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Wed Nov 19 12:55:28 EST 1997

Anne wrote:
>	As a soon-to-graduate undergrad, I will join Christine as a token
>young'un - and admit that I have poor perspective on the 'higher level'
>issues, but still wish to comment.  Ideally these interactions should 
>gender neutral, because of coure ideally, women getting equal share in
>science shouldn't be an issue.  But it is, so we move on.  I think, 
>my perspective as an undergrad, that I (and many of my friends), feel 
>comfortable with a woman supervisor.  And it seems to me, especially 
>reading this group, that many of the women in the higher levels prefer 
>act as a mentor to the younger women coming up.  Why shouldn't it 
>that the predominantly male senior faculty find it easier to mentor the
>young men?

>Sticking my keyboard where it doesn't belong,
That would probably  be OK, if the number of female grad students (about 
50%) matched the  number of  female senior faculty (less than 10%).  
Obviously just doing the math, we  can't all work for same gender PIs.  
Besides, I think there is an element  of learning how the other half 
thinks to this (for both faculty AND students), and think that the 
ability to interact in a gender neutral manner is critical to  success 
in science and life.

That aside, I've been thinking about this feedback thing a lot lately.  
The person I  chose to be my outsider examiner (from another 
institution) on my thesis is well known, and people who have worked for 
this scientist or who  were in the same department in grad school warn 
me that this scientist has a reputation for crucifying people  on their 
orals-especially trying to get them to break down and cry.  I did  not 
know this when I made the choice, but 2 different people who don't know 
each other told me the crying thing, and three other senior faculty at 
different institutions just described this  person as "tough".

In light of this, I've been thinking a bit about what grad school has 
done to me emotionally.  When I started, you could make me cry if you 
told me I was stupid, any undergrad  could do this, what's wrong with 
you, don't you have any brains  at all? (all of these were said by 
either my PI or a post-doc).  Six years later, I hardly bat an eyelash 
at this kind of abuse, because I've learned what I know and don't know, 
and not to be ashamed of what I don't know (I believe that being ashamed 
of what I didn't know is what upset me so  much-as if lack of knowledge 
was a moral failure).  Plus  I've seen brillant people stumble with 
experiments, so I know inability to get something to work doesn't 
necessarily mean total failure as a scientist.

  I agree with Susan that science has become hypercritical;three 
examples come immediately to mind.

I can't remember  the last journal club I attended where the purpose of 
the presenter wasn't to tear the paper to shreds.  The last time I 
presented  a paper without tearing it to shreds, my audience was vaguely 
nervous and so we  spent 10 minutes at the  end talking about how  it 
couldn't possibly  be as nice as the authors reported (!)

The best advice I heard going into my orals was to  remember that the 
examiners don't care so much  what you know-they want to know what you 
don't know, as so will keep changing the subject if you show competence 
until they find one you trip on.

And all advice about  grant writing  I've ever heard says that the 
reviewers, because of the number of good projects is  much higher  than 
the  number that can be funded, tend to look for  reasons NOT to fund, 
not look for what's right. 

I find I'm not as afraid of my thesis defense as I could be given the 
rumours I've heard, because I EXPECT to be torn to threads-as if  that's 
the nature of the  game. (Isn't that why they call it a defense?)   But 
I also don't expect to be reduced to tears because I don't take it 
personally anymore, and when I do, I get angry, not shamed.  

Is this thicker skin scientific maturity or cynicism?  Should it be like 

Not sure I should even be  asking these questions,
Julia Frugoli
Dartmouth College

visiting grad student at
Texas A&M University
Department of Biological Sciences
College Station, TX 77843
FAX 409-847-8805

"Evil is best defined as militant ignorance."        
																										Dr. M. Scott Peck*****************************************************

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