Life on a work visa

This year, like the two that preceded it and at least the next to follow, I will be unable to make summer plans. As someone with a non-permanent position, I am constantly chasing opportunities and gearing up to take the next step, move on to the next position. I expect to live in a different location from one year to the next. As a non-permanent resident, my journey is compounded by visa complications that make me unable to travel for anywhere from 2-4 months around the summer months.

This means a not insignificant amount of lost opportunities for me. I never accept invitations to teach at summer schools or speak at conferences or workshops. I don’t even apply for summer conferences, I just don’t know where I’ll be over the summer and in the following year. In fact, right now, as I worry about a commitment I foolishly made two years ago to attend an event this July, I am unable to make travel plans because the one thing I do know is that I will not live in the same place in July as I do now. But where I will live – and more relevantly, where I should book a flight from/to – that is at the moment a mystery. These difficulties, and the anxieties that they give rise to, are shared between all of us who have temporary jobs.

Being born a citizen of the “wrong” country brings with it an additional layer of complexity, beyond that experienced by other transient academics. Continue reading

Academic Travel on a Budget

This year has been extremely travel heavy for me, the most since I’ve entered the field. I’m at the point in my post-doc where I have a good sense of the research program I want to build, so now I’ve been taking it on the road to get others excited about it and hopefully create enough interest to open up a faculty position. When this year ends, I won’t have spent a single entire month at home, with some months travelling as much as once a week. Although it’s very exciting (and sometimes exhausting), there’s a particular aspect of it I want to discuss: reimbursement culture when you’re on a budget.

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Breastmilk isn’t free: high points and challenges as a Professor + Mother

During pregnancy, I heard a lot of scary stories: scary delivery stories, scary stories about in-laws visiting after the baby arrives, scary stories about allergies in small children. When I was visibly pregnant, I got advice from strangers, especially in public restrooms (most often I was told “get the epidural”). Parents with small children are founts of advice: “see lots of movies now, because you won’t later”, “sleep now, because you won’t later”. One coworker told me pregnant women are like lambs heading to slaughter (“they don’t know what horror awaits them”). Something about our culture leads us to focus on the negative, and so I felt confused while pregnant. I wondered a lot about how my life would change, and my biggest question was “Will I have to give up having the career I worked so hard for to be the mom I want to be?”

Being a parent has been so much more fun than I imagined it could be. I often said the beauty of the natural world motivates my research, but my eight-month-old daughter has shown me more about the magic of the world and life than I knew before. I am also much happier as a professor and researcher than I was before I became pregnant. Taking after drmsscientist, I want to write a positive piece about being a female professor with a baby, and discuss the biggest challenges I have experienced on this journey thus far.  Continue reading