Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A glimpse of a possible future

Today was crazy busy, but it was a day where I was fortunate to be mentoring almost all day, almost all women. Astounding!

Helped a grad student with a poster. This was fun because it was more about giving her a pep talk than anything else- but that's important stuff!

Helped another student with a computer problem. This was fun because I don't think of myself as a computer expert, by a long shot (see previous posts on learning LaTeX), so it's always nice to know I've come a long way.

Taught a postdoc how to use a piece of equipment. This was fun because I like teaching, and also interesting because I think I had the impression this person knew more than she did, from talking to her ahead of time, but she's a fast learner so I didn't have to spend a lot of time to catch her up to speed.

Advised another postdoc on how to proceed with her project. I mean, we sat down and looked at her data and gathered some reagents and discussed what experiments she needs to do next. This was my favorite, I think, because it was the most like actually having my own postdoc, even if she's not working on something that was my idea, I'm helping guide the project. She's really sharp, so she asks really good questions, and she works hard, and takes my advice. What more could you want? Oh yeah, and I think at this point I've done enough that I'll be an author on the paper. That would be pure gravy.

Advised a graduating student to apply to attend a meeting. I know enough about her work that I saw a specific meeting and knew which part of her work she should present there. This was fun because this student is one of those people, she has so much potential and works really hard, and I can see that my helping her is preventing her from experiencing the same kind of absolute neglect I experienced when I was at the same point in my career.

Then on my way out the door, I got 2 more science questions, both from women, both of which I was able to answer.


And, just to put a little more sugar on top, I'm already getting something back for all my charity. In exchange for helping them, I'm finding out about other people's research, making useful connections, and gaining access to reagents and equipment I wouldn't otherwise know about.

Sometimes, flaws in the system aside, and despite all the crap, it actually works. And I like the idea of a future where I'm equally likely to be working with all women- at least some days!- as all men.

We are coming up.

-- Ani Difranco

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At 10:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 10:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So if a man asks you for help, are you as generous with your time and effort as you are with women? (assuming all things are equal, i.e. the man is not a chauvinist, you don't dislike him personally, etc).

At 9:03 PM, Anonymous petina said...

YAY! I'm a long-time lurker and just wanted to say I love this post. Gives me hope for women in science and also for you! If I'm feeling down about gender isues in my male-dominated field, I'm gonna come re-read this post. Yay, yay, yay!

At 12:02 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

Of course I help everyone who asks nicely, male or female. Why wouldn't I? Unless I'm too busy to help anyone at all.

But it is hard to strike a balance, I don't want anyone to become totally dependent on me.

Teaching independence is a difficult thing to do, at some point you have to tell people, "I can get you this far, but after that, you have to go figure it out on your own, because I

a) don't know more than this anyway, and it's your project,


b) don't have time to babysit you on stuff you should be able to do on your own."

But I do try to tell them that up front, and not just abandon them with no warning, like my advisors have always done to me. I can't be there all the time, though, so it's probably unavoidable that they're sometimes frustrated and having to learn things the hard way. Such is life in research. A little unscheduled abandonment can be a very good thing.

At 8:36 AM, Blogger Saoirse said...

I'm glad you had a good day. You sound like a wonderful person to work with.

At 12:10 PM, Blogger Joolya said...

Oh, Anonymi, if you are not being sarcastic, then just shut the fuck up. You are clearly a big fucking idiot.


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