Reviewers say the darndest things June 11, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in career, engineering, research, work.
Tags: proposals, reviewer comments
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I’m not sure what happened this year, but as the feedback from this past fall’s proposals have come in, I’ve been a bit flabbergasted. It seemed like last year, the feedback was a lot better. There were a lot of suggestions for improvement.
This year’s comments were…stupid. There was nothing constructive about it. There was nothing that could be used as suggestions for improvement.
Aside from the commentary I mentioned yesterday about my marital status, there were lots of other fun oddities to pick on.
I think the first thing that was frustrating were the contradictory comments. Reviews like “excellent detail” coming alongside “too technical.” Some of that is to be expected.
What I wasn’t expecting was a resubmission from the previous year having stellar reviews in comparison with the first year (totally nailed the broader outcomes, which were cited as rather weak the previous year)…yet the ratings didn’t change at all. Huh?
Next there was the reviewer who obviously pasted some of his/her review from another proposal into our review. Ironically, I think this reviewer also commented on formatting issues in the proposal. (I apparently didn’t notice that Word puked on a reference.)
Then there was the reviewer who cited some ‘scientifically based’ concerns about a chemical that we were using. There were supposedly health issues associated with use of this chemical…which had nothing to do with what we were doing. Worse yet, he was completely wrong. One only need to look at the CDC website to find toxicity info saying that the claims the reviewer were saying had been “well established for a decade” had never been proven and were probably related to something else.
Finally, I’m really beginning to wonder how many reviewers actually read the proposal at all. When you’re inundated with questions that were clearly addressed in the proposal (including the above mentioned toxicity issue), you gotta wonder how effective the skimming really is.
Maybe divorce is the answer… June 10, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in career, engineering, family, feminism, research, science, societal commentary, work.
Tags: feminism, hyphenated names, marriage, names, proposals, reviewer comments, sexism, stupid
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?
Not married to my work May 4, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in career, engineering, family, research, work.
Tags: academia, industry, jobs, marriage, Mike, work
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A few weeks ago, I posted about the difficulties that go along with working with my husband. That is no longer an issue…not because I’m not married anymore but because Mike has since changed jobs. He’s back to working in industry, and enjoying all of the fun of a more stable job. (As an aside, he must be type A because all of the anxiety about the job situation at work has now transferred into unfinished remodeling projects at home. I suspect we’ll have an entirely new house in about two years.)
We are adjusting to spending a lot less time together, and I’m getting to hear all about the joys of an industrial job. He has me convinced that is not the route I want to go. The primary reason for this decision is that, by leaving academia, I would no longer have unfettered access to research journals. That sounds like my personal idea of hell.
Married to my work April 13, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in career, engineering, family, personal, societal commentary.
Tags: marriage, Mike, professionalism, spouse
In the past two weeks, I have been introduced as Mike’s spouse twice in professional settings.
I usually view this as something akin to the Kiss of Death: the person receiving this news is likely to consider me an appendage to my spouse and therefore rather useless. It’s not that I mind people know I am married to Mike. He’s very competent and he’s a nice person, so I’m certainly not ashamed of it. It’s often the reaction I get that bothers me. We have both noticed that some people will make a point of talking to him and ignoring me entirely, even when the project is mine and has nothing to do with him. (Of course, people do this even when they don’t know we’re married…)
In the first case, I found this rather interesting because it had a couple oddities relative to other introductions of this nature. First, the person I was being introduced to had no idea who Mike was, and in fact, never did meet him. I’m not sure why my marital arrangement was the first thing that came up, but I just sort of sigh and roll with it. Second, I think one of the people we were with was more annoyed about the way I was introduced than I was. While I just sort of shrugged and carried on as though nothing happened, shaking hands with the visitor, one of the other people who knew me repeated my name to the person two or three times. As much as I’m resigned to this sort of thing, apparently other people are not, and my inner voice yelled, “Huzzah!”
The second situation was very unnerving. Mike and I coauthored a paper which was accepted at a fairly selective conference. The introduction to our presentation explained that we were a husband and wife team, and I inwardly cringed. I was expecting the fallout to be very awkward for me. What was odd is that, for the most part, this didn’t seem to make a difference to anyone. Or maybe they already knew so it didn’t matter. Mike has had a paper accepted there before, and I was invited to give a presentation last year, so we’re not complete strangers to this group of people. With perhaps one exception, there wasn’t any noticeable difference in the way anyone treated him versus me.
While the “being married to my coworker” thing has it’s problems, it seems like some people aren’t letting it be as big an issue as it used to be. It’s kind of nice to be considered a colleague and not an appendage.
It’ll make my day when people regularly introduce him as my spouse, though. (It has happened once or twice, but not nearly as often as the reverse.)
Cynicism and the academic market March 25, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in career, grad school, research, work.
Tags: academia, career, tenure
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I recently had someone ask what I was planning to do after I graduated. I’ve had this question asked of me before. When I responded, “I’m interested in a tenure track position,” I have, more often than not gotten the “Yeah right. Let me know how that works out for you” response. Not in so many words, of course.
This time, however, I responded that I was interested in a TT position, and added that I knew it was highly unlikely. The reaction to that was, “Not necessarily.”
I was appreciative of the comment because I think, without reading too much into it, it was meant to be encouraging. However, I still have to stick by my stance that it’s pretty unlikely, mostly because I think it’s not best to be wed to the idea.
The data seems to back me up on this one. There was a study done on those who make it into TT positions in political science, and the conclusion is that there are very select schools from which everyone is trying to hire. I don’t have any direct info for my field, but this seems like a reasonable proxy. The conclusion is that 20% of TT hires come out of a half dozen elite colleges. And as your school goes down in ranking from there, so do your chances of getting hired. I’ve also seen numbers, at least for physics, that only 1 in 10 grads finds a TT spot.
Just looking at these numbers makes me think that I would be rather stupid to count on getting a TT spot. So as much as people may want to be encouraging (and I do appreciate it), it seems like I should try to stay pragmatic and keep in mind that there is life after academia.
Driving Miss Crazy February 25, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in career.
Tags: Driving, nice people, professionalism
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I had a workshop in Minneapolis today.
Or…I thought I did.
I needed to attend some training, and to get there, I have to drive about four hours each way. It’s not a huge deal. The weather was relatively nice (aside from the 35 mph head/cross wind on the way back). I have done day trips like this a million times before.
Except that when I got there, I found out that the training had been moved out two weeks and I hadn’t been notified of the change.
If you’re exhausted from getting up very early and being on the road for a long time, hearing something like this is bound to make you blow up at the person delivering the bad news. I almost did. However, I got a grip pretty quickly and asked if there were any materials that would have been available at the workshop that I could start looking at. Obviously having a fit wasn’t going to solve anything, so I figured I’d try to salvage what I could.
The admin person was very nice and helped me find someone who could provide such documentation. After hearing about what had happened, this person did something even better: he found an instructor for the training who sat down with me and ran through all the stuff I needed. When he couldn’t find someone at first, I said some documentation would be helpful, so that would be enough. He responded,
You drove four hours to get here. I’m not going to shove a piece of paper in your hand and turn you away.
I was surprised at how emphatic he was that I get something out of this trip…and grateful.
He did find an instructor after a bit. I was able to ask the instructor specific questions and pretty much avoid all the pointless stuff. We actually fixed a couple problems I was having, and, better yet, I spent half the time working with the person that I would have spent in the training. (I do feel bad that I sucked this person away from other responsibilities, but he was extremely polite about it.)
The day was still a very long day, but I definitely feel like it was worth it. It’s always nice when someone behaves in a professional manner, but it’s beyond awesome when they’re willing to go out of their way to help you out…although I’m sure the driving bit had something to do with it.
How to be condescending when you’re trying not to be February 9, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in career, family, societal commentary.
Tags: career, children, mommy wars, parenting, SAHM
I thought it undermined its own point.
Let’s start with the first paragraph:
It’s happened twice in a week, and they were both women. Anyone ought to have more class than this, but women — especially women — should damn well know better.
The opener disgusted me immediately, and I almost quit reading. Let’s start with the fact that I agree with his main point: that women who choose one path over another (in this case, motherhood or career) are not necessarily superior to one other. However, the whole tone of the post was condescending toward women (and men!) and did ultimately end up being judgemental of working women.
But the opener set the tone, and the tone was that women are held to a higher standard than men. It’s okay for men to say stupid things about stay-at-home mothers (but not parents?), but women somehow have this innate, caring response that ought to be the first thing out of their mouths.
Sorry. It doesn’t work that way. I’ve been a SAHM and a working mom. People’s response to this is always one that comes from their perspective and takes no account of whether you’re doing what you want to or why. When I wanted to be a SAHM mom, people told me I needed to be supporting my family. When I didn’t want to be but was, people told me they were so jealous that I got to be at home. When I was working, people told me I was selfish and needed to pay more attention to my kids.
At all of these points, I was also told by other people that I had made the right choice. It’s funny how few people ever asked me what I wanted to do or if I was doing it. The reality is that, in each of these situations, I was doing what needed to be done for the good of my family, and each response had nothing to do with me and everything to do with the perspective of the person speaking those words.
When I find out someone is staying home or working, my response is, “How do you feel about that?” If they’re enjoying their current situation, a good response is, “Glad it’s working out for you.” If they’re not, I wish them luck in getting things sorted out so they can be more comfortable. It’s really not my place to say what’s best for them.
The post that started all this, however, didn’t. It came down firmly on the side of women needing to be stay at home moms.
Of course not all women can be at home full time. It’s one thing to acknowledge that; it’s quite another to paint it as the ideal. To call it the ideal, is to claim that children IDEALLY would spend LESS time around their mothers. This is madness. Pure madness. It isn’t ideal, and it isn’t neutral. The more time a mother can spend raising her kids, the better. The better for them, the better for their souls, the better for the community, the better for humanity. Period.
No. It’s not as cut and dried as that. Some moms really don’t want to be home. Some moms are better being around other adults: being the sole caretaker for children with no adult interaction makes them depressed or anxious. (I believe this was covered in the 60s in Friedan’s Feminine Mystique.) I wouldn’t doubt that having mom home all the time may be advantageous for some kids, but I don’t know that it’s always the best choice for the whole family.
If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.
If mom is going nuts staying home with the kids, I seriously doubt that’s the best situation for the kids, either. Having a depressed or anxious mom who views you as a toddling, diapered impediment to her happiness isn’t good for anything. What do we tell people to do if they’re unhappy with their job? Quit and find another because it’s not good to be in a stressful situation. Obviously, quitting being a parent isn’t an option, but finding time away from parenting certainly is.
The other thing that irritated me about this post was this:
Yes, my wife is JUST a mother. JUST. She JUST brings forth life into the universe, and she JUST shapes and molds and raises those lives. She JUST manages, directs and maintains the workings of the household, while caring for children who JUST rely on her for everything. She JUST teaches our twins how to be human beings, and, as they grow, she will JUST train them in all things, from morals, to manners, to the ABC’s, to hygiene, etc. She is JUST my spiritual foundation and the rock on which our family is built. She is JUST everything to everyone. And society would JUST fall apart at the seams if she, and her fellow moms, failed in any of the tasks I outlined.
Moms don’t need to be SAHMs to do this. In fact, what’s most irritating about this that you don’t need to be a mom at all: dads do this, too. This paragraph basically went back on the whole “I respect the choices that other parents make comment” and went ahead and tried to put those SAHMs up on a pedestal…doing exactly the thing to working moms (and ALL dads) that the writer was originally complaining about. In fact, he even says so.
The people who completely immerse themselves in the tiring, thankless, profoundly important job of raising children ought to be put on a pedestal.
No, I disagree. Parenting is a tiring, thankless, profoundly important job. And a lot of people have tiring, thankless, and profoundly important careers, too, although they at least usually get monetary compensation. Also, many people have jobs where they are greatly appreciated and are not easily replaceable. Okay, maybe someone who is only looking at your payroll may think so, but chances are that many of your coworkers don’t think that…even if you do get on their nerves.
We get a lot of things wrong in our culture. But, when all is said and done, and our civilization crumbles into ashes, we are going to most regret the way we treated mothers and children.
No, I don’t think that mothers and children will be the only victims. I think the problem is simply how we treat other people in general. In general, we tend to be caught up in the “grass is always greener” syndrome without a realistic view of what other people are dealing with. Most people are really just trying to get through their day and don’t realize that they may be simultaneously in worse and better situations than the next person.
I once was very jealous of a friend because of all the academic honors he had achieved. He was so accomplished, and I felt like a failure next to him. One day he told me he felt the same because I had a happy marriage and a wonderful family. That was the day I realized that we all picked our own paths and had our own priorities. We always have to give up something to get what we want because no one has infinite time and resources. We almost always find the path of our lives takes unexpected twists and turns. And if people could respect and understand that, we’d all be in a better place. We’re not going to get there, though, by saying we respect all those paths and then telling someone they chose the wrong one.
The Dynamic Duo December 6, 2013Posted by mareserinitatis in career, engineering, family, papers, research.
Tags: acknowledgements, collaboration, engineering research, Mike, papers, research, spouse
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When I was doing my MS, I ended up getting a research assistantship working in the same place as Mike (which is, of course, where I now am working). There was one person higher up in the ranks who would occasionally see us having lunch together and would exclaim, “There’s the Dynamic Duo!” This person was rather tickled that Mike and were interested in the same field of engineering.
At the time, it kind of peeved me. I was already getting a bit of a feeling that people viewed me as his shadow, and this comment didn’t help to alleviate that concern. Now I think about it, however, and it actually was much better than I thought because there was no implication that either one of us was better than the other: we were peers.
We both take this view when we’re doing research, and we really enjoy collaborating on things. We’ve found that our strengths are complimentary, so it’s very easy to talk to each other about a topic and get good feedback. We also have several projects that we’re doing separately, but we almost always (especially on our drives home) talk about what we’re doing and asking for feedback. (Well, admittedly, it’s volunteered whether we want it or not.)
Those conversations have, more often than not, been incredibly helpful in moving projects forward. However, this leaves us in a bit of a bind because, as I said, some of these projects really aren’t involving the other person. When this happens, especially if the project results in publication, we always have to make a decision: do we add the other person as co-author or mention them in the acknowledgements. When it’s been nothing more than conversational input, particularly when we proofread each other’s papers, we choose the latter. This does lead to some interesting possibilities for entertaining acknowledgements.
I would like to thank my spouse for suggesting such a nifty title.
I would like to thank my spouse for catching that diagram that was completely bass ackwards when proofreading the paper for me.
and maybe even
I would like to thank my spouse for the helpful input in developing the concept of this project, despite the fact that they laughed at my hokey acronym.
I know. It’s totally unprofessional. But it’s a lot of fun to imagine doing such a thing.
Your name in lights! October 28, 2013Posted by mareserinitatis in career, engineering, research, work.
Tags: funding, names, principal investigator, star wars
Having an unusual name, I always felt unfortunate. All those cheap little do-dads they sell that have people’s names on them? I never got one. Having a rather rare name means few things ever show up with my name on it. On one occasion, I think my parents felt guilty about this and had some guy at the state fair carve out my name on a wooden key chain. I have to admit that was pretty cool, but sadly the key chain broke after a couple years.
All of that is okay, though, because today made up for that.
I was recently awarded a small amount of money for a project, but the really cool part was that I was the PI on the project. I got the final paperwork from the financial people at the university today. When I opened it up and was ecstatic to see the following:
Principal Investigator(s): Cherish
I would rather have my name there than on any key chain (except for the one my parents got for me).
(As an aside, I do have to admit that seeing it in the Star Wars font is pretty darn cool, too.)