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?