liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
So there's an organization called Athena Swan which promotes institutional policies that are good for women in STEM careers. I signed up for a meeting on the topic, hoping to pick up some tips, because Athena-related events are usually a bit earnest but often useful for both advice and networking. However it turned out that I'd kind of misunderstood the remit of the meeting, and it wasn't there to help female researchers, it was a crisis meeting for senior people.

Why a crisis? Well, one of the major government funding bodies has announced that the Athena Swan silver level is going to be a prerequisite for funding from now on. They haven't given institutions any lead-in time to actually clean up their acts, it's a fiat which says, support women's careers or no money for you. And the way Athena Swan works, it's assessed on a department by department basis. Currently Life Sciences has achieved their silver level charter, Medicine has a concrete plan in place to apply for it, and my research institute, through whom I will actually be applying for most of my research funding, is kind of wrong-footed. And I suspect the RI is going to have a bit of a hard time because while not actively misogynist as a working environment (good enough for the bronze level charter, probably), they're a bit crap at things like flexible working policies, promoting proportional numbers of women and men and the sorts of things that you need for silver.

I have rather mixed feelings about this decision by the funders. I mean, on the one hand actually imposing tangible financial penalties on sexist institutions means more than lip service to supporting women's careers. But as a female researcher, I think in many ways I'm more disadvantaged by working for an institution that is barred from a major source of research funding, than I would be anyway for working for a male-dominated institution!

what do women want? )

And then my head of department (a female professor, by the way) button-holed me and declared that since I'd showed up I was obviously interested in this stuff, and she wants me on the committee for the medical school to put together an application for our Athena Swan silver award. I think this is probably a good idea, but I'm not sure. Pros: I do in fact believe in making institutional changes so that women can fulfil their potential, and I'd like myself a lot better if I actually contributed to that goal rather than just vaguely thinking that feminism is a good thing. It'll be good CV fodder and genuinely good experience. Cons: the brunt of unintentional discrimination affects mothers, not women in general, and as a childfree woman I'm just not the best spokesperson for "women's" perspective. It's likely to be one of those life-eating things and I possibly shouldn't take on more of those. And of course part of the problem is that women take on more thankless scutwork, which takes time away from research and churning out publications, and gets emotional recognition but rarely actually leads to career advancement. Any opinions, anyone?
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
So the start of the academic year coincided with the start of the new year in the Jewish calendar (5772). This has made my life incredibly intense, but it's been very positive.

they look so young! )

Anyway, overall I'm feeling pretty satisfied and not too stressed. But note that I didn't manage to post this at the weekend because although I had plenty of free time, I ended up spending nearly all of it vegging out, I was just too tired to put DW posts together, let alone do any of the productive and useful things I'd planned for my rare days off.

Yom Kippur starts tomorrow evening; it's going to be a bit tough going straight into the liturgy from a very busy day of teaching, and apart from anything else I barely have time to eat before the fast begins. But I am getting help from the wonderful [personal profile] hatam_soferet, which will make it far less daunting. Plus she actually can sing, which may help to mitigate the issue that everybody wants incompatible and impossible things out of the musical aspects of the service. Have an easy fast and a good conclusion if applicable, and I'll virtually see you on the other side.
liv: cup of tea with text from HHGttG (teeeeea)
So the first day of the glorious spring weather I heard some disappointing news: my application to the university for partial funding for a PhD student has been turned down. The most galling thing is that the scheme is supposed to be there to help new academics break into the cycle of needing money in order to get money, yet they turned me down in favour of someone coming from a stronger financial position than me! Grr. This despite truly excellent feedback on the quality of my application; apparently if I can get more money together they'll be very happy to help me next year. My feeling is that next year is probably too late for lots of reasons, and if I can manage to raise lots of money independently I don't actually need the relatively paltry top-up they're offering!

First world problems, I know, but I was quite upset by this disappointment, and while it wasn't my last chance it was probably my best chance of establishing a research career. In fact I haven't felt able to talk about it on DW until now, though I've mentioned it to a few friends. Heartfelt thanks to all of you who have been supportive.

Anyway, being miserable about that was somewhat mitigated by a really great weekend. London in the sunshine )

OK, back to the grant-writing grindstone. That weekend just made me feel so much better in spite of the disappointment though. Yay lovely people!
liv: ribbon diagram of a p53 monomer (p53)
Here's a challenge for you: can you suggest me some names, which meet the following criteria:
  • Plausible for actual people (ie not sounding like a spammer)
  • Not really obvious defaults or clichés like "John Smith"
  • Not similar to any famous person or fictional character
  • Reasonably easy to spell and make a guess at the pronunciation
  • Not rude or comical
  • Plausible for someone from a different ethnic background from your own
  • If you're feeling really ambitious, I could do with names that sound plausible for children, middle-aged people, and elderly people.
The reason I'm asking is that one of my jobs for the summer is to help write a bunch of case studies and exam questions, and we always, always struggle with the names. We try to get a balance of implied ethnic backgrounds, (and a range of ages and genders is necessary because it's often medically relevant) but we usually end up with way too many variants on things like "Robert Johnson" and "Mary Barker". It's actually surprisingly difficult to come up with names, so what I'm aiming to do is make a list that we can select from, so that we don't keep getting bogged down in inventing names for our imaginary doctors and patients.
liv: ribbon diagram of a p53 monomer (p53)
I'm going to like this job, if it doesn't kill me!

first impressions )

So, life is good, though in a steep learning curve kind of way!


Sep. 11th, 2009 12:44 pm
liv: ribbon diagram of a p53 monomer (p53)
I have a job. And not just any job, but the most perfect job I could possibly imagine.

excessive squee )

The next three weeks is going to be really really interesting. And the next three years after that. I am not sure when I will next have time to sleep, let alone socialize, though!
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
My Swedish friends continue trying to say goodbye to me at every opportunity. At least this gives me excuses to be sociable, and May to June is the most sociable time of year here anyway; the weather is fine enough and the days are long enough, but it's not the height of summer when everyone goes to the country or away on holiday.

more sociability )

Realistically, I do need to be thinking about the future. I don't have many job prospects open, so it's most likely that I won't have a job lined up by the time this position finishes at the end of June. Possibilities:
  • I'm waiting to hear about the Leicester post-doc, where I failed to meet the actual professor.
  • I have a couple of applications for lecturing jobs sent out on spec (Bradford and Cardiff), but I don't hold out great hopes because the first one I sent in after the deadline, and the second one I stupidly sent the wrong version of the file, and although I corrected it with a chasing email five minutes later, that doesn't make a good impression!)
  • I may theoretically still get something from the good-looking Cambridge guy, but I pretty much need to apply for my own funding and there's a lot of uncertainty

[personal profile] hatam_soferet has been trying to convince me to spend the summer learning at a Yeshiva, probably Drisha. I think this makes a fair amount of sense, because the chances of getting a job that would clash with that are pretty slim, and I might as well start again with job hunting later in the summer. It's slightly expensive (especially in a recession and with no clear job prospects!), but I would love the chance for several weeks of focused Jewish learning soooo much that I think it's worth it.

I need to talk to various people to make that happen, not least parents. I think I'll give formal notice to my boss tomorrow, and therefore aim to finish at midsummer rather than the end of June. That will give me a week or so to move my life back to England, before potentially travelling to NY for the learning. If I do make the trip I'll certainly leave a week or so free after the programme finishes for visiting people in NorAm. Family stuff is a bit complicated at the moment, which is another reason to leave Sweden a little early rather than extending things for a couple of weeks, as I was previously thinking. We'll see. Actually realizing that I only have, at best, six weeks more of employment is pretty scary, but I do still optimistically believe that my life is going to contain nice things and even remunerated nice things.
liv: A woman with a long plait drinks a cup of tea (teapot)
I've been wandering round the UK since Sunday evening, including two interviews, and I'm now chez parents.

4 days in the life )

The lecturing job said they would let me know that day or the next, but I've heard nothing. This is leading me to suspect that I'm their reserve candidate, and they are waiting for confirmation from their first choice before they turn me down. I shall nag them tomorrow, but I'm prepared for disappointment. The research job said they are intending to do most of their interviews at the end of May, so I won't hear for a few weeks anyway. So now I just wait and hope.

I won't make it to the Carlton as planned tomorrow, since my parents sort of randomly invited my sibs for dinner without consulting me first. I'm slightly annoyed at having my plans changed on me, but I am very happy for the chance to see Thuggish Poet, so I don't mind too much. OTOH I do intend to show up to the Pembury for [ profile] doseybat's party on Saturday.


Apr. 23rd, 2009 05:35 pm
liv: ribbon diagram of a p53 monomer (p53)
I'm really glad that [ profile] siderea made a post at some point explaining that intelligence and avidity are different things. This semester I had a class of six students, three boys and three girls. It soon became clear that the girls range between fairly and very avid but aren't very bright, and the boys are reasonably to highly capable but are just coasting. It's always a little worrying when a group divides precisely along gender lines like that, but I'm fairly certain that it's just a statistical blip and not a result of my making biased assumptions.

more teaching notes )

After finding the class slightly frustrating, I do feel good about the outcome by the end of the course; I made some real connections. Yay teaching!
liv: ribbon diagram of a p53 monomer (p53)
I've been horribly, horribly avoidant about looking for jobs, because I am scared I won't get any, and because I don't have a clear idea what I want to do with my future. Stay in academia or get a real job? Stay in Sweden or go back to England, or find a new country to explore? I managed to get started this week, deciding that I'd apply for everything I could find that looks vaguely suitable, and not agonize over every word of my applications, just get some out there.

mainly for my record-keeping )

In other work mightiness news, I was pushy earlier in the month, with the result that we've managed to get our paper back to the journal with corrections completed, and two others in the group have submitted manuscripts, and there are two more in the pipeline. So I'm reasonably proud of that. And I can leave tomorrow for my long-awaited Christmas vacation with a good conscience.

On the less positive side, I have a stabbing headache, and have done for several days now. It's not bad enough to stop me getting on with things, but I would prefer it not to be there.
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (Default)
I didn't want to count up my nano words because I knew I'd not kept up with it in the last week of November. But actually now I've done it, and it's not as bad as I thought: 47391 words of meaningful communication in the month of November, so only 5% short. And that's partly because I didn't write anything at all over the weekend when [ profile] cartesiandaemon was here. Chart, as much for my own reference as anything.

I feel pretty good about that, even if I didn't technically win. 50k words felt like just the right level, it was enough to be challenging, but it would have been vaguely possible if I hadn't got cold and depressed and disorganized. And it had the intended positive effect of keeping better in touch, even if I'm still short of where I want to be.

In other good news, I gave a very successful talk to the department today. I cut it finer than I'd like to finish writing it, but once I got up in front of an audience everything was peachy. And I got lots of interested questions which implied people had listened and taken it in, so yay. Also, today I made tasty tomato soup. All in all could be a lot worse!
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
I've had one of those weeks, a bit. I was idly checking my email on Monday morning, and realized that I had an extra committee meeting Monday evening, and a lecture Tuesday evening which I'd agreed to do ages ago and then forgotten about, on top of my usual class Thursday evening and running a service with Joanna on Friday. So it's been a bit manic, especially fitting all that round work commitments, but so far seems to have come out ok in the end.

misc diary )
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (Default)

miscellaneous whining, nothing serious )

This is exactly the situation for my luxury hot chocolate mix that [ profile] deborah_c gave me for my birthday, I feel.
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (Default)
So as I mentioned I succumbed to irresistable gadget lust and bought me a teeny tiny eee.

geek wurbling )

I've named the computer Little list (cheers for the witty suggestion, [ profile] emperor!) There doesn't seem to be a way to tell the computer its new name, but that's minor. So, yesterday and today, Little List got its first field trial, in the form of a couple of days at a small local conference I got roped in to attending.

This took place in Tammsvik conference centre, which way over on the other side of town, and near inaccessible by public transport. So I had to get up unpleasantly early Thursday morning, and take a 50 minute train ride to the end of the line, where I missed the only bus (it runs only twice a day), but luckily was able to share a taxi with some colleagues who were also aiming for that bus. Using Little List on a crowded train is slightly uncomfortable (I had to hold it on my lap with my palms, while typing with my fingers, not very ergonomic!) but certainly doable and much easier than using a full-sized laptop. I conclude it's not worth getting out the baby computer for my usual ten minute commute, but for any longer journey than that, it's very useful to have. And it felt really nice to be able to dash off short catch-up notes to a couple of friends, not a daunting task like settling down to write a long, properly composed email.

Tammsvik is very pretty, traditional buildings (some are genuinely at least quite old) looking out over Mälaren lake and beautiful forests. But it's otherwise very poorly set up. We were a group of a hundred, but the facilities would have been barely adequate for 20. There were three toilets for the whole group. The sound system was utterly dire. They somehow concluded that there were only four vegetarians, though to be fair they were generally helpful when we pointed out the error, apart from one frazzled waiter who yelled at the fifteenth person who asked for a vegetarian meal long after they'd run out. There were several groups using the facilities at the same time, meaning that we felt rushed and crowded a lot of the time. The meeting ran from 9 on Thursday to 4 today, but we were only allowed to check in after 3 pm and had to check out before 9 am. Outside those times, we had to leave our bags in a tiny little cloakroom which didn't really have space for a hundred coats, let alone a hundred overnight bags. Part of the problem was that the meeting itself was overscheduled; the toilet situation would have been less acute if we'd been allowed more than a 5 minute break in a four hour session, and the checking in situation if we'd been allowed more than half an hour for a hundred people to go through reception, take their bags to their rooms and come back to the meeting. Networking, ostensibly the point of the meeting, was pretty difficult with so little unscheduled time. But I did get to catch up with RS, who is now working at Stockholm and I hadn't done very well at keeping in touch with her since she left our department.

The centre has wireless, for which you buy 8 hour passes. That's 8 hours of time, not 8 hours of actual use. They had provided the group with some of these passes, but again, not nearly enough for 100 scientists. I decided not to bother trying to use Little List to take notes, as there were no extra power points in the room and the battery wouldn't last all day. But I did get my paws on one of the coveted wireless passes, so in the evening I was able to catch up on email and LJ from the not very comfortable comfort of my narrow, hard bed in a cold, draughty room.

Apart from the logistical crap, and the overscheduling, the meeting wasn't too bad. There were some good talks, and my own talk, first thing this morning, went pretty well even if it wasn't the greatest triumph of my career. I had thought of testing whether Little List would seamlessly talk to the projector equipment, but I decided I'd better not inflict that experiment on the audience at 9 am, and anyway, the SCSI cable needs a converter from its small socket to the standard sized one, I think. However, I was able to open my Powerpoint presentation in Open Office, in order to read it through and check that I knew what I was going to say.

I think even after the novelty wears off, having a tiny computer will make a positive difference to my life. I'll likely still need to carry a book wherever I go, because I get fidgety if I have to wait five minutes for a bus, but that's not long enough or comfortable enough to get a computer out. But it will be good to be able to use longer travelling or waiting around times to catch up on emails or LJ posts, to be saved for when I next get online. And it was so lovely to be able to get online while staying away from home, and I expect other conference centres / hotels will have better power and internet facilities than Tammsvik.

Of course, it may tempt me to spend money I don't have; I can't really subscribe to mobile internet, because there are so many different providers that it would be a waste of money. But if I start paying for one-off wireless access on the move, I will soon find that the costs mount up. But generally, yay tiny computer!

I hate living in a world where I have to specify this: but I'm not in any way affiliated with Asus, and I'm not getting any payment or consideration for writing a largely positive review of the eee.
liv: ribbon diagram of a p53 monomer (p53)
This is actually something that happened a few months ago, but I didn't blog about it then because I wasn't sure how public the information was. Anyway, my former Boss S, who supervised me during my PhD, showed up in Stockholm. I went to hear her talk, being curious to know what had happened to the project I started after I left. And it turns out that she's achieved some pretty stunning stuff.

She's found two drugs with clinical potential, and one of them turns out to be an inhibitor of something called a sirtuin. Sirtuins are super, super trendy right now; they're involved in marking the DNA at a level which is termed epigenetic. They also seem to play a major role in ageing, as well as being master controllers of which genes are expressed.

She's got a very nice paper in Cancer Cell which comes out this week. Unfortunately Cell Press are still operating on the model of making people pay to read articles, so you'll only be able to see it if you're in an academic institution. But anyway, the point is that it's very satisfying to feel that the work I did was the starting point of a project that has real, practical results, that may even help to make patients better.

Boss S' career is going very well at the moment, with this work and some other impressive achievements in the past few years. There's a possibility she might take up a position here in my institute, which would be rather cool, especially as she'd likely be working with the people I collaborate with anyway. I managed to feed her dinner and catch up on some of the gossip from Dundee, so I'm pleased that worked out.

Thinking of this has given me a motivation boost to get on with the stuff I'm supposed to be doing at the moment. So I'll leave LJ and get back to that.
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (Default)
I had a busy schedule today, but still didn't do a great job of getting out of the house.

mild work whining )

It started sleeting heavily some time mid afternoon, and the yucky weather continued. I'd dressed for the spring which appeared to be firmly here when I got up this morning, so I was a bit cold and miserable coming home.

On the way, I overheard two women having an earnest discussion of Latin verb conjugations.

I got home at 10:30, and completely failed at putting chocolate spread on a cracker. It turns out that the state of "oh look, I appear to be covered in chocolate" doesn't have many fun outcomes available when you're on your own.

Well, at least I've got a fair bit of experimental work done. And now I have tea, and don't have to deal with today any more. So that's positive overall, I think.
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (Default)
Things that are pleasing:
  1. I have given my two lectures with a degree of success. That was believe it or not the first opportunity I've had to give university-level lectures in my own professional subject. A good group, tiny (officially 6 people but not all of them show up), but really keen. That meant that the lectures were more or less large tutorials or small seminars, but I got lots of good and interesting questions. I'm generally proud of myself.

  2. This means I can now catch up on sleeeeeeeeeep and start attending to the rest of my life.

  3. I had lovely friends supporting me through the painful process of recovering from the worst deadline mismanagement I've ever committed. Thank you all so much, especially [ profile] darcydodo and [ profile] cartesiandaemon and [ profile] rysmiel, for holding my hand and for refusing to accept that needing my hand held makes me pathetic and worthless.

  4. I am blessed with a particularly wonderful beau, who is very cuddly and fun to talk to.

  5. I have lovely, accomplished, enthusiastic bar mitzvah pupils, and generally an excellent Jewish community.

  6. I have booked flights to come to England for Pesach.

  7. Teeeeeeeeeeea

whining about unpleasing things cut )
liv: ribbon diagram of a p53 monomer (p53)
Author: Linley Erin Hall

Details: (c) 2007 Linley Erin Hall; Pub Seal Press 2007; ISBN 1-58005-211-8

Verdict: Who's afraid of Marie Curie? is informative and sensible.

Reasons for reading it: I know the author, [ profile] linley. This is slightly weird, actually; I've read books by people I'm connected with via LJ before, but none by people I actually know personally. I'm going to try to write a review that isn't influenced by this, but obviously, Linley will need to decide whether to read my comments or not. I'm rather relieved that I have nothing strongly critical to say.

I probably wouldn't have bothered with the book if it weren't for this personal connection, but that's mainly because I read very little non-fiction (outside work, at least) and certainly don't buy new pop science books the day they come out. I am interested in the topic of women working in science though, for fairly obvious reasons!

How it came into my hands: I bought it from Amazon, because when I was doing my big book buying spree [ profile] darcydodo reminded me that the book had been released that very day.

detailed review )

Just as I was reading the book, there was one of those silly privilege lists doing the rounds on LJ (I might talk about that more in another post). The combination of the two reminded me that I did indeed have a very helpful upbringing, both in terms of giving me the best chance in general and in terms of helping me to become a scientist specifically. WAMoC suggests that fathers should encourage their daughters in scientific and technical play, noting regretfully that althought it would be great if mothers did so to, in practice there are few mothers who themselves have the confidence. Well, my mother was in fact trained as a scientist, and did very much get involved in scientific play with me throughout my childhood. Not to mention that my grandmother was a doctor and in general I had at least as many female role models in technical fields as male. And on top of the kind of cultural advantages of a family that believe in education and are decently well-off, I also had the emotional advantages of sane and reasonable and loving parents, something the list doesn't cover at all.

So in fact, most of the challenges mentioned in the book don't really apply to me. Not only did I have extremely supportive and non-sexist parents, but I went to a strongly academic girls' school which gave me a good scientific background. I have never had a problem with academic confidence, or underestimating my abilities or being too much of a perfectionist to actually produce stuff. I have always had very good and not at all sexist teachers and supervisors, including if it matters a high proportion of women. I am not intending to have children or put my career second to a (thoroughly hypothetical) husband's. I'm also not American and generally live in a much less sexist milieu than that described in the book. So I would say that I have equal advantages to any male colleague, and I'm still not completely convinced I can hack it as a career scientist.
liv: ribbon diagram of a p53 monomer (p53)
I've spent this week learning how to be a better microscopist. microphotography )

Not a particularly major event, but something to note: Making Light posted a link to kd lang singing Hallelujah. If you haven't heard this already, you really should; it's the first time I've been motivated to find software for saving YouTube videos (though really I only want the soundtrack, the video is just of a concert at Sidney Opera House). I am a purist about that song; I care too much about Leonard Cohen's original to like most covers. And I don't generally like kd lang all that much. But this performance is seriously awesome. And then there was some discussion about Cohen covers and I found out that the Jennifer Warnes cover album Famous blue raincoat has been rereleased. And it's even on eMusic, so now I have a copy of Warnes' duet with Cohen himself, Joan of Arc, where she sings Joan and he sings the fire. [ profile] rysmiel played it to me when I was in Montréal in 2005, and it is just about the most emotionally powerful song I have ever heard.

On the planning front, well. I tend to stress about travel more than is really required, and in this case I'm not nearly as pre-organized as I would like to be. However, I have booked all the travel from here to London via Finland, Estonia, Germany, Holland and briefly Belgium, and all the accommmodation I need at the stopover points. That's the important thing. I reckon once I'm in England I can be flexible and if some of my planned meetups don't work out, well, it's a pain that I don't get to see people I'd hoped to see, but at least I won't be stranded. And I haven't planned what I'm going to do in any of the cities on my whistle-stop tour of northern Europe. But if I'm only going to be in each city for between a few hours and a day and half, I think I can get away with just wandering around and soaking up the atmosphere, rather than going to specific Tourist Sites. (I have to do it all on a 64Mb camera memory, which should be an interesting discipline, as apparently they no longer make the cards that fit my camera.)

Not connected to anything else at all, but while I'm posting, have a link to the writer Catherynne M Valente's thoughtful and personal essay on porn.
liv: ribbon diagram of a p53 monomer (p53)
I've been feeling horribly in a rut again this week. mostly boring whiny stuff )

Oh well. I'll bring shabbat in early, I'm not going to wait until 10 o'clock. And tomorrow I'm going on a trip with the international researchers people, so that should be a much-needed change of scene.


Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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