Friday, August 30, 2013

End-of-Summer Thoughts

The richness of summer. My life in general is rich—I have a complicated and multifaceted career, a spouse also with a full career, a fascinating and strong-willed child who now towers over me, close family, neighbors, friends, a great city with much to explore, etc. There was something about uprooting myself from my normal life here, and temporarily re-planting myself on the opposite coast, in the middle of another great city, that opened my eyes even wider to the richness of the world. It was overwhelming and exciting—the art, the music, theater, people, food, shopping, neighborhoods. For every bit I chose to do, there were hundreds more options that I couldn’t do. And the same was true of the internal, intellectual life: books, readings, newspapers, magazines (I stayed away from the internet mostly—but that’s a whole rich world too).  And science, science, science—doing, thinking, reading, writing.  And then—the people! Old friends, new friends, family, cousins, colleagues.  So much richness! And yes, I’ve brought it all back with me—my eyes are opened just a little bit wider.

Summer anxiety. I have more generalized anxiety than some, less than others. My anxiety took on a completely different quality this summer. While I usually experience anxiety as a force of compression, this summer it changed sign, and felt extensional. Without my son, without spouse, home, lab, friends, routine—I started to feel a little bit untethered, like a rising helium balloon expanding as the internal pressure overrides the external. After a few weeks, I achieved a new equilibrium, and with an increased awareness of my and others' anxiety.

FemSTEM / ProfessionalWomenWoes The blogs, articles, tweets that illuminate the stories of women (and minority and other groups) simultaneously resonate with me and repulse me. I share so many of these experiences, have so much empathy, and yet the onslaught of agita makes me want to ignore the fact that I am a women—after all it’s so much beside the point when I’m a scientist—and just bury my head in my work. I’m pretty sure my best contribution to the discussion is to continue being myself—my imperfect, female, scientist-y, brainy, busy, arrogant, insecure, self—and continue to elevate my craft as a scientist. That, and nominate lots of women at all stages for lots of awards & honors.

Sabbatical Plans. I’m taking sabbatical time this year. My goals are to submit several backlogged papers and two big proposals, and to spend lots of time doing science with students & postdocs. I will also think about my next professional steps—which will honor the fact that increasingly I need the connections in order to feel fulfilled—the connections between people-people, ideas-ideas, and people-ideas. How do I build the community that I thrive?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Self-Statement for Faculty Review

Since the season for academic merit reviews and promotions is around the corner, I have attached an example self-statement from early in my career as a professor. I hope you find it useful!

Prof. MineralPhys Self-Statement on Research, Teaching, Service

I list the following as my finest accomplishments during my first year as a professor at Big State Research University (BSRU).
A: finding my way to the sixth floor without getting lost,
B: surviving being faculty meeting scribe for a quarter
C: bewildering the dept. chair with my sense of humor
D: avoiding being tarred-and-feathered by undergraduate mineralogy student
E: not accidently burning a hole through the Geology Building with my brand new Nd:YAG laser beam.

Further details on my accomplishments in research, teaching and service are below.

            My research falls into two distinct areas:  1:  Ideas that work, and 2: Ideas that don’t.  Most of my work is of the second variety. Since I have been at BSRU, one project has definitely fallen in the first category.  However, due to my filing paperwork with BSRU’s Office of Intellectual Property, I am not at liberty to discuss this project. I have attached the encouraging notice I received from the OIP at the bottom of this statement.

I still have several active projects that have not yet fallen in either category.  These projects include:  1) Making measurements on useful physical properties of important Earth materials, 2) Making measurements on useful chemical properties of important Earth materials, 3) Making measurements of useful physical and chemical properties of materials that have nothing to do with Earth or planetary science, and 4) Making measurements of useless physical and chemical properties on all sorts of materials.

            I report several of my students’ comments from last year’s evaluation forms:
“Not so bad for a first timer”
“After she gets a few of these under her belt, it won’t be so bad”
“The first midterm was too easy; the second midterm was impossible. Prof. is no Goldilocks”

            I have served on the departmental staff services committee, but I think I have not been invited to any of the more recent meetings.  I have also served on the department’s fellowships committee.  My silence in the first year of service was rewarded by being appointed chair for the upcoming year.