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long hours and families

Julia Frugoli jfrugoli at bio.tamu.edu
Thu Apr 20 01:34:40 EST 2000

Dr. Paul S. Brookes  wrote:

"Compare this with the situation in the majority of universities less than
50 years old, in the remainder of the US.  Funding is easier to secure.  New
posts are always being created so promotion is more likely.  There are less
"old farts" holding onto top jobs and preventing younger people from
climbing the ladder.  There is far more collaboration between labs and with
individuals at other local universities.

It would appear that the problems being described WRT families, long hours,
and discrimination against women are symptomatic of greater problems, mainly
caused by putting too many people with big egos in a small space and not
providing them with enough money - is it any wonder they get paranoid. 
Maybe not having a life is just the price to be paid for wanting to further
oneself by subscribing to the perception that the name of the place you work
is what matters.  If you want a better life, choose your institution more

I disagree on several points, based on my experience as a grad student in
the Northeast and as a postdoc in the South, with vicarious faculty
experience (my other half) in a small institution in the South.  I think the
above is a gross generalization and oversimplification.

While the situation here at A&M Texas may be laid back by Ivy league
standards (only about 50% of the grad students and postdocs, and only the
younger faculty work through the weekends, while at the Ivy league I did my
graduate work at, it would be hard to tell Saturday from Tuesday), it's
still not laid back.  Competition is intense, funding is NOT easier to
secure, there are not significantly more posts being created. At the smaller
name institution my husband teaches at, they combine posts as people retire
and teach more students with fewer faculty (I'm told it's mandated by that
evil entity called "the Legislature")

As to "old farts"-top research institution DEMAND productivity no matter how
long you've been there.  Smaller ones don't necessarily.  As I mentioned in
a post about a year ago, up till 2 years ago, over half of my husband's 15
person department was past 62.  Some are in their 80s.  Several haven't
published in 20 years or had a graduate student in 15, and teach only the
upper level courses. I can't imagine this happening at a "premier"
institution, and I doubt this the better situation Dr. Brooks is talking

As to collaboration, I think its the norm in many places, not indigenous to
the small institutions.  I'm part of a grant right now that has 5 PIs at 4
institutions and another 10 collaborators spread across the world.  It's not
unusual, and some of those collaborators are in California and the North,
geographic locations Dr. Brooks implies are not conducive to collaboration.

In short, IMHO, the thread being discussed here has nothing to do with
snobbism or geographic location and everything to do with the nature of
science.  I know the women faculty at my husband's less than 50 years old,
no name university don't have it any easier, and in some cases harder.  "Old
Southern" traditions die hard, and they seem to have the worst of both
worlds, having to teach several classes a term, publish, get grants, be the
token woman on several committees and oh yes, plan the departmental parties
and run the student clubs ("because the ladies just seem to do it better").
The tone I hear in Dr. Brooks post is "you can't have it all, so chose a
"lesser" institution if you want a life."  While we're only one data point,
you need to account for the out lying points.  My husband and I can testify
that it ain't necessarily so that a less prestigious institution=a life.  In
some cases it can be worse.  And the funny thing is-my kids are grown-I want
a life just to have a life :).

Dr. Julia Frugoli
Department of Plant Pathology & Microbiology
Texas A&M University
Norman E.Borlaug Center for Southern Crop Improvement 
2123 TAMUS
College Station, TX 77843
phone 979-862-3495
FAX 979-862-4790

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