Happy Mother’s Day…? Yes. Happy Mother’s Day.

It’s been a while since a I wrote a blog post. Part of that is that I have always shared the personal details of my life here as sort of a personal journal and I have had stuff I really haven’t wanted to share. I decided to separate from  Mr. Isis in August because…well..reasons. Mostly reasons I don’t really want to talk about. I still have very warm and love-y feelings for Mr. Isis and I am hoping that we can keep working on our relationship as good friends and co-parents.  He gave me a lovely card and flowers for Mother’s Day and I was grateful…

I moved to new MRU town last August and being a single mother has been no joke…then in February I had shingles and ended up in the hospital when I started to get forgetful with certain words. Allegedly shingles can travel backwards and infect the brain, causing encephalitis.  This is exactly why I hate the brain. I’m still having trouble with days of the week and rely much more heavily on my calendar than I ever did. I used to use it mostly as a formality to let people know where I would be and I could remember 99.9% of my appointments, but now I need it to know where to be from hour to hour and to know what day is coming next.

In the middle of April, I terminated someone’s employment. I can’t really say more, but there is not much more in the world that sucks harder than that.

My lab has been under construction and I am lucky that MRU agreed to build me a new, beautiful lab when they recruited me . As one might expect, it had been delayed several months and I got some temporary space in the meantime. My lab was set to open on May 1st.  On April 25th we had a bad storm and the ceiling above my temporary space collapsed, covering contents of my start-up with an abundance of dirty storm water, roof paraphernalia and ceiling tile.  Now I am learning about risk management and university insurance and what-not.

But, I’m really blessed. I have a lot of love in my life and two amazing children. Naughty children, but amazing children who make every day both a challenge and a blessing.

If there’s one thing the last eight months have made clear to me, it’s that if we really care about the sustainable careers of women in science, we’d spend a little less money on lip service vis-a-vis these gender equity seminars and focus on advocating for sustained, predictable growth of the NIH budget (and NSF for you wackadoodles who do that sort of thing)).

I could spend a little more time at home if I wasn’t submitting 10 grants a year.


Wives and Lovers and Scientists and Drag Queens

(Scene 1)

Yesterday I followed the #inmyshoes hashtag a little bit and, although I get the desire to support a little, 8 year old muppet that just wants dinosaurs on her shoes, I also find myself salty and exhausted by the crusade.  For reference, I posted this to the feed of especially ugly, but ( I’m sure) functional, footwear:

I mean, I feel the science ladies…ish. I think it’s great when a child loves dinosaur shoes and fossils because they are such pure little vessels of innocence that society hasn’t fucked up yet..which may be why I feel uncomfortable co-opting her story for our lady scientist crusades. As if to imply that lady lawyers and doctors and architects, etc can’t like dinosaur shoes.  Or that the princess-wearing girls don’t also deserve our support. There’s a particular flavor of inclusion that feels like exclusion. Patriarchy is a real motherfucker sometimes. A universal motherfucker.

(Scene 2)

I’ve been watching a lot of videos of drag super diva Adore Delano with Tiny Diva. Tiny Diva is in love with Danny Noriega’s alter ego, especially her Hello, I Love You video.  As a fellow city angel, I am completely and entirely obsessed with Adore Delano, although my love for Noriega’s drag personas began with Angel Baby who reminds me of every girl I grew up with and of myself all too frequently..

Watching Adore Delano has also provided for some interesting conversation with Little Isis, who is now realizing that being a man or being a woman isn’t as simple as what’s in your jeans or what society tells you to look like. There is a historical context to almost everything we do as men and women.

I wonder how Adore Delano suffers through a world with shoes built for XX feet.

(Scene 3)

This morning I dropped Little Isis off at school with a pinch, an “I Love You,” and the promise of an early pick up tomorrow to get milkshakes before I leave for Experimental Biology.

I was focused on getting home to bleach my mustache and darken my roots because my situation was not cute.

On the way to drop Tiny Diva at school, we heard Jack Jones’s 60s hit Wives and Lovers.  Yester-year’s dated lyrics, played for a new generation of ears..

Performance art gives way to performance art, gives way to performance art, gives way to performance art. Yesterday’s wives and lovers give rise to today’s lady scientist.

On Getting Cockblocked By Colleagues and Science

Today, my darling muppets, I can only laugh at the happenings. I can only laugh…

I have this hilarious colleague who is also one of the most famous surgeons of a particular body part type in our region.  Watching him prepare to operate is hilarious. He stands at the patient, rocks, and says “Ok. Can we go? Can I start? Are we ready?” obsessively until you finally give him the ok. Once he starts, he’s happy as a clam.


These last couple of weeks, I’ve been feeling like him. Restarting a lab is no joke.  All of the approvals and hiring and other such buullshittery. My lab still isn’t ready, so I’ve finally secured temporary space. We’ve made lists of the things we needed and ordered, but it took several iterations until we really had everything. We were finally there. We had finally made it down the home stretch. I ordered our experimental reagents and had them settling in to adapt to the new environment after shipping. Tuesday was to be the day the day the magic started. Then this morning I get an email from another lab which reads (summarized, of course):

Dear Dr. Isis,

One of the members of our lab took four of your reagents and did something irreversible to them so that you can’t use them. We can give you four of our reagents [which are not the same and would therefore be completely useless to you] or order you more or whatever you want, which you’ll then have to keep baking for a while at your expense until you can use them. Oops. Our bad.

Another dude.


Things That Make You Saltier….#NaCl2015

Little Isis’s elementary school is having a fundraiser dance tomorrow night and I received a voicemail reminder of the event from his principal this afternoon. The voicemail ended with the following sentence…

“And as a reminder, all children must be accompanied at all times by an adult or they will be asked to leave.”

I’m going to let you ponder that sentence for a while…

Peter Pan Pencil

Idiosyncracies of Academia – Part 1 in a Never-Ending Series..

My life is currently completely filled with obsessions over minutiae that I suspect most would find highly uninteresting, but that are taking over most of my brain. Onward…

When I was at my previous MRU, I had the opportunity to teach in an undergraduate honors program that worked on a completely flipped classroom model. The students were expected to do all the reading, pre-quizzes and material review before they came to class and then class was all problem-based learning. I had the luxury of walking into a program that was already designed and I only had to deliver a part of the material. I didn’t have to implement the learning model. It was really, really fun for me and the students were really engaging. I had a great experience.

Since arriving at new MRU, I’ve been teaching as a component of a team-taught series. The students attend lecture (ish), we deliver the lectures, and they take a multiple choice exam. I highlight “ish” in the students attending lecture, because our lectures are recorded so only a fraction of students actually attend. That means that I couldn’t see the look of bewilderment on their faces and they couldn’t see me draw the answers to their exam questions on the board during lecture. When it came time for the exam, their performance was…suboptimal at best. Still, it was very, very easy for me to do. I got up, delivered some lectures, had a TA run some exams through the scantron machine and *BOOM* my teaching was done.

Now I am developing courses for the upcoming year and I am left with a quandry. It would be very easy to use the traditional model, give some lectures, get  teaching evaluations good enough for my tenure committee and call it a day, but I am left the with the nagging feeling that I left my soft money gig not only for the security of hard money, but also because I wanted more opportunities to teach.  There is rationale to chill the fuck out and teach the easy way until I have things more established in my new lab, but I can’t help but feel a little obligation to do better. My conscious is a real motherfucker sometimes.

My mind is also occupied by the nuance of grant writing. Funding sucks so hard right now that everyone is desperate for the tricks that will give them that slight competitive edge and bump them into the percentile range likely to get funded. Does right and left justify makes a grant more favorably judged than left justify alone? What about 12 point Arial vs Georgia?

Even though I’ve had some grant success, I am constantly collecting other successful grants to try to glean whatever insights I can. I recently got a couple R01s from a colleague who has a track record of phenomenal success. It immediately struck me that he started every aim with “To test the hypothesis that…” instead of something like “To determine..” or “To quantify..”. I asked him about it and he said, “I do it because it immediately eliminates the stock critique that the aims are not hypothesis-driven. I’d never seen anything like this, but he has been so successful, I figured I’d give it a try in the sandbox..

As my sandbox, I got support from my college to attend a grant writing program offered by friend of the tweeple @iGrrrl. I submitted the initial draft of my aims, which I have continued to revise since, but was especially interested in the reaction to this way of phrasing my aims. Today I met with iGrrrl and the group of my peers also enrolled in the program and this new wording was not well-received. I’m intrigued by this. It would appear that sometimes one person’s gold is another person’s foil.

I’m also in the thick of my first year performance review. I can only chuckle because it was made to seem so simple by my chair and former chair. I turn in my CV with some shit highlighted,  a paragraph gets written about how I’m new and “blah, blah, blah.” Review done. I was so proud because I was a month early in submitting my CV to the person conducting my review. Then yesterday I met with the them and, turns out, it’s not so simple. They need a folder with all this stuff in it that is more than just my CV.  At the same time, I’ve been assigned to someone to review and, 6 days after my first attempt to contact them, I’ve heard no response. I have no idea how long I am supposed to wait before I am like “Dude!! WTF?!?!!!!”

February is closing in on me quickly and it is likely to be busy and insane.