Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Cognitive dissonance

Once many years ago, when I was relatively new at U, we had an open position in our department, and were trying to hire colleague A, a scientist I respect and appreciate. Many attempts to hire great colleagues do not pan out, and here’s one of the reasons this one did not: During a faculty meeting, one of my senior colleagues denigrated colleague A’s spouse (also a scientist), saying something along the lines of “she’s not as good as her husband.”
The put-down stuck.

At the same time, there was an anonymous blogger—a female professor in science—who was illuminating some of the badly-behaved corners of her area of academia, while also discussing the joys of her own scientific endeavor—research, teaching, service. It was clear from the blog that this person was well-respected in her field, well-funded, publishing many papers, and also had a sharp eye for practices that are sometimes unfair and discriminatory and sometimes just bizarre. I loved this anonymous blogger. This is exactly the type of colleague I want at my university.

So when I discovered—much later— that adored anonymous blogger is the same exact person as mediocre spouse, my brain jolted from the cognitive dissonance.

After the extreme mental discomfort came the questions:
How could I have been so stupid to take my colleague’s comment at face value?
In what other ways have I been taken for a ride during my entire professional life?
What should be done? If not me, who? If not now, when?

...to be continued...

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Harassment, Bullying, and Discrimination in Science is Misconduct

Oh my...some of my colleagues' stories I've been hearing lately...
We are such a microcosm of the best and the worst.
The swirling stories motivated me to send this email to the faculty, postdocs, and graduate students in my department.

Dear colleagues,

The American Geophysical Union has recently revised its policy on scientific integrity and professional ethics to identify  harassment, discrimination and and bullying in scientific endeavors as scientific misconduct (citation and policy are attached).

As a professor who has both experienced and observed harassment, bullying, and discrimination throughout my education and career, I would like to coalesce a group of us who can help consider and perhaps push for a similar misconduct policy here at UCLA.

In parallel, over the last few days/weeks/months I have been absolutely floored by the number of my friends and colleagues in science and in academia who have been echoing the news and opening their lives, risking shame, and shedding light on their stories of sexual harassment (and also not necessarily gender-related bullying and discrimination) that they have experienced during their education and/or their careers.

I’m hoping that we can find ways to engage a critical mass in the department—consisting not only those of us who have experienced HBD, but also fortunate colleagues who have had few or none of these experiences, or do not feel that their time, energy, sense of self worth, and/or professional opportunities have been adversely affected by these power abuses.

So—in the UCLA spirit of Fiat Lux, let’s talk about these issues, starting locally, and thinking globally.

Please feel free to share your ideas about how to engage a discussion, to stop by and chat, with me and each other, and to distribute and discuss this email.

Over the next few weeks & months I will be putting together activities for us to have opportunities to discuss how to create the best environment possible to fulfill our mission of doing wonderful science and raising wonderful scientists.

Yours always,

AGU's EOS article announcing policy change

PDF of AGU's policy

Friday, September 29, 2017

Marriage Stories

If you have been married for 30 years or more then you and your spouse qualify for my research project, titled “How Do You Stay Married?”

Once, many years ago, my department chair and I were in our regalia, walking together to graduation. He told me he and his wife were also celebrating their (major—was it 40 year?) anniversary. At the time, I was struggling with my own marriage. Wow! How did you do it? How do you stay married? I asked. He had an answer right away: “My wife is a very patient woman.” A little bit later, after the ceremony, I found myself chatting with his wife. When it was just the two of us, I congratulated her on wedding anniversary, and asked—how do you do it? how do you stay married? And her answer was ready: “I am a very patient woman.”

Since then, I ask when I can.

One thing I have discovered is that everyone has an answer—a real answer.
I have yet to hear “Huh? I dunno. We just muddle through, I guess…”
Here are some stories.

I shared the graduation day story at a daycare picnic. Two of the parents look at each other—they are celebrating their ~30 year anniversary of being together the next day. So I congratulate them and ask How do you stay married?
She: Therapy and couples counseling
She: Lots and lots of therapy and counseling

My mom and I went out to dinner with family acquaintances: He was my ophthalmologist. She was a beloved high school social studies teacher.
She: We try to make each other’s lives just a little bit better with each interaction
He: I like my orange juice with no pulp, and she likes it with pulp. So when I go to the grocery store, I buy it with pulp.
She: And when I go to the grocery store I buy it
All of us at the table: Without Pulp!

In this case I heard only from one side of the story, at a party with work colleagues.
And based on previous parts of our conversation, I had constructed in my head what will turn out to be a total fantasy: second marriage, grown children from first marriage, etc….
Me: Weekend plans?
He: We are celebrating our 30th anniversary this weekend
Me: Wow! congratulations! How do you stay married?
He: Well. I will tell you. There is a very specific way we have stayed married.
Me: Tell me more
He: We subscribe to the biblical interpretation of marriage
Me: (my preconceptions have been instantaneously crumbled) What is that? (plus I am clueless)
He: [various quotes mostly from the New Testament, plus his personal commentary.  I found his commentary shocking]
Me: Wow.

 I am buying an anniversary card and here is what the woman at the cash register has to say about her 30 year marriage.
Woman: We still have the hots for each other!
Me: Tell me more (me inside my head: this couple must not have children)
Woman: Our three children are now mostly grown, and they thank us for being such good role models for their own relationships
Me: Tell me more (me inside my head: this couple must be very religious)
Woman: My daughter accidentally became pregnant in college—and she definitely knows how to avoid this since I’m a public health educator—but she is deciding to go ahead and get married because my husband and I are such great role models!!
Me: Wow! (me inside my head: wow)

So many ways to make a marriage work.
Please leave your wisdom in the comments.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Summer 2017 Swimming Hole Inventory

Hello to the new year, and goodbye to the 12 swimming holes of summer 2017

1. Brighton Beach, NYC
    “70 years ago, I was the king of that beach” -My dad

2. Mom’s pool, Poughkeepsie, NY
     I floated on my back and watched and listened as the parent hawks fledged their baby hawk. Last swim in this pool after 20 years of summer swims.

3. Upper Cascade Lake, Keene, NY
    I rowed. I swam. Then dad rowed when I became a barnacle.

4. Ausable River, Keene, NY
    After swim, I dried off on a boulder of pure labradorite, which glistened in the sun. I kerplopped back in the water while trying to maximize observed schiller effect.

5. Lake Amherst, Plymouth, VT
    Run then swim*

6. Woodward Reservoir, Plymouth, VT
    At son’s camp*   

7. Rancho San Carlos pool, Carmel, CA
    Had pool to self   

8. Hotel Pool, St George, UT
    Small pool with lots of guests from all over the world

9. Hotel Pool, Page, AZ
    Small pool with lots of guests from all over the world

10. Tamaya Resort Pool, Bernalillo, NM

11. Hotel Pool, Flagstaff, AZ
    Best hotel pool ever is at the Little America Hotel in Flagstaff. I had the entire pool to myself for a long nighttime swim.

12. Pool at Kleinberg Manor, Alexandria VA
    Got in one last summer swim before meetings with NSF and DOE program officers.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Academic Year Inventory 2016-2017

Every year at this time I do an inventory of my professional and personal highlights (and lowpoints).

Here are some reasons:
1.  The inventory pulls all of the year's accomplishments in one place, so I can see progress.
2.  The inventory shows where (and where not) my investment has resulted in tangible outcomes.
3.  I like the one-page format for comparing year-to-year inventories.
4.  The combination of professional and personal highlights enriches the context for both. I can spot long-term trends.

Feel free to borrow and improve on my template.

Here are some of my inventories from past years:

Here is this year's inventory.
(Note that some of the highlights/lowpoints have been tempered for public post.)

Annual Inventory of Accomplishments AY 2016-2017

I have been in this job for exactly 15 years.
There was a step advancement this year, with a raise that demonstrated my institution's appreciation for my continued work.
The (academic) year started off great with a wonderful summer conference/workshop with many colleagues and friends, but after the elections I limped through the rest of the year with a broken heart.

Still, I woke most mornings before the sunrise, sat at my desk, and did math before breakfast. I may have logged 1000 hours this year on my research problem. Another year of intellectual investment with no direct tangible product yet.

5 papers published
5 papers submitted
4 papers accepted
many works-in-progress

2 active grants
1 proposal submitted
1 non-renewal

Other product
First dividend check from a patent                                                                  

Synchrotron Beamtime Experiments
ALS beamtime July, November—good to have that in wake of election
Group beamtime (I didn’t go) February, Spring

I travelled less than usual this year. I cancelled a few planned trips also.
CIDER Santa Barbara six weeks summer—organizer
COMPRES trip to NSF July
COMPRES Panel review, November, Berkeley
AGU conference (2 group abstracts)
NSF panels

External Recognition/Awards

Group successes
Two grad students (one advanced to candidacy)
Two undergraduates
Three productive collaborations (1 paper submitted; one about to be submitted; 3 published)

Grad student exam committees
about ~6 total

Fall: Mineralogy
Winter: Graduate Geophysics/Equations of State
Spring: Plate Tectonics
Attended teaching-training seminars

Service highlights
COMPRES- Chair of Executive Committee (2nd year)
COMPRES NSF renewal proposal funded
UCLA Undergraduate Council
Department Search committee
Mineralogical Society of America Councilor
NSF panel
Board of Reviewing Editors, Science
Other manuscript reviews~ about 6.

Outreach Highlights
 I did a science outreach event for 20th Century Fox. Earned a donation for our department.
Participated in UCLA science outreach events

Marches/Political Activity
This is a new category this year!

Women's March, Los Angeles Jan 2017
Science March, Los Angeles April 2017
Climate March, Washington DC, April 2017

Family/personal things
I turned 50
Son graduates high school; had a wonderful year; left for summer job and then to college.
Still married, and newly empty nest.
Good health except for the 3-am-wakies-and-can't-get-back-to-sleepies.
Struggled with a few perennial bad habits
Halfway to gaining the "Trump 10"
Exercised at least a little bit most days
Meditated very occasionally
Took bus to work more

Other items
Studying Spanish  
Read many books. 
Watched a few movies and TV shows. 
Approximately monthly theater/music.
Dutiful Daughter Roadtrip 1: Father-Daughter Roadtrip Nova Scotia, September
Dutiful Daughter Roadtrip 2: Mother-Daughter Roadtrip California/Arizona/Grand Canyon, February
Thanksgiving in Carmel.
August in NY/VT with family and new and old friends.
An array of new friendships. 
Cooked a lot of food--probably ~150 dinners. Shared them with family and neighbors and friends. 
Time with friends. But not enough.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Congratulations! You have an all-male list of keynote speakers

 Like an occasional cold virus infection, every once in a while I come across an invitation to a meeting in my field that attempts to entice me to register with a list of all-male keynote speakers.

At this point I need a form letter to call on so that I can adjust it to fit the circumstances (all white? all-male? all _fill-in-the-absence-of-diversity_ ?)

And you, my blog reader, might find it helpful too.

Luckily others have helped clear the brush before me. Here are some resources to help.

Attached is a letter I wrote to a colleague today.
(a good colleague, too! someone I like both personally and scientifically.
I admit I find myself hoping I do not lose a friend with this letter.)

[PostScript--as I am writing this post I received a warm acknowledgement, response, and statement of intention to take action from Colleague. So balance has been restored.]

Please feel free to use the letter as a template. Also, please share more educational links & resources about the importance of diversity for keynotes, invited speakers, on panels, etc. I'll collect them here.

Hi Colleague,


You should know that an all-male keynote list at a conference sends a series of unfortunate messages—messages that might not be noticed by a man, but are heard loud and clear by many women.

Here are some examples of what I thought when I saw this list:

Science done by women is not viewed by the organizers as prestigious
The organizers did not put a great deal of thought into choosing their list of keynote speakers
The organizers do not value diversity in their conference
Women are not welcome

Here is an article in Science magazine that takes a look at this issue:

I hope you understand that I intend this email message not as a personal attack on you (by all means no!! I consider us friends and I don’t want that to change!) but that I think that if you are not aware of these issues, you should be.  You are in a position to help our mineral physics community be more inclusive—and therefore better.


Here is the heavily redacted version of the conference registration. reminder

Dear all,

This is a reminder that the Nth Annual Meeting of the Extreme Science Conference will be held soon.

Confirmed keynote speakers include
- Colleague who got a PhD the same year I did
- My Postdoctoral Advisor
- Senior Faculty Member at Institution Where I got my PhD
- Fellow Editor of Professional Journal
- Faculty Member from Country that is investing a lot of $ in Extreme Science
- Extreme Science Textbook Author (Book published in 1991)

with a number of other prestigious invited speakers. [sic]

Please register,


Friday, June 9, 2017

Letter to my students on the last day of class

Dear Students,

    Thank you for your time and participation in this class. It has been a special year with changes at all scales—in many ways fascinating and wonderful, and in other ways difficult and heartbreaking. It has been a privilege to share even a small part of the story of this year together with you.

    I hope you have learned something of value—some of our collective science stories describing how the Earth works, and also the parts of the story that tell *how* it is what it is that we know. I hope you while you have been here and in the future you listen to some of the stories about the process of how science is done—often two steps forward, and one step backwards, and always conflated with the strengths and weaknesses of the human beings who are trying to uncover truth. I think there is great richness in these stories where science and human creativity work together and occasionally collide. One of my goals is to keep my eyes out for these stories and practice telling them.

    Thank you for your patience with my tinkering with this class. I am still trying to optimize how to simultaneously encourage our best work while minimizing anxiety. I think our best, most creative learning is done when we are not anxious. This year—more so than previously— I occasionally found my energy and enthusiasm waning. Thank you for giving me reasons every day to not disengage. You helped remind me to prioritize taking care of myself so that I have plenty of room for the people and ideas that energize me.

    This university's students energize me. I am in awe of your hard work, ever expanding talent, your engagement with each other, and occasionally with me. You are skilled and capable and I have never met an exception to that during my 15 years here.

    Here are my wishes for you and us as people and as scientists as you continue your studies and after you graduate, and as you build up, carve out, and share and rework your own stories.

In seeking the truth about how the world works, when you collect your data and make your observations, suspend belief and disbelief, judgment and desire. Be dispassionate with the data, and simultaneously gentle on yourself, the scientist.

Then tell your stories. The entire story that you want to share.  Be passionate as you develop  your stories, but discipline yourself to align the stories as closely as possible to the observations and data.

    Listen well to others’ stories. Be critical of the stories. Be gentle on the storytellers. Be gentle on yourself. Try to be dispassionately aware of the stories that you tell yourself in your head. Try to align these stories as close as possible with reality. Cultivate the stories that help you keep you to the path that you want to be on, and also the path of truth and connection.

Please stay in touch.

All my love,