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The Dynamic Duo December 6, 2013

Posted by mareserinitatis in career, engineering, family, papers, research.
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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.

A personality in equilibrium June 24, 2012

Posted by mareserinitatis in career, societal commentary, work.
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Do you ever feel like you can’t win?

I am not the most on-the-ball person. I admit that I have trouble keeping up with things.  On the other hand, I try to prioritize and make sure important things get done.  But I always feel stuck in the middle.

For instance, there is someone who I would like to work with.  She’s very smart and competent.  She’s also very nasty and has little patience for people who can’t keep up with her.  And if she thinks you’re flaky, it’s the death blow.

By her standards, I am sure that I’m flaky.

On the other hand, I hate working with flaky people myself.  I sort of understand where she’s coming from because that’s how I feel about working with another person whom I consider flaky.  He’s very easy-going and pleasant to be around.  He also never gets things done and stresses me out beyond belief because of his failure to get anything done prior to 24 hours before a deadline.  I’m sure that I come across as bad as my more competent coworker mentioned above whenever I have to deal with Mr. Flaky.

Between the two of them, I try to feel like I have the right balance of ‘let it go’ and ‘git ‘r done’.  I’m not so high-strung/demanding/sarcastic that people hate dealing with me but I’m also more competent and on top of things than some other people I have to deal with.  However, when I end up dealing with either extreme, I find myself leaning to the opposite extreme in response, and I don’t particularly enjoy it.  I feel like I’m oscillating back and forth.  Oscillating about an equilibrium point is not the same as having balance, and I really prefer that I have balance.

He’s not carrying me November 20, 2011

Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, family, papers, research, writing.
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(Image courtesy of the Wife Carrying World Championships.)

Way back in the dark ages (i.e. this summer before school started), GEARS and I were chatting (because he actually had time to breathe then).  The topic of me working with my husband came up, and he made a comment saying I should be careful not to publish too many papers with my husband because people will assume that he’s carrying me.  I said that was true, but the people who make that assumption are also likely to be the ones who assume I’m an idiot by virtue of my sex.  He conceded that was likely true, and then the conversation moved on to other things.

However, GEARS really does have a point.  This is particularly frustrating because of situations like the following:

About the same time that GEARS and I had this conversation, my husband asked me for help on a paper.  The paper was one written by The Minion and which Mike was a coauthor.  (I, however, am not.)  It had been submitted twice to a pretty good journal in engineering, and rejected both times.  He asked me to take a look at it.

After reading the paper and the reviewer comments, I suggested some major changes.  The problem was that the reviewer kept asking for comparison of The Minion’s widget to some other widgets, as well as a few other things that didn’t seem relevant to what they were doing.  I told them that while the paper was supposed to be about this new process The Minion used to improve and old widget to make a new one, the paper was written as though it was showing off a new widget.  If they could change things so that the paper was more about the process than the widget, than comparison to the other widgets would seem irrelevant as you already have comparisons between the old widget and the other widgets.  They really wanted to compare the old widget to the new widget to show that the process worked.

My husband rewrote the paper in line with my suggestions, checked with The Minion, and resubmitted.   I’d like to say the paper got accepted, but it didn’t.  On the other hand, the nature of the comments changed from assertions that the paper was useless to specific comments to improve the paper, all of which were easily addressed.  Once those changes were made, the paper was resubmitted and accepted.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the kind of thing that other people see.  People seem to think that when you’re not married to someone you collaborate as equals, but when you are, someone is pulling more of the weight.  I imagine that’s true in some cases, but certainly not all.  And in our situation, my husband gets as much help from me as I from him.

If he really wanted to carry me, we could always look at participating in the actual sport of wife carrying.  Apparently we’d only have to go to Wisconsin to compete.

Of course, I’m personally more interested in the husband carrying competition:


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