Monday, March 29, 2010

Star Trek Says:

"Help, I need a biomolecular physiologist! This man is dying!"

From the "Samaritan Snare" Episode, Season 2

An Open Letter: Two-Body Problem is Solved!

Dear Higher Ups at My Current Institution:

When I first joined the faculty at XXX University, I had not yet developed rheumatoid arthritis. At the time, Mr.JP was teaching 2hrs away and our two-body problem seemed manageable even with the prospect of having a baby. My commute was 45 min – 1 hr one way, or 90 min to 2 hrs roundtrip. After I had the baby, and developed rheumatoid arthritis, my life became barely manageable. Balancing work and family was constantly at odds with overwhelming pain. More and more, it became apparent that Mr.JP and I needed to resolve our two-body problem. My current state is pretty good, but the reality is that I could relapse at any time – and a relapse is 100% guaranteed if I have more children. For this reason, we needed to make a family decision which would benefit all of us. Mr. JP has always been upset at his university, and it has approached the time where he can stay there no longer. I was unwilling to go to his university to solve our two-body problem. Mr.JP was unwilling to come to here because of the recent plans to eliminate the dept (which were eventually scrapped). For this reason our family decision is to move to ZZZ University.

It is with great sadness that I must leave, but in the case of health and family, I must be near my parents, cousins, and friends for a strong support network. We now have the opportunity to live close to my numerous relatives. I love XXX University, I love the environment, I love working with my colleagues. The students are the best. Mr.JP has outgrown his university, and his career cannot expand unless he moves.

My start date is this summer. My plan is to continue with activities at XXX University up until the last possible date. My post-docs will move with me, and my students are going to move with me as well. Much of my group is funded off of set-up funds provided by the Provost here, and I kindly ask that these funds continue until the move for continuity and support of my students and post-docs. I have no hard feelings towards the department or school, and I can only speak highly of every single member of the college. I understand this decision may generate confusion, disappointment, or even anger. I remind you that this decision is made in support of my husband, my health, and my family – which ultimately supports my long-term happiness.



Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Hoarding Bug

My parents are bonafide hoarders. Not in a nasty, dirty-dishes, trash way, but in a garage sale - antiquing way. It's gotten so bad that I told them that I would not step foot in their house until they cleared out a path. They scoffed, and didn't believe me.

Their house is so full that there are little 1ft wide paths leading from room to room. They have 3 refrigerators full of food that they are hoarding. The house is full of guns, bullets, fishing rods, every year of Southern Living cookbooks (in duplicate), mismatched china sets never used, figurines, porcelain replicas of president's wives, broken antiques, expired medications, expired second-hand canned goods, broken jewelry, ugly paintings, empty frames - everything. I once caught Sparky shaking a can of bullets that were left out. I once saw a snake sliver into a pile of junk in the "formal" living room. Allergists beware - this house will kill you with dust.

The hoarding situation is humorous and awful at the same time. I laugh when I tell stories about my parents' nesting quirks. But I'm sad because I will likely never step foot into my childhood home again. Growing up, the house was clean and functioning. But when I left for college, the antique bug hit them, and the hoarding began. My sister and I have tried every approach. I'm left with giving up. They can visit me all they want. Or we'll visit, stay in a hotel, and they can visit the hotel. I just can't let me son play with bullets unattended.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Assess Your Galley Proof

I was going through my galley proof and found an error. I had intended to write "assess", but the word "asses" was there in its place. Yes my research is full of asses.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Post Travel Syndrome

I am reminded of why I don't travel as much as my colleagues. After a day's worth of flying, my fingers and wrists are in pain and I'm out of commission for about 24 hrs. I wish that I could attend more conferences, but I think one per semester, or three per year may be my upper limit. Hmmph.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy Conference!

This conference is so fun. I know enough people that I can socialize and network to have a great time. I've seen a few potential tenure letter writers (PTLW) and I've been able to pick their brains. They are all supportive. One PTLW told me that they had reviewed a grant of mine and though that it was great!! I hope it gets awarded.

My talk is on a day and time that no one will be attending, so the pressure is mostly off. Its fun fun fun. Weeee.

I remember being graduate student at these conferences, and feeling lonely because I didn't know so many people. It's all different now.

Monday, March 15, 2010

You're a Professor If You...

arrive at the conference without your big talk even started, and you're not worried about it all.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

We what?

Our department is officially saved! I am so happy for my colleagues and for the many undergraduates and graduates that chose our discipline. It just didn't make sense to close us down. As my colleagues uncork the champagne, I feel some skepticism about our apparent victory.

We fought hard for existence, and it wasn't pretty. Dirty laundry was aired, conspiracy theories were conceived, normally calm and reserved senior faculty let loose. I learned more about university politics than I ever cared to know.

After my disastrous meeting with the Dean, I talked with senior faculty from my department about the meeting. They cheered me on, telling me that I did the best I could. They connected me with an assistant provost in charge of faculty development. There, I found open ears to listen to my concerns about the plans, and I was able to express myself calmly and professionally. I did not mention my run-in with the Dean to the assistant provost because my main concern was saving my department - not pointing a finger.

This ordeal threatened my job security. Even though it has passed, I am still concerned for the long term stability of my department. This also brings a harsh reality to light. Long-term, my husband and I need to work in the same town or university to make things work. We don't have this right now, and it is very difficult to manage. With this drama at my university, it is clear as day that my Mr.JP will never join me here. But short term, I am happy to survive. My colleagues deserve a 'real' department, and we fought hard for it.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Schrodinger's Cat

My husband says that my department is like Schodinger's cat. The state is uncertain - one day my department is "saved", another day it is not. I've given up on trying to stay up to date on our status since it changes so much. Today, our department is "saved." The final decision will be made this month. I hide in my office trying to work, and ignore it all.

I've had the opportunity to calm down and evaluate the situation. Uprooting a junior faculty from one department to another raises a host of problems.

1. Who will be my chair?
2. Will my colleagues value my contributions to the department or school?
3. What am I teaching? I would be in a department where I would be unable to teach anything but electives.
4. Who sits on my tenure committee? Is my departmental tenure committee comprised of people from discipline A even though I am a B?
5. What happens to graduate admissions? I don't want A's in my lab - I need B's. B's won't apply if the department is eliminated.
6. Would I miss out on junior faculty awards because I am an "unwelcome" department member?
7. Who's going to advocate for me? Mentor me?

Since it looks like our department is "saved", then I won't have to learn the answers to these questions. Still, this process has left a bad taste in my mouth. Even if we succeed, I think we could easily be on the chopping block in the near future.