Monday, August 07, 2006


Really enjoyed this editorial at Nature Structural and Molecular Biology, about a female professor and her struggles, which she described in a talk she gave recently upon receiving a lifetime achievement award.

I've never met this woman- actually I'm not sure if I'd ever heard of her before I read this article- but she had a pretty miserable time along the way to getting someplace good.

I want to get this book about the Group, a support network that met to discuss the 'unique challenges in academic science.' I had never heard of that.

And in some ways, I gotta say, some of Christine's misery could have been prevented. Sure, she experienced alienating sexism. Who hasn't?

But she was given a faculty position and it sounds like she was a bit unprepared for it. So it's hard for me, at this point in my career, to think anyone is doing anybody any favors by putting an underqualified person into a position they're not ready for. And I'm pretty sure she had the same thought at least a few times along the way.

Nevertheless, kudos for being honest about the good, the bad, and the depressing.

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At 5:56 AM, Anonymous JF said...

My spousal unit was at Christine Guthrie's talk. He said it was an amazing window on how bad it used to be, and some on how bad it still is- and we both are, likewise, glad people are still talking about it. (Spouse works for Joan Steitz, as it happens.)

At 10:01 AM, Anonymous matt said...

that nature editorial is incredible. I can only imagine how moving Christine's talk was in person. I think that 1976 was very different academically than it is now especially in the age of political correctness. As a post-doc in the midst of applying for faculty positions, I am ridiculously scared of the whole process, even before there is the struggle with grants, deciding what to really work on "when I grow up" and being the one responsible for guiding the lab. If you add on top of that a general disdain from your collegues and challenging scientific questions, this job can be quite a tough nut.

At 11:29 AM, Anonymous biosparite said...

The editorial was locked away form us scientist-wannabes who do not have access to the journal. But your summary and comments probably obviate reading the actual editorial. I once read a book on job-hunting that commented that the means of searching for employment in the USA could hardly be more inefficient and more expensive for the searcher. Withholding of employment is a social-control mechanism that is far more efficient than the rude techniques of suppression practiced in the Third World.

At 6:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So I was at the conference to see Christine's talk. It was really moving, and certainly helped confirm my desire to leave/avoid the academic career track entirely. On the other hand, this particular recount (in Nature) did leave out some of the more colorful comments about her fun times - probably because the journal didn't want to give up it's "PG" rating. These censored bits were the ones that made it most clear that, yes, successful academic scientists are people that love fun, too.

Anyway, it was the only time all week that I heard the entire audience gasp...good times...

At 7:08 AM, Anonymous matt said...

Am I the only one that read this and was insprired to stay in academic science?

At 7:36 AM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

Wow, Matt. No. In some ways it's good to know other people have had a tough time and still had a happy ending.
And that there are any people who can be honest about what it was like for them, instead of sugar-coating everything and pretending it was all so easy.

Sometimes I find it really inspiring to watch all those underdog movies, read the biographies of successful scientists who perservered, and all of that. But sometimes I have to wonder, why is this all still going on? Why does it have to be so hard? How much more would we be getting done, how much more progress could we have made by now, if everyone were really in this thing together, just doing it for the 'greater good'?

You might say it's only depressing if you're an idealist.

At 8:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that I am going to check out "every Thursday morning." I have actually stopped blogging for a while. And, my conversations with others have generally put forth everything that I would have otherwise put into my blog. For most people out there who are not scientists-- who still have some sort of idealism about them, they see me as a seriously depressed person. But, I know that the culture and situation of science is the thing that is moving it. Ms. PhD, I am just like you-- perhaps just a year or 2 behind and in a postdoc. I keep thinking about a day when I will be able to truly live and think-- how could academics every give this to me? I have even recently been thinking about finishing this year of my postdoc, getting married, having my babies, study for the MCAT and get my MD-- because apparently, the NIH doesn't need PhDs anymore. They want physician-scientists. But, you know what? Why would you gamble your life on soft money if you had it going well. I would just cut the ties and run...


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