Archive for: June, 2016

The difference between a supportive and unsupportive manager/PI

I'm beginning to realize more and more that whether your manager or PI is helpful and goes the extra mile for you can make a HUGE difference for your everyday happiness and the advancement of your career. The other day I heard the following story of an industry scientist (paraphrased by me and changed some details to ensure anonymity):

"I recently received the feedback that I need to be more visible and impactful within the company in order to be able to keep my job and be eligible for any type of promotion. I want to be impactful, but I feel that I rarely get the opportunity: when I make slides for a presentation, my manager is the person who presents them. And when I ask them about this, they replied that they also need to work on being impactful to those higher up. On the other hand, my manager says that they want to help me, but I don't see how they do this. What can I do?"

I think that this is a clear example of having a manager who does not have much space to give you the things that you need to advance your career. I've been in that situation when I did a short post-doc with a PI who was only a few years more senior than me. While I saw PIs around me give their post-docs the option of co-supervision of PhD students or a co-PI position on grants*, or even 'just' the opportunity to meet collaborators and give talks, this person did not seem to have the ability or willingness to do that, or was still very busy getting those things for themselves. Perhaps it sounds entitled to want these things from a manager or PI, but I've seen around me how these seemingly little things can have a big effect on where you take your career.

It seems like this industry scientist is in the same situation: the manager and the scientist are not very far apart in seniority and the fact that the manager is busy getting the same things as the industry scientist within the same company makes it difficult for them to help the scientist advance.

So what can this industry scientist do? In the situation where they asked for advice, the following suggestions were given: find a mentor/coach other than your manager to help you with certain aspects, be more vocal about what you've accomplished and ask your manager to present your own work instead of having them present it for you.


*I can hear my US-readers think: you're supposed to show independence from your PI, which is true, but here it seems inevitable to have a period as senior post-doc when you're trying to become independent but here there is often no funding nor TT positions to be able to do that.

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Tiny sad stories about our society

Jun 23 2016 Published by under parenting, role models

Story 1. A few weeks ago we (husband, BlueEyes, Little Brother and me) went to visit a friend of mine. My friend had pinkish red nail polish on her toe nails and both BlueEyes and Little Brother thought that looked really interesting. My friend asked if they wanted that too, which they did. She painted their toe nails and both of them were incredibly proud to have such pretty looking toe nails. The next day, Little Brother went to daycare, where he proudly showed his toe nails and continued to do so for the next couple of days. BlueEyes went to school and when he left he was very excited to show everyone his nail polish. When he came home at the end of the day, the first thing he asked me was to take it off, because "nail polish is for girls only".

Story 2. In the morning, BlueEyes asks to watch some tv and I turn the tv on for him. We search for a channel and at some point we find the power rangers, which he says he wants to watch.

Me: "I liked watching that too when I was little"

BlueEyes:"But you were a girl when you were little, right?"

Me:"Yes, why?"

BlueEyes:"Because power rangers is only for boys"

I am surprised and ask him why, but then when the show ends I realize why: because the channel specifically says so...


How do I tell my children that anyone can become whatever they want and like and wear whatever they want, when society tells them that certain things are for girls and other things are for girls? And when society seems to yell much louder than I ever can?

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A song about alternatives to animal testing

Jun 22 2016 Published by under science, training

Everyone who is involved in animal research has heard about the 3Rs: Replacement, Reduction and Refinement. They are the key items scientists need to address in order to argue that what they want to test is not possible in any other model system than an intact animal, but that all care will be taken to reduce the number of animals and refine the way the animals are treated.

The 3Rs were first described by Russell and Burch in 1959 but what I did not know is that Bill Russell much later wrote a brilliant song describing the 3Rs:

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