Thursday, June 04, 2009

Response to comments on response to comments.

This is fun recursive... well anyway.

Alicia- Absolutely there are other problems besides the boys' club, but there are problems like that in most jobs, aren't there? And yet, most of my friends in other careers are shocked at how sexist science is. I was just talking to another person the other day who was having trouble wrapping their head around the idea that, while the experiments are hard already, there's all this other crap on top. Science has a reputation for being elite, but sexism and harassment are the stuff of other jobs, the kind of thing you see in movies like North Country. So it's hard for people to imagine that these things go on in science too.

Anon 2:30 said: Is this the problem, or is it academics? If the problem is self-sabotage, then that will follow you (I have a passing familiarity...). If it's the academics/science/the system of doing the science, then perhaps getting out and do something that doesn't make you miserable makes sense.

Does walking away from academia freak you out because it's losing who you are, or because the alternatives are scary? I just did this "exercise" recently in a fit of pique; the message clearly was I'd be losing an integral part of who I am if I walked away.

I guess that's the point. I really suspect it will follow me even if I left science.

Would I be losing who I am. Well yeah I guess it has become integral, even if it wasn't before. And yes the alternatives are scary. I think in some ways even if I stopped doing science, I would never stop thinking the way I think now, which is as a scientist. But I don't know.

Anon 4:43 said: Don't be hard on yourself for not having had a crystal ball.

Thanks. This is something I am trying to learn, how to not be kicking myself constantly. Especially with comments like the one above yours.


Thanks for the advice. I took some personality tests and was really amused at the results. Scientist and Professor are listed as among the handful of most common preferred jobs for someone of my Type, but it also did a great job of profiling some of my problematic tendencies, like trying to please other people before myself (my parents, my advisers). Some of the other options made more sense to me than others (writer). I am still thinking about what this means. It does make me feel a little better about my choices thus far, or the other options I might choose instead, even if it's just a statistical probability that I'm not completely on the wrong track.


I guess one of the things I expected was to have someone ask me questions in different ways... like my best friend used to do. The truth is, I'm sort of trying to replace her with therapy, which is ridiculous. But I'm so broken-hearted at how we've grown apart, I don't know what else to do. She's the one who got me through grad school, and now I just feel completely adrift, not having anyone like her to talk to.

Anon 3:59 AM,

Yeah, I guess if I really were absolutely miserable I would want to do that. Sometimes I am. Other times I get into what I'm doing and think, "You know, I really like this job." Starting something new really requires a lot of energy and commitment. I don't think a career counselor can give me that if I don't have it.

Anon 9:19,

You're suggesting on the one hand that there isn't a ladder and it's not due to experience, but then you compare it to quantum tunneling and "crashing through" by the number of times you crash into the barrier.

I liked the suggestion that there is no ladder, and I think that's partly true. But to imply that there's no information to convey, kind of makes no sense if as you say, it's due to banging your head against the wall enough times to eventually break through the "barrier"- which in many ways sounds a lot like the glass ceiling to me.

I like that your analogy includes the statistical component, that's very apt. But if nothing else, there should be something learned (at least the way I think about the world and life in general) from each and every bang on the head you receive.

One of the things that infuriates me sometimes about scientists is that we should be the MOST observant, the most thoughtful people. And sometimes we're the least, or at least the least able to communicate what we see.

I've been thinking a lot about our culture of secrecy. I had a long conversation with a friend the other day about sexism and how part of the problem is that most people don't really know how prevalent it is. They think it went away in the 60s with the miniskirts. But part of the reason everyone thinks that is because we act like it's uncouth to talk about the things that happen to us. And we do that because we're still always blaming the victims, saying she asked for it by the way she dresses or how she talks. And that's a bunch of bullshit.

The same is true for unethical shit in science. Most people do NOT want to talk about it in the open, it's gossipy water cooler talk that nobody wants to confirm or condemn, even when we should.

So I guess that's my complaint about the "ladder" business. Maybe there's not a ladder per se, but we have a hypothesis that there's a ladder and we should be willing to share our observations that support what the ladder might look like.


Yes, I did look into my alma mater's career site, but it wasn't very helpful. Most of the events they have that would be very useful are held near the school, which is not near where I live now. Some of the online resources are good, but they're mostly geared toward positions for people with a bachelor's degree, or people looking for their very first job straight out of college.

And most of them are making more money than me! Ha!

Re: the deadline idea, it just doesn't work for me. I keep setting deadlines and they keep getting pushed back. And in a way I'm glad for that, I guess, in the sense that this year I've finally made some noticeable progress where I hadn't before. If I had quit last year, I would have missed all of that.

I guess I hope when I'm really done, I'll know. I read this article by Ruth Ley this week in Science, and while I have a LOT of issues with using her as an example of success (followed her husband to do a second postdoc and thinks she's broken a lot of rules? HA!), one of the things she wrote that really rang true for me was this part:

This led to nagging self-doubt: Did I even want a tenure-track job? Given how much time I spent turning over that question in my mind and boring the people around me with my internal debate, I should have realized that I really did want it.

By that measure, given how much time, yes of course I really did want it. Moving on to not wanting it, however, vs. not being able to have it, is harder and taking longer than I thought. I guess if I got kicked out tomorrow, I would be fine. If I got kicked out in six months, is that any better or worse? I don't know. But my days are numbered, whether I want that or not. At the moment I'm just trying to do what Gnarls Barkley says, moving on, and I'm prepared to go it alone.

scicurious said: it was a HUGE comfort just to know that they were there

Absolutely. Just looking into other kinds of positions makes me feel less trapped and less out-on-a-dead-end-limb, which is really important right now for my state of mind. Great advice to anyone who is in the same boat- know what your options really are before you convince yourself you don't have any.

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