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Science careers and moving

Sue Slechta Slechta at biology.utah.edu
Tue Jun 18 18:08:46 EST 1996

<a bunch of stuff snipped>

> A note on the original issue.
> Within academia or other upper middle to upper class societies I often
> see parents bring children to social occasions and expect them to be
> given the privileges of adults and yet they do not expect the children
> to act as adults.  Many who go into academia are from upper middle
> class or academia. I have expectations of adults that I do not of
> children.  An adult must actively seek out information and take
> responsibilily  for one's choices.  High School students expect to
> move away from home to go to college.  College graduates expect to
> have to move when they go to Graduate School.  The process continues
> and the option of being in academia and remaining in a given place
> does not occur until one has tenure.  Why do you need a female
> "mentor" to tell you this?  Perhaps there is something about the bio
> field that I am not aware of.  If you simply want to teach, should you
> not be going to a school of education?  If you choose to have children
> before you are settled in your career, is that not your own choice
> with it's own consequences?  If you choose to marry a man or a woman
> that will not or cannot move to where you have to move, again is that
> not  a choice made with it's own consequences?  These are adult
> choices.  My posting that anyone not aware of such things should grow
> up was not "grown up" behavior.  Again though, what I value of the net
> is the ability to be childish and throw away inhabitions.  DK

I have been following this thread with a good deal of interest.  As a
fairly young, childless, unmarried graduate student, I was amazed at the
level of complaints from others about the simple fact that young
scientists are expected to move to advance their career.  Nobody ever hid
this fact from me, I was quite aware of it from the very beginning of my
graduate career decision.  In fact, that, to me, was one of the
advantages.  Getting the opportunity to move to a new location, meeting
new people, the general feeling of moving on in your life.  That was one
of the big reasons I moved from upstate NY to Utah for grad school.  I
felt that I was closing one chapter in my life (collece, tech job) and
opening a new one.

I expect the same to be true when I move on to a poct-doc position (some
day, I hope!).  I can't help but feeling that staying here, no matter how
much I may like living here, will encourage me to still feel like a grad
student, and after that long, I should not want to feel like that any
more.  Moving to a new place will allow me to leave behind "grad
student/TA Sue"  and help me to assert myself as "Dr. Sue" ( I'm sure you
get my point).

The interesting thing about this thread, to me, is how it is trying to
make one of the most general aspects of research science (everybody keeps
moving for several years) an anti-woman, anti-family issue.  It is not
that at all.  There are definite benefits to this practice, and EVERYONE
is expected to do it.  It's not like it is any easier for male scientists
to do this these days either, since many of them are married to career
women as well.  I'm sure it is very difficult for two career families when
one of the careers demands moving around, but in science, this is a known
problem.  I really believe that if both partners can't agree on some
reasonable way to accomodate both careers, one person will have to make
the sacrifice, or maybe they should not stay together.  Is this harsh? 
Probably.  But every career type has its own type of sacrifices that need
to be made, regardless of sex.  If you want to be a research scientist, be
prepared to move around for a while.  

As I see it, everyone makes choices in their lives that will influence
future chioces.  You chose to go to grad school.  A few years later, you
choose to get married.  Now your choice about you career is not as clear
cut as it was before.  But you still have a choice to make, only now it is
two people making it.  This choice would be the same if you were in
business and got promoted and transferred, or if you were a lawyer and
wanted to move to a new firm, or if you got down-sized and were looking
for a job and the only one was on a different city.  People who get MBA's,
or JD's or MD's for that matter, often (if not almost always) move to a
different city for jobs after graduating.  Why should science be any
different?  I know that there is at least one extra move involved , to a
permanant position, but I know of very few people in other careesr these
days who stay with the first job they get after getting their degree.

So I generally agree with DK and her postings.  It was unfortunate that
the discussion degenerated into a rather petty argument on nettiquette,
but even so, those flames were quite mild as compared to those I've seen
on other newsgroups.    I especially qgree with the above snipped
paragraph, which I have basically restated here.  And I do think she was
right to tell many of the posters that they needed to grow up.  I don't
think she was being mean, but was instead gently reminding wveryone that
they are adults now, and they are in this position they are now because of
choices they have made in the past.  Everyone knew the rules then they
came in (or they should have).  Bad rules should be complained about, or
broken, but this is not a bad, or descriminating rule.  It os one of the
mainstays and definitions of science; always growing, always changing.

Ready to hear the responses.

Sue Slechta

Sue Slechta
Slechta at biology.utah.edu

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