Author Archives: Isis the Scientist

Beginnings, Endings, and Total Chaos..

On Friday I had a meeting with a realtor to talk about selling my house. One of my senior colleagues suggested this realtor and it was immediately apparent why he had recommended him. He had data and charts and graphs and numbers and approached everything scientifically. He also revealed his strategy. He told me that, in selling a home, we are really selling the “illusion of a lifestyle.” He told me that people are buying the illusion that they could live in my home and be clean and organized and peaceful. Then he asked, “tell me what your home conveys about your lifestyle right now. ”  I replied,

Chaos and mayhem and cholera.

There are many different spheres of chaos in my life right now. Luckily, my professional life is not one of them. We had two more papers accepted last week, which was amazing. We’re likely to have at least one more accepted by the end of the month, and likely three more by the end of the year. I got to meet with the contractors last week about designing my new lab, which my new MRU has agreed to build from bare walls and floors.  I’ve got blueprints and measurements and it is sexy, organized, perfection. My home though?


It is like the seven circles of pandemonium.

The steady state of mayhem is generally my own doing. Ish. There’s just a lot of stuff to do and not enough hours in the day to do it. Faithful readers of the blog will recall that I once hired someone to help us fight the mayhem and I adored her and she ripped out my heart and set it on fire with her thieving ways. So now, about 80% of the time, my house is covered in a find dusting of person sheddings. This is made worse by the presence of a brother who feels the need to pee all over everything. Literally.

This all surrounds the chaos that Tiny Diva brings to the yard. Tiny Diva is two years old and, by default, two year olds are assholes. They make no damned sense and they will stomp on your soul and laugh. Tiny Diva and I have had one problem in particular. I have a huge bathtub and I have frequently allowed the children to join me. Little Isis is respectful of the bathtub. Tiny Diva desecrates it every single time and *only* when I am in there with her. She could bathe alone a hundred times without incident, but add her mother to the equation and each time is the same. We discuss the rules and I am lulled into a false sense of security. She seems cute enough. Innocent enough. There are bubbles. Then, all of a sudden, she’s red in the face and you realize the big job has been undertaken.

Today was no different except, this time, she assured me she understood the rules and then started quietly humming the Jaws theme.

big jobThat is exactly what you think it is, I am afraid. In my bathtub.

I have to give her credit, though. The Jaws theme was a nice touch and reveals an advanced level of “fucked up in the head” that I had not previously recognized, but can admire.

That’s all the standard chaos. I can own that chaos and almost, sort of, tame that chaos. Yet, this week has added new, additive levels of mayhem that have amplified the steady state chaos. Earlier in the week my Aunt Mo called me. Aunt Mo had not previously had my phone number and I blame Aunt Isis for giving it to her.  Aunt Mo’s mother-in-law has been in intensive care for treatment of pneumonia for a week and is apparently having a hard time coming off the ventilator. She called me for help interacting with the doctors, which would normally be fine except that Aunt Mo is…a challenge. She’s scrappy like Carl Lewis. She’s loud and has got a mouth that is orders of magnitude fouler than mine and getting the whole story out of her can sometimes be like trying to squeeze water out of desert sand.  Eventually, it ended with discussions about “palliative care.”

ariel voice
But not before I’d had a lot of the energy sucked out.

At the same time, Grandma Isis-in-Law, who is 96 years old and had a stroke last month, started to develop pulmonary emboli. Her family and doctors decided that the risk of another stroke would be very high if they tried to treat them and opted to move her to hospice. Mr Isis flew home to the warmer part of the country to be with her, and I’ve had the Isis kids alone this weekend.  I’m trying to get the house ready for the realtor to visit next week, I’m tending to these wackaloons and trying to seem chipper despite their tub pooping, and I’m also feeling sad about Grandma Isis-in-Law. She’s a great lady and I am struggling to figure out how to be a comfort to my family-in-law, but there’s also not anyone here to offer a hug. I’m not sure when I’ll get to feel these sads, or if they’ll have to be tucked away while we focus on selling the house.

So, this week is a blur of chaos of emotion and dirt and cleaning and chaos. Selling our house, closing the box on our life here, saying good-bye to people we love. There are a bunch of endings for us right now and I am thankful for what we’ve had. But, there are also new beginnings. A new home and a new place. A new lab. I’m thankful for those things too.

I know that it is all going to come together and we will return to a steady state of chaos, but right now I’m just having all the feels. Chaotic, mayhem-esque feels. And I am wondering if there is a vaccine for cholera. We kinda need it.



My Students Are Nut Busters

Earlier today I tweeted that I had a paper accepted. Within moments I had a text message from a student asking about the status of their papers..

nutbusting students

I hereby co-sign Hermitage’s recent post that “passion” is not the thing that is limiting scientific advancement in students. I certainly don’t need to kern anyone around here. These fools have nut busting down to an art. Then again, I may need to remind them that we can’t get papers accepted that they haven’t written yet…


Ask Dr. Isis: Applying to Grad School, Or Some Shit Like That…

I came home tonight and opened a bottle of pinot. I probably shouldn’t be blogging. Let’s just see what comes of it…


Right. Now to the email. One of you writes:

Hi Dr. Isis!

I recently discovered your blog and Twitter and I am a fan with great respect for you. Your words have given me great insight into academia and more importantly, the struggles women are faced with in academia. I did my undergrad at [yeah, yeah, yeah, somewhere good enough] where there is a large psychology faculty with many tenured and tenure track women. I discovered through you that not all MRUs are like that! I’ve gained valuable insight from both my personal experience and your writing on how to examine a psychology department before applying to graduate school. (Yes, I still want to go to grad school!)

I have concerns about my application. I graduated last May and am being a research assistant professionally before making a major life decision like grad school. I’m an RA in an industry lab (not medical or pharmaceutical) which actively publishes in peer-reviewed journals, a position I chased after because I wanted to get a perspective on research outside of academia. I plan on being there for a while, long enough that the letters of recommendation I graduated from [my undergrad university] with will “expire”. Essentially, all of my letters will come from industry professionals.

Assuming the industry professional has similar status and publishing record to a tenured faculty member, would you see a letter of recommendation from industry differently than a letter from academia?

Thank you for your work and thank you for reading!

My dear readers, remember the days when people who wrote me emails began them with abject worship? An introductory paragraph about how wonderful I am or how I have totally been the wind beneath their wings? I like that. Let’s get back to that. I could use a little more worship in my life again. This reader did not sign her email though, so I will call her Fred…


Fred, I will begin by being honest with you. I don’t know dick about psychology departments and I know less about what it means to have letters “expire.” I can only tell you about my own experience and what it meant when I applied to graduate school.

I have written here before that I did not go to graduate school immediately after finishing my undergraduate degree. I worked in an evolutionary biology laboratory for a summer and then I moved across the country to live in sin (and boy, did we sin) with the man who would eventually become my husband.  I worked as a clinical research associate during that time. My goals were certainly less concrete than yours, but when I applied to graduate school I included letters from the people that had mentored me in my industrial position. Even though I had been a pretty average undergraduate, I was accepted to 9/10 of the programs I applied to (Damn you, UPenn!!).

I ended up choosing a department that fit my needs and my husband’s, and that offered me a very healthy funding package. As I rode in the car with my graduate mentor to graduate, I remember asking him why he had agreed to mentor me. He told me that it was specifically because I had experience outside of being an undergraduate. If I had done work for a major company and came with positive references, that meant that I knew how to get a project to completion. He saw that as an asset. I was apparently very savvy in selling my skills, although I will admit that my savviness was probably not a conscious effort on my part. Probably more just innocent honesty. I don’t know that my letter writers had similar “status” since they typically weren’t publishing like an academic because of the proprietary nature of our work, but their letters were certainly meaningful in my application. Much more meaningful than other letters I had received for other things from professors who barely knew me. No, these folks could comment on my day-to-day performance and that was really key.

But, I think the key was also that I could frame my experience in the context of my career goals. I knew (at the time) what my industrial job had taught me, where I wanted to go, and why that program was the right fit for me (allegedly). I don’t know dick about the world now, but I must have said some reasonable shit back then. I would encourage you, Fred, to think carefully about what your industrial position has taught you and to be able to articulate it when you begin to apply to graduate school. What have you done, what have you learned, and where do you want to go? Consider practicing it as your “elevator pitch.” When you interview, this is the sort of thing people want to hear about. In many cases, having done this sort of work can make you more interesting than the undergraduate who applied right out of college. They are boring as fuck and some will find you a more attractive candidate, *if* you aren’t 1) a huge dumbass or 2) a humorless blowhard about it. Find people to read your statements and practice interviews with you to avoid these too pitfalls.

But most of all, good luck. You young whippersnappers have the world ahead of you and its exciting to watch.

And now, back to my wine.

olivia pope wine