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Maybe divorce is the answer… June 10, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in career, engineering, family, feminism, research, science, societal commentary, work.
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I think I am going to change my name.  It’s very annoying.

My last name, anyway.

If I had it to do over again, the one thing I would’ve done when getting married is to keep my maiden name.  Hyphenation was not the best idea by a long shot.

This has been an issue (a lot) because I worked with my husband for so long.  I suspect it will die off as we are no longer coworkers.  However, one of the most bizarre things that has come up is that I recently received some reviews of a proposal that we wrote before he changed jobs.  One of the reviewers noted that as a co-PI, I had the same last name as the PI and so a conflict of interest was a possibility.


My university has a clear and very detailed conflict of interest policy, and I’m not clear how this applies.  As far as I can tell, this has nothing to do with conflict of interest as these policies are almost exclusively focused on outside financial obligations.  I checked with the funding agency, and that was all they had listed for conflict of interest, as well.

If he were supervising me or vice-versa (that is, one of us was a subordinate), such a scenario would violate internal policies to the university.  However, even if he is PI and I’m a co-PI, we both reported to someone else.  Further, a PI isn’t necessarily a supervisory role.  Do faculty members who collaborate on research supervise each other or collaborate?  (My experience says there are very few faculty who view their role as co-PI is that of being supervised by the PI.)

In any case, it’s a completely ridiculous comment to make on a proposal review because we could have been two completely unrelated colleagues who happen to have the same last name.  I can think about some of the areas of research I do, and I know of several groups of researchers, particularly in Asia, where many members of the team do have the same last name.  I never once jumped to the conclusion that there was a problem with this.

Of course, it’s obviously my fault for the name, so I should probably fix it.  Do you suppose it’s cheaper to go through the legal name-change process or to just divorce and quickly get remarried?


1. karifur - June 10, 2014

If you opted to divorce and remarry, then you might be able to get some gifts out of the bargain.

mareserinitatis - June 11, 2014

I like that idea. We won’t just reaffirm our vows, we’ll start over from scratch, including the whole wedding deal. :-)

2. The Minion - June 10, 2014

Just add another hyphen and slap “Dumbledore” in there. That will keep people guessing! “Maxwell” would probably be more appropriate but the former is a lot more fun!

mareserinitatis - June 11, 2014

I think Dumbledore would reinforce this notion that I’m too nice to call people on their BS. I need something more intimidating…like Batman.

3. owen - June 11, 2014

The name on your birth certificate is always a legal name. You should have a bank account in your maiden name in the event that your husband has a heart attacked and you are left with no money if he died. Use your birth certificate as your ID and you can use your maiden name at any time without any expensive costs to change your name. This will vary depending on where you live. In the Province of Quebec in Canada you must use your maiden name and are not allowed to change it to your husbands last name.

mareserinitatis - June 11, 2014

I’m not sure if that’s how it works in the US. If that is the case, I might consider changing it on future publications.

4. nicoleandmaggie - June 11, 2014

Gee, and people don’t think there could possibly be gender bias in grant reviews. (Because do you think they’d have flagged anything if it had been two gentlemen with the same last name?)

mareserinitatis - June 11, 2014

That’s exactly it. I can’t think of any reason to bring up this issue in proposal reviews at all. It’s the first time I’ve seen something overtly sexist, though.

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