Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Dealing with Rejection by zefrank1

This applies to so many areas of life.

If you can't watch it now, take home these messages from zefrank1:

After being rejected, take the time to consider:
- Things out of your control.
- Things in your control.
- Your feelings (they're all valid, but now we need to figure out what to do next).

And, in all cases, remember:
"Being rejected is kind of awesome; it means you are playing with your upper limits. A lot of people don't get rejected at all; they are playing it safe."

"Rejection is a big part of life, and I hope you get rejected a bunch more because it means you are trying your ass off."
This is good motivation to get back to work on my grant application resubmission.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Postdoc parent: F

Today, my life is brought to you by the letter, "F".

Your publication record is what is going to get you the interview. Don't spend your time writing science for the public, or review articles, or tweeting, or, uh, blogging.
The more first author publications the better. Nevermind that there is no reasonable way someone can be first author on X number of publications if they have done all of the work that I expect should be required of the first author. Go First or Go Home, right?
There are so few tenure track academic positions relative to the number of people who want them. For some of the most competitive positions there are between 200 and 600 applicants for a single position. (The Prodigal Academic discusses the process behind whittling down applicants, and Small Pond Science reminds us that, with a little flexibility, there are more academic jobs than at first glance.)
Yes, yes, I know, being a parent negatively affects women's academic careers more than men's, on average. We should understand why there are fewer women in tenure track positions, and consider how to promote it. But, as a woman planning to go into academia, I am sick of hearing about how hard it is going to be. No, that's not it. I want this research to be done, and I want us all to talk about it. I am frustrated with this being a "go-to" conversation topic brought up to me by many academics I run talk to. Yes, it is tough to be a working parent, and a lot of society still has different expectations of mothers than fathers, but it is getting better. Let's focus on making it better. Or, y'know, on how awesome my research is.
Okay, so I just told you how I'm frustrated, but I'm also motivated to fight. Or, not to fight. One line in a recent article about why women leave academia by Curt Rice has been running around my head, "..women in greater numbers than men see academic careers as all-consuming, solitary and unnecessarily competitive". That last part has rung true lately. I shouldn't have to fight be be first author, when I took the time to agree with collaborators well-ahead of time about the order of authorship. I shouldn't have to badger a collaborator to do one small plot for their section of the paper, then get stuck with doing the work myself hours before a deadline. It is so juvenile. I want to stay in academia. I want to fight for it. But I don't want to fight with you.
I am truly impressed with how much students can accomplish. I am amazed with the motivation and drive of my summer students and very optimistic that we will finish some projects by the end of the summer.
Yeah, my house is a pit. At the end of the day, when it comes to choosing between family or cleaning, family comes first. Research or cleaning? Research comes first. Blogging, cooking, working out or cleaning? Well, you get it. Uh, just don't expect an invite over anytime soon.
How is my sweet girl so grown-up already? We have conversations. We read, play, draw, talk, sing, swim, and dance together. I'm happy to live with a little mess to know that I'm soaking up every minute with my Little Bear.
I love to cook, but it seems like preparing food is falling further down on my list of priorities. We still have reasonably healthy options, but food that takes more than a few simple steps is simply not on our menu. I am very happy to have the option to find healthy prepared foods. I miss cooking, when I have the time to think about it. 
Little Bear and I recently visited my husband's family (combined with a conference I had in the area). It required two cross-country red-eye flights, but seeing her cheesy grin for four strait days with her grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousins was totally worth it.
I feel so far from family. From friends. From finding a job. From settling down. From ever getting these papers published. From securing my next source of funding. And then I think about how far I've come. How far we've all come together. And I know it will be okay. We are healthy, together, and, yes, happy. Everything else will fall into place. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Responding to reviewers can be quality time

18 pages, and a few hours of painfully retyping every equation in the main manuscript (which had magicked themselves into pictures instead of equations after back-and-forth Word version revisons that conveniently disappeared random variables when the PLoS system turned it into a PDF) , the revisions for our Y diversity manuscript are now submitted! I am happy to admit that nearly all of the comments and concerns were items that, after being addressed, greatly improved the manuscript. For whatever faults it has, I have found a lot of value in the peer review process.

Now it is time to wait and see what the Editors and Reviewers think.

Writing (and revising) manuscripts is a very time consuming part of science, but it is one of the ways that we communicate the results. It is very nice that it is something that can be done at home, after the Little Bear has gone to sleep. Unlike the daytime hours, when I am constrained by the daycare clock (and wanting to actually spend time with my family), working at night is more freeing because I know I can continue as long as I need (or as long as my eyelids cooperate). It helps to have a partner who understands, and who also stays up late hours to work on science. Although it isn't ideal quality time together, I much prefer doing late night nerd work when I can take a break to share a cup of hot tea, or any random thought, with my partner in crime.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Genes, dependent-leave, and benevolent sexism

I've been too busy working on my work-life balance to write about fun stuff here.

A few things to highlight since I've been offline:

- The Supreme Court decided that Myriad cannot patten genomic DNA, but their misunderstanding of science still leaves something to be desired. Rasmus Nielsen has a good summary of the ruling, and what it should mean for funding basic science research. Basically, you can't patent genomic DNA, but cDNA is still up for grabs because it isn't "naturally" occurring. I don't think many scientists would agree with this, but I'll write a longer post explaining what cDNA is, and why it should not be considered patentable.

- We learned (again) that being a parent negatively affects women's academic careers, while being a parent can be positive for men's academic careers. Mary Ann Mason discusses the baby penalty. Acknowledging this trend means we can start to work towards policies for correcting it. But, if the problem is that academia is simply not family-friendly (or two-body family friendly), the changes will need to be made on the ground level so that women decide that academia is worth a shot, instead of writing it off.

- The National Science Foundation, NSF, released an amazing, comprehensive dependent-care leave supplemental funding request policy for NSF graduate fellows. This gender-neutral policy allows any NSF grad student fellows to request up to three months of funding to support themselves, their research program, and fringe benefits to allow them to care for a dependent (can be a child or parent). Well done, NSF, well done.

And a couple older articles I want to mark down for later discussions:

- What Does Modern Prejudice Look Like? Shankar Vedantam, discusses how favoritism shapes our treatment of, and by, others. We can't help connecting with some people, but should keep in mind how our personal connections might affect interactions.

- Benevolent Sexism by Melanie Tannenbaum. This is, as she quotes:
[Benevolent sexism is] a subjectively positive orientation of protection, idealization, and affection directed toward women that, like hostile sexism, serves to justify women’s subordinate status to men (Glick et al., 2000, p. 763).
I had to speak to a colleague about this at the conference I was just attending. There were eight speakers, six males, two females. We are a pretty interactive audience, and given the intimate structure of the conference, the speakers are often interrupted. Speakers are prepared for this, and it actually leads to very fruitful elaborations or tangential discussions. However, the emcee for the conference did something that ruffled my feathers. The audience interrupted all speakers with similar frequency. The emcee did not interfere once with any of the male speakers, but for both of the female speakers the male emcee interrupted the audience saying something similar to, "Okay, I have to interrupt now to protect you (the speaker) from our audience." These two professional, established, brilliant scientists did not need any protecting. I understand that he felt he was being kind, but this is exactly the kind of benevolent sexism that reinforces subordinate roles for women. I took it upon myself to mention this to the emcee during the break. I think that he was surprised to realize his behavior, and apologized to me. I hope he also apologized to the speakers.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The world can be a beautiful place

I'm headed to the Miller Symposium this weekend. I won't be tweeting (everything is off the record),   and there isn't even internet or cell phone service across most of the venue. I look forward to hosting Dr. Pamela Ronald:
Pamela Ronald is Professor, Department of Plant Pathology and the Genome Center at the University of California, Davis. She serves as Director of Grass Genetics at the Joint Bioenergy Institute. Her laboratory has engineered rice for resistance to diseases and tolerance to flooding. In 2012, Ronald was awarded the Louis Malassis International Scientific Prize for Agriculture and Food and the Tech Award 2012 for innovative use of technology to benefit humanity. In 2011, Ronald was selected as one of the 100 most creative people in business by Fast Company Magazine. In 2008, Ronald and colleagues were recipients of the USDA 2008 National Research Initiative Discovery Award for their work on submergence tolerant rice.  She is co-author of ‘Tomorrow’s Table: Organic Farming, Genetics and the Future of Food”. Bill Gates calls the book “a fantastic piece of work”
Husband and Little Bear will have some quality Daddy-Daughter time. I will have a wonderful time interacting with my colleagues, talking with science writers, and meeting leaders in Scientific fields that span the gamut, but I will miss them terribly this weekend. I will take these fond memories with me. 

Sunset in Berkeley taken from "The Big C".

Family picture after a nice hike up to the Big C.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Academic summer break

It's June, and I really only notice because campus is quieter when I walk in. Most of the time, however, things like the "academic year" don't affect me as a postdoc. Contrary to popular belief, academics, like K-12 educators, tend to be quite busy over the summer. Things on the blog might be quiet for a couple of weeks while I:
  • Attend the Miller Symposium (already finished my talk on animal genitalia, but I need to make my poster on sex chromosomes, and write up my introduction for Dr. Pamela Ronald)
  • Write and submit an abstract for ASHG2013 on gene expression in Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Submit revisions on our human Y diversity paper
  • Make my poster about human Y diversity for SMBE2013 (where I'll be live-tweeting in July)
  • Finish up the first draft on a paper regarding estimating TMRCA on the Y chromosome
  • Submit revisions on the first paper (yay!) with a student to the Berkeley Scientific Journal (investigating the evolution of phosphatase genes)
  • Hopefully ubmit my second paper with a student (yay!!) studying the timing of evolutionary strata formation
  • Look forward to receiving reviews on a paper submitted with collaborators about a method to detect evolutionary strata using only sequence information from the X chromosome (no Y sequence needed!)
  • Finalize a general scientific talk about sex chromosome evolution that I'll be giving on June 12 to give at the Foundation for Advanced Education in the Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland (5:30-8:30 - you should come!)

Other general goals for this summer:
  • Write/submit a paper on Rheumatoid Arthritis gene expression
  • Start a new project studying sex chromosome evolution and selection
  • Mentor/Co-mentor summer undergraduate research students on a variety of projects
  • Revise and resubmit K99/R00 application
  • Write an article for Macmillan about "Trends in Evolution"
  • Blog about more awesome science
  • Prepare materials for job applications (feel free to share tips, and/or academic postings!)