Thursday, May 27, 2010

an interesting notion, better written than I can do

It's all about that magic little r.... mRs... that's what I talking about.

Or rather, what this column in the NYT expresses. My ranting is just, well, my ranting ;)

We all know it, although some of us are obviously trying more that others to avoid the discussion. The single woman, turns unmarried and then implication "poor little one, she never got picked and now shes beoynd the child bearing years so it's definetly over" [since women are mainly attractive when they can bear children, their man's children, and after that it would mainly be about something else... mutual attraction? heh.].

And this still when people know that stating to a guy when you start dating that you are "interested in your own career, not sure on children - but if there are children we'd split evenly when it comes to child rearing, by the way - I want my own money and not just yours" in short - being ambitious, is the biggest gamble ever. I know there are men out there who are OK with this, I'm just saying as in narrowing the field, that's a lot of narrowing...

Do you know how many times it all turned to quiet when I said I was a graduate student on a first date? (let's believe for a minute I am fairly attractive and not hideous.) Or when I mentioned that I knew I wanted to go abroad for my post doc? (not to mention the lovely post doc who told us grad students that "post doc times are great for brining the wife to have children while you build your papers and research career". Oh I wished I was a man then and there.)

I have to say though, it's never been as obvious as here in the US that there is another perception out there; single older person = gay. It seems to be the way people interpret most of these "powerful people who are unmarried". I mean, divorced means a failure, but they still tried out the heterosexual marriage deal. (If you don't believe this wonderful distinction, let's look at dating sites where you can choose between "never married, divorced, widow" as a status.)

It's still one of those prickly things in me. As a woman, once I have gone from Miss to Mrs I can never go back... as divorced you can choose by taking Mrs or the Ms... a newer invention apparently? Being Mrs with your maiden name sounds like your mother, being Mrs with your old married name just sounds like you are still married (imho). (I am referring without the children here, although the number of times I have heard women going "I'm staying with his name since the children have it and it's easier that way" so they are still the Mrs Married although the papers are signed and it's over.)

It's nice when you can avoid the whole discussion and dive for the Dr. "Are you Miss, Ms or Mrs? oh, Dr you say"... Obvious pit fall on having a non-obvious female name in US, would be numerous letters addressed to Mr Chall... duh. Although, at least it is easy to weed out commercial and non-personal correspondance. But I did get annoyed when my frequent flyer miles place sent something out to Mr Chall, I mean - I have an account with them.

Friday, May 21, 2010

not defending phd

The seriousness of not being able to defend your PhD, or what others might call “failing” hit me this last week. Mainly because a grad student in a friend’s lab is not going to end on a happy note, with a PhD but rather with a masters… it may or may not be OK for the student but I had a fairly serious conversation the other day with my friend who is concerned. Partly because she knows how this student feels I’m sure, and partly because it is a feeling in the lab that the supervisor dropped the ball a bit… and that is demoralizing for the rest of the lab. Of course, things happen behind curtains that other regular lab people don’t see. Still, it’s a bit unsettling when the lab feeling turns toward the PI, like she’s not part of the lab but “only a lab head thinking about themselves”.

The concern of my friend? That the graduate student seems to be in bad shape, mental shape that is. I tried to relay the little experience I have on the matter, as in the whole “long run and the gruesome last part before the defense” and no one feels particulatly happy in the middle of that stretch. It’s more a matter of surviving and knowing the end is near. But I know that the biggest reason I remained in as good a condition at the time of my writing the thesis and defense was that I knew that I was going to get my coveted PhD. Sure, the system I come from is different, I had a masters going in… but it was still a ratio of “distress vs gain” to be measured. And someone helping me out with cleaning, washing clothes, dinner plans, lunch boxes etc really helped too. (Not that I got that many lunch boxes, but hugs are infallible in making me feel better when I’m stressed and I got a lot of hugs!)

And I guess I put myself in the graduate student’s shoes and thought that no way would I be content with getting a masters at this time. Then again, I wouldn’t have the guts to fight the PI either: not there, and most definitely not after the history that is behind. I guess it is just one of those situations that I end up resenting all the time and wishing that the “system” could be built a bit safer and more secure. The things when I feel like I am little and squashable since I am not in charge and someone else can decide the fate of my life.

Then I remember that I have my PhD. I have power over my own job situation (as long as I forget about the vacation hours dilemma). I’m over the fickle situation with funding money that might be retracted without warning due to some chair yanking money from others to their group, and my life feels a bit better.

Still having a hard time with the graduate student and the potential situation though. I hope they can give her some help or support or hopefully it’ll be better after the thesis is defended and the degree is recived and a new chapter of their life can start. Here’s to hope that a hard situation is the start of something good and new, rather than the end of something bad…

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

my addiction

As I have mentioned several time... Law & Order and I have a bit of a relationship. Mainly on my part I guess, since I have seen little of the "love the Dr Chall's research" in the series ;)

Anyway, after watching two episodes last night; one SVU and one CI, I am left pondering about two fairly lucid things. The first episode touched on the "what we don't like should be banned and illegal" and the second "what is real science". (For obsessed people; it was an episode about a serial killer and the existence of a comic book in remembrance of the killer, and an episode about a man who tried to prove something about selfishness in humans as the nazis had put his father through in the concentration camps. Simply said: "you can kill yourself or your loved one, pick. You've got 20 seconds.")

So, I'm left thinking about the Belgian proposition about banning burkas as a symbol of something they dislike and the true nature of human selfishness and love. In the first case, there is this debate about the things we (most people?) don't like.... and whether or not to make it illegal or "just" make a stance that "we" don't like it. Most times I relate to this remembering the times when people were talking about adding people (us) who played role playing games into a security register for future reference as "people who are involved in revolutionary movements". I still don't know if I am registered as an (former) active role player (and organised since some of us were in a certain organisation). I seriously doubt it, but then again, there are a lot of lists and data bases back home...

Second episode brought about thoughts about the moratorium about the research done in Germany during 1939 and 1945.... and what makes some research ethical and, more importantly, what makes it unethical! There is that syphilis research trial in the 70ies too, if someone feels more comfortable to think about that instead? In the L&O episode there was this eternal (?) question what someone would do if you have to choose to kill your loved one, or you. Who would you choose? And would they choose you or themselves? And that the choice that has been enforced on that person, with a short time span to decide, would point to if we people are selfish or not.

Of course, this is not as interesting imho, as looking at all the times around us where people with nothing are helping others, without knowing if they get anything back or something in the future but because we are helping each other. Anyway, it was about science and that was why I started thinking again. After all, that was the background to the ethics committee debates and the "informed consent". I'm sure HELA cells would ring a bell too? No one told her that the cells were eternal and kept in a cell bank...

I lost my train of thought now but I think the main point of this was that this is one of the main reasons I like Law & Order, and some of my other embarrassing addictions in the world of TV series. They provide me with philosophical questions to ponder, much like the "red wine discussions" and the real Phil 101 that I once attended at uni. I really like thinking about the problems and dilemmas that arise with science, world and people. It's something I miss doing in my present job; on the other hand, I do remember my old ethics professor who was slightly scared after correcting one of my exams. "You are one of those biological scientists, who can deduct one answer just to turn over to the other side and state 'this is what we need to do in society so maybe we have to accept the unethical answer'"**

So, with those ponderings and thoughts I will go to bed. Tomorrow is a new day. Not only will I find out if the Canucks managed to beat some Blackhawks, it will also be the election day in UK. Exciting indeed!

** This was in part due to my answer of the abortion dilemma... and yes, in that aspect he was slightly on the right track. I was confused on how to argue for it since I think I asked what would happen with the dilemma if one acknowledged that the fetus is a life, and that abortion is murder but maybe that is accepted under certain regulated circumstances. His answer; you are one scary person to try and state that murder sometimes is right (ethical wise). I was young at the time... and undereducated in ethics. I'm better now ^^