Saturday, February 07, 2009

Tidbits of rant.

I'm too pissed off to pull my thoughts together, so I'll just make a list and maybe expound on some of these later:

1. I am REALLY angry with my advisor. I don't even have time to be angry right now. But I think "angry AT" is a lot better than "depressed ABOUT". So I guess that's progress.

2. I learned from a friend yesterday that his lab's funding got renewed: 2 R01s with scores in the second-percentile range. His PI is 80 years old.

3. I have a lot of work to do this weekend. I might go to the gym on my way in, just so I will be too tired to fantasize about repeatedly kicking my advisor in the head.

4. Several small pieces of benchtop equipment broke in our lab this week. One was fixed by two different people, then broke again. I'm inclined to think this is the sort of thing that should be replaced, but our advisor has some kind of philosophical problem with replacing things that are cheaper than most of our disposable reagents... even when they are completely destroyed after 20 years of constant use.

5. It's that season again where other postdocs around me are going out on interviews and getting their papers published. One sent me proofs. I can't bring myself to open the file.

6. I've recently been talking to several older women PIs. Let me just mention here that they've basically been no help whatsoever with my career problems.They have no creative suggestions, only things I've already thought of and/or tried. They have taken a very defeatist, basic-survival strategy toward their own careers, and I find it demotivating. They pointed out that the only other way to make it as a woman in science is as a Superstar.

7. I am tired of being an invisible Superstar.



At 10:06 AM, Blogger Unbalanced Reaction said...

I'm curious to read your expansions on some of these. Like #2. I am inferring that you think that the 80 year old shouldn't be awarded the NIH grants....? I'm curious to see how that post turns out!

At 10:45 AM, Anonymous Pain Man said...

that is a good point. I definitely see several female Superstars in my field, which maybe gives people the false impression that "women are doing OK". in contrast there are a ton of mediocre men.

for example, Drugmonkey was recently profiling Yasmin Hurd. I've met her and this woman is a Superstar's Superstar. I mean The Total Package. she's black AND female, but after spending ten minutes with her you forget that. maybe that's the bar you have to hurdle? you have to be so good nobody even notices you're female.

At 5:16 PM, Anonymous N/A said...

I'm so sorry. Your post was so affecting - I've felt anger over so many of those things before. But the last few really clinched it for me. I too am tired of having to be a superstar to get anywhere as a woman scientist, and I never thought of things that way. But all my work at this point is motivated by fear of not getting a job, like you.

I hope things get better for you soon. I've been Reading your blog for awhile and am so impressed with your dedication and competence.

At 8:22 PM, Blogger ms.biomedphd said...

I know I've said this before but reading your blog is like an insight to my future.

Every time I think maybe postdoc and academia might not be too bad, I read a post like this of yours that jolts me back to reality.

Sorry everything sucks right now. You're an awesome blogger, so I only assume you are an even more awesome scientist.. and you deserve so much more.

My thoughts are with you :( I hope you sort things out soon and get the recognition (and job!) you deserve

At 6:45 AM, Blogger DrL said...

Ms. PhD, you are often angry. I am often angry too.
I think you are right to be angry. I would be angry in the situations you encounter at your workplace.

I have recently read a small book "Women at work" by Anne Dickson. It has a great chapter on anger. I read it a few times. It inspired me to search my soul about all the anger that I was feeling about work situations (It even inspired me to write a few blog posts on anger).

If you can get your hands on this book I recommend you read this chapter. For me it was enlightening. Maybe it inspires you too.

At 9:29 AM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

UR- I'm not sure which makes me more upset. That this 80-year-old PI still has a job and isn't being told it's time to retire? That more people ofter 70 have NIH grants than people under 30? That it was a 2nd resubmission and that you just have to wait in line to get your funding, except I can't wait anymore because I'm STILL not eligible? Or that I even have to worry about these things, since apparently the grants were pretty good and why should we make good people retire if they're still going strong (only because there aren't enough jobs)?

I just want to highlight again what Pain Man said, with the annotation "no comment":

you have to be so good nobody even notices you're female.

DrL, never heard of that book. I'll look it up. Thanks.

At 10:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Painman, that's exactly it. Mediocre men get 'in' by who they know not what they know. And they let in more mediocre men to hide their insecurity. rinse, repeat. It's not about the science.

Superstar WOMEN are intimidating to the Society of Mediocre Men and the menz will do everything they can to 1) keep superstars off shortlists - too much competition against their boys 2) prevent tenure because it means the bar's been raised for future moron buddie, 3) maintain status quo to save their own asses and 4) be contrary just to be contrary to superstars to prevent continued success that overshadows their mediocrity.

At 11:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes. And especially #7.

At 7:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're so full of crap. Nothing you've written indicates you are a superstar. Your research is stagnating, your clinical depression interferes with your work, no one wants to give you interviews or grants. YOU ARE NOT SUPERIOR TO EVERYONE ELSE.

At 8:46 AM, Blogger daisy mae said...

while i agree that there is a skew to who gets funding, i don't think that an 80-year old PI should be denied funding based on age - that's ludicrous. there are PIs older in age who still put out phenomenal research - why deny them funding?

as for being a woman in science - sometimes it sucks. sometimes you have to stomp on a few toes. but you know what? if your work reflects that you are an excellent scientist, they have to give you that respect eventually. yes, you might have to work harder, you might have to put in more hours, you may have to deal with harsher criticism - but at the end of the day, it not only makes you a better scientist, it will earn you the recognition of your peers.

science is a sink-or-swim world... and while i don't agree with it, the rules aren't going to change any time soon.

At 1:08 PM, Blogger Tara said...

@ Anon@7:45 -
1. Darling if you need to be so bitchy at 7:45am on a weekday, I suggest you look at anger management before ranting about other peoples clinical depression.
2. You haven't read this researcher's 'work'. And if you have, the last line (YOU ARE NOT SUPERIOR TO EVERYONE ELSE) is EXACTLY what is wrong with academia today; it's all about one-upman(sic)ship and not about mututal support and betterment.
3. Grow a pair and post thy name (ooh and a sample of your outstandingly Einsteinesque work).

@Ms.PhD: Sorry Ms PhD, to step onto your blog and rave at your commentators, but this person made me angrier than I got reading your post.
In solidarity,

At 1:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It needs to be said that superstars by definition aren't invisible (also by definition there aren't any superstar postdocs). you may be a superstar-in-waiting. or you may be delusional. it doesn't matter. everyone at our stage has to believe that they are a superstar already. the only way to tell the difference is for you (and me and any other postdoc) to get an independent job and test the hypothesis.

anyhow, like me, the system was explained to you very incompletely. the bottom line is not scientific or even economic. once you clear those hurdles its almost entirely political and psychological. powerful figures at other institutions need to be consulted so that they can sustain good feelings about the department and the department itself needs to feel good about itself and the decision that it makes. all stakeholders need to have their opinions heard and respected.

the reason that there are so many mediocre faculty is that almost no one is a superstar. my guess is that this group is disproportionately male because on the whole I think that men will sacrifice more and more things until they get what they want while women will cut their losses at some point. "a horse will work itself to death while a mule will stop before it collapses and dies" it seems to me that in general women are smart like that, but one consequence is that they are under-represented in certain lines of work that present ever higher hurdles and pretty much unattainable expectations.

At 6:24 PM, Blogger The Grand Inquisitor said...

Sorry just read this post as well. In my opinion superstars are like cream, they rise to the top. No matter the profession, no matter the colour,gender,religion, or eye coulour. There is only on Henke on the team, and the rest of us are just the holding midfielder (Daniel Andersson) or the slow of foot defenders (P. Hansson) trying not to get overrun while Henke bangs in the goals. Sad, but mostly true. Split the atom, or prosecute the Nazis at Nuremberg a la Justice Jackson, and people will take notice even if you are a hunchback dwarf from Mali.


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