Thursday, October 26, 2006

Where for art thou?

I'm still around. I've been lurking and reading the blogs lately but feeling quite lethargic about posting. I don't know why. Maybe it was in part the Mother and Aunt visit which ate up an entire week (but I did enjoy having them here). Maybe it's the endless preschool activities and doctor's appointments which are culminating in parties at my children's two preschool houses this week. Maybe it has been these excrutiating migraines I've been getting every time a front comes through. Last night the headache woke me up at 2:30am and I spent until 4am chewing Excedrin, hoping it would go away as I'm solo again with the kids and I need all my faculties to make it through the day. Probably it was more the several interactions and conversations I've had recently with my husband and colleagues which made me realize that deciding to do this "part time science" thing was in good part a mistake - at least for the science career. I know there's a blog in that one but I'm too emotionally tired to tackle it now.

I've been keeping track of some interesting events however. The first was that my Institute is creating an administrative position to deal with Women Faculty Programs. Yeah! The goal of the Associate Vice President position is to develop programs, networks and support systems to ensure that the talented women faculty hired have the support system in place to succeed. I put my hat in the ring for this position awhile back but didn't receive an interview. I'm not surprised. I would have been the "think outside the box" candidate. Still I'm excited to see what comes of this new initiative.

Second, my Institution has changed it's thinking on those 'tweener academic research positions we all call "Instructor". It's been painfully obvious, at least to me and other colleagues, that there are a great deal of PhDs awarded to people who will never, or actually don't want to, run their own labs. The American academic science system does not have a place for these individuals who want to remain in research. Usually scientists (and often women) are placed in the Instructor position with the idea that they will be suitable for promotion to Assistant Professor in 2-4 years. Up until now at my Institution, once you wre in the Instructor position for the allotted years, you were out unless you secured a promotion. I call this the second "brain drain". The first is the loss of trained women scientists who fail to navigate the "leaky" pipeline towards professorship. The second is the loss of the "tweener" scientists or "super postdocs" who have traditionally been frowned upon by administration but are viewed as incredibly valuable and productive lab members by the PIs. Suddenly at my Institute, the Instructor position has been changed to an open-ended position, with no time limits. I think this is a step in the right direction, as long as women who are placed in these Instructorships are given the opportunity to be promoted when they have the qualifications.

Third, I'm getting selfish in my old age. I spend a lot of time trying to make life easy for other people and making life safe, fun and happy for my kids. Hasn't left much time for, well, me. I had a great role model as a mother but I think she gave up too much. So I re-signed up at our local YMCA and yesterday, I filled out the information to hire a personal trainer. I'm not a group exercise person so I figure the only way to get myself back in something equivalent to reasonably healthy shape is to have a workout program designed for me. I am just waiting to be contacted by that trainer. My goals are not lofty. I just want some tone back, a little weight loss and some additional energy to keep from being the grouchy tired Mommy to my kids.

Right now the most amazing line of thunderstorms is passing by; the thunder and lightning are constant. The house is shaking as if a train is rolling right outside the front door. I don't think I'll every like this southwest weather.....I've just walked my 4 year old back to bed and I'm going there myself........

Monday, October 02, 2006


First let me say "Thanks" to Dr. Shellie for her condolences on our "lost" vacation. We actually drove the kids down to the beach this past weekend for the day. It was beautiful weather, the kids had a great time, and it was nice to completely disconnect from work life. It makes up a little for the time we lost earlier.

Anway, these days I'm re-learning that life is all about perspective. And I've actually gained a clearer perspective on myself in the last few days.

I haven't blogged in awhile. Partly because I've been really busy at work, partly because I was consumed by the planning of my three year old daughter's birthday party and partly because I've was trying to do all of this while battling some mysterious illness which gave me rotating migraines and stomach ailments. And yes, I had a wicked migraine for the actual birthday party - but it went on as planned and it was a success for her.

All of this has been working in combination with my son's current insistence to get out of bed 3 or 4 times a night and come in to wake me up - most often for no reason what-so-ever. I was feeling quite bedraggled at the beginning of this week and was expressing this to my husband.

He gets pretty upset with me when I get this run down because he sees that I'm spending more time at work than I need to. For those of you that are new to this blog, I'm an Associate Professor in Cancer Research who is currently in the unusual position of being a part time faculty member. I took this position because it would facilitate my husband's recruitment to a more senior position and because I have an adopted daughter who needs extra medical attention. So I'm trying to do my science without anyone in my lab, minimal soft money and no real support from the Department Chairman. My husband's perspective on this is that I should work my 20 hours and get out of the lab. In that extra time, I could do a lot of things for the family to make life run smoother - groceries, shopping - and maybe catch some afternoon snoozes. I can see his point but then he doesn't see this from my perspective.

Yes I agreed to this part time position for the kids and to expedite the move to our new Institute. But that doesn't mean that I became less of a scientist. I'm still driven to do something useful in my field. I still have the same level of interest and desire that drew me to medical research in the first place. I have a pretty crazy schedule running between work and kid's appointments, preparing for birthdays, keeping the house running and feeding the family. But that doesn't dampen my scientific drive.

When I get to work, it feels natural to be there. I have experiments that I want to do; I'm working out a new technique and would love to be able to show it's feasibility for predicting tumor behavior. So from my perspective, I'm trying to keep my scientific career alive and yes, it can get to be a lot when family life interferes - and it often does. In addition, I actually like to have lunch with my husband (Sappy maybe, but true) because with a 4 and 3 year old at home, we don't get much time to sit and talk alone! .

I don't know if I will ever get better at just "doing my time" but I do know the this has taught me something that I don't think I've ever really acknowledged about myslef. I understand better how much of me loves what I do. I used to joke that if this science thing didn't work out I could always teach figure skating and make better money. That's still true but I realize now how difficult it would be to completely walk away from life in the laboratory.

Wish me luck.....