February 2, 2009 - 2:40pm
I'm away from school working on my thesis at another institution. I noticed the other day that there was a letter to the editor in the local newspaper where some guy was mis-paraphrasing the Pope mis-quoting the recent Benotti et al. pharmaceuticals in drinking water study to say that the Pill is giving all men girl cooties and destroying society and should be banned immediately, by his Highly Scientific Viewpoint. So I wrote a replying letter to the editor, politely, with inline references and just a little snark, to refute it line by line. I was shooting for the tone used in LTEs in Nature or Science. My letter was never published, and today there's another missive of anti-choice wingnuttery from the same person, a week later. Apparently our local editor has granted this person's oppinions pride of place on the editorial pages. I would be slightly less freaked out if this wasn't the local rag for a town dominated by a major research institution-we're supposed to be scientifically minded here.
January 25, 2009 - 1:51pm
Any advice if you have a crappy advisor? I am going for my PhD and although I thought I asked him some good questions, and received solid responses, in our interview, my advisor turns out that he is not a good mentor and not much of a help. He is mainly, at best, a time-suck with all the meetings he wants to make sure things are "going well" but doesn't actually want to help me with anything and gets petulant if I ask for help or advice. I don't know that many other people with a PhD so I thought I'd ask just in case you wanted to share some words of wisdom. I had a crappy master's advisor but that was two years and another year of not being around him, but writing while working full time. I finished though and it was worth it. Now the funding my new advisor said I'd have is virtually non-existent, he thinks the fact that I'm getting a stipend is enough for me to praise him daily and kiss his ass while running errands for him and taking care of all of his tech problems (i'm not doing that anymore). One semester and it's already an enormous headache. You can't get far in my field without a PhD. But I'm starting to get sick of the attitudes in my field...and yet I've been working towards this for 15 years so I have no idea what else I'd even do and it took me 4 years just to get in to a program.
January 11, 2009 - 12:55pm
Can't find a job? Don't go to grad school. The economy's tanking! Should I give up looking for a job and just go to graduate school? This seems to be the question of the moment, and everyone has an opinion. Few of the folks giving advice, though, are acknowledging a tough fact of life: as investments and state budgets dry up, so does education funding --which affects both admissions and employment. If you're a social worker, or you work for a non-profit, or in human services, then yes: I believe a master's in social work or public policy or urban planning or what have you will probably help your advancement. If you're a scientist, then there are industry jobs waiting for you--although my sense is that you might be better off working in the field for a while before picking a subfield. If you're a teacher, then a master's in education can help you move into administration and the higher salaries that go with it. I suppose MBAs might be useful degrees, though I confess, academic-by-training that I am, I haven't really the foggiest notion, except that there seem to be an awful lot of boring middle management types with MBAs. If you want a solid, dull, respectable 9-5 job, become a dentist or a self-employed lawyer. (If you want to become partner in a huge firm, you might as well get a PhD and aim for a job at Harvard: you'll go crazy either way.)
December 8, 2008 - 1:14am
Last week I promised to write about the “male” career model. I want to begin by reasserting my prior advice to young ambitious women, to “do whatchalike” and try not to worry. But it is apparently true, aas The Chronicle of Higher Education reported, that “women in academe, no matter how many hours they worked, reported fewer children than women in all other professional fields.” According to 2000 census data, 52 percent of male professors have wives who work part time or not at all, while only 9 percent of female professors have partners who work less than full time. Marriage rates reveal the same paradox. Of those professors who achieve tenure, 70 percent of men are married with children, compared with only 44 percent of women. But women win in the singles category: Twenty-six percent of tenured women are single without children, as compared with only 11 percent of tenured men. On an individual level, one has to be willing to recognize one’s own human limitations, and to be optimistic enough to move forward, knowing that smart ambitious women really do have a lot of options and that if A doesn’t work out, B and C will come along, even if it’s impossible to imagine in advance what B or C might be. As a group, however, the statistics are against us. Especially those of us in the humanities, and especially the humanities folks in fields (English, the modern languages, philosophy, classics. . . ) that don’t have an acknowledged parallel non-academic job track for PhD holders. And, as Libby Gruner points out, the NYT’s advice (to women) to think of careers as a “lattice” rather than a “ladder” doesn’t really apply to tenure-track academia. I do tend to agree with Dana Campbell that academia is changing. Sloooooowly.
November 30, 2008 - 12:06pm
(Also appears in Mama PhD) A scientist/reader writes.... I urge you to show a bit more flexibility in your advice on the career/family bit. If the goal is a faculty position in the sciences, there is usually an interim postdoctoral stage. Postdoc can be a great time for maternity and infant bonding- whether you are headed for a research-intensive university or a liberal arts college.