Monday, March 26, 2012

Three types of sabbatical to choose

I'm thinking of my upcoming sabbatical. I have to apply to my administration/ faculty committee this October or next October. Before I apply to the people here, it would be really nice to have a fellowship of some sort in hand. Sabbaticals are competitive here, and the best way to get one is to have someone else pay for it... In any case, before I apply for a fellowship, I need a host.

I really wanted to go someplace like Europe, Asia, or the Middle East. When I floated this past Hub, he asked his PI, who said that he could go anywhere he wanted but would probably be replaced in that year! OK, so my dream died right there.

My goals were/ are: 1. Get away! Reunite my family! Go someplace new and get a real break from teaching and this place. Live with my husband. 2. Get back into heavy-duty research and hone my skills and re-sharpen my mind. Be surrounded with excellent scientists. 3. Get a publication! Especially one that will make my mentors proud. 4. Be able to bring something back to my lab, strengthen my ability to run my lab, find new projects for my students.

Looks like I'm tied to the urban area where Hub works. So I and my husband and my husband's PI have been brainstorming. There are some seriously high-powered institutions there, so OK, not a huge loss. Perhaps we could put my kids in something like Saturday Chinese school to try to feign exotic. Here's the brain-stormed options:

1. Technique-based: I could work with a biggish-shot (C/N/S regular) at a prestigious institution two public transit-hours away from Hub's work. I would be working on something different using the technique I do now, which would be a real advantage to be able to troubleshoot my equipment here and branching out with questions and projects for my students. I know the PI, and this person is very nice. Lab seems happy. Have already been invited. Would not learn something entirely new, just more depth.

2. Subject-based: Another PI at same institution studies the same question I do in a different system. This new technique would not be portable to my lab, but I would be able to investigate bigger questions. I would learn a lot more about the entire system I study and be far less reductionistic. Don't know this PI or lab.

3. Prestige-based: At a VERY prestigious institution which has a visiting scientist program WITH housing ($!). The PI seems to be doing very technically-challenging work and getting the pubs to show it. The question is really important and I would love to learn more about it. The institution is pretty close to Hub's work, which means fewer weeks of my or Hub's life lost to the steel cage (driving). Hub's boss describes the PI as "a bear, and not the 'teddy' kind". It may serve to note that of all of my strengths, sheer technical power is not at the top. But I would love to have a pub with that name on it...

Your thoughts?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Now I officially have tenure

The board met this weekend-> Not only did they finally approve my long-term contract, they also approved the change to use the term "Tenure" and "Tenure-track".

Thursday, March 22, 2012

repeat of last spring

Last spring I wrote that I was crushed under my workload and sole responsibilities at home. Looks like its going to be a repeat this year. I am NOT, repeat NOT prone to depression, I have only had this feeling after my Mom died young... and last Spring. The last two weeks I have been feeling bad, but I am doing these things differently:
- going to therapy. It's free from the "Employee Assistance Program"
- letting my Chair know its not going well. He said last year during my yearly evaluation "I had no idea! You seemed to be keeping up" (keeping up, my a**!)
- going to the gym on the weekdays by having our exchange student sit for me
- admitting that socializing is not a luxury and moving it up on the priority list.
- knowing that in 5 weeks it will be summer, and I can renew.
- working only 3/4 time next year, financial consequences be damned.
- making sure my thyroid meds are in order

I think that the #1 problem is chronicled here, here and here, my daughter's inability to sleep through the night. Two nights ago she woke up 5 times, last night three (and that felt great to me). Yes, its been an entire year and nothing has changed. What does that say about me/us?

Well, I am willing and desperate to hear your suggestions, or even empty encouragement at this point. :)

Friday, March 2, 2012


I have to tell you a secret about a course- I have blogged about this course before. That blog post complains about students from another department, but I am happy to report that this year they are really good and engaged. I have also changed my attitude to where I really enjoy teaching them. Hooray for victories!

This blog post is about the same course, but a different attitude problem of mine. In this course, the other faculty member has the majority of the course, becuase the course is designed for hir majors. However, that other instructor is not really trained in this subject. Despite hir best efforts at studying and preparing, the lectures (in my mind) reveal the lack of training. He/she sat through all my lectures, and now I feel obliged to sit through hirs, and frankly, I find it painful. Mistakes, lack of full understanding of the topic, intellectual short-cuts... "farming out" topics to marginally-related videos. Cringe, cringe, cringe. I have my twice-weekly vents to my husband (who is also in the same field as this course) and he listens carefully- and repeatedly entreats me to just vent to him and keep my mouth shut otherwise. He's right. Oops, blog!

This is probably a small-PUI problem: reaching too far in the generalist domain. My maternity leaves have caused my department to temporarily reach also, but I have a lot of confidence in my colleagues' competence, so THAT has never bothered me.

Today my co-teacher said, I wanted to tell you in person before you hear otherwise: I'm leaving. I'm going to another institution where I can teach graduate students in my field. I've been thinking about it for a while, and I just don't want to teach courses like [ours] for which I'm not adequately trained.

I will miss my colleague because he/she is a very, very enjoyable person. But I feel relief in two ways: 1. the course could be taught by someone more qualified, and 2. My deep dark secret wasn't so deep and dark after all!