Sunday, November 13, 2011

Holiday Survival for This Untenured TT Faculty Lady

Wow, this month is going to be a s**t-storm. I'm presently at a conference and these two hours of relative silence in my hotel room have given me a lot of future-thinking to do. Usually, I've got distractions at work (undergrads, grads, committee meetings, speakers, etc) and home (whining: why can't I have juice, chores, hygiene:ugh, cooking) and there is no time to just…silently…think. I don't even have time to think about who I am! Why, I'm me of course, but what does that mean?

Well, I still don't have enough time to contemplate my purpose or my existence, but I've got enough time right this moment to think about how the next few weeks are going to be crazy. On top of the usual teaching load and research duties, I've got Thanksgiving at my house. Somewhere in there is the DoE Early Career deadline… And I haven't started. The DARPA Young Faculty Award is going to pop up soon, and I question if I should also be trying for the ONR Young Investigator. 2 proposals to review, 3 papers to review. One manuscript of my own to edit and submit. How can I possibly do all of this and still teach and maintain my lab? Well, somehow I do - I always do. That proposal always gets in on time, the paper gets written, the students get taught. I shouldn't worry about it, and just accept that I get stuff done even if it means some tough weeks ahead.

I've hired a mother's helper to come in one weekday night so that my husband and I can get caught up on work. I'm suspending weekly meetings with my individual group members until early December. I'm working extra time as soon as my son is asleep. I know that it'll end right around Christmas. I've just got to hang on…

I think that I'll just take all the help I can get. Let the maid clean my house. Hire babysitters. Cook frozen casseroles from the store. It's only temporary insanity. Fortunately, my family understands this craziness because my sister and husband are also professors. My son understands; we've taught him to chant "NSF give me money!" Too cute.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Oh yeah, that's what pregnancy is about

My friend had a baby yesterday and I am so happy for her. This morning, I was remembering my first son's birth and the precious moments afterward. Holding him, marveling at him, feeling so proud. Then I realized: oh wait - I'm pregnant now - I get to have that moment again! It took me seven months of pregnancy, but I'm finally feeling maternal again.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Nesting = Paper and Proposal Writing

I'm now in the third trimester and my "nesting" instinct is kicking in. I'm frantically writing and submitting papers, trying to clear off my desk. I've got a few proposals to get in before the baby comes in January. I've disappeared because I'm just so busy!

I had the nicest experience today, where my undergraduate research adviser was visiting my university to give a seminar. He is a super-famous guy, who has won every award possible. Since it had been about 10 years since I was in his lab, I was nervous that he wouldn't remember me. I was wrong! He greeted me with a big hug in front of the whole room and started off his seminar with remarking on how proud he was of me! I just about started crying.

When I was an undergraduate, I was a researcher in his group on and off for three years. I attended a few group meetings, and meet with him once per semester. I was completely intimidated by him because he was the most brilliant person I had known at that time. I was afraid I might say something wrong, but when I did, he was nice about it. One semester was particularly rough for me because of personal reasons, and I had to drop out of research six weeks into the semester. When I told him I was dropping research he said that it was no problem and that I could come back anytime I wanted. I came back the next semester, and there were no hard feelings.

These moments keep me going, and lift me up from my sink hole of papers, class notes, and rejected proposals :)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Harassment III

My crazy office neighbor is at it again. I'm meeting with students who want to join my lab all day (yay!!!), so I want to meet with them in my office - not a conference room. I'm losing my voice (from not drinking water all day) so I'm practically whispering during all these meetings. It's still too loud for my office neighbor. That leads me to believe that maybe the students are loud, and it's not me… But that is neither here nor there. He tries to shut my door during one of these meetings. But university training taught me that we can't have our door closed when meeting with students. I explained to him that I have to have my door slightly open to be in compliance with policy. (This discussion was in front of the prospective student, so that was awkward). The office neighbor went back to his office and started blasting classical music. I suppose this action was meant to anger me, but it made me afraid. I feel as if I am unable to speak in my own office without retaliation. Fortunately, he didn't email my boss like he did before.

The office neighbor is leaving this winter break, so I just have a couple more months of this… Some other lucky university is getting him :)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Canceled and Declined Talks

I was supposed to give an invited talk at a top 10 school this week, but I came down with a vicious stomach bug. I had to cancel because I couldn't even make it to the airport. I feel huge guilt for missing this fantastic opportunity. I wrote that I was sick and needed to reschedule for late Spring. I hope that they'll take me up on it! On the positive side, I got loads of sleep, discovered the miracles of antinausea meds, watched lots of Netflix, and got three weeks of class lectures done.

And I've been invited for a talk this spring, but it's too close to the baby's due date. This is the second one I've had to decline, and I also feel immense guilt over it. With my first child, I mistakenly accepted these kinds of opportunities and found myself at three conferences within the baby's first few weeks and months. Compounded with post-baby RA, it was a total disaster. So I'm not going to make the same mistake again, but I can't help regret a missed opportunity. Of course, it's only a few months and I've got the rest of time to give talks at conferences. Instead, I want to focus my energy during that time on the baby, on keeping the lab running, and on resting.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Recruiting While Pregnant

I have an opening in my group for one student. The project funding has already started, so it's very important to recruit someone now. However, no one seems to be the least interested in joining my group. Last year, I had students piling in droves just to talk to me. So what is different about this year from last year? Could it be that I am pregnant?

My other pregnant colleague has the same problem: no one is interested. Another colleague who was pregnant last year also had the same issue. Anecdotally, it seems, students don't want to join a group with a pregnant PI.

This makes me very angry because I see no difference in my capabilities of running a group now vs. then. It isn't like I'm dying of some incurable disease. This is blatant bias that holds (pregnant) women back from having a successful career.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

High-Risk Mama

Early in my pregnancy I was tested for a protein associated with the autoimmune disease called Sjogren's syndrome. Not surprisingly, I was positive. Before conceiving, my doctor had explained the risks. The baby stands a 2-5% chance of having a congenital heart block, where the circuitry in the heart isn't connected right. The baby could be fine, could require a pacemaker, or even not survive. For the past few weeks my husband and I have been traveling 180 miles round trip weekly for a specialized ultrasound that detects the early stages of the block. The baby is perfectly healthy, but the trips are wearing because they eat up an entire day. To not go, puts the baby at greater risk.

Before conceiving, I did not think much of the risks. But after learning of the extent of monitoring I needed and after becoming pregnant, my attitude changed. The chance is very small, but the reality is there - if not for me, for someone else. I take joy in feeling my baby move because I know that he is well. (Yes it's a boy!)

Monday, September 5, 2011

New Semester, Old Problems

At the beginning of this semester, I have been solidly booked with meetings. I'm so swamped that I barely have time to think about my upcoming proposal deadline - eek! So I'm especially frustrated when students from last semester come back to haunt me with complaints about their grades. I'm too busy!!

Some student filed a grade dispute form, so I had to fill out loads of paperwork to document why she deserved the grade she got. I have to provide email threads, class rankings, syllabi, previous assignments, etc. It's especially tiresome when the student in question has been caught cheating before…

Another student barges into my office unannounced and says, "I want to know why I got a C." No introduction, no how was your summer, nothing. He didn't even tell me his name! I was also in the middle of eating lunch. And so it goes on with others.

The grade thing is frustrating, especially since I graded according to exactly how the syllabus describes.

So… after a few days of this, I realize that I have to go back to my old ways: shutting my office door, working at home, essentially hiding. Don't get me wrong, I generally love interacting with most students. I've got all the time in the world for someone with scientific curiosity and maturity reflecting their age. Aaaa - who's got some good student stories?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Rehashing Old Grants

I have a proposal deadline coming up and I'm preparing to resubmit a proposal that was given very good reviews last round (but not funded). Every time I revisit a rejected proposal, I feel extreme dread and loathing towards the document - even when it got shining reviews! Why is that? I get rejected all the time. You'd think I'd get a thicker skin.

So here I am… at my computer… with three weeks to go… procrastinating.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Harassment II

I've spoken with my head and an Ass. Dean, so I've got some course of (in)action to take. Because the harasser-in-question is leaving soon at some unknown date, it may be better to do nothing than to do something. This is the type of person who retaliates and retaliates big, so it is probably best to not respond to his emails. The only thing to do is to cooperate and be quieter. I'm very happy to attempt being quieter since it's only a temporary situation. I might even have my office hours in a conference room rather than an office to minimize problems. I'm mad as hell about the harassment but I want to be as cooperative as possible. If he continues to harass me, then I can at least point to my attempted cooperation.

Still, when I see him in the hall, he gives me withering looks. Today, I even ducked into a restroom to avoid interacting with him! I feel like I'm five years old again.

Strangely… he was really loud today in his office.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


I periodically get harassing emails from the famous, senior faculty member whose office is next to mine. These emails usually complain about how I am too loud, etc. I always ignore them.

The latest email, however, crossed the line. He wrote that I was too loud (again), and why didn't I respond to his previous emails. He then wrote that junior faculty should always respond to senior faculty. But here's the real problem: he CCed my department head.

This guy has a history of problems, and everyone here dislikes (some even hate) him. Lawsuits and grievances follow this guy everywhere, so I've been careful to limit communication with him. He's even leaving this position in a few months for a new place, so this harassment should be only temporary, unless he sues me or files a grievance.

What can I do? What have I done? I wrote my department head that I need to meet with him as soon as possible because these harassing emails have got to stop. I also wrote an Associate Dean who's been on women faculty's side. I'll have a meeting or two in the next couple of days and see where it goes.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Crossing my personal boundaries

I found a post-doc even better than the one I was replacing. They were visiting here to look for housing, so I took them out to lunch. At the conclusion of lunch I was waiting for a to-go box. The post-doc asked, "Can I have your meatball?" Shocked, I replied, "No."

My friend later said, "That was a meat-ballsy move."

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Pregnancy and RA Remission

With my first child, I went into blissful remission of my RA symptoms. With this second child, I am nowhere close. Why is there such a difference, and why does remission occur for RA during pregnancy? I get these questions a lot from my friends. One article from the Arthritis Foundation (a reputable source) says that the degree of remission is linked to the quantity of fetal DNA circulating in the mother's system. If this is true, then I would guess that this second baby just isn't circulating it's fetal DNA the way the first one did. That doesn't imply there's something wrong with the baby, just that our interactions are different from the first.

The other statistic that I see from multiple places, as well as from that article, is that 90 % of mothers have a flare within three months of delivery. Considering I'm still flaring, I'll probably be raging come this Spring. I'm not looking forward to that. I won't be teaching, but I'm supposed to be doing some other kind of activity to "make up" for the teaching relief. What kind of activity can a person do, if they can't even dress them selves or if they can barely type? Of course, this sounds really negative. And with the right drugs, I should be in much better shape than last time. I just struggle to imagine what this Spring will be like. I kind of just want to get a motorized scooter and putt a big red flag on it and do donuts in my department's main office.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Change is Inevitable

We have a new department head, and change has stirred everyone into a whirl of emotion. It's inevitable that leadership changes and that I'll have many different bosses in my lifetime - some good and some bad. When leadership changes, people become uncomfortable at the uncertainty of the direction of the organization or their place within. My current thought is to be a good citizen to the department, to fulfill my teaching and duties, and to carry on as before. With time, I can observe and form my independent opinion.

I'm a little frustrated that people air out old dirty laundry in this time of change, when we should all be focused on the future. Even worse - some have a knee-jerk reaction to quit service activities or to start looking for a new job. I don't believe that it's an appropriate choice in 100% of cases. In some places, leadership changes every year. One can't mentally survive if they over-react to every change.

Besides, I am more interested in growing babies than I am in drama.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Lost Another Post-Doc to a Husband

For the second time this year, I have lost a female post-doc because their husband refused to let them work. In both instances, the women were internationals and their husbands were unemployed. Both women were visibly upset by the situation, wanting to work in the group- but unable to. Without this job, they must go back to their native country and search from abroad.

I don't meddle in personal affairs, so I wish them luck and tell them they can always come back. Now, I have an open post-doc position for a funded project and I've got to hire someone ASAP.

Comments are welcome.

Monday, July 25, 2011

I don't want to be on your thesis committee if...

I am a very popular choice for thesis committees inside and outside of the department. Unfortunately, I can't be on every committee so I've started interviewing the students to select which committees I do want to be on. Here are some of the questions I ask:

1. Why do you want *me* to be on your committee? (Majority of students are unable to answer this, so maybe I don't need to be on their committee)

2. What are your grades like? (If you have any C's, I won't serve on the committee).

3. What is your project? (If you are unable to answer this, I won't serve on the committee).

4. Why did you pick this project? (This is an opportunity to tell me more about your likes/dislikes, perhaps a dynamic with your advisor, or to get me interested in your project.)

5. What do you expect my contribution to be to your thesis committee? (Somewhat related to #1, but more about what is the time commitment involved).

I usually turn away about 1/3 but I'll have to refuse more soon because I have too many obligations with the pregnancy and all. I like serving on thesis committees, but I just wish I had more time to do so.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Special Episode of JP's Group Meeting

I told my research group that I was pregnant today! It went over much better than I expected. We discussed how long I expected to work before my due date (A: as long as possible!), how long it would take to recuperate (A: for me, 3 months optimistically), and if I would come in during that time (A: of course I would). The group was happy for me. If they have questions about how it affects them as individuals, then they're invited to ask me privately.

My joint pain has been accumulating, but I am far enough along that I might be able to start taking corticosteroids to reduce the inflammation. I'm looking forward to that!

I visited Dr. Mom last week. She's still in chemotherapy for breast cancer, but she's doing much better than earlier treatments. (You are, Dr. Mom!!). Amazingly, her hair is coming back already like a little short phoenix. It was great to focus energy on someone else and to get a break from the daily drudgery here. She is still putting out papers and here I am twiddling my thumbs! She makes me feel like a lazy-bones, so I guess I'll work on one of those papers sitting in my inbox.

Friday, July 8, 2011

I am My Best Judge

I am on an award committee, where speakers are nominated to be judged for a cash prize. I wrote to the session chairs, asking them to nominate speakers in their session for judging and to recommend appropriate judges. One session chair nominated himself (he was speaking in his own session) and recommended himself as an appropriate judge. AWESOME. So is that how I get more awards?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Creaky Elbow Got Me Down

I guess I spoke too soon, or posting about how great I felt cursed me. For the last week+, the RA has been creeping back.

I'm so frustrated because it isn't supposed to be like that when you're pregnant! Medications options are limited for the next 6 months. I couldn't take Medrol because of the baby, so my rheumatologist gave me a steroid injection in the elbow. It didn't work, and I've still got a bum limb. It's so defeating to know that this is probably going to persist and even get worse. My action plan is to go back to the meditation CDs, see the OBGYN next week, and see the rheumatologist the following week. My fantasy action plan is to saw off my arm.

On the bright side, this has taken my mind off of our current department head search situation. No chair can kiss my booboo and make it go away, so I'm presently not concerned with outcome.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What Kind Of Mom I Thought I Would Be

Before I had Sparky, I had a particular vision of what kind of mom I would be. Then, the shit hit the fan. Things turned out perfectly fine, and Sparky is awesome. It's just not what I imagined.

I had read all these touchy feely books about the attachment parenting-breast-feeding-sling-wearing-motherhood that I couldn't wait to join. But my baby wasn't anything like the books! He didn't want to cuddle very much, he hated his sling, and breast-feeding was hard. He had a tongue-tie and we breast fed for 8 months. By then, I had to go on RA meds just to function so breast-feeding was no longer an option. Now that he is older, he's much the same way and I see that he was born with that personality. Sure, we bonded in other ways and we still do. I was also much more hands off than I had pictured. With my job, I wasn't able to spend every precious moment with him. I was often working at night writing proposals. I didn't have time to dote, to helicopter, or to sanitize. I'm just trying to express that things didn't turn out how I imagined. I love Sparky, and I'm so proud of how he has grown up. He brushes his own teeth, puts on his own shoes, puts his laundry in his room, tries to wipe off the table, and "cooks" with us. He's really independent!

With the second one coming, I am much more at ease. I know that this one will be born with its own likes and dislikes, and that I don't need to overanalyze every little diaper. There's no one book that's going to "cure" my child's problems. Just listening to and observing him is the best I can do.

Monday, June 27, 2011

What This Reviewer Thinks

I've been reviewing a lot of papers lately. I get sucked into reviewing because the request usually comes from a former adviser or because the paper is written by a close colleague. I like to think that I'm a pretty reasonable reviewer, usually suggesting revisions to improve style or clarity. If I get a paper I'd like to see in that journal, I always accept with minor or major revisions requested. In the course of reviewing this latest string of papers, some common problems have emerged.

One problem is that the new results are not compared with literature. It is difficult to gauge how the performance of X is so much better than prior work if no hard data (or citations) are given. This brings an exhausting amount of legwork to the reviewer, who has to go and look up references and do the comparison themselves. Sometimes, the performance of X is worse than the literature (but the authors neglect to point that out). Then, my perception is that the authors were trying to pull the wool over my eyes. With this in mind, I re-read a draft of mine for a paper I'd like to submit soon. I, too, was guilty!

A second problem is that key papers are not cited. If the submitted manuscript is incremental work on a previously published paper, then one should cite the publication. Again - I feel as if the wool is getting pulled over my eyes.

A third problem is qualitative vs. quantitative interpretation. Quantitative is always best, although there are many situations where qualitative is the only option. My particular criticism is when one has data that is easily interpreted quantitatively, but the authors merely give a qualitative interpretation. It reflects laziness to me. Yes, I know that integrating that peak will take you an extra 5 min on Matlab, but it's worth it - trust me.

Of course, these are just the recent tiffs I've had with reviewing. There is always variations on plagiarism of data, words, images, etc. Double publication. Lack of control experiments. This could go on, but I'm done with reviewing for a while (I hope).

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Pregnant with #2!

I am happy to announce that I am pregnant with our second child!! The due date is January 18th.

We had been trying for a while, and it had taken lots of planning. I got off of methotrexate and switched onto plaquenil six months before we planned on starting to try. (Methotrexate causes miscarriages and birth defects). I had a flare, but it was tamed with a few dose packs of steroids. During this time, I saw my rheumotologist often. Pain was always there, but ignorable.

I knew I was pregnant days before my "special lady time". I was at my sister's visiting her during her chemotherapy treatment. One morning, I woke up and felt no pain at all. I had forgotten what it felt like to feel normal. Even my husband noticed that my hands felt more pliable. With the last pregnancy the same phenomenon had happened - so I knew what was up. I immediately quit taking plaquenil, and the pain stayed at bay.

Even now, I feel pretty good (some nausea, a few stiff joints) and I'm comfortable with the timing of the pregnancy. I'll get my spring semester off, and relatives will be lined up to help with child care. Last time, I was completely unable to care for myself or others about 6 weeks after the baby was born, and I'm expecting a repeat. This time around, I know how to handle it and I know that it will get better.

My lab is mature enough for this. I just got two more grants, and everyone is off and running on their projects. Results are coming in, and they're generally good.

It's time for baby!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Who do you tell?

I recently had a meeting with a dean that I admire. One of the things we talked about was my adjustment to the new university. We are in between department chairs and I'm anxious about my future. I told my prior chair about my RA, and he responded the right way: understanding, support, and empathy. I am concerned that our future chair might be biased. This is a valid concern considering the candidate pool here. I told the dean about my concerns, and I told her that my RA might generate bias from a new chair. She then gave me the advice not to tell anyone about my RA. She said that people here look for weaknesses in women, and this is an easy weakness for others to latch onto. I don't know how I feel about that advice. I don't shout it out to the world, but I can't hide it forever - especially if I'm trapped in a flare. I'll sit back and wait for a new chair...

Monday, May 9, 2011

Hawking Interview

NY Times published an interview with Stephen Hawking today, and I found this Q/A to be very inspiring:

Q. Given all you’ve experienced, what words would you offer someone who has been diagnosed with a serious illness, perhaps A.L.S.?

A. My advice to other disabled people would be, concentrate on things your disability doesn’t prevent you doing well, and don’t regret the things it interferes with. Don’t be disabled in spirit, as well as physically.

Hawking has a point. I try to leave my regret behind. It doesn't come naturally, and I have to consciously set it aside. But, I take joy that I can still do my job and do it well.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Copy Cat

I have been invited to write a review (yay!). I caught my post-doc plagiarizing for my review (boo!). The post-doc is helping me write the review, and he turned his half into me recently. It looked a bit disjointed at first glance. When I started to compare the post-doc's writing to the references cited, I noticed some startling similarities. He cut and paste the abstracts into the review, only bothering to change a few words. If I hadn't caught this now, it would have been published and my career would be over. Over. I'd be banned from publishing at certain places. I was so mad. (Why do I spend most of my work time being angry?)

So, the post-doc is awesome in the lab. I know he isn't making up his data because I'm really on top of what's going on in the lab. I look at raw data files, etc. and others can reproduce his work. I decided to be really stern, but not to kick him out. He brings a great attitude to the lab, has a great work ethic, and produces. We talked about the plagiarism, and he admitted it. I asked him if he did that with his grad adviser, to which he replied no. I think he got lazy, had a deadline, and took the path of least of persistence. I told him that I was going to scrutinize every single word he gave me in the future, and that he almost cost me my career. I can't tell if it sunk in. If it happens again, he's fired - and he knows it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


The ceiling of my office here is much nicer than that of my old Ivy League office. Sometimes when "all this" is too much, I'll lay down on the floor of my office, listen to some music, and think about my nice neutral ceiling tiles. My current office has carpet and new ceiling tiles. My old Ivy League office had an unforgiving, institutional floor, over which I had to spread my yoga mat just to get comfortable enough to contemplate those water-stained ceiling tiles. The story is much the same. My students are pissing away grant dollars, not publishing, and not listening to my direction. Even if I go into the lab and show them how to do it, they can't even copy my actions. If I give them a paper, they can't reproduce the results. It takes two students to do one project, but grants generally fund one student. I'm not at a top ten place, and I don't get top ten students. It is what it is. Usual stuff, right? We've all got the same deal even if we're in a different department or discipline.

Today, I was sent over the edge by a student in my class. With all the stress of my lab, the last thing I want is my class weighing me down. This student told me that they would like to take the exam on some other day because they weren't ready for our exam tonight. Dumbfounded, I asked if they were serious. Oh yes, they were serious. The end of the story is that they agreed to take the exam tonight. But the whole interaction left me so bitter. I love teaching, but this ruins the experience for me. The bottom 5% of the class takes up 95% of my time. They are whining, complaining, and doing everything to weasel out of assignments and exams. They sure as hell aren't studying.

The rewarding days are so few and far between. I'll just lay down, and wait for the semester to end.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

If Only Funding Could Heal These Wounds

Yesterday I received the great news that I had won another grant from a hard-to-get source. With this new grant and my CAREER, I'm doing pretty well for tenure. Papers and moving students through the pipeline are the next thing on my mind. To celebrate we went out for BBQ - the kind you eat at a picnic table with butcher paper on top.

And today, I went to see my RA doctor. I always dread these appointments because they make me so depressed. This time I went to get an ultrasound done on my hands. The doctor spotted new bone erosions in my fingers and wrist. Translation: my disease is still progressing and has not slowed down.

How cruel it is to feel so great, to live without pain, but to still have this damned disease that marches on behind the scenes. The doctor says that I can feel fine, but that is no indication of how I'm actually doing with RA. Because I have the erosions so young, that sets me up for more later in life. I don't know what happens in the long run, but I just keep going as usual.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Failure is the Path of Least Persistance

I just graded my class's second mid term, and I might have to get dentures because I've been grinding my teeth over it. I teach a core class that involves chemistry, physics, algebra, and easy calculus. We use a lot of tables to pick off data. I was extremely disappointed that 1/3 of my students were too lazy to interpolate data from a table, to use ideal gas law, or bother to get the right units. These are America's next generation and I would be horrified to have them working alongside my friend or working heavy machinery. Are we so lazy that we can't solve problems anymore?

Friday, March 25, 2011

March Madness

I just spent four hours doing email!

In the last 15 days, I've been home for only 2. I jet off to another conference on Sunday.

The first conference I went to was an international, invitation-only conference where I gave a short talk. It was probably the best talk of my life, and it was so well-received! I'd never felt so excited about my group as I had at that time.

Following a less-than-24 hr stay at home, I spent a week with my sister as she recovered from her mastectomy and received news about her treatment. I loved spending time with her, and was very sad to leave. I plan to go again as soon as classes are over.

Then, I drove to another conference in a town nearby. It was my first time to attend this conference after receiving my CAREER award, and this time it was very different. People I knew only in passing were congratulating me or shaking my hand. I had *arrived*!

And finally, I came home to my two-year old, my husband, and my in-laws who had spent the last two weeks taking care of Sparky. Without this kind of help, I couldn't do the travel that I just did. By the end of this extravaganza, My joints were tired and achy, but it's OK because I know it'll be better another day. Ugh, is it summer yet?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Send Love

Please send love and prayers to my sister, Dr. Mom, who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Faculty Participation

Yesterday I taught, attended a faculty candidate seminar, participated in graduate recruiting (met with students, went to the lunch and dinner, attended the recruiting poster session), and said goodbye to my great postdoc. So... the point is that I did a lot, but it was mostly departmental "service" type stuff. In contrast, we've got some faculty members in my department that do NOTHING - and they make twice my salary.

I met with a graduate recruit who was sharp, mature, and quality. After my meeting, I escorted him to meet with one of these faculty members who does nothing. That faculty member wasn't there. He stood up the recruit. In fact, I can't think of a single time that this faculty member has showed up for anything. He has a reputation for standing up seminar speakers, so why in the world did we allow him to meet with recruits?

And he isn't the only one. We've got other members who don't participate in events, like recruiting. Graduate students won't sign up to work in your group if they've never met you, hello! These older non-participating faculty then complain that no one wants to work for them.

Back to the jilted recruit, I scrambled to find a warm faculty body who would talk to the recruit for a half hour. Having the problem solved, I just went back to my office and seethed.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

To Honor and Obey

Sadly, my post-doc is abruptly leaving my group. She has been with me over a year, moved with me from Ivy League U to Big State School, and persevered through a challenging project. She came to me yesterday for our weekly meeting, and told me that her husband set a deadline for her to leave her post-doc and move back to be with him. They are married, but living separately as they each tried to develop their careers. The husband just landed a job, dropped the deadline, and so my post-doc decided to obey and leave. There is nothing I can say or do because family is stronger than anything (to any sane person). My post-doc was clearly upset about leaving, she said that she really wanted to stay but she had no choice.

We set up a timeline for experiments until her departure. She can finish up two papers from elsewhere, and I've agreed to pay her an extra month to cover her time writing. I genuinely hope she can find the career she's always wanted.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Three Little Piggies Cheated

I recently gave my first mid-term exam at the new Big State School University. I caught three students cheating. I already know how I am going to handle it, but I'm inviting comments on what others would do.

The test is in a core class, and I allowed open book, calculators, and notes from the class. Everything else was disallowed. This was mentioned on three separate occasions in class. This is in the syllabus. But even then, three students brought in homework sets and hid them in their notes during the exam. My TA and I discovered these three separate incidences while quietly patrolling the classroom from back to front. We caught the students right at the beginning of the exam, so no damage had been done. We told the each student, "Those materials are not allowed." Each students put the materials away and continued with the exam. Each student was pretty frustrated with me. (I feel no guilt over their frustration, since they were, um, cheating). The official policy is to give the students a zero, but I let the students continue on since I caught them at the beginning.

I've been grading and it's clear that these student will fail themselves out anyway. Catching them cheating just makes me sad, and it makes me embarrassed that I'm at the same school as them!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Can I call you Ms?

I'm teaching a sophomore class of 50+ students. At first, they seemed baffled at how to address me. I was addressed as Professor X, Dr. X, Ms. X., and Dr. "First Initial". All of these are cool with me except calling me Ms. It drives me nuts! If the students can address male professors as Dr., then why not the same for female professors? An informal survey around my department indicated that no male professors were called "Mr" and that female professors were sometimes called "Ms".

So now we've identified the problem here: students call female professors "Ms" at my particular university. I've cleared the problem up mostly for my course by the following actions. First, I sign every email as "Dr. X". Second, in class, I refer to myself in the third person as "Dr. X". Third, I tell the students "My last name is hard to pronounce, so you can pronounce my name as 'Dr.X'". I cleared up the problem in about a week without calling out a student for their misguiding addressing. Unfortunately, this problem will come up every semester that I teach, so I've got to cringe through the "Ms".

Other than that, I'm happy with teaching. It's fun and rewarding!