Thursday, November 19, 2009

explanation of the name

got lots of comments on that last post... have not been in the mood to deal with blogging.

but I want to clarify a couple of points on a couple of comments.

1. Yes, it is easier for US students to get into grad school than it is for international students. That's because of how public/state schools fund graduate student positions. It is not because faculty do not want international students- quite the contrary. They want as many smart, hardworking students as they can get, and they don't care where they're coming from.

However, and perhaps more importantly, it is NOT easier for US postdocs to get faculty positions. It may even be harder because US postdocs are perceived (perhaps rightly) as being less obedient and more demanding than international postdocs (and whose fault is that, really?).

We could debate this further and we probably will, but my point is that it is a very strange scenario when compared with other careers in the US.

2. MsPhD as a name is a joke. It's a play on the feminist "Ms", which is often used as derogatory by those who do not respect women. PhD is in there to emphasize that I am a post-doc, although I feel my degree is essentially worthless, which is a joke to me since at one point it was all I cared about. And these two pieces are together because they essentially cancel either other out- as a feminist PhD, I am supposed to be in the closet about my beliefs. It's an oxymoron.

YFS as a name is also a joke. It is how I am defined to those who think the "young" and the "female" are more important than the "scientist". Here again, the name essentially cancels itself out to equal zero. Also an oxymoron.

So no, the PhD is not on there because I am "arrogant", as one angry commenter wrote.

3. Stop telling me to "just switch labs".

This little nugget has been put forth again and again and again. It's not an original comment, and typically when I get it now I just delete it because it doesn't add anything new to the discussion. When I do let it through, that's because I want it there as evidence that

a) scientists don't read
b) everybody thinks they're so clever to suggest it, as if I never thought of that before!

so, thanks to all of you, but especially the ones who say they like this blog. I've had a few ideas for posts lately, but it's usually hard to figure out how to anonymize them, and I haven't had the time or energy to be clever about it. I'll try to write more often...

that's all for now.



At 3:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regardless of what others say, I personally find this blog to be rather helpful in my own path to becoming a scientist. Whilst I am not female, I find the insight here to be brilliant for my self and also to try and help some of my fellow students.

Keep up the good work.

At 6:56 AM, Blogger FrauTech said...

I hate the whole "if it's so bad, go somewhere else" argument. I imagine you're even more stuck in a post-doc, but even in corporate america things are not so fluid. I have a countdown date to when I know I will be marketable again and likely be able to land an equitable job somewhere else. People seem to forget how bad the economy is right now, or that leaving to fix one issue might mean a whole bunch of new issues arrise. So while I could certainly get "a job" somewhere else, it's likely not going to look as good on my resume or might not be as stable as the one I have now. And that's important in a bad economy. So yes, it's annoying to hear the "just leave" people. I just have a countdown to when I know I CAN leave, and try to keep that in my head to get me through the harder days.

At 8:55 AM, Blogger a physicist said...

Thanks for the update, I was wondering how you were doing.

I don't know why it's harder for US postdocs to get permanent positions. Speaking anonymously as someone who has been on several faculty search committees now, we seem to choose to interview (and hire) US postdocs. But that's not a lot of data. And I totally agree, looking at science faculty in general, there is a much higher proportion of non-US-citizens than you'd see in most other careers in the US. I think it's like you wrote in your post, departments "want as many smart, hardworking [professors] as they can get, and they don't care where they're coming from."

At 11:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Dr. YFS,

You're right to ignore the comments that recommend you switch labs. Your locus of research has to be driven by where you can best pursue your interests. You are the only person who can best decide that, as you have the most knowledge in your area of expertise.

I would only recommend moving overseas or to another lab if they were where you needed to be in order to progress. Doing so to avoid your present working conditions is a definite gamble.

For what it is worth, I *have* switched labs as a postdoc - three countries in over four years (sigh). Suffice to say, the grass is never greener, and there are always new difficulties to resolve; colleagues and PI may be better but funding much worse, etc. Also there is a significant cost associated with moving around that is never fully re-imbursed.

Just Another Postdoc

At 1:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok...someone needs to help me out here. For the last 1 year, I made a sudden change in my writing manners and started addressing all women as Ms. I basically got the idea from blogs that seemed to complain about Mrs. implying a dependent status. It seemed like a fair point.

But what the hell is this? Ms. is derogatory? Now what am I supposed to address women as?

At 9:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Ok...someone needs to help me out here. For the last 1 year, I made a sudden change in my writing manners and started addressing all women as Ms. I basically got the idea from blogs that seemed to complain about Mrs. implying a dependent status."

Using Ms. to address a woman is only derogatory if you would NOT similarly address her male counterpart as "Mr." If you would address her male counterpart as "Dr." or "Professor" but her as "Ms." when she's also a phd-holder or is also a professor, then that is a clear derogatory act and one which is very often perpetuated in science. I guess an extension of this is the often subtle but automatic assumption that in an academic community the men are the professors while the women are the students and postdocs and support staff.

At 9:31 AM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

yeah, what Anon said. Nobody assumes I have a doctorate. When they say "Ms" it's often with a sneer meant to imply "she can't find a husband." At the grocery store, they ALWAYS say "Mrs." Even though I don't wear a wedding ring.

When someone asks MrPhD what he does and he says he's a scientist, they say "how interesting!"

When they ask me and I answer identically, they usually say "wow."

I sometimes take this as a compliment, depending on my mood. But if I'm really being honest, it's usually said with a mix of disbelief and surprise, sort of like if I said I'm actually from a distant galaxy or if I said were a princess from a tiny country they've never heard of.

At 11:26 AM, Blogger EliRabett said...

Given that one of the reasons for NIH, NSF, etc giving grants is to develop US scientists, why is it wrong to give US students priority in US labs. As a reviewer I ding labs that do not have any US citizen/immigrant grad students.

At 8:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've commented on here before but will do so anonymously this time in case I start complaining about my PI and lab.... but before that, I've had the same sorts of experiences with people being shocked and amazed that a little girl like myself is working on her PhD. I had a girls night out with two other fellow PhD students and when guys at the bar asked what we did, I'm pretty sure 60% thought we we're making it up and the other 40% said wow.... they're also amazed when we danced, or drank, or wore pretty things, like we were some freakish creatures who could be in academics AND have lives.

Anyhow, I just want to thank you for your continued posts. I am in a rotation I really hate right now. I haven't gotten to do much research and the lab seems to mostly be about putting in face time at my desk. Even though my PI's office is only about 100 feet from my desk, she only communicates with me via email, and I am counting down the days till I change labs. All I can say is thank god I'm just rotating and not stuck here. I know how hard it would be to get out if I had joined the lab permanently without knowing what I know now.

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At 11:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Yes... NIH, NSF etc. give grants to develop US scientists. You would do well to actually understand the policy. A US scientist is someone working in the US in a scientific research job. The aim of NIH, NSF is to develop science in the US and to keep it strong and competitive, NOT to specifically make Americans competitive in science.

The latter objective, albeit a laudable one, concerns science EDUCATION and is supposed to be carried out at K-12 and college levels by a very different set of organisations.

It is quite sad that as a reviewer, you seem to let anything other than scientific credibility weigh in your decisions. Perhaps this explains why you are stuck at a "wannabe research university". I hope you become acculturated into the non prejudicial ways of science rather soon.

At 2:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a reviewer I ding labs that do not have any US citizen/immigrant grad students.

Really??? Is this ethical?? I guess labs being reviewed by you now need to worry about having at least one 'token american' even if none happen to be qualified.


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