Monday, January 26, 2009
Part of the revolution in academic science that I want to see is a change in the perception that a life in academia needs to be monomaniacal--that there is no time for anything but science (especially if you also have a family to try to fit into the week). For one, this just isn't true. We let ourselves become biased by our feeling of intensity during the times we ARE under pressure, and that perceptual bias overwhelms our assessment of reality. For two, most people find that productivity does not necessarily correlate to the number of hours spent on something. Being organized and efficient with your time is FAR more valuable than sitting in front of your work for double the number of hours. For example, I submit Exhibit 1A below illustrating the approximate amount of time I spend TRYING to get work done vs. how much work I actually end up doing.
Exhibit A. My activity/productivity levels plotted roughly by day of the week. Note several features: 1) Neither time spent working nor productivity ever reach 100%. b) Actual productivity levels bear little relationship to time spent trying to be productive. iii) Me feeling like I have no time to do anything is actually just me wanting to MAKE more time for sitting around not doing anything.
**A big DISCLAIMER here: HENCE you should all understand that I am by no means trying to imply that I am the queen of efficiency, organization and success--just illustrating the model, and it's just a model after all, right?
Even with how busy I know I am, and how much work I have to constantly do, I still see gaps where I should be able to fit some other constructive, productive activities (meaning activities that do not involve sitting on the couch watching Law & Order reruns and eating chips). So, I joined the local Parks Service pottery club. I last worked on pottery at the end of college, right before graduate school. I had never done it before, but my teacher was excellent and I am good with my hands. I took to it like a duck to water, it just felt so natural and I fell completely in love with it. I made hundreds of pieces in my nine months in three different classes. My favorite class: a soda fired porcelain class where I made some truly beautiful things. I have to say, there are some things I am good at, many things I am not good at, but some things I am DAMN good at. Pottery is one of those. I hadn't had any time or opportunities to do it since, and it's like a part of me has pined for it. Now that I have joined this Potters' Club, for less than a hundred bucks every three months I can go to the pottery studio and make things whenever I want (i.e. after work, on weekends, times I have open in my productivity plot).
I went to the orientation for new members last weekend and felt so, so happy just being there around the equipment and shelves and seeing all the glazing sample tiles and the clay. I'm so anxious to get started, I feel like how my doggie must be feeling when he sees something he wants to chase to give into his racing instinct. I have to admit, I do not always feel like this about my science (although I frequently do). If I couldn't have this part of me, I just wouldn't be myself. Do I need to sacrifice myself for the tenure track? I don't think I should have to. Will it require superhuman efforts on my part to keep up all these disparate foci of my life? Probably. Does that make me crazy for trying it anyway? Yes.
But will it make me a more interesting person and make me happier with myself? Most definitely yes.
So I'm going to try this experiment (like so many before me) in making the tenure track process fit into my paradigm for my life, rather than the other way around. For so many who are in the midst of, or have already been through, this process, this will feel obvious. But for those of us just beginning and those who are looking at where to take their lives in science, this perception is a major concern. Let's see if I can liveblog it (like Isis, drdrA, juniorprof, proflikesubst and others have been doing) over the next few years, to find out if it's really the same on the ground as it looks like from the war stories. Isn't this part of the change we all keep talking about?
Sunday, January 25, 2009
The questionnaire you filled out measures your scores on five different personality dimensions collectively known as the "Big Five". Below are your scores on each dimension based on the answers you provided, along with some interpretation. If you'd like more information about these personality dimensions, the Wikipedia entry is a good place to start.
You scored 26 out of 50. This score is higher than 51.4% of people who have taken this test.
You scored 40 out of 50. This score is higher than 78.8% of people who have taken this test.
You scored 48 out of 50. This score is higher than 92.7% of people who have taken this test.
You scored 40 out of 50. This score is higher than 79.8% of people who have taken this test.
You scored 41 out of 50. This score is higher than 76.7% of people who have taken this test.
Friday, January 23, 2009
There are also some strong friendships and good-natured alliances between faculty here. There's a group of people (a core of about six with about another six who rotate in and out) who go out to lunch every Friday. They're really consistent, and only miss it for very important meetings or being out of town. My first week on campus they invited me and the other new professor out with them, included us in the mass carpool and started checking with us every week to see if we wanted to go. Even though they are all close friends, they opened up the circle to us newbies and brought us right into the conversations. They always check up on us to see how we are doing and try to help us navigate the unwritten aspects of the department so we don't get ourselves in trouble, and so we can function optimally with some of the red tape. They've been very welcoming, friendly and inclusive. They're all 40's-ish white men, besides the other junior faculty who rotate in and out, and I am the only woman. It's not like it is some big shock that white male scientists could ever be friendly and inclusive--it happens every day all over the place--I'm just telling the story of my own personal allies.
This group of lunch buddies has become a really important mentor group for me. They do a lot of alliance-building on departmental issues during these lunches, and because I have been brought into the conversation, I see their strategies, know their motives and desired outcomes are for the good of the whole, and feel comfortable with their collective attitudes because I have a part in them. This kind of interaction seems like it is really, really important to growing into a connection with a faculty group during the tenure track, and from what I read around the blogs and hear from friends at other institutions, the inclusion of junior faculty in this kind of thing is pretty rare. I feel really fortunate to have found a department with this level of openness and collective feeling of responsibility towards helping the noobs.
So if you're a senior faculty member of any gender, trying to figure out how to help give a leg up to your junior colleagues, consider taking time once a week to go to lunch. And if you're a junior faculty member feeling lost and isolated in your department, find out if others are too and see if you can get together with friendly senior faculty on a regular basis like this. Sure, everybody is busy--life is hard uphill both ways in the snow with no shoes on--but for us, it could be a matter of the life or death of our career. The earlier you start including us, the better, and we are very, very appreciative of your support!
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Anyway, I'm not just having a complaining session here. The upshot is that I got tired of being sore all the time and went to see a rheumatologist to get an opinion. He prescribed me Mobic for now--a Cox inhibitor NSAID used mostly as an arthritis medication. I have taken my first one and so far have MAYBE noticed a difference in some aspects of the pain, but not in most. But, like the pharmaceutical scientist I am, I had to look up as much information as I could.
I found a big, long list of all the possible side effects, and it is really funny because you can tell which things were listed in the trial questionnaires that are clearly just a consequence of the trial cohort. Joint pain is listed as a potential side effect: well duh, many people who would want to go on this trial would be people with joint pain. You are trying to find out if it can treat arthritis, after all. Since they always have to keep records of any physical or mental symptom anybody on the trial experienced during the time, they even have to list things like "stubbed toe" if someone stubbed their toe while on the trial. For this drug, one of the less-common potential side effects is "wrinkled skin," another is "Sunken eyes." Others include "Feelings of sadness or emptiness," "Loss of interest or pleasure" and "Discouragement." It is clear that many of the trial participants were elderly and probably had chronic pain for a long, long time. These side effects make me sad mostly because they represent some insight into how many old people feel a lot of the time.
The primary side effect I am feeling is the weird fuzzy-head feeling I get from Naproxen. It makes me kind of out of it. I wouldn't call it drowsy, or dizzy, or even tiredness, but just, kinda... weird. And, my head/jaw, shoulder, elbow, wrist and fingers still hurt. Sigh. We'll see, maybe it will take a while to really kick in.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Monday, January 12, 2009
Yeehaw! We are gonna make the coolest non-invasive in vivo detection system EVAH!!
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Friday, January 9, 2009
I still keep finding new dead insects in weird places, or just parts: a leg here, a wing there. All surfaces get coated in a thin film of some kind of dark dusty powder within a day or two of being cleaned. I'm sure this is not good. Luckily we do all of our cell culture in a different room that doesn't have these problems, but I do have a pretty sensitive instrument living in this environment. I just took out its RF amp board assembly (which appears to have failed), and DAMN is it dirty. It too is coated in a thin, directional (as in, coming from the side the instrument shell's vent holes are on) film, including all over the circuit boards and stuff.
Somehow I get the feeling this is not good...
Saturday, January 3, 2009
Thursday, January 1, 2009
Well, I didn't birth him, but he's good practice!
We adopted an ex-racing greyhound yesterday. We'd been thinking about it for almost six years, but never had a situation where we thought it would work out--now we finally do. He is a wonderful dog: so mellow, very well-behaved, friendly and happy to see anyone and everyone. The first thing he did when he came in the house was find his bed and try it out. He slept almost all day yesterday, all through the night (until 5 am when he started ear-flapping), and is currently napping again. He'd probably be a good office dog! I wonder if that's frowned-upon at my new place?
My husband decided we needed to name him Megatron, so that's his new name. We're going to call him Mega for short. He is going to improve our routine scheduling consistency, and help us with our exercise program: he needs to go for a walk twice a day--and so do we.