Just for the heck of it, one of my NetVibes widgets is the Buddhist Quote of the day. Most of them are koans that just make my head hurt, but today’s I really liked:

“No matter what one does, whether one’s deeds serve virtue or vice, nothing lacks importance. All actions bear a kind of fruit. – Buddha”

If you read here often (Yes! You! I’m talking to all 3 of you!) you’ll know that I’ve been going back and forth about what paper topic to submit to the ESA Natl. Meeting this year.

I really wanted to do a poster about the attacks on Rachel Carson, because I know that most entomologists are unaware of it. It pains me to see a great woman vilified with so many lies.

On the other hand, I also don’t want to do something that will seriously hurt my chances of making a career move in the future. And I think that’s likely, given the political connections of the groups involved, and the rabid persistence of some of the wingnuts running the attacks.

So, in the crunch hours before the deadline to submit an abstract, I decided to do something strategic, rather than….well, what I think is the right thing to do. (I’d emailed a couple of people with more clout than me to ask advice about this, but didn’t hear anything back from them. I’m hoping that just means they are out in the field, and not that I’ve offended them.)

I went with something that would bear fruit for me, rather than the larger community good. I’ve also applied for a new job, and I’m actually, tentatively, kind of excited about it.

If I got it, I’d have an impressive title, and it would be a great transitional position into something better. I love working in student affairs, but it isn’t valued by most academics.

And here we are back at fruit again–I know that the work I do in my current job is meaningful and important. I have the letters and emails from students I’ve helped to prove it. Some even say I’ve saved their life by intervening when they felt suicidal or lost. Nearly every day I go home knowing I’ve made a difference for at least one student.

I don’t regret the choice I made to switch out of the faculty track to serving students directly, but I do wish I didn’t get treated like an inferior, embarrassing, mentally-deficient cousin because of it! What is it with faculty? They are such assholes sometimes.

That’s part of the reason I bailed on the faculty tenure-track thing on the first place.

So, while I am a member of the local entomology department, and do committee work for them, I also have lots of people in the department who do not speak to me. I mean, don’t even say hello when we pass in the halls, or–and this hurts worse–when I greet them at off-site entomology meetings.

They carefully avoid making eye-contact, I guess because my “failure” is catching. I still publish–my latest manuscript will be out later this year–but I don’t have giant grants. I don’t have post-docs. I don’t FIT.

Why is my choice to have a life and not be a faculty member anymore so scary and unacceptable? Why is everything I publish and say professionally because of that choice suspect and diminished? Are undergraduates really so icky that contact with them has contaminated me?

So, I clutch my little fruits of emails and letters and happy hugs closely, and try to know that I’m doing the right thing in my job. I write, anonymously, in this blog and try to change some of the silly things people say and believe.

But, sometimes, it’s not nearly enough.

Posted by Gwen Pearson

Writer. Nerd. Insect Evangelist. Have you heard the good news? BUGS!


  1. Aww! (hug) Let’s try to find a bright side. Hey, maybe your contact with those icky, slimy undergraduates has ruined you so completely that the “political connections” of any wingnuts you piss off won’t be able to make your life any worse!

    OK, that’s not the brightest of bright sides, but it’s the best I could do on short notice.

  2. Such assoles? Try sendahole.com.

  3. Ha! This part was awesome:

    “At the Sphincter Factory, we’re “anal” about anonymity!”

  4. You may see people in corridors for over months, but they still would never say hello. That’s really not unusual. Even when you try again and again. Some other will get up and down, in and out, helloish and silent… It’s just sociophobia, not considered a pathology yet, though physician may bring it out someday.

  5. Oh, by the way, hello! ;)
    Do I qualify for #4?

  6. I’d believe they were just shy if they weren’t also chatting up everyone else who is regular faculty, and, in fact, hosting departmental parties at their house.
    Seriously–people I’m with at meetings have noticed it. It isn’t just me. :(

  7. ooh! and I have *4* readers! Yay! :D

  8. What prevent you having a post-doc? Is that just because of the grant thing?

  9. Mostly, Cause of the mortgage thing :)
    I’m almost 50. I was a faculty member, and I just don’t feel like starting all over again.

    Also, what faculty member would take an old broad like me when they could have a nice, fresh, energetic 30-something who can work long hours and has molecular skills?

    oh–wait. I think I completely misread your question.
    I don’t have a postdoc because I don’t have space. I only have an office, no lab space. This would be problematic!

  10. Is your office so small that it cannot be shared? Aren’t some ecological studies without an absolute need for Lab space? Couldn’t you try to find collaborators ready to share some Lab space?

    Just asking. My guess is that none of this is completely outing some brave young scientist desperately looking for a post-doc position… Or would it?

  11. I think it would be a significant disservice to a postdoc, or a grad student, to have me as an adviser, frankly. Having a good ‘pedigree’ really does make a difference. I don’t have access to many resources they would need to get off to a strong start on their career.
    Maybe someone desperate would take a position with me, but that seems exploitative.

    Ideally, if I *do* get this new job, I’d be in a much better position, and could have students then.

    If not–I’ll continue to work here, with students, and help the postdocs and grad students I see in conflict with their advisors, and trying to overcome their cult programming.

  12. You’re partly right here I guess, since access to resources and pedigree are often a big help in an early career development.

    But let’s not forget that pedigreeing is only good to the measure it increases chances to publish in good journals (still, to the actual readers of the paper, it doesn’t ensure an impact: how many times do I think a paper isn’t that promising? How many times do I come to the conclusion a certain name in authors does have something to do with the acceptance of the paper in the journal?).

    On the other hand, having resources also imply that research and experiments are constrained within a certain range. There are thus sometimes strong limitations due to the fact that you have to do these experiments and answer this question, not to think about anything else…

    Lastly, I think you underestimate the service you may bring up. I see these points: independance and autonomy (you are more of an advisor than a supervisor, and this allows for more freedom and friendly working conditions), curiosity and openness(yes!), support (a rare quality in supervisors)…

    That’s a lot of things I read and hear post-docs complaining about when it comes to their work-life.

    So definitely one should not be that desesperate for such a position… French people say “fortune is smiling to audacious people”. That’s also a possible way to succeed. As an analogy, Highways are safer but boring, and you may have to pay…

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