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Improving the Applicant Pool

Leslie Johnston-Dow ldow at biosys.apldbio.COM
Thu Mar 4 10:36:28 EST 1993

In article <lwalsh.730847870 at news.cso.uiuc.edu> lwalsh at nemo (Laura L. Walsh) writes:
>pauld at cs.washington.edu (Paul Barton-Davis) writes:
>>What do the female scientists/mothers who read this think ? Does you
>>role as a mother interfere with your role as a scientist, or vice
>>versa ? Do these roles strengthen and reinforce one another ? Do you
>>think that a someone with some other important dimensions to their
>>lives can be a front-ranking scientist ?
>>-- paul (whose wife reads this, and will undoubtedly answer yes :-)
>Well, as a mother and a grad student and a member of a private
>school board, I can say that it is really difficult to balance
>the aspects of my life.  My roles do not seem to augment each
>other, but rather detract.  Very few of my colleagues have to
>worry about picking the kids up early on snow days or arranging
>alternative car pooling for when the babysitter is sick.  And
>evening "group meetings" were almost going to be policy, until
>I pointed out that after 5:00, I turn into a MOM.  
>For my kids, it is good for them to see me enjoy my work as much
>as I do, but I am definitely overcommitted and desperately in
>need of just another 24 hours every day.  I truly want to do an
>excellent job at everything I do, but I have to accept being
>mediocre at it all because I don't have enough time.  At this
>point, I am just worried about finishing my Ph.D. -- the question
>of being a "front-ranking" scientist is totally beyond my ability
>to fantasize.

I empathize with Laura, I was in very similar situation to hers in
graduate school. As a single parent going back to school for my PhD, my
life was one big compromise. Waht I have realized since then is that
the people who achieve the status of 'front ranking' in any field are
those who have given up alot to get there. They are people who have
prioritized in such a was as to make their careers the single driving
force in their lives. I admire them as I do olympic atheletes but I
have never felt more than an occasional twinge to follow in their

I believe that you can contribute to the general mass of scientific
knowledge in a postive way without being a 'front ranking' scientist.
In addition, you can also have a full family life and other interests.
I will grant you that this is difficult to do in the extremely 
competitive atmosphere that exists in most basic research institutions.
However, it is not impossible, I have seen it done. It is easier to
accomplish a life of balance in industry, this is one reason that I
work as a researcher in industry.

To return now to Pauls original questions, I would answer that life is
full of choices. You can't do everything in your life at the level
of world class excellence. Make your choices based on what makes you
the happiest and what options your lifestyle provides you. It is possible
to have a succesful career in research, a good family life and outside
interests but you will never achieve world class status in any of the
above unless you are willing to sacrifice time from the others

Leslie Johnston-Dow.
Leslie Johnston-Dow            ldow at apldbio.com
Applied Biosystems Inc

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