Sunday, May 11, 2008

Crunchy little funnies (CLFs).

I'm naming these after those ill-named things called TLC for Tasty Little Crackers (which are not at all tasty).

The title today is: How I Don't Look Like a PhD Scientist

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I'm still giggling about this first one. See if you think it's funny.


Since I was out shopping, at one point I started a conversation with a stranger in a store this weekend.

Me: Yeah, we have that [set of culinary tools]. I use it a lot.

She: Yeah? I'm in culinary school and they're teaching us how to do these things the old-fashioned way, but fuck that, I'm going to buy this instead.

Me: Really? Where do you go to school? I never knew how to cook until relatively recently, but now I wonder what it would be like to do it professionally.

She: Oh I go to [insert school name here] and I work in a restaurant. You could do it. Why don't you?

Me: I'm not going back to school.

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I'm not sure whether it's good, bad or just stupid that I didn't tell her what I do.
She didn't ask.

Part of me has to snicker in that nobody ever guesses I'm a scientist with a PhD kind of way.

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Number of times (on campus) I was asked if I'm a grad student this week: 2
Or a junior (e.g. 2-3 years) postdoc: 2

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Number of times I was asked about my career plans this week: 2
Number of times they asked me about MrPhD: 2

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Number of times MrPhD was asked about his career plans this week: 2
Number of times they asked him about me: 0
Number of times he remembered to mention me without prompting: 0
Number of times he apologized about that when I pointed it out later: 1
Reasonable excuses he had for not doing it: 1 (too tired to think of it)

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13 Comments:

At 7:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'm a female postdoc too. it's amusing when people think i am still a student or have a normal job. but then i was thinking, what does a PhD look like? maybe there are some stereotypes but i wouldn't know a postdoc from a 9-5er either...

 
At 9:53 AM, Anonymous science cog said...

Good post. I wish people would look at me and make the assumption that I am a professor. Don't know why that always surprises people.

 
At 11:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

``Part of me has to snicker in that nobody ever guesses I'm a scientist with a PhD kind of way.''

How would they guess that you're a PhD?

There aren't any visual cues that you might have with other occupations like artist, bricklayer, homeless person, etc.

 
At 9:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know that there is any universal look for scientists. In my neck of the woods it runs the gamut, from the Asians who wear sandals with black socks (female version are those awful knee-high stockings) to the Europeans who dress like they're going out for a night at a dance club, complete with the overwhelming perfume, to the MD types with the dress shirt and pants. Scientists are a fairly heterogenous bunch. The public perception would probably be a nerdy outsider in a white lab coat with flyaway hair and no fashion sense. Is this really how you want to be perceived?

 
At 6:46 AM, Anonymous CC said...

The public perception would probably be a nerdy outsider in a white lab coat with flyaway hair and no fashion sense.

And this is, as we know, inaccurate. Who wears a lab coat outside of the animal room?

I agree with 11:01, though. Why on earth would you expect some stranger in Williams-Sonoma to know that you have a PhD, let alone snicker at them over it?

 
At 10:33 AM, Blogger Mr. Procastination said...

Hi Ms.PhD.,

Just wanted to tell you how much I love to read your blog. I am a last-year Ph.D. student and I should actually be doing more productive things but you don't need feel guilty that I spent almost the whole day reading your blog, since nobody is paying me right now.

As is the case here, were I live, some place in Europe, it happens quite regularly that people don't manage to finish their PhD in the years they are funded (mostly 4 years) and then we get to finish it on our own costs (or through the government's unemployment's care). I am not complaining because I know some things are of my own responsibility, but it makes me think now and then if it will all be worthwhile. I will not try to stay in academics because I hope to find nicer environments elsewhere. Especially because of this I am asking myself why do I need to get my results published: just because my PI wants it to? But if reviewers ask me to do more experiments is it right that they make me do it on own costs?? How is this taken care of in the US? Does it occur?

Keep on blogging, and I really hope you get tenured soon!

 
At 11:37 AM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

I think science cog got the point.

First of all, I asked her what she does. But she didn't ask me. Maybe she thought I was a housewife and that it would be offensive.

Nobody I know would balk at asking a man what he does, but many of us feel awkward about asking women for fear of offending them if they don't work outside the home.

Second, as FSP has blogged about repeatedly, there are some telltale fashion signs that you're a geek. I went to a meeting recently where this was very much in evidence.

But since the STEREOTYPE of a scientist is still a Man in a White Coat with Einstein Hair and Glasses, the general public doesn't know a female scientist when they meet one.

I didn't say it was Williams-Sonoma, btw. Too rich for my blood.

Mr.Procrastination,

Great name.

I'm amused that anybody would spend a whole day reading my blog.

I guess if you think what you did could ever be useful to anybody someday, then you should publish it.

I would not work if I didn't think it was going to help somebody to know what I've learned.

In the US lots of things never get published. I personally think there should be some kind of special punishment for people who spend grant money but don't publish their results.

I laughed at your suggestion that I would get tenured soon. I would be happy to be on the tenure track at all. Right now the only difference between me and you is that I have my degree, and I'm getting paid a measley pittance.

 
At 2:23 PM, Anonymous PhilipJ said...

But since the STEREOTYPE of a scientist is still a Man in a White Coat with Einstein Hair and Glasses, the general public doesn't know a female scientist when they meet one.

If that's the stereotype, I fail to see how anyone could recognize a male scientist either.

 
At 5:23 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

yeah, MrPhD would probably agree with you, PhilipJ. He's pretty athletic and fashionably aware. Doesn't wear glasses.

I guess it's like gaydar. Takes one (or having close friends who clue you in) to know one?

I think most of us younger scientist types can spot each other in a crowd a mile away.

What bugs me is that none of these general public people seem surprised when they ask MrPhD what he does and he tells them.

They all seem disbelieving when they ask me and I say I'm a Scientist.

The degree of skepticism is quite funny to compare.

But like I said, that's assuming they'll bother to ask. I find it quite interesting that even in 2008, it's still quite common to avoid asking a woman her age, weight, or what she does for a living.

 
At 6:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I think most of us younger scientist types can spot each other in a crowd a mile away."

I totally disagree. How can you possibly pick out other, young scientists out of a crowd? I see so many people at work, every day, who I would never in a million years know they work in science based on their appearance.

"I find it quite interesting that even in 2008, it's still quite common to avoid asking a woman her age, weight, or what she does for a living."

I've never hesitated to ask anyone what they do for a living, male or female. Also never heard of anyone who did. So Ms. PhD, how old are you? And how much do you weigh? My guess is 31 and 146 lbs.

 
At 5:46 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

Apparently I gave you too much credit for being observant.

Asking and guessing and completely different things.

 
At 7:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i wouldn't be able to peg if one was an undergrad, grad student, or postdoc. or jr faculty member. these days it takes so freaking long to do anything (with the possible exception of undergrad) that you don't know where anyone stands unless you ask them. and they tell you.

although it is interesting (to me, for comparing), what does age/weight have to do with anything?

 
At 8:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes-- I can relate to this topic. I make careers up for myself all the time. I do a lot of reading outside of science on current affairs, so I can usually hold my own. But, most people think that I am still in school. I walked into my favorite hometown bakery and the owner asked me if school was out already. (Yes, I think so, but my school goes all year-round...) Even when people have been told what I do, they think that I have somehow eeked out a normal job-- 9-5. 5 to me is like 2 to you... :)

 

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