How do you find the time?

This one is short and sweet, because I am trying to catch up on two days worth of feedly, while also brainstorming how best to calibrate my pipettes without spending dollars.

How do you find the time to be very current with science news and blogs? Do you block time off and have a firm time limit? Do you read instead of sleeping? And how do you find time to be active on twitter, while doing these things AND working in the lab?


What’s my back up plan?

This morning on twitter I was reading this post by @Odysseyblog. They mention that many junior TT faculty are advised to have a back up plan. This post was supposed to make mid- and late-career folks think, but it caught my attention.

It makes me wonder about my back up plan. Of course, I need a primary plan first, but I thought I would brainstorm about some of my various back up plan ideas. Depending on the circumstances, some of these ‘back up plans’ become more primary.

Small liberal arts college professor- I could see myself teaching intro bio or chem and some biochemistry or special topics. I would enjoy seeing students develop.

Editor- I imagine myself helping writers clarify their message.

Consultant- This one is broad, but maybe some way to combine my scientific interests with my organizational/team skills.

Lab Manager- I am really drawn to organization and facilitating. Even though this job would be below my projected education level.

Community college lecturer- With lots of non-traditional students, CC give a large feeling of fulfillment when students learn.

High school chemistry/physics teacher- Again, student development and successes. I would definitely be more drawn to a private school, or somewhere science was valued.

Outreach director- I love communicating science with the lay person, so I could imagine some job where I designed programming.

Food for thought. I’m always looking for more ideas of things to investigate, so if you can think of any careers that might be tangential or even unrelated to this short list, leave a comment!

The quandary of the red dress

Power colors have very real effects on perception, especially first impressions. Red is often described as an action color or a color which demands attention. Its an emotional color which can be linked to passion and excitement.

With all that being said, I don’t wear a lot of red generally. The closest I normally get is a lovely magenta or raspberry. Enter Gwynnie Bee. I closeted a red dress… and they sent it. This is the model wearing it, but the photo doesn’t quite do it justice.

London Times for Gwynnie Bee

When I received the dress, I immediately started plotting when I could wear it. Its much too pretty for a casual day at work. It has an appropriate neckline for a more formal occasion, while the eyelet overlay adds an air of casualness. The fit and flare silhouette flatters without clinging, and the belt draws attention to the waist. Accessories here make a difference. Classic, minimal jewelry for a more formal occasion, or large bright accessories for a more fun vibe.

And then I received a phone call from the writing center. They wanted me to interview with them on Tuesday. The perfect occasion arrived! Red is a great color to wear to an interview… right?

And then my mind started working. Red is an uncomfortable color for me to wear, possibly because of the attention it draws. But isn’t an interview all about attracting attention? Does ‘scientific editor’ qualify as a job that would appreciate a passionate color? Will such a dress give my interviewer a poor impression of my professionalism? I have really been struggling with this. I love the way the dress looks, but I would like to leave the appropriate impression on my interviewer, whatever that is.

I also have to wonder if I would be worrying about color so much as a male. I haven’t answered that question, but I read enough accounts of subtle, micro-sexism that it makes me wonder if my reluctance is based on a desire to fall into the background, even as I’m pushing myself to be successful in a new role.

Food for thought. If anyone has thoughts about wearing such a dress to an interview as a writing center editor at a university, feel free to chime in!

Writing Centers (and scientific writing)

Recently I have been investigating ways I can diversify my skill set (part of this career unknown thing). One of the more obviously necessary examples is effective writing. This blog meets this goal in one way, but as I have chosen to use a pseudonym,  I need additional examples to attach to my real name. I was also discussing science journalism/writing/editing (I know, broad sections) with a mentor recently. We were also brainstorming about the careers available to masters level candidates compared with PhD level candidates. I am definitely in an information gathering phase of this, so if you have some helpful resources, PLEASE, put them in the comments 🙂

In any case, one of the common denominators in these types of careers is previous experience. Specifically publications. I don’t know that I’ve mentioned it before, but my lab doesn’t have a stellar publishing record (I did choose it for other reasons. Another day another post). I’m hoping to get one or two papers out before I graduate, but likely I will get those papers after I leave this position. So scientific publications are going to difficult to show evidence of before I matriculate into a new position. A mentor suggested submitting a piece for the campus newspaper. I’m still brainstorming that one out. I also write a second blog, that is attached to my name, but the topic follows a hobby, not science.

While the publishing dilemma isn’t solved with this particular path, consulting at the writing center might fill in the ‘experience’ gap should I decide to apply for some media fellowship/internship after I defend. I have the application open on another tab, where I have been slowly adding in the relevant information. However, I am a little nervous about the position. The application is definitely tailored to undergraduates, and there is a lot of ‘professional development’ in the fall. I worry that it will be more time then I have available. Honestly though, this is always my concern with new opportunities and I manage to make it work.

Working at the writing center will be interesting. I have helped lots of peers and students edit many documents, especially technical writing. It will be interesting to be in a paid environment completing these tasks. Hopefully when I turn the application in, I will hear about an interview, and then its on to my boss for a letter of recommendation. Have any of you had good or bad experiences working for the writing center (particularly as a graduate student)?

This just bothers me

This was recently posted to the Naturejobs blog: Work/life balance: Take a break.

The first paragraph really bothers me.

Is there a defined time and a place for science? Does science only happen at work and then you switch off when you leave the lab for the day? I don’t believe that for a second, and the majority of you will agree with me. There isn’t a distinct work/life balance for an academic researcher; science is a part of our lives, our passion for it defines who we are and we believe that we are honoured to have a career that allows us to feed our inquisitive nature and the need to solve problems.

This is a real problem in science I think. This is what leads to burnout and women leaving science and the attitude of superiority to other fields where work-life balance is a thing. There should not be anything honorable about spending your life so focused on one task you miss out on life. And while this is definitely a catchy introduction to an article, the next paragraph continues to accept this as ok and even ideal!!

There is no defined line between work and life for a scientist. Instead it is a series of intensities. Ranging from a 14 hour day working non-stop in the lab, to meeting with other academics and talking science, to chatting to someone at a party who asks what you do for a job, to discussing your day with your significant other, to total preoccupation with something else entirely.

I guess this article is frustrating because I find it reinforcing the idea that it is necessary to work around the clock, even as it discusses taking breaks. It seems like an article on work/life balance might address the fact that it is unrealistic to focus on your science 24/7. Maybe I’m just being idealistic and dreaming of a time where I could have it all. Its especially frustrating that this is absolutely the way science works. #academicguilt is an excellent example of this.

Article summary: You should be working all the time. But you should make time for yourself, whatever that means for you. Make breaks happen, but make sure you get in your hours.