Confused at a higher level

The view from Carleton College's physics department

  • Archives

  • Stats

    var sc_project=3293756; var sc_invisible=0; var sc_partition=21; var sc_security="d61881ba";
    free hit
counter
  • Subscribe

  • Recent Posts

  • Follow me on Twitter

Posts Tagged ‘scientiae-carnival’

Choosing where not to be

Posted by Melissa on September 23, 2011

This month’s Scientiae asks about choosing where not to be. Since the call was posted on August 30th, I’ve been noting times when I’ve had to make choices about when to be here and when to be there. Here are a few examples of the times when I’ve not been somewhere:

  • Not at department lunch because I’m at a mentoring event
  • Not at the Learning and Teaching Center lunch because I’m at physics table
  • Not at home on Saturday because I’m in lab dealing with power glitch problem
  • Not in my office working on a grant proposal because I’m at big research university using specialized instrumentation
  • Not at big research university using specialized instrumentation because I’m doing daycare pick-up/drop-off
  • Not home by toddler’s bedtime because I’m on campus for a kick-off dinner
  • Not on campus for a program welcome event because I’m home cooking dinner
  • Not at the strategic planning seminar because I’m at a department meeting
  • Not at a campus event because I’m working with a student

For all the flexibility of academic schedules, I’m always amazed at how many times there are multiple conflicting events/appointments on my calendar. On the worst day of here-or-there choices this month, I had four different times in one day where scheduling conflicts forced me to choose to not be somewhere. While I love what I do (the students, the teaching, the physics), I don’t love the barrage of demands on my time. With a toddler in the house, the phrase “Not here, (not there, not anywhere)” immediately brings to mind Green Eggs and Ham.  My apologies to Theodor Geisel.

I do not like it, Sam-I-am,
I do not like to-do list cram.
I do not like the need to rush.
I do not like the calendar crush.

There is but only one of me,
I can’t do more, oh don’t you see.
I cannot be both here and there,
I simply can’t be everywhere.

I do not like the work day creep.
I do not like the lack of sleep.
I do not like the constant juggle.
I do not like “do more” struggle.

Research students need a guide,
Committee work’s a rising tide,
Teaching prep can fill my day,
While at home, it’s toddler play.

I do not have sufficient hours
Or time-stretching superpowers.
I do not like to-do list cram,
I do not like it, Sam-I-am.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Advice on the tenure process

Posted by Melissa on March 20, 2011

As Arjendu noted in his last post, I got tenure this winter. Needless to say, I’m thrilled to be able to be a part of the Carleton community for the long term. What a privilege!

Nevertheless, the process of getting here wasn’t easy. There are two types of challenging experiences: those that invigorate you, causing you to grow and stretch in ways that you never thought possible, and those that dishearten you, reshaping you in ways that leave you feeling like a shell of your former self. My tenure-track experience has been a bit of both. There were numerous times over the past few years where I wanted to blog about some aspect of being a junior faculty member, but couldn’t find the appropriate words. Distilling my reflections on some of those unbloggable moments, however, there is one topic that I think is worth commenting on, namely the role of advice and mentoring for junior faculty members.

Some of my conflicting feelings about my time as a junior faculty member can be characterized by a general feeling of being adrift in a sea of advice. Everywhere I turned I felt like I was bombarded by new (and incompatible) advice about how to get tenure. At times the advice seemed reasonable, at other times outlandish, but rarely did it feel comfortable.  The onslaught of advice left me feeling wholly inadequate — I could never live up to all the advice given.

Take for example one of the most common pieces of advice given to junior faculty, “Find yourself a mentor.” This advice is akin to telling a single person who wishes s/he was married, “Find yourself a spouse.” One can’t simply grab the nearest person and make him or her a mentor. Yet every article I read about the importance of finding a mentor outside your department made me feel like a failure for not having one. Don’t get me wrong, I had plenty of people I could turn to for help. As I’ve mentioned before, I am lucky to be a department with extremely supportive colleagues. I could go to them with questions about a variety of topics—how to handle a particularly challenging situation in one of my classes, what I needed to do to improve a grant proposal, or reassurance that the particular feeling of work-life imbalance was to be expected given particular circumstances. Nevertheless, my senior colleagues were inherently judges of my performance and so there were things that I could not discuss with them, or when I asked, there were times when I was told that they could not help me.  Having the right mentor would have been incredibly valuable at those times.

Beyond getting tenure, my goal as a junior faculty member was to build the foundation of a professional life that would be personally satisfying, and how-to-get-tenure advice sometimes conflicted with personal values and priorities. I suppose all’s well that ends well, but the process of getting here… let’s just say, don’t ask me for advice.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

On self-promotion

Posted by Melissa on September 13, 2010

Women in the Wetlands is running a series of posts about self-promotion (here, here, and here, with more to come). It’s an interesting series, discussing the importance of self-promotion to success in the sciences, but reading the posts made me squirm. I hate the need to self-promote, and recently I’ve had to confront my dislike of self-promotion once again. Why? My tenure prospectus was due today, a document that necessarily involves both self-evaluation and self-promotion.

James Lang’s Chronicle column from many years ago came to mind. He wrote, “For me, and I bet for many other academics, the need in such [review] documents to trumpet my work confidently — to argue why I am the best person for the job, or for continued employment, or for tenure and promotion, or for a course reduction, or for a grant, or a publisher — never stops feeling like shameless self-promotion.”

Lang’s column was first pointed out to me when I was in grad school and struggling with my extreme dislike of self-promotion. By necessity, I have become better at it with time, but I’m always concerned that I will cross the fine line from productive self-promotion to obnoxious self-promotion.

When I was working on my prospectus, a friend asked a simple question, “Does it sound like you?”

My answer, “Sort of.”

Reading my prospectus, I recognize the essence of my professional self, but it’s a document written in a voice I would never choose to use were it not required by the circumstances. For some, self-promotion comes naturally, but for those of us who aren’t so lucky, we continually face an uncomfortable reality that career success depends on how well we assume the ill-fitting mantle of self-promotion.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

From Sharpies to Sputtering Guns: School Supplies for the CM Experimentalist

Posted by Melissa on September 1, 2010

I was talking recently with an individual who was considering a career as a condensed matter experimentalist at a liberal arts college, and the talk inevitably turned to how one goes about building a lab at such an institution. Of course, there is no universal answer to that question, but there are some strategic decisions to be made about how to budget and make the most of the modest start-up funds available at undergraduate institutions.

Even within the general classification of liberal arts colleges that expect their faculty to be research-active, substantial variation exists in the start-up funds and infrastructure support available. When I was on the market six years ago, start-up funds ranged from $50-$100K depending on the economic means of the school and the expectations for faculty scholarship. I’m sure that amount has gone up, but nevertheless figuring out how to make the most of those funds is a challenge.

I was given a couple of good pieces of advice about funding an experimental lab at a primarily undergraduate institution that I’ll mention here.

  • Minimize the cost of consumables, even if it means you pay more upfront. For example, a closed cycle cryostat costs more than a cryostat that requires liquid helium, but in the long run, you save yourself both money and logistical challenges by avoiding liquid helium.
  • It’s okay to buy used. You can get perfectly good equipment from eBay and BidService if you don’t need the cutting-edge bells and whistles.
  • Recycle. Find out what unused equipment is available at your new institution, and whether you can repurpose it for your research agenda. Similarly, if you are coming from a well-established research group at a large university, there may be equipment lying around the lab that isn’t being used. Consult with the PI to see if you can “borrow” some items, with no fixed return date.
  • Get to know what’s available at research universities within driving distance of your institution. Large universities are often willing to allow faculty from undergraduate institutions to access shared user facilities (with materials characterization or processing instrumentation), and sometimes they will provide grants to cover usage fees.
  • Think double-duty.  At an undergraduate institution, the department may have an equipment budget for curricular labs. Consider whether there is equipment that would be useful to you that could also be used for an advanced lab course. For example, a portable turbo pumping station can be wheeled around easily so you can use it in your lab during the summer and in courses during the academic year.

Since it’s back to school time, with the associated lists of required school supplies, I’ve put together the A-Z list of “school supplies” that I’ve used and/or acquired for my experimental work since coming to Carleton. The list is not comprehensive, but it gives a vague sense of the instrumentation and supplies in one experimental condensed matter physics lab at one liberal arts college.

A – aluminum foil; Al2O3 substrates
B – Bourdon, Baratron, and other pressure gauges
C – closed cycle cryostat
D – DC power supplies
E – electromagnet (1.2 T); europium and other elemental sources
F – fork for sample transfer; furnace (11oo °C)
G – gas cylinders (oxygen, nitrogen)
H – H20E (and other) epoxies
I – ion gauge
J – jewelers screwdrivers (and lots of other screwdrivers, wrenches, tweezers, etc)
K – Keithley electronics (multimeter, current source, nanovoltmeter, etc); Kaleida graph
L – leak valve
M – MPMS by Quantum Design (At the University of Minnesota — I accessed it as an external user.)
N – National Instruments Labview
O – optical microscope
P – platen for sample transfer
Q – quartz crystal microbalance
R – residual gas analyzer
S – substrate heater, soldering iron, sputtering guns
T – temperature controller, thermal evaporator
U – ultra high vacuum chamber
V – vacuum pumps (mechanical, cryo, turbo, ion)
W – wobblestick
X – x-ray diffractometer (At the University of Minnesota — I accessed it as an external user. However, Carleton recently was awarded a NSF MRI grant to purchase a system that will be delivered in October!)

I’ll just leave it there… I’m sure there are some Y and Z supplies, but I can’t think of anything at the moment.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Celebrating what isn’t on the CV

Posted by Melissa on May 31, 2010

The term is rapidly winding up here at Carleton, and graduation is less than two weeks away. Between honors convocation, senior dinners, and other end-of-the-year festivities, there are plenty of opportunities to celebrate what our students have accomplished this year. Scientiae this month is also asking people to celebrate because, unlike college life, with built in opportunities to recognize accomplishments, in the professional sphere successes can come and go without much acknowledgment.

What to celebrate? I feel like I’m in the thick of several things without any waypoints deserving recognition. Last week, I did turn in my record of scholarly activity, the packet that gets sent to external reviewers for the college’s tenure review process. That didn’t feel like much of a milestone as it is one of many deadlines in the tenure process, and the ultimate outcome is uncertain. Nevertheless, it did provide an opportunity to reflect, and in those reflections, I found both successes and setbacks.

At Carleton, the record of scholarly activity highlights what one has done outside of the classroom, and in the sciences, it provides a snapshot of how one’s research program is developing, grants received, results shared through presentations and publications, etc. However, compiling the report was a challenge because it reinforced the traditional research/teaching dichotomy of academia. As someone who particularly wanted to be at a liberal arts college so that I could work with undergraduates, remain close to the experimental work, and not be the PI/administrator of a lab that runs on the efforts of grad students and post-docs, I found it difficult to present a record of scholarly activities in a manner that fully acknowledged the teaching/learning involved in doing research with undergraduates. Jim Gentile, President of the Research Corporation, in a 2008 PKAL conversation, highlighted the interaction: “I think undergraduate research is one of the purest forms of student learning and faculty teaching that goes on at any college or university that is serious about science learning, teaching, or research.”

If one considers research output, science happens slowly in my lab compared to places where research is the central focus. Things would move faster if I didn’t emphasize having students contribute or if I used laboratory facilities elsewhere, but that’s not why I’m at a place like Carleton. One part of research that I enjoy the most is working with talented students, introducing them to the process of doing research, and getting them involved as colleagues on the research questions I find so exciting. Through these experiences, some students find that experimental research is not for them, and I consider that process of self-discovery to be just as valuable, and as much of a success, as when students fall in love with the lab work and decide to go on to graduate school. I’ll be the first to admit that shaping undergraduate research projects is an on-going learning process, and in that realm, I’ve had my share of setbacks as well as successes, completely independent of the scientific setbacks and successes. Knowing how to structure a project that is meaningful to a student in the short-term yet moves the larger agenda forward in the long term, fostering group dynamics yet encouraging independence, being accessible yet promoting self-reliance — it’s not an easy balancing act, and it’s a process that I’m still figuring out after five years. Student involvement is integral to my research, and, yet, those interactions are notoriously hard to capture in the cut-and-dry record of scholarly activity. They can’t be accounted for in the same manner as grants or publications.

A couple of weeks ago my alma mater sent out the link to this year’s graduation address, delivered by Rachel Maddow. I particularly liked one of her central points, “[T]hat personal triumphs are overrated.” Maddow encouraged graduates to “tak[e] as your baseline that you will not seek to reach your own goals by stepping on your community.” Given the option to celebrate, I’d prefer not to celebrate what I’ve done, but rather to celebrate the community to which I belong — a community of curious students and dedicated faculty, at an institution that supports meaningful interactions between these two groups through scholarly engagement. Yet on CVs and records of scholarly activity, the opportunity to appropriately recognize and celebrate these interactions is limited, so I do it here instead.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Career sustainability and the ideal worker norm

Posted by Melissa on March 29, 2010

“Whether discussing an individual career, a lab, funding, the academic research system, publishing, peer-review, or scientific innovation, at the heart of the issue is often the question of whether current practices are sustainable and what changes need to be made to ensure sustainability… From an individual to a more global perspective, definitions, successes, diversity, barriers… what makes–or breaks–sustainability in science?”

That’s the question biochem belle asks for Scientiae this month.  It’s an interesting question with many layers. Unfortunately, with the start of a new term today, including a new class prep (solid state physics—yay! enjoyable, but also lots of work), I don’t have the time to do justice to the topic. I occasionally consider the question of career sustainability, what it means to me and how to achieve it. In my eyes, a sustainable science career allows for balanced professional and personal growth and satisfaction that can be maintained over the long term. I struggle with how to create a sustainable career when too often my personal time gets gobbled up by job-related demands. Granted, some of it is my own fault–I find it challenging to set boundaries, to ask for help, and to cut myself slack. Yet the issues of creating sustainable academic science careers are broader than individual circumstances.

Robert Drago’s book, Striking a Balance: Work, Family Life, provides a particularly thoughtful presentation of the challenges. Drago discusses the increasing emphasis on the ideal worker norm, the demand that professional workers exhibit total commitment to their career, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for years without interruption, and how it conflicts with other societal norms. In a report on work/family issues for NCSU, Drago makes an interesting comment on how the tenure process is set-up to promote the ideal worker norm in academia:

“[Tenure track faculty] are typically told that quality research, teaching, and service are all required to achieve tenure …[T]o produce tenured academics who have internalized the ideal worker norm, then the process needs to remain a mystery to those on the pre-tenure side. The individual is given the consistent message that more work, longer hours, and more research are always desirable.”

As a junior faculty, I certainly feel the pressure to do more, but observing my tenured colleagues, it’s clear the pressure doesn’t diminish with seniority. Academia seems to select and support those who have taken to heart the idealized worker norm, but at what cost to promoting diverse and sustainable academic career paths?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Sticking with science: continuity and community

Posted by Melissa on February 27, 2010

Eric Jolly, president of the Science Museum of Minnesota, was on campus a couple of weeks ago as a Headley House visitor. One of the events during his residence was a public lecture on science literacy. Jolly noted that many efforts aimed at increasing interest in science follow the “pure of heart” model, namely if the intentions of the program are good, the results will follow, but assessment shows this is not the case. Jolly discussed a report he authored about five years ago with Pat Campbell of Fairer Science and Lesley Perlman. The report found that students needed an ecosystem throughout their school years that had three elements to ensure student success in quantitative disciplines and the sciences. Namely the ecosystem had to provide engagement (building interest), capacity (gaining skills for success), and continuity (finding an ongoing series of opportunities and support to be able to continue) — the ECC triology. While a single program might not address all three elements, the ecosystem had to offer overlapping opportunities that covered all three aspects of the ECC trilogy in order to have a positive, sustaining influence on students.

The continuity element caught my attention because that’s the theme for this month’s Scientiae.  For anyone who has received a science degree, I think engagement and capacity can be taken for granted, but continuing in science is not a given. Jolly’s talk made me think about the elements that lead individuals to stick with science once they have gotten their degree.

What has been the ECC trilogy of my ecosystem– the three elements whose presence or absence has led me to stick with, or consider walking away from, a science career? In my journey since receiving my bachelor’s degree, those three elements have been enthusiasm, confidence, and community. The times I’ve thought about leaving science have been when any one of these elements was missing for an extended period of time. Some of these elements, like enthusiasm and confidence can be controlled, at least partially, by my own outlook and actions. (For one look at the relative merits of being enthusiastic versus confident, check out this discussion at the Happiness Blog.) The element that I find missing most often is the community element. Isolation, politics, and a machismo culture sometimes swamp any personal enthusiasm I have for the science I’m doing. A friend who left physics once said, “I love physics, but I couldn’t take the physicists.”

Nevertheless, there are many levels of community, and one can often find microcosms that make continuing desirable. These supportive communities offer opportunities both for professional development and connections, as well as personal development and connections. I was particularly interested by Sharvell Becton’s discussion of workplace community at the AAUW blog earlier this week. In her post, Becton quotes from the paper “Work-Life Programs and Organizational Culture: The Essence of Workplace Community” by Neal Chalofsky and Mary Gayle Griffin:

The concept of the workplace community represents the essence of work-life balance. Work-life balance is not about having equal time every day for work and personal time, as some critics have suggested. It’s about being in an environment that honors both needs and builds in consideration for meeting work and personal needs as appropriate. The western philosophical concept of balance is an either-or proposition; you are either on one side or the other. Rarely are the sides of equal value and in balance. The result of the struggle for balance is usually a win-lose situation. The eastern concept of balance is the yin-yang symbol, representing an acknowledged tension of opposing forces. It’s a both-and proposition rather than an either-or one. Both sides can “win” because day-to-day one or the other side will have greater needs. All this is to say that those organizations that are humane know that caring for employees means the employees will care for the organization. One day the situation may call for everyone pitching in on an important project, another day it may mean covering for a team member whose child is sick, and another day everyone may be going to a company picnic. In the long term, everyone wins.

One example of the difference between community support and community marginalization can be seen in how organizations handle parental leave, a topic of personal interest to me recently. Here at Carleton, the college has a clearly stated parental leave policy for faculty members that can easily be found on the web and is regularly used. Taking parental leave follows a straight forward process. On the other hand, try to figure out how NSF deals with PIs who go on maternity leave and you will have a hard time finding any policy. Talking with others leads to a grapevine of gossip that contains stories, some heart-warming and some terrifying, about how individual situations have been handled. While NSF is a huge entity, dealing with a diverse constituency, failure to have an articulated, accessible plan about parental leave for PIs, post-docs, and grad students being funded by NSF grants contributes to the sense that members of the scientific community aren’t expected to have children.

While individuals can’t control community dynamics, community recognition that scientists are people with lives outside of science makes a big difference in whether individuals choose to continue.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Seeing what you want in the mirror

Posted by Melissa on June 30, 2009

This month’s Scientiae asks about mirrors, reflections, and perspective. One of the things that has become clear to me as I’ve persisted in physics is that one can see almost anything one wants when looking in the mirror, particularly with regards the status of women in physics.

Are things getting better? It seems so, according to the National Academies’ latest report on women in academic science.  Reflected in this mirror, the situation looks promising. As the executive summary notes: “For the most part, men and women faculty in science, engineering, and mathematics have enjoyed comparable opportunities within the university, and gender does not appear to have been a factor in a number of important career transitions and outcomes.”

Is there still significant bias? Sciencegeekgirl highlights a recent study about student bias in the evaluation of their high school science teachers, and the Backpage editorial by Anne Lincoln, Stephanie Pincus, and Vanessa Schick in this month’s APS News notes how gender influences APS awards. Both reflect a less rosy picture about equity for women in the sciences.

These larger contradictions, and the corresponding desire to see what one wants in the mirror, are a reflection of contradictory views at the personal level. If you hold a mirror to my professional path, it looks like a straight one, but when I consider how I’ve gotten here, I see much more meandering. The seredipitous events, changes of heart, simultaneous excitement and uncertainty about the possibilities–none of this is visible to an outsider, and yet this is how I characterize my journey. Now on the tenure track, the path is well-tread and clearly marked. Yet in the search for personal-professional balance, the effort to be authentically myself, and the challenges of balancing my personal goals and expectations against societal expectations about women, physics, career, and family, there is no well-worn path. And it is precisely the lack of well-worn paths and the variety of personal perspectives upon looking in the mirror that makes the larger picture so difficult to discern.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

“Just Be Yourself”: Junior Faculty Edition

Posted by Melissa on February 26, 2009

Scientiae this month is asking folks to write about people who have been role models and mentors, and those who have provided inspiration on the path to a scientific career. The timing of the question is interesting because I’ve finally given up trying to find exactly one person who will be an ideal mentor/role model for me. That person doesn’t exist. That’s not to say I haven’t found plenty of people who have been wonderfully helpful to me, and I have developed a network of a few particular individuals to whom I go for advice on different aspects of my professional life. But, I’ve been thinking more and more about the advice “just be yourself”, particularly as a junior faculty member.

I started considering this idea in January when Maryellen Weimer at the Teaching Professor wrote about developing a teaching persona. In particular, she argued that the advice to new faculty to “just be yourself” when teaching isn’t great advice:

“The ‘be yourself’ advice is right in the sense that you don’t want to be someone you aren’t. But it’s wrong because who you are in the classroom is something that must be created. It should be formed out of bits and pieces of your true identity…
The wisest advice I think for creating this teaching persona is to remember that although it’s about you, it really isn’t about you. The teaching persona you want to create is that one that connects with students—that motivates, inspires, guides, and helps them to learn.”

While the post contains a number of good points, I don’t like the idea of teaching as a performance art. I do spend time thinking about how to structure my classes to promote student learning and how to create a classroom climate that encourages all students to achieve to the best of their abilities. However, I don’t spend time consciously thinking about my classroom persona because I can’t teach or act in a way that doesn’t suit my personality. I try to just be myself in the classroom.

If I modify the excerpt above by replacing the concept of a teaching persona with the concept of a professional persona, the statement sounds more familiar to me:

The ‘be yourself’ advice is right in the sense that you don’t want to be someone you aren’t. But it’s wrong because who you are professionally is something that must be created. It should be formed out of bits and pieces of your true identity.
The wisest advice I think for creating this professional persona is to remember that although it’s about you, it really isn’t about you. The professional persona you want to create is that one that connects with students, colleagues, and other professionals.

Although I don’t try to be someone I’m not, in the broader professional context I don’t always feel that I can just be myself. So when do you think “just be yourself” is good advice? And when is it not?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Dreaming of a more diverse physics community

Posted by Melissa on January 29, 2009

Natalie Angier’s article in last week’s New York Times has once again served as a reminder that in the sciences, and particularly in physics, we still have a long way to go before we achieve gender equity. I’ve had a number of conversations in the past week prompted by Angier’s article. In the various conversations, three questions about the current situation and future possibilities for women in physics came up repeatedly so I’ve included a few thoughts on those questions here.

Do you introduce students to the issues that women in science face or do you let students travel their own paths and meet challenges as they come to them?

I think this is a tough question. I don’t want to demoralize students or induce worries about issues that some women may not encounter. However, it is also helpful for women to be aware of the forces out of their control that impact their progress in school and in their careers, and how they might work to counteract negative influences.

My eyes were opened early, and I think it made a difference in how I made decisions. My mother was active in AAUW in the early 1990s when AAUW published its widely discussed report “How Schools Shortchange Girls.” We talked about that report around the dinner table when I was in about 9th grade, and I was never able to be ignorant in my education again. I suddenly noticed that teachers did indeed give different feedback to boys and girls in my classes. From then on, I realized that while I could control aspects of my performance/involvement in the classroom, there were environmental elements in my learning that I could never control. I learned that I had to monitor my experience, and that I had to make sure that my decisions and feelings were based on my own internal beliefs and preferences and not simply a reaction to environmental influences.

Are you optimistic about the situation of women in physics?

I have become less optimistic the longer I have persisted in physics. Initially, I imagined there existed a few old guards resistant to change, but that the attitudes and actions that hindered women in physics were on their way out. Yet I have had physicists of my generation say appalling things to me, and I continue to be disappointed in the complacency of people who claim to be allies.

What does make me optimistic is that women who have had 30+ year careers say that they have seen improvement over the course of their careers. However, now that the blatant discrimination is gone, the challenges are more insidious. For that reason, I think Virginia Valian’s book, Why So Slow? The Advancement of Women, might make good required reading for scientists. She explores “women’s lack of achievement in situations where nothing seems to be wrong.” Just because things look good on the surface does not mean that everything is good. Gender schemas are more powerful than many acknowledge.

What would you like to see in the future?

I’ve come to accept that there are so many factors at play in the issue of increasing women’s participation in physics that the solution is beyond simple prescriptions. Although we face challenges today, I dream about the future (with apologies to one famous dreamer).

  • I have a dream that one day my physics classroom will reflect the demographic make-up of the college at which I teach and the demographics of the college at which I teach will more closely reflect the demographics of the nation as a whole.

  • I have a dream that one day all future physicists will be taught by teachers who enjoy teaching physics, advised by advisors who support them regardless of their personal and professional goals, and welcomed by colleagues who want the physics community to be vibrant and diverse, not static and exclusive.

  • I have a dream that one day physics faculty will be judged not just by the quantity of publications or the numbers on student evaluations, but by the quality of the range of contributions they have made to the community as a whole, and that these contributions can be made through meaningful part-time or full-time work.

  • I have a dream that one day women won’t have to be the primary advocates for change, but that the status quo will be confronted by a broad based coalition of men and women, who want to lead balanced lives with time for paid work in a profession, unpaid work at home or in the community, and leisure. (I find myself inspired by the discussion Robert Drago presents in his book Striking a Balance: Work, Family, Life.)

  • Most of all, I have a dream that by the end of my professional career posts like these will seem extremely dated. We’ll see…

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: | 3 Comments »