Archive for: June, 2015

On receiving feedback

When I just started as a grad student I got annoyed and upset when receiving feedback. For example, when I wrote the first draft of my first abstract for a conference, my advisor rewrote it almost entirely. There were maybe a couple words there that were still mine and they were probably "the" and "rats". Otherwise, the abstract was completely different. And with different I mean better of course, but then I found it hard to admit that back then.

Now, when I write something and I receive hardly any feedback or none at all, I get annoyed and upset. Over the years, I have learned that feedback means that people care and they want you to help improve the thing you wrote. No feedback means they either don't care, or don't have enough time to look at it.

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Some observations from a conference

Recently, I went to a certain conference in a certain European country. I made some observations there:

At this conference (and representative for this field as a whole) the percentage of women was somewhere around 60-70% I think (I don't have the exact numbers but this was my guesstimate). When examining the gender ratio of the main speakers, the women:men ratio was 4:27.

There were 4 prizes that were awarded during the meeting for various accomplishments. Here the women:men ratio was 0:4. Is this because women don't get nominated? Or do the men ask people to nominate them?

When you have moved to industry some people are very interested to hear about that, and others don't even seem to notice you anymore.


When talking to people from my generation of PhD students and those slightly older than me, it struck me how most people were very much struggling for grant money, and in a position that no grant money means no job (senior post-doc, research associate, etc). Multiple people told me that they were going to give it one last try and then perhaps move on to something outside academia. These are people that on paper have all the things necessary to be successful. It's almost like there is no money. Or is it because a very small group of people get all the money? (link is in Dutch, but contains a very nice visual at the bottom showing the distribution of grant money)

Also at this meeting: awesome science, nice and helpful people and seeing old friends.

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The grass that is greener

This morning I realized I still feel envious of people in academia. And I started a blog post about that feeling and whether it meant I had made the wrong decision (which I don't think I did) by moving to industry. But then I realized I had written a post about this before where I wondered "if academia has brainwashed me into thinking that being successful in academia is the highest attainable goal in everyone's life."

I think part of my jealousy is the fact that for so many years I was working towards becoming a PI with my own line of research and now I have become something else. Other people have become that and I haven't. (But I guess I shouldn't forget about all the aspects that I didn't like.)

Another part of it is the lack of personal recognition. Or maybe I should phrase this differently and say the amount of teamwork in industry. The nice aspect of this is that responsibilities are shared and so are rejections. It feels a lot less personal than before (and I vaguely remember having written a post about this before too, but I can't find it) which is both a good thing but also a bit disappointing at times. Often, I make slides for somebody else to present for example and my name (or anyone's name) won't be on there. To the company or the world outside the company, it seems to matter less exactly who did what. I wanted to end this post by the example that most people will know the names of those who made discoveries in academia but not those in industry, but then I found that this is not true. The inventor of PCR worked at a biotech company at the time and the inventor of viagra just got knighted by the queen of England. So I'll end this post and continue my work towards a future Nobel prize. Happy Friday everyone!

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Women in academia: one step forward, two steps back?

This morning, I was happy to discover this new website from 4 Dutch female full professors: Athena's angels.

Many people assume that men and women have equal opportunities to be successful in an academic career. Yet women continue to be approached and treated differently than men, in ways that impact on their scientific career prospects. This website is designed to elucidate the specific challenges women have to overcome to realize their scientific ambitions, and where possible eliminate these.

Their website explains what gender bias is, and gives examples of what everyday sexism looks like (in Dutch only). I think it is great that prominent females scientists highlight these issues.

But in the afternoon we were thrown back into the 50s by this week's "Ask Alice" advice from Science Careers. Since Science Careers was quick to remove the piece, you can read it archived here. A post-doc asks advice about her PI trying to look down her shirt and Alice advices:

As long as your adviser does not move on to other advances, I suggest you put up with it, with good humor if you can. Just make sure that he is listening to you and your ideas, taking in the results you are presenting, and taking your science seriously. His attention on your chest may be unwelcome, but you need his attention on your science and his best advice.

Yup, so much for my optimism from this morning...

Edit: Science Careers just issued an apology.


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