trainees. Nevertheless, a problematic individual in the lab can cause massive amounts of stress for both the PI and the other trainees in the lab. We don’t often talk about “toxic” trainees, or even “difficult” trainees, or trainees that are making everything more difficult for everyone. Perhaps we should. Continue reading

Third Year is Kicking My Butt

In which @Scitrigrrl realizes that time is not stretchy and cannot be extended simply by adding hours at the beginning and end of each day.

I’m a little over halfway through my second semester of my third year, I am totally overwhelmed, and really feeling the pressure to do everything: Get funding! Publish papers! Teach with excellence! Be a good department/institutional citizen! I feel torn with the constant demands on my attention and time. I am tired, but I also still love my job, I finally feel settled in the job and in the town, and overall, I am happy. But between third year review (!), a dramatic increase in demands on my time compared with the first two years, and increased anxiousness about money, I am feeling overwhelmed. I know, in theory, what I need to do to get to where I need to be, I’m just not always convinced that I will get there.

There has been a running joke this year among some of my peers that now they have forgotten how long I’ve been here, I can no longer claim to be new. Continue reading

New Semester Blues

As a student – through most of graduate school – I loved the beginning of the new school year. New notebooks, new textbooks, I wasn’t behind on anything yet, and I’d get to see my friends every day again! Better still, the schedule was pretty light so it was still a few weeks before reality of schoolwork kicked in again.

These days, my feelings are more complex. At the beginning of a new semester, I don’t start with a blank slate. I have already done hours of preparation on classes, and a lot the work – grants, papers, research, conference submissions – doesn’t coincide with the school year. At the beginning of the new year, my schedule changes dramatically. No more rolling with a slower morning, things in my schedule that are written in stone: teaching is the big one. Seminars. Administrative roles kick in again, with their meetings for various committees. Graduate students have other commitments too, so expectations of them needs to be readjusted. Email traffic through my inbox will increase exponentially. And lot of the intensity is there from the outset – lectures need to be prepared, there is no up-ramp for committee work, and the rolling deadlines of grants, papers, conference submissions continues without a not to the academic year.

To be honest, right now I am finding the idea of the semester starting feels like an insurmountable mountain. Continue reading