Friday, June 6, 2008

Why am I doing this?

This post was supposed to be a thank you to the two random strangers that helped me out when crazy woman drove me off the road and then took off. One stranger chased her down to get her insurance information and the other changed my tire in the pouring rain. To my dear friend JV and sister who pinched in to pickup monkey, hugely grateful. If only I could get into the childcare on campus....

Okay so if I'm not writing an eloquent thank you to these guys what am I writing about? Today a friend asked me why am I doing my PhD? She was genuinely curious because as I have mentioned many times, I had a horrible experience during my masters program. I thought her question was interesting because of the whole Athena report thing and because my friend and I just finished discussing how much cash I would be making if I had chosen to go into sales (after I finished my MSc, I had been offered numerous positions as an imaging specialist). So why did I choose this path? My initial answer was why not? Some may say that you shouldn't do science as a default that you must enjoy what you do because its a hard road, that you must have a passion for it blah blah. Obviously I enjoy it and have a passion for it, otherwise I wouldn't have chosen to do a Masters AFTER slugging out it in the trenches of an undergrad. Obviously there was something keeping me at the work, since I had an ass for a thesis advisor and the most toxic lab environment ever! So again the question is not why to pursue a PhD but why not? The reasons are: its hard work, its difficult to have kids and do lab work, its difficult to have a life and do lab work, and I'm scared because I'm not sure I could do it. But these are not valid reasons, in my opinion. Anything worthwhile is hard work, so unless I want a mindless job, that comes with any career path. The whole family and life aspect? Well, the feminist in me will not let that be a valid reason either. I should not have to choose between having kids and being a scientist. Male or female, doing science should not be incompatible with having a family and a life. Right now, it may be that way for many many people, but if I choose not to continue something that I enjoy and have a passion for because I felt that they were mutually exclusive options well then it is going to continue to be that way for all those youngsters coming after me. To me, that was unacceptable. Science culture will not change unless we (men and women who want to have a proper balance) make it change. We make it change by participating in science, our way and demonstrating that it can be done. We can be role models and a light to those behind us. I am woman scientist, hear me roar!
That last reason, fear, that is never a valid reason for not doing something .

9 comments:

Nicky said...

I get asked this question all the time, too. My answer: for where I want my career to go (primary research, possibly in academia), getting a PhD is an absolutely necessary step. It's sometimes possible to have a research career without one, but it's much harder and you're constantly being second-guessed. So, I'm getting my PhD.

But your feminist arguments really hit home. A part of me wants to go into academia purely to prove that a woman can be a professor in the sciences while still having a life and family. So many woman drop out, that I just stubbornly refuse to be one of the ones who fails to fill that role model position for other younger women.

alicia said...

wow look at you go, PHD while being a mom, immpressive! and it sounds like you enjoy it and have all the right reasons for doing it!

here from nacomleavmo

Mad Hatter said...

Male or female, doing science should not be incompatible with having a family and a life.

Hear, hear!

Duck said...

I think it's difficult to have children/ or try to have children and do just about any work at all. There are very few professions i can think about that are not grueling... i used to work 12 to 16 hour days 5 days a week and i worked in tv, of course i quit, because no way in hell i'm getting pregnant working 16 hours a day, but i think maybe if i was contributing to the world, by doing something cool like you, then maybe i would have stuck it out.

DC said...

I have similar feelings about being a lawyer and a mother. Unfortunately, most big law firms don't feel the same. :(

Dreams Come True said...

If you are happy doing what you are doing, and you enjoy it, are passionate about it, and truly want to do it, then that's what you should be able to do. And, finding the balance with that, and home life, should not be impossible.

I wish that there were better options in so many different fields for women to work in the fields they love, and have children, and know that they are extremely well cared for at a reasonable price at the same time.

We should not have to choose.

Nit said...

Hola from NCLM :)

You go girl! I am very proud of you...you are absolutely right, you can be a mother & a scientist or whatever else you damn well please.

It's sad that there are so many people in society who don't understand why someone would want to pursue any goal...higher education, etc.

Sam said...

I just want to say, tongue firmly in cheek, that the best thing about a PhD is getting to call yourself Doctor at the end of it all! ;-)

The bean-mom said...

"That last reason, fear, that is never a valid reason for not doing something."

That's a lovely (and brave)sentiment. Something I'm struggling with, myself.