Thursday, January 1, 2009

January Scientiae Carnival

It is New Year’s Day. We have crossed the threshold and have begun another year. For me, this is always a day of some degree of introspection. Over the past few years, I have opened and closed quite a few really big doors, and I’m always thinking about this on the first day of the year. I made the decision to go to graduate school. Seven years ago (ouch, it’s really hard to say that), I was preparing my applications, and I chose to aim high. It paid off, but not without a price. I marched through the door to the school of my dreams, and simultaneously opened the door to the nightmare of the “two-body problem”. One year later, I was finishing my first semester, and realizing that hubby was not going to be able to join Thing 1 and me in New City as quickly as we’d hoped. But we chose not to close the door on our desire to have another child. No, we marched right through that one, too, and two years later we were anxiously awaiting the birth of Thing 2. My difficult pregnancy necessitated closing to door on research for a while, but, thanks to the support of my PI and graduate program chair, I was able to re-open that one without too much trouble. It took another year before someone opened a door to hubby here in New City. But it finally happened. Which closed to door on the particular brand of insanity that trying to do my thesis research while raising two kids mostly on my own turned out to be.

This year has been all about looking around and opening the doors I thought I could not while things were so crazy. I have given several talks. I have nearly finished writing my first first-author paper. I have begun to take control of my research program in a way that I sometimes feared I would never be able to when all I could think about was how to get through THIS day. I have begun to see a big picture. It took me a while to get to this point, but I had a lot of closed doors in front of me.

Then, there is this blog. When I started this, I re-opened a part of myself that had lain dormant for some time. I love to write, I love to tell stories. I am grateful that someone out there actually wants to read them. And since blogging is so much more interactive than journaling, I have also gained a whole reader full of other people’s stories. So, for this month’s Scientiae Carnival, I asked you all to tell me about the doors YOU have opened and closed this year. And here is what you sent me:

Patchi @ My Middle Years has been keeping the door open on the research she did as a graduate student and in her first postdoc. But she has realized that:

One of the problems of trying to finish projects is that they are never actually finished.
So she has decided to
Move on, let the open doors shut...
which I think is a GREAT New Year's Resolution!

Cherish @ Faraday's Cage is where you put Schroedinger's Cat feels the disappointment of seeing a publication on one of her ideas, that she did not write:
The article covered pretty much what I had planned on doing for my PhD had I stayed in electrical engineering. I still had hopes to pursue it since I'd already done some preliminary work. My MS advisor really was excited about this field of research, and I was disappointed that I didn't have the time to do more with it.
So now she must decide whether to re-open that door and use the paper as a stepping-stone to investigate the topic at a deeper level, or to (reluctantly) close the door for good.

ScienceWoman @ ScienceWomen wrote about closing out her Ph.D. research and beginning to establish her new research progam:

Three papers. And I'm out of material from my Ph.D. It's all published or about to be.

For years my research identity has been wrapped up in a particular subject and a particular field area. Now I live someplace far away and I have to establish my independence as an investigator in order to build my case for tenure. And, of course, I have to keep that publication pipeline flowing.
While it's hard to believe that someday I will look back on my Ph.D. research in such a simplified way, it's good to know that there is an "after" that is not just more of the same!

Jane @ See Jane Compute wrote about how she "inadvertantly let a door close" by not actively putting herself out on the job market this year. She is up for tenure next year, and, as we all know, nothing is guaranteed. But, she says:
In short, the way I've assessed the situation is that I need X amount of time and energy to get tenure here, and I would need Y amount of time and energy to go on the market, and X + Y > Z, the time I actually have available. In fact, X > Z anyway, which is problematic in its own right.
I feel her pain, as I try to ramp up my own activity without letting too much fall by the wayside on the homefront, and I hope that everything works out for her.

Unbalanced Reaction @ Unbalanced Reaction also closed the door on the job market for this year, only to see it re-open all on its own:
So in recent months, I've been exploring new territory. I had to decide whether to go back on the active job market or continue on for another year at TempCollege. I chose to not put out any applications. The Boss was terribly disappointed that I was closing the door on all potential opportunities. The argument was made that I could leverage any tenure-track offers to try to gain a position at N.A.'s institution.

Now, a door has opened at N.A.'s institution.
N.A. being the other body in her two-body situation. Way to go, U.R.!

doc-in-training @ Kate's Casebook has been a busy little bee this year, in spite of the efforts of a few people who seem intent on holding her back. But while she is pleased with her progress in building a foundation for for further research, she is a bit worried about her next steps:
With regard to the year ahead, the most significant event will be to find out whether doors will indeed be opened for me after all these foundation building. Will I eventually get the fellowship and/ or internal grant so that I can head over to the other research team in another country, and start getting to the core of my research that I’d like to do? Has my work been good enough to get me to the next level? Or, has the self-proclaimed good work simply not been good enough? Well. If you ask me, my answer as of today is I dunno.
I hope that door is opened wide for her!

volcanista @ Volcanista: a magmalicious blog has also had a whirlwind year:
I opened and closed a lot of really obvious doors this past year. I am literally just formalities away from having my PhD right now. I left my PhD home and moved to a new state, far away from my significant other, to take a faculty job ABD (soon to be with D). Wow! I wish her luck in all her new endeavors!

PodBlack @ PodBlack Cat has a well developed habit of opening doors, which has served her well this year:
I’ve made new friends, made some great discoveries and (as always, it seems) made some people irrationally self-righteously petulant for daring to question their assumptions by ‘asking too many questions’ - and even had an adventure where I stayed in a Japanese-style hotel box at Heathrow Airport! The picture features evidence!

Mind, none of those are really out of the ordinary for me. I hope that there’s lots of people out there who can nod agreement at similar experiences, especially the ‘daring to ask too many questions or challenge their own preconceptions’! World would be a far more dull place if we stayed behind rather than ’set forth for Corfu’.
I couldn't agree more!

Professor in Training @ Professor in Training has quite a story to tell:
Given that the theme of January’s Scientiae is “As one door closes, another one opens. Likewise, as one door opens, another one closes” and that I had never gotten off my ass in time to submit anything for previous Scientiae carnivals, I figured that this was as good a time as any to provide one example of how having a door opened for me helped my career … and how I almost fucked it up.
Well, I'm not going to spoil it for you. Her tale of luck nearly lost is a must-read!

Pat @ FairerScience wrote about the ongoing effort to open the doors of opportunity to women in academia:
Last year, Toni Clewell and I wrote a book, Good Schools in Poor Neighborhoods, that built on this concept. We found highly effective schools (defined by student achievement) and matched them with typical schools from the same district in the same neighborhoods serving the same types of kids. Then we looked at what the good schools did that the others didn't and vice versa. Some results reflected existing theory, others didn't.

We should be doing this at college, graduate, post doc and faculty levels. Take the places with larger numbers of women in STEM, match them with other similar institutions that aren't doing so well and see what are the successful institutions are doing differently than the others. Heck we could even compare institutions where women in STEM are, dare I say it, happy and where they aren't. Let's spend more time looking at success and exploring what's behind it rather than always testing strategies to see if they work.
That sounds like an awesome idea.

Isis the Scientist @ On Becoming a Domestic and Laboratory Goddess addresses a reader's concerns about minority-specific funding and tokenism:

There may be one or two doors open to you specifically because of who you are, but there are one or two hundred that are closed. These allies appreciate us, want us in the game because of the skills we bring, and are trying to lay down mechanisms (ie, open doors) by which we can get the opportunity to play. As this happens, we can begin to lay down our own mechanisms (and, to some degree, are already). Funding is tight enough as it is; take advantage of every opportunity you can without apology. Then, take everything and accent it with the brilliant science I have no doubt you are capable of doing.
I have struggled with this myself, and at each new level of my career I have been able to see just how many doors I didn't even know existed. I expect this will continue for a long time, so I intend on taking whatever route presents itself.

Arlenna @ ChemicalBioLOLogy is thinking about what a Ph.D. actually means, and whether it is the right door for everyone:
Yes, it is a special thing. It is a desirable thing, this degree. It's an exceptional thing, that not just anybody should be able to do. That is what makes it a valuable degree, and why people put themselves through some hell to get there. BUT it is not the only way to personal and professional success, in science or the rest of the world.
Be sure to check out her Venn diagram of the qualities that come together to make a Ph.D. scientist.

Amanda @ A Lady Scientist wrote about how her significant other's expectations of work schedule differ from hers. Now that they are living together again:
The door has closed on the obsessive (and unhealthy?) work habits, but a door has opened to the possibility of being happy in grad school.
I'll drink to that!

Brigindo @ Dirt and Rocks wrote:
the big door that closed for me this year is active mothering. Active mothering is a phrase I termed for having a child in the home with you; a child you nurture and care for on a daily basis. That ended for me when Angel went away to college. I am now on inactive status.
As a person in the thick of active mothering, it's hard to imagine that I, to will one day close the door on this phase of my life. I hope she finds some new, unexplored doors to open.

hypoglycemiagirl @ hypoglycemiagirl wrote eloquently about the loss of her grandfather and the complex feelings it aroused in her about her own life:
My grandma is bored at her rehab home. She's not a complainer, rather the opposite, but it's pretty evident she's not very impressed. Not much rehab is going on during the holidays anyway so we get her out of there and home to her house as much as possible. The doors to her room at the home are automatic to help the weak oldies open them. Sometimes the door open and close open and close at random times, both day and night. Which is pretty annoying and a damn good metaphor describing my career. Random doors opening as I passed by.

Candid Engineer @ Candid Engineer in Academia wrote about how hard it can be to walk through a door in the first place, especially when it slams shut behind you:
I was in a completely different part of the country, in an apartment that wasn't mine, in a lab that felt like a zoo on the best of days, and a war zone on the worst. My husband was without a job, and we had no money. No support system. I described to my friends the feeling of being thrown into the deep end of a dark, cold pool. And all I could think about was how I wanted to go back to our old city, the place where we had fallen in love, where people knew me, where my labmates looked up to me, where I felt safe and productive and comfortable.

But that door had closed.

Thank you so much to all of you who contributed to this month’s Scientiae Carnival. It was truly a pleasure to read every entry, and I hope I have done them all justice. Happy New Year to you all!


Isis the Scientist said...

Excellent work, acmegirl! I can't wait to read these!

Unbalanced Reaction said...

Great carnival! I'm excited to revisit some familiar blogs and check out a whole slew of others.

Happy 2009!

Peggy said...

Nice collection of posts. A great way to kick off the new year!

Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde said...

Terrific scientiae!

Amanda@Lady Scientist said...

Excellent carnival! Thanks for putting it together.

Pat said...

Great theme and great job pulling them together!

Anonymous said...

WOW, I had earlier wanted to participate, but I didn't have the time to write my post. But I'm having fun scrolling down the list, and I am sure I will enjoy reading them all! :D

Ms.PhD said...

Fantastic carnival.

Great job, I really liked the layout, easy to read, your short descriptions and the excerpts. I think I read more of these than usual because of that (I'm sorry I'm too ADD to read them all every time!).

I'm also sorry I'm rarely on the ball enough to notice when the month is over, and what the topics are. But thank you all for doing this, it's a wonderful thing to read.

Mimi said...

Really great job with the carnival. I have some reading to do!

acmegirl said...

I'm so glad everyone is enjoying this carnival!

This was my first time putting one together, so thanks for letting me know that you liked how I did it!

Arlenna said...

This is really cool, thank you for doing it!! I also like the format you put together, it makes it like a book of essays!

EcoGeoFemme said...

Great job! I'm bummed I didn't play. I really wanted to write for this one, but I didn't do it before I left for the holidays and I didn't blog at all while I was gone.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

Awesome fucking job, Acmegirl!

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