Wednesday, October 23, 2013

On Being a Woman Scientist

On my first day of kindergarten my Mom made me promise that I would go to college.   As the story goes, my reply was “Ok, Mom, but can I finish kindergarten first?”  I’ve been lucky to grow up with two very supportive parents, who pushed, pulled, and cheered me through twelve years of private schooling, four years of undergraduate school, fours years of graduate work for my M.S. and now are helping me work through my PhD.   
Education, for my parents, was always a privilege.  My Mom was told she wasn’t bright enough to go to college, most of my Dad’s family expected nothing of him.  For their families, education was not a priority.  My parents proved them wrong.  My parents both went to school and raised five kids, I was the “law school” baby, famously colicky the night before Dad’s Bar exam.  My Mom finished her undergraduate degree at forty, and taught for a year just to prove to herself that she could. 
We ate dinner together every night, debating and discussing politics, ethics, medicine, science, and poetry, always with the “good book” –a very large dictionary – nearby.  My parents worked hard to provide us with a good education, spent many nights helping us with homework, and teaching us to write as we worked on reports and essays for school.  They always pushed us to get professional degrees “Be a lawyer! Or a doctor!” and the house rule was that our family does not turn in sloppy work, even if it meant staying up all night to perfect the latest project. 
My sister and I are both in doctorate programs now; she’s in physics, I’m in ecology.   My younger brother is a talented musician who is working hard at producing his own album and building a name for himself.  My parents are immensely proud and brag about us every chance they get. 
But.  As beautiful as this story is, it has not been easy for me, nor my sister.  I have struggled as a woman in the sciences.  I’ve dealt with sexual harassment, lacking support of my instructors, discrimination at work, and a high level of competition from my classmates. 
As a student, I’ve sat through uncomfortable office hours, where my questions were met with smirks, struggling to get my professor to focus on my face, and trying to ignore the occasional, less then subtle innuendos -- and soon I began to bring a friend to office hours with me. 
Socially, being a scientist can be difficult.  Intelligence can be intimidating to some men, and when your friends introduce you as the brilliant scientist, people try to be interested, but their eyes glaze over after a minute or two and eventually they wander off. 
Working in the sciences, as an academic, I’ve made a conscious effort to become part of the “’ol boys’ club” – to do otherwise would be to miss out on essential networking, opportunities, and conversation.  Being in the club usually means meeting for drinks, discussing current events, academic policies and office politics, while also tolerating/ignoring/biting-your-tongue at the comments about the “little ladies” at home, the attractive students in class, or the new secretary’s well-fitted wardrobe.  While this gives me a strong advantage in my field, and will continue to, I hope that in the future I’ll find a more inclusive environment, with colleagues that are conscious of the degree of respect I deserve to encounter.  

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Suicide Prevention at OSU

I recently attended Suicide Prevention Training, held by OSU's UCAT and facilitated by Stephanie Rohdieck on 9/17/2013.  The training workshop focused on skills to identify at-risk behavior, and provided statistics regarding at risk populations at universities.

This training was not an easy experience for me.  Suicide is a very deeply personal topic for me.  I’ve lost several friends to suicide. The word suicide resonates deeply with me.  Culturally, there is a stigma surrounding it, a negative connotation that there must have been something wrong with the person. For me, however, the word suicide means that something has gone very wrong in a person’s life, and when they needed it the most, no one was there to help. 

I have done extensive reading regarding the potential warning signs and prevention, this training was specific for universities and I am glad I attended it.  However, when discussing suicide at a workshop there is some air of superficiality to it.  Not by the facilitator, who did an excellent job communicating the information and conveying her own story and emotions regarding suicide, but among those attending the workshop itself.  There was an air of separation in the workshop, distance from the reality of at-risk individuals.  While I am certain every person in the room would do their very best to help someone who was suicidal, I got the distinct impression that the majority were there for the certificate and only going through the motions. 

The choice to end your life comes only after all hope has run out. Only when enduring whatever pain, physical, emotional, mental, is too much and the effort to cling desperately to life is too much does a person choose suicide. The idea of seeking out help doesn’t occur to them, because who could possibly help with such a deeply personal issue?  For those at risk for suicide, there is no other escape.  It’s a dark, bleak, and painful world they live in, and many people do not have the strength or will to continue in it. 

As far as helping students, I try to be aware of the wellbeing of all my students.  Establishing a good rapport with students is essential.  If I ever have to discuss at risk behavior with a student I know that I’ll be doing my best, however awkward, uncomfortable, and emotional the confrontation/discussion may get.  

Monday, October 21, 2013

Week 10!

It's week ten and I'm working my brain to mush. 

I aced my first class, which is good, but it was yet another water ecology course, so it doesn't really count as far as I'm concerned.  I'm taking two new seminars for the second half of the semester, in addition to the "parade of faculty" graduate seminar.  

The first seminar is on writing in hight impact journals.  The publish or perish mentality is thriving, as expected, in the ecology/evolutionary biology field.  I've been told I should try to write every day -- which is not difficult as I'm working to get my preliminary experiments planned and my proposal perfected.  I may start posting about some of the journal articles I'm reading -- be prepared for extreme nerdiness.  I may try to do a review paper and meta-analysis for my thesis, too.  I'm still trying to get my  master's work published too. 

The next seminar is an introduction to R.  "R is a free software environment for statistical computing and graphics."  My statistics know-how is need-to-know only -- that is, if I need to know it, I can look details up in a book and muddle my way to understanding.  I know enough that I can interpret statistics from journals etc -- but I'm lacking practical knowledge (i.e. how to run the programs).  I've used SPSS almost exclusively, but I'm finding R to be much more elegant and direct.  I am by no means a statistician.   But hopefully by the end of this seminar I can code some things in R and analyze my own data.  

It's been a stressful start, though.  I've been sick, stressed, and sleepless -- which doesn't help my 12-16 hour days.  BUT I absolutely LOVE being in school, doing research, and talking science with other, equally nerdy people.  There's something truely satisfying about being able to discuss the ideas and topics I'm learning and developing with people who are interested, engaged, and sometimes even excited about the science.  

I'm teaching, too.  This term I'm teaching outside the department, doing intro biology labs, which are a piece of cake since I've taught them using essentially the same techniques and the exact same book for lecture.  There are about 620 students taking just this section of biology, and I'm working with about 60 of them (two sections of ~30) for the labs.  

Teaching is great.  For me it helps to reinforce the basics of biology, while also reminding me that I need to be able to communicate in a way that someone who is new to biology will understand.  Having to explain (repeatedly) the simple concepts is a fantastic way to reinforce it for yourself.  

In terms of research:  I'm probably going to do a project examining interactions between bees and wasps and parasitoids, and the different landscape and habitat variable that might influence those.  That's a really REALLY broad idea, and of course will need to be narrowed down -- I like the idea of studying the mechanisms of parasitism, and the various tri-trophic interactions at play.  

Hopefully the rest of the semester goes a bit more smoothly -- and I DONT get the flu! 

Sunday, August 11, 2013


School starts in two weeks. Orientation is next week. Holy eep. :) 

Moved into new apartment and enjoying it so far. Columbus is confusing and campus is HUGE but I'm sure I'll get the hang of things. I have a million and one things to do and must not stress out. Posting a blog at 3 am may be an indicator of stress.

It's ok.
I'm a badass. 


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Birthday Wishes 2013

Dream day:  Dinner with family, as pictured.  Steaks and grilled veggies.  Everyone dresses up.  Bow-ties are present.  Croquet is played.  Sinatra. Little gifts would be nice. Wishlist below.


1 hour Balsamic Vinegar and Whiskey Steak MarinadeGrilled Veggies with Garlic Balsamic Reduction (zucchini, summer squash, small Japanese eggplant)...these are super easy, healthy, cheap and sooo tasty!Simply Baked Potato | With Style & GraceParmesan Baked Potato HalvesBerry Summer Salad with Goat Cheese or Feta and AvocadoShallot, lemon juice, mustard and balsamic  salad dressing #salads

Blueberry & Mint LemonadePeach & Basil LemonadeRosemary LemonadeWhiskey lemonade with honey.

Coconut-Vanilla Bean Cake with Coconut Meringue Buttercream Frosting | Brown Eyed BakerPink coconut cakeCoconut Cake with Saffron CreamThe Ultimate Coconut Cake Recipe

(Recipies and images from pinterest, see my board here!)

Wishlist :)

tea. tea accessories.  the nerdier the better!

 I want to make my own clothes.

(Image: Oxford University Press)The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us about Coming Conflicts and the Battle against FateThe Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism Among the Primates

BOOKS! Always books! Cookbooks, especially ethnic cooking and old world baking
Anything on sustainable living, agriculture, and livestock, especially goats!

this is pretty cool too.

Other thoughts:  Doggie boots, Doggie backpack, Wool socks, Car survival kit, Seeds. Board games. SLR camera :) Anything Doctor Who.  (there's a bathrobe. or a tardis for my desk)

Mostly, though, I want to have dinner with my family.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Guess who's going to get her doctorate in 4-6 years?  This girl!

I'll be working and studying at OSU in the department of Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology (EEOB)!

I am beyond excited!

I will be done teaching at BGSU in five weeks.
I will have the summer to find an apartment in Columbus, move, and get settled.

I'm planning some time on the beach, camping, exploring, and fun having for the summer, as I'll be busy being a scientist for the next several year and won't likely have another summer off for a long long time.

Have I mentioned my excitement?

Saturday, March 16, 2013


I made a choice about a year ago to only project positivity into the world. Only speak of the good, the bright and beautiful. Only of my successes--not the struggle it took to get there. I figured that the struggle was Understood, an Unspoken context that the world would know, presume. Maybe I was wrong, maybe it was my own self-denial my own reluctance to admit that I too struggle. Sometimes, Sometimes the fear of ending up alone, the unwillingness to admit your weaknesses and then certainty in the future I'll be home a bit too much.

Still, I think I'm doing pretty well for myself. I mean I am being laid off, but I've applied to Doctorate programs. This was making the best son of a shitty situation. But there is still that uncertainty. I haven't heard back from the programs yet, and I suppose majority of my anxieties from that. Well I am confident that this sucks I want to take, I've been hatching all sorts of alternate plans in my hand.

Overall I am happy, though, that's a choice. I choose every day to project the positivity into the world and for myself. But sometimes when it's hard to sleep, or my anxieties get the best of me I wonder. Did I make the right choices? Does anyone ever know that?

The idea of going back to school, while I'm excited for the research and the opportunity to expand my career, does scare me. Throwing myself back into poverty seems like a foolish choice. But I think in the long run it will be better. I hope.

Then there is the whole dating thing. My last relationship ended on very poor terms. And while I would love to explore the options of a new relationship, I'm not ready. Which is frustrating for me because, eventually I do want The whole picnic fence, kids and wonderful,beautiful American dream. Is it still attainable for me? Or will I, as a woman who has chosen science and academia as my field, have to sacrifice the family and the relationships that I want in favor of my career?

I like to think that I will rise to the challenge. But there are definitely moments of self-doubt, sometimes those moments tend to linger. I feel as if I have to do this on my own, and I think that's one of my biggest flaws, I don't know when to ask for help. I know that having a support system is essential to success, and I know that I have a support system that truly believes in me. It's just that sometimes it's Difficult to get over my own pride, stubbornness, to ask for help when I need it.

For now I'm okay. My future is uncertain, but I have the love of my puppy dog, and my family, and I know that I'm strong smart.

Although I could use a few good luck charms.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Zombies, Oh My.

Since the topic of zombies was constantly being brought up by the zombie enthusiasts in my environmental studies class I did an optional talk/discussion on several of the ways nature has already "zombie-fied" the world a few weeks ago. It of course, included some of the things discussed in this article. That being said, does anyone else worry about how desensitized the world is becoming to everything violent? The popularity of apocalyptic scenarios is a little alarming. The world is terrifying (and awesome) all by itself. Why do we need it to come crashing down around us?

Final exams, semester 1

Final exams this week. I love being on the teacher's side of this. I've been telling people all day that I feel like Gandalf. Anyway, this picture is what happened while giving an exam.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Wish list

Backpacking stuff:
Lightweight single person tent
All season lightweight sleeping bag
Gregory Baltoro 70 hiking pack

House Stuff:
Twin bed frame
Sharp knives
Wii and Zumba game :)

Cookbooks, especially ethnic cooking and old world baking
Anything on sustainable living, agriculture, and livestock, especially goats!
Peterson field guides
Current general and biology GRE practice books
Reading HG Wells these days

Pet stuff
Doggie boots
Doggie backpack
Small nylabones
Cat furniture

Wool socks
Gift cards for clothes: khol's, JCP, torrid, lane Bryant

Car survival kit


Board games.

SLR camera

Anything Doctor Who.  (there's a bathrobe. or a tardis for my desk)

You won't get what you want if you don't reach for it.