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Scientific Status Quo July 12, 2015

Posted by mareserinitatis in career, family, feminism, research, societal commentary, work.
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A couple days ago, @katiesci posted this opinion piece from Science by Eleftherios Diamandis on getting noticed.  I was rather frustrated with the article because the way to get noticed was apparently to put in a lot of face time (which is probably decent advice) and to publish like crazy (also not bad advice), even if it means you have to work unrealistic schedules and foist all of your childcare duties onto your spouse.

It was this last part that got under my skin because it’s so much a recapitulation of the status quo: you can’t do anything else and be a scientist, forget balance if you want an academic career.

I have to admit I jumped to a pretty lousy conclusion when I read the following:

I worked 16 to 17 hours a day, not just to make progress on the technology but also to publish our results in high-impact journals. How did I manage it? My wife—also a Ph.D. scientist—worked far less than I did; she took on the bulk of the domestic responsibilities. Our children spent many Saturdays and some Sundays playing in the company lobby. We made lunch in the break room microwave.

I can’t presume to know the dynamic between the author and his wife, and it may be that she was perfectly happy with this arrangement.  Academic couples tend to understand better than others how frustrating this career path can be, and I know there were several occasions where either my husband or myself was bringing the other dinner/microwaving in the lobby or lunch room to help ease the stress of deadlines along with an empty stomach.

But what about the people for whom this is not an option?  Most of the people I know get very upset if their spouse is putting in more than 60 hours per week.  Are they just supposed to give up?  What about people who are physically unable to work those types of hours?  Even if you are physically capable, it’s bad for you in the long run and turns out to be rather useless.

If anything, this just reinforced that to make it in science, you don’t have to do good science, you just have to be willing to give up any semblance of a family life and turn into a squeaky wheel.  I’m not sure what the author intended to convey, but reading this piece was rather disheartening.

Instead, I’d rather have heard about how the author’s wife did it: how is it she was able to work less hours than him, raise their kids, and still manage to have an apparently successful career?  At least, that’s the implication at the end of the piece.  To me, it sounds like she was able to handle a very unbalanced load successfully, and unless it’s, “don’t sleep,” I would think she may have some advice worth sharing with the rest of us mere mortals.  If you happen to be from Science magazine, could you please let her know?


New Year’s Goals: The 2015 FCIWYPSC edition January 1, 2015

Posted by mareserinitatis in career, family, grad school, personal, religion, research, running, work, writing.
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I’m not doing resolutions and haven’t done them for a while.  Goals, however, are another story, particularly when they’re of the quantifiable type.  While some of these are large goals (like with running), I break them down to weekly and daily goals, as well.

Writing this out is helpful because not only does it provide me with some accountability, it helped me realize I was bogging myself down with too much.  I had to cut a few items.

These are the things I think I can manage with some consistency:

  • Career/Work: Publish at least one paper and attend at least one conference.
  • Career/Dissertation: Set a minimum amount of time to work on my thesis each week, though the weekly total will vary if there’s a holiday involved.  (I do some version of this, but I think I need to make my planning a bit more specific.) Also, attend one conference this year.
  • Family time: Family play day once per month.
  • Marriage: Keep up with the weekly date with the spousal unit.
  • Self-care/Religious: Center down (or if you prefer, meditate or pray) for at least ten minutes a day, not necessarily all at once.
  • Self-care/Sleep: Stick to a consistent (and early) bed-time at least 4 days per week.
  • Self-care/Physical activity: Run or walk 500 miles by the end of October.  I did about 200 outdoor miles this year but didn’t keep track of treadmill time at all, so I think this is doable, especially in light of my next goal.  I’ve also learned I like to ramp down the activity around the holidays (too much to do), so that amounts to about 11.5 miles per week.
  • Fun goal: Do half-marathons in two new states this year.  Two down, 48 to go. I’m hoping to cross Wisconsin and Michigan off the list this year.  (And I’ve already registered for one of them.)
  • Misc/Blog: Post on the blog at least twice per week.  (I do that on average, but sometimes there are long gaps in between.)
  • Misc/Email: I will keep my main mailbox below 3000 messages.  That may sound horrible, but this is 1/5 of what it was just last week.  I need to either delete those messages, read them, or unsubscribe from all the spam I’m getting…probably mostly the latter.  Lots of unread email makes me overwhelmed.

So do you have any goals for the year?

Real men… July 3, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, family.
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Mike spent all day at work waiting for some smart-alek comments to his shirt.  Nothing. Apparently we both thought the shirt was much funnier than everyone else.  Regardless, I’m still giggling.

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?

Not married to my work May 4, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in career, engineering, family, research, 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, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in career, engineering, family, personal, societal commentary.
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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.)

Friday Fun: Long live the Queen July 19, 2013

Posted by mareserinitatis in Friday Fun, societal commentary.
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The Queen has signed onto marriage equality in England and Wales.

I'm not sure who came up with this image (I'd love to give credit), but I adore it.

I’m not sure who came up with this image (I’d love to give credit), but I adore it.

A reference to the Queen and gay people obviously leads me to think of Freddie Mercury.  (Am I right?)


I imagine he would be happy about the pronouncement, so to celebrate, I’m posting Queen videos today.

I did an informal poll on Facebook and Twitter of my friends’ favorite Queen songs.  I got about 18 responses with 20 songs, but there were two that were named repeatedly.

Everyone, of course, loves, Bohemian Rhapsody:

Although there were some people who prefer the Muppet version:

The definite favorite, however, was Under Pressure:

Personally, though, I was a bit disappointed that no one else shared my personal favorite:

Manager in the middle July 19, 2012

Posted by mareserinitatis in career, engineering, family, research, work.
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Way back when I was working on my MS, my husband and I got into a big argument about whether H or B was the “magnetic field”.  (I’ve ranted before on terminology for various magnetic and electric quantities, so I won’t reproduce that here, but you can read a snippet on my old blog.)  We attempted to solve this by going to our advisor and asking him which of us was right.  Our advisor was astute enough to say he hadn’t heard of this issue before.  In reality, he may not have, but he didn’t want to take sides.

I have wondered how people feel about interacting with both me and my husband at work.  One person who has since left didn’t like my husband, and we both suspect that he didn’t like me as a “guilty by association”-type issue.  Those type of issues are extremely rare, but I wonder what people think when one of us slips and calls the other, “Hon.”  I think most of our coworkers don’t even think about it, but it still makes me uncomfortable.  I know that the one time Mike slipped in front of clients, I wanted to melt into my chair.

More commonly, though, I have noticed that I will be far more confrontational and argumentative with Mike in front of our coworkers than they are willing to be with him.  In one recent incident, he started going into a list of reasons why something wouldn’t work.  We’d already discussed it at home, and I’d told him he was being overly cynical and putting obstacles in his path.  He started going through the list again in meeting (that I was running), and I just shook my head and said I didn’t want to hear it.  Of course, he ignored me and I rolled my eyes, sighed loudly, gave him an incredulous look, and said, “Okay, fine.”.  I noticed a couple of coworkers exchanging grins with each other, and I wondered if it must be strange to see a married couple working this way.  (I wonder how they communicate with their spouses, who aren’t engineers.)

Recently, we had an incident where we were in a meeting.  We got into a discussion where I was disagreeing with him.  After we got done, there was a pause, and our supervisor said, “Actually, I’m more inclined to agree with Cherish.”  This elicited loud “uh-ohs” and “woahs” from several of our coworkers, and even a direct, “Are you sure you want to get in the middle of this?”

I find this interesting as I’m sure these comments wouldn’t happen if we weren’t married.  I’m amused by these types of comments, but I wonder if it’s that we’re doing something to elicit them or if it didn’t matter how we behaved as it would still be in the back of people’s minds anyway.

I also wonder if they think we disagree all the time because we do it frequently at work.  More than one coworker has been driven out of the room by boisterous white board drawing.  It’s funny how we are much more argumentative with each other at work than we are at home.

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