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Realities of doing science

Sarah Pallas bioslp at panther.Gsu.EDU
Fri Jul 2 01:25:29 EST 1999

I don't get to read this group very often and am a bit dismayed to come
back and see this us (students) vs them (faculty) business.  HEY PEOPLE-
we are all on the same side here, and Susan Forsberg is probably the
biggest champion of women in biology there is, so listen to what she has
to say, she is giving you good advice.

Perhaps I am fortunate (?!) that many of my professors were so busy
discouraging women from going into science that I NEVER had any inkling
that it would even be POSSIBLE to get a faculty position!  Really,
believe me, things are better now!  We're not being told to get out of
the club, we're being encouraged to hang in there and stick it out!  
This is a GOOD thing!  It's not perfect, but it's definitely good.  You
know that some men will complain that the reason the job market is so
tight is because there's all these damn WOMEN taking all the jobs away
>From those who truly deserve them, the MEN.  But now things have changed
enough that they won't say that out loud, to your face.

One piece of advice I once got from a mentor is that most grad students
who become professors aren't any smarter, they just work harder.  It's
true in a lot of cases. When a major professor says that there will
always be jobs for good people, it is also true.  What does "good"
mean?  That means that if you are as intelligient and resourceful as the
average grad student, and you are willing to work really, really, hard
and put up with major, major frustrations without giving up (and are
lucky enough not to have major experimental disasters), and want more
than anything else in the world to be a professor in a research
university, you probably can.  The question you have to ask yourself is,
is that what you want?  Because trust me, it does NOT get any easier on
this side of the fence, it gets harder.  LOTS harder.

I remember when I was trying to decide, as a grad student, whether to
make a career of this.  I was very discouraged that I was dirt poor and
never had a moment to spare to do fun things.  I asked the department
chair whether the lifestyle would improve as a faculty member.  She said
to me that she thought her life was great, that she often went to
restaurants with visiting faculty, and she even got to go to the movies
about once a month.  At this point, I was going to the movies at least
once a week with my fellow grad students.  I was SHOCKED to think that
she could consider a once a month outing an adequate way to live.  I
think the only reason I stayed in grad school was because it was clear
that some of the faculty men thought women couldn't hack it, and I'm
stubborn as hell.  Now ask me the last time I went to a movie?  I think
it was 6 months ago.......

I'm currently operating under the illusion that if and when I am tenured
life will be more relaxed.  My tenured colleagues say it won't.  I'm
choosing not to believe them because I love my job.

THIS, folks, is the reality.  I love my work.  I do doubt it's any
harder than a lot of other fairly high-paying jobs, and I think I have
more independence than most doctors or lawyers or stock brokers.  But
it's true you start making money later in life, and it's true that
getting the job you want is not a sure thing at all.  Again I will say-
do it because you WANT to and not for any other reason.  Keep your
options open in case "they" stop letting you do it.  And network in
places like this forum to improve your job outlook.
Sarah L. Pallas, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Dept. of Biology
Georgia State University
P.O. Box 4010
Atlanta, GA  30302
tel 404-651-1551 fax 404-651-2509
email bioslp at panther.gsu.edu OR spallas at gsu.edu

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