Archive for: February, 2015

Repost: To a conference in baby-attachmode

Yesterday, Potnia Theron wrote about why it is so important to go to meetings to hear new ideas and stay creative. In response, Christina Pikas wrote how incredibly difficult and expensive this is when you have children. I couldn't agree more after not having gone to meetings (other than our local neuroscience meeting) in the past two years because of being pregnant and having small children. There's only so many options: take your kid(s) to a meeting means either bringing enough support so that you can still go to social events in the evenings (which is expensive), or not going to social events which takes away most of the usefulness of going to a meeting, or being able to leave your kid(s) at home, which has its own challenges (ask my husband about not sleeping for a couple nights the first time I left without 15 month old BlueEyes to go ta a conference...). That's why I thought it would be fitting to repost my second blog post ever, about going to a conference with a small baby:


Last year’s society for Neuroscience meeting was right when I went back to work after my maternity leave. And since I had patched a whole bunch of cells while very pregnant, I even had something to present there. The meeting was right around the corner from where I live, which is why I decided that even though BlueEyes was only 4 months old, the whole family was going to the meeting (and in this case, with meeting I mean the actual science-part, and not so much the social and drinking part). So on Saturday and Sunday I put BlueEyes in a baby wrap (Girasol Chococabana for those of you interested), and walked around the conference.

SfN turned out to be very baby-friendly, since they even had a specific room for infant care, where you could nurse and change your baby. The only disadvantage was that this was kind of far away from the poster hall, so after I had checked out a poster or two I had to walk back there to nurse a hungry baby or change a diaper. Oh well, most people walk around the poster hall to meet people they know instead of actually look at the posters anyway, right? A major unexpected disadvantage was that when you show up at someone’s poster with a baby attached to you, they automatically assume that you’ve come to show your cute baby instead of ask a serious science question. So not much science talk for me that weekend…

On Monday BlueEyes went to his usual daycare, and I traded the baby-in-wrap for my breast pump. This was potentially even bulkier and certainly more annoying to drag around all day. The same sort of thing as before happened where I would check out a bunch of posters (at least now I got to ask science-questions and have people answer them), and then have to walk back to the infant care room to pump milk. And after I presented my own poster I realized that whoever thought of four hour poster sessions had probably never lactated him- or herself….

A last thing to note is that the night after we took BlueEyes to SfN, he had his longest night sleep so far (a 6 hour stretch of sleep!). And mind you, this was in November... So I guess nothing puts our baby to sleep like a couple 1000 neuroscience posters!

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When do fresh eyes expire?

Both in- and outside academia it seems a good thing to move around. A good thing job-wise, but not necessarily personal life-wise because it means having to transport yourself and your family all over the place for a next job. The #academicnomad hashtag exemplifies many of these struggles in academia, but similarly, when I interviewed for my current job one of the first things they said was that moving within the company was deemed important*.

So why is moving around a good thing? I can really only talk about around as an academic because I've only been in industry for a couple months now. In academia, I think it is mostly a good thing because it gives you fresh eyes. It gives you a different perspective and teaches you new ways to approach a problem. For example, in grad school most of the labs in my university focussed on synapses - the connections between two neurons - and how those were affected in different diseases. Many of the projects had a similar layout, which basically came down to: study synapses and their content in relation to a particular question or disease model. When I moved to do my post-doc all of a sudden people weren't talking about synapses but about circuits of neurons. Kind of the same thing but in practice a very different approach. And then I haven't even talked about how the perspective on grant writing and paper writing was different in the different places. And now that I've moved to industry I also bring a set of fresh eyes to most of the projects I work on.

But to come back to the question in the title of this post: when do these fresh eyes expire, how do you notice they have expired and how do you keep them fresh? I guess it's difficult to realize that you've been somewhere so long that you don't realize you do the same trick every time. So how do you prevent this? How can you stay creative if you don't move to a new place every so many years? Some of the things I can think of are to move around on a smaller scale: collaborate outside your own department, go to meetings you normally don't go to, etc. What about you, how do you make sure your eyes stay fresh?

*this of course does mean you have a stable job, and when having to move abroad the company handles things for you. Which is of course MUCH different than doing an eleventh post-doc in a far-away country.

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Some mansplaining about #womeninscience

Feb 09 2015 Published by under Uncategorized

In my homecountry, only 16% of the full professors are female. Not surprisingly, the government's vision on science for the coming years came accompanied by an inspirational picture containing 100% male scientists. Sigh.
This Saturday I read in the paper that Hans Clevers, the president of the Dutch academy of science knows why this is:"When it comes to becoming a group leader, women step back". He continues to explain:"Mothers are still seen as selfish when they need to work full-time". Well, thanks a lot for mansplaining that, and for not doing a damn thing to change any of this.

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