ADVERTISEMENT
  About the SA Blog Network













Guest Blog

Guest Blog


Commentary invited by editors of Scientific American
Guest Blog HomeAboutContact

The Awesomest 7-Year Postdoc or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Tenure-Track Faculty Life

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


Email   PrintPrint



Scary myths and scary data abound about life as a tenure-track faculty at an “R1″ university. Scary enough to make you wonder: why would any smart person want to live this life?

As a young faculty member at Harvard, I got asked such questions a lot. Why did you choose this career? How do you do it? And I can’t blame them for asking, because I am scared by those myths too. I have chosen very deliberately to do specific things to preserve my happiness, lots of small practical things that I discovered by trial and error.

So when asked by graduate students and other junior faculty, I happily told them the things that worked for me, mostly in one-on-one meetings over coffee, and a few times publicly on panels. Of course, I said all these things without any proof that they lead to success, but with every proof that they led me to enjoy the life I was living.

Most people I talked to seemed surprised. Several of my close friends challenged me to write this down, saying that that I owed it to them. They told me that such things were not done and were not standard. That may be true. But what is definitely true, is that we rarely talk about what we actually do behind the scenes to cope with life. Revealing that is the scariest thing of all.

I’ve enjoyed my seven years as junior faculty tremendously, quietly playing the game the only way I knew how to. But recently I’ve seen several of my very talented friends become miserable in this job, and many more talented friends opt out. I feel that one of the culprits is our reluctance to openly acknowledge how we find balance. Or openly confront how we create a system that admires and rewards extreme imbalance. I’ve decided that I do not want to participate in encouraging such a world. In fact, I have to openly oppose it.

So with some humor to balance my fear, here’s goes my confession:

Seven things I did during my first seven years at Harvard. Or, how I loved being a tenure-track faculty member, by deliberately trying not to be one.

  • I decided that this is a 7-year postdoc.
  • I stopped taking advice.
  • I created a “feelgood” email folder.
  • I work fixed hours and in fixed amounts.
  • I try to be the best “whole” person I can.
  • I found real friends.
  • I have fun “now”.

I decided that this is a 7-year postdoc.

In 2003, at a party, I met this very cool guy. He was on the job market for faculty positions and had just gotten an offer from MIT Sloan. I was on the job market too, and so we instantly hit it off. I had recently completed my PhD in computer science from MIT; it had already felt so hard, just proving myself as worthy enough. I also had a 4 year old kid and a little toddler. I really wondered how I’d emotionally survive tenure-track, assuming anyone would even offer me the job. So I asked him. How did he feel about doing the whole tenure track thing? Having to prove oneself again after the whole PhD experience? The answer changed my life, and gave me a life long friend.

He looked at my quizzically, and said “Tenure-track? what’s that? Hey, I’m signing up for a 7-year postdoc to hang out with some of the smartest, coolest folks on the planet! Its going to be a blast. And which other company gives you 7 year job security? This is the awesomest job ever!”

In 2004 when I came to Harvard as a junior faculty, I wrote it on my desk.
This-is-a-7-year-postdoc.
I type it in every day. For all seven+ years I have been at Harvard. No joke.

It is an incredibly liberating point of view. If I’m not here for tenure, then there are a bunch of things I do not need to do. For example, I don’t need to spend my seventh year travelling doing the tenure talk circuit (I did not do this), or make sure I invite and get to know personally exactly 18 folks who might be my letter writers, or be on organizing committees so everyone important knows me well, or try to get nominated for awards as fast and as young as possible (I just turned 42). Frankly most of this is not possible to actually do!

But the sad part is seeing how completely miserable people will allow themselves to get trying to do it. I don’t like being miserable. And why should I be? When I’m surrounded by some of the smartest and coolest folks in the world! Just brainstorming with the faculty and students at Harvard is an incredible experience, and being friends with them is icing on the cake. And to be paid to do that for 7 years? Heck, no industry job was offering me that kind of job security! I figured 7 years is a long time. Enough time to make a detailed plan for my next career.

I decided that this was a great job, that I was going to take it with both hands, and that I was going to enjoy my 7 years to the fullest. And I took explicit steps to remind myself of this decision every day.

I stopped taking advice.

I hate to say this, but people lie. Even with the best intentions. If you ask them what is important to succeed as a junior faculty member, people will tell you everything they did that they think helped them succeed. Plus everything they wish they had done. And all the things their friend did too. They deliver you this list without annotation, a list which no single person could ever accomplish. And while this list sends you into shock, followed by depression, followed by a strong desire to quit (because heck I’m never gonna be able to do all that) — the truth is that that is the last thing this person wants. They want you to succeed! And so with the best of intentions, they advise you on how to fail.

An extreme case of this happened to me in my early years, when I went to a Harvard event for junior women faculty. To make a long story short, several senior women got up and explained how we needed to do all the things the male junior faculty were doing, but then also do a whole second list of extra things to compensate for the fact that there is huge implicit bias against women in letters and assessments. And there I was, with two young kids, already worried how I was going to have to be twice as productive as the men in order to compete with half as many working hours. And these women were telling me I’d have to be four times as good as the men per hour to survive! These women had the best of intentions. But I came back to my office, lay on the couch, and decided to quit. Then I remembered rule 1: I am not here for tenure, so none of the advice actually applies to me. Since then I just refuse to go to these sorts of events, and there are plenty of gender-neutral versions of that experience. Instead I run a therapy couch for those male and female junior faculty who attend.

The second problem is that people gave me advice in the form of lists. Example lists I got: give invited talks in many big places, publish lots of journal articles, join prominent conference committees so you get to know senior people personally, volunteer in University committees to get to know Harvard faculty who might be on your tenure case, etc.

It is easy to give (and receive) advice that is a list, even when the things on the list are not the most important to do. No one said to me, “Hey, my advice is to win the McArthur grant. Then you’ll get tenure for sure.” Frankly, that’s much surer advice than the list. Just harder to swallow. Given that any time spent on a list item is time not spent on research (and many of these list items are super time consuming), I don’t feel like a lot of advice I got was sound.

Finally, it doesn’t help that computer science (and university faculty in general) suffers from an extreme lack of diversity. People claim to care about about work-life balance, while only really understanding and practicing workaholism. Most people I know are incapable of giving advice I can follow, without getting a divorce or giving up my kids for adoption. Unfortunately that’s still true.

I created a “feelgood” email folder

I have an email folder named “feelgood”. It’s a little silly, but effective. Every time I tell my colleagues about this one, they first laugh, and then seriously consider making one for themselves. Here’s what’s in it:

The eloquent and touching email my MIT advisor wrote to our group about how proud he was to see one of his students choose to go into academia. The email from the Harvard faculty member who offered me the job, and then went on and on saying how excited she was that I was joining. The first paper acceptance I got. The first award I got. The random email I got from a famous professor who I totally idolize (oh my god, they know my name!). The junior faculty member who said they’d save my emails and reread them every time they felt down. The student who told me I should be awarded a degree in psychology, because I let them vent and cry on my couch and that apparently made all the difference. The email from the Turing award winner who thought my promotion was good but not surprising (could’ve fooled me!). The photo my husband sent me while I was traveling at a conference, of how my 6-year old daughter tried to help her dad by packing lunch for her 3-year old brother (unsuccessfully of course). Some seriously funny emails my faculty buddy sent me to cheer me up. Basically pointers to moments when I felt happy.

One of the hardest things for me about this job is that there are so many ways to get rejected, and those linger a lot longer than the feeling of success when something good happens. Grant rejections, harsh paper reviews, bad teaching reviews — all ways of having someone reject your results without acknowledging the huge amount of hard work that went into this not-quite-perfect outcome. Even in a 7 year postdoc, it is still hard.

People advised me, “Don’t take it personally”. Yeah. In the bin of not-useful-advice for me. I put in the work and I care about it. It is emotionally taxing and that is personal. The very idea that we can’t admit that openly is ridiculous. Anyways, that’s when I take 15 minutes and browse though my “feelgood” folder. And a little bit of that feeling of happiness comes back. Just reading the emails transports me back to those different moments. Its fleeting, but effective. And its real. Good things happened to me, and I have no reason to think that good things won’t happen to me again in the future. Helps me counter the feeling of rejection, and move constructively towards a fix.

The feelgood folder is just one of my many “patches” (and thank you Netflix for streaming BBC Masterpiece and Bollywood). As far as I can tell, other seemingly-perpetually-positive faculty have coping mechanisms too; some write blogs, some go grab a beer, others hit the gym. And not all coping mechanisms are graceful. I’ve cried alone in my office and I’ve sobbed a couple times in senior faculty’s offices. Its life. Not being emotional, not being frail, not being human — these are parts of the scary image of the faculty member. Luckily, I’m in a 7 year postdoc! Far lower standards.

I work fixed number of hours and in fixed amounts

Not long after I joined Harvard in 2004, the then President Larry Summers publicly told the world his opinion of why women do not seem to succeed to the top. One of the several hypotheses he put forth was that they weren’t willing to put in the 80 hours/week that was expected of faculty.

That week I went home and tried to calculate it out. After all how many hours did I “work at work”? Mind you, I had a toddler and a 4 year old, so I felt I was working *all* the time. Here’s my calculation:

Ideal scenario: On days where I picked up my kids from daycare, I was fully at work 9-5 and then if all went well I could maybe squeeze in another two hours 10-12pm (while effectively being “on” non-stop from 7am-midnight, and having kids in 9-6pm daycare). On days where I could stay late at work, I would work 9am-9pm straight but then spend no time with family. On weekends (when there is no daycare, only two overworked parents) I couldn’t manage anything work related but we’d shop, cook, clean, in preparation for the next week. And this ideal case still means being awake and “on” from 7am to midnight, all 7 days.

So the generous calculation is: (2pickupdays * 10 hours) + (3latedays * 12 hours) = 56!!

When I did this calculation, I realized that I was basically getting in about 50 hours/week on a good week! And if I wanted to get to 60 hours/week I’d need to have 12 job-only productive hours per weekday, and if I wanted to get to the 80 hour/week that would mean ~11 hour work days all 7 days of the week. That’s crazy, and *completely* unreasonable. With that expectation, the only way to survive would mean one of us quitting having a career, and the other quitting being a parent.

And at that point I decided that 50 would just have to be enough.

But of course less hours mean you get to do less work. And that’s hard to accept for the uber-ambitious person that I am, surrounded by lots of uber-ambitious colleagues and hence lots of peer pressure to take on ever more work. So eventually I came up with an easier solution. I decided on a priori “fixed amounts” in which I was allowed to agree to do things. Once the quota is up, I have to mandatorily say no.

  • I travel at most 5 times a year. This includes: all invited lectures, all NSF/Darpa investigator or panel meetings, conferences, special workshops, etc. Typically it looks something like this: I do one or two invited lectures at places where I really like the people, I go one full week to a main conference, I do maybe one NSF/Darpa event, and I reserve one wildcard to attend something I really care about (e.g. the Grace Hopper Conference, or a workshop on a special topic). It is *not easy* to say no that often, especially when the invitations are so attractive, or when the people asking are so ungraceful in accepting no for an answer. But when I didn’t have this limit I noticed other things. Like how exhausted and unhappy I was, how I got sick a lot, how it affected my kids and my husband, and how when I stopped traveling I had so much more time to pay real attention to my research and my amazing students.
  • I have a quota for non-teaching/research items. Just like the travel, I have a fixed number of paper reviews (usually 10), fixed number of graduate and undergraduate recruiting or mingling events, and fixed number of departmental committees I am allowed to do each year. I also do one “special” thing per year that might be time consuming, e.g. being on a conference senior program committee, or being on an NSF/DARPA panel, or being on a junior faculty search committee. But only 1 per year. As soon as I sign up for that one, all present and future opportunities are an automatic no (Makes you think a lot before you say “yes”, no?). Plus, there are things that are really important to me that don’t get enforced externally. Like making time to meet other women in computer science, and doing a certain amount of outreach to non-Harvard audiences. If I’m not careful, I end up with no time for these less promoted events. And if I end up with no time for these, I end up a very bitter person. I have a quota to prevent me from accidently getting bitter.
  • I also have a weekly hard/fun quota There are things that for some reason are super hard, or bring out your worst procrastination habits. For me, that’s grant reports and writing recommendations. There are also things that are really fun. For me, that’s making logos and t-shirts and hacking on my website. If I can do 1 hard thing per week, and 1 fun thing per week, then I declare victory. That was a good week, by a reasonable measure of goodness.
  • I aim to raise kids as an equal 50-50 partnership. This is a big one and I don’t want to make this seem obvious — the idea below was born after a long time of growing arguments and anger and resentment, which neither of us are eager to remember. Moving on though, we now happily tell our method to all parents.The basic idea is simple. We play zone-defense during the week: only one parent has childcare at a time. I do five days morning drop off (7-9am) and two days evening pickup (6-10pm), my husband does three days evening pickup and no drop offs. When you are on kid duty, all responsibilities are yours (feeding, bathing, where did the gloves go, yes I understand you want to cry inconsolably right now for no reason). But all rules are yours too; the other parent has to stay clear out of it and no comments allowed. When you are off kid duty, you can schedule the time as you please, stay late at work or take a tennis class or go drinking with buddies. No questions asked.I mostly work those days or schedule work-related social events on those evenings. This tag-team parenting also means we don’t all get together as a family during the week usually. So we decided: no job related work on the weekends. No reading or writing email, no reading grants and papers, no preparing lectures, no conference calls. The weekend is either for getting organized at home or just spending time together. We also carved out a chunk of our budget to get household help 3 times a week, to create more time for us on the weekends to be together as a family. Finally, if you want to break the rules, then you have to trade: for every evening I cover for him, he has to cover an evening that week for me. For every weekend I travel, I have to give him a weekend day off. No free lunch.

The nice thing about the fixed amounts approach is that it made equality easier to approach in a house with two alphas. My husband worked for industry, but his job had the same expectations of working all the time, traveling all the time, and pretending that nothing else exists. This helped us limit how much our careers (or kids) were allowed to encroach on our lives as a whole. But I also adher to this pretty strictly for other reasons. I need rest!

I stop working late Friday night and I don’t open my email client until Monday morning. My students have adapted. They know not to put me in unreasonable situations like trying to submit a paper last minute. My kids have adapted too. They like the idea that Tuesday is mommy rules and Wednesday is daddy rules. They know the weekend is theirs. My colleagues I’m not exactly sure about. I’m afraid they don’t quite realize how few hours I am willing to give to the job. Oh well, I guess they know now.

People want you to do everything all the time, and they impress you that the world will collapse if you don’t. But there are times I wish the world would just bloody collapse! Because the amount of stuff people keeping adding to the “must be done” list is outrageous. It is also stunning how little thought society has given to raising kids with two working parents. People in my work community constantly schedule important work events on evenings and weekends, with no apology or offer of childcare. People in my city government think that affordable public education ages 5-12 until 3pm is sufficient, and the rest doesn’t need organized effort or collective funding. Yet somehow we declare victory with Title IX? Ridiculous.

So in spite of all the practical ways I counter these issues, it still makes me very angry and frustrated. Which brings me to the next point.

I try to be the best “whole” person I can.

It was the end of a month where a lot of things had gone haywire: rejected grants, a poorly prepared problem set that should have never seen the light of day, a sick kid whose fever I tried to mask with Tylenol and send to school, and so on. It was all bad, and I was embarrassed and depressed. I was doing poorly on every account, in front of people who quite reasonably expected so much more from me. As I was having this nervous breakdown moment and feeling very isolated, I called one of my old friends just to chat. Unaware of my condition, she told me a story about her uncle who had a smart young daughter, and how he takes off work at 3pm to take her to be part of a special math Olympiad, and how he goes with her on weekends for classes at a community college, and how he is doing everything within his power to provide his daughter access to the best opportunities.

And in that moment it suddenly dawned on me what was taking me down. We (myself included) admire the obsessively dedicated. At work we hail the person for whom science and teaching is above all else, who forgets to eat and drink while working feverously on getting the right answer, who is always there to have dinner and discussion with eager undergrads. At home we admire the parent who sacrificed everything for the sake of a better life for their children, even at great personal expense. The best scientists. The best parents. Anything less is not giving it your best.

And then I had an even more depressing epiphany. That in such a world I was destined to suck at both.

Needless to say it took a lot of time, and a lot of tears, for me to dig myself out of that hole. And when I finally did, it came in the form of another epiphany. That what I can do, is try to be the best whole person that I can be. And that is *not* a compromise. That *is* me giving it my very best. I’m pretty sure that the best scientists by the above definition are not in the running for most dedicated parent or most supportive spouse, and vice versa. And I’m not interested in either of those one-sided lives. I am obsessively dedicated to being the best whole person I can be. It is possible that my best whole is not good enough for Harvard, or for my marriage; I have to accept that both may choose to find someone else who is a better fit. But even if I don’t rank amongst the best junior faculty list, or the best spouses list, I am sure there is a place in the world where I can bring value.

Because frankly, my best whole person is pretty damn good.

I found real friends

I found friends at work who think I’m special just the way I am (and I avoid the others). My work friends are awesome, but not “perfect”. They are *not* senior people in my field. These are folks I “gel” with. These are folks who think I have good ideas, regardless of this year’s crop of paper acceptances and rejections. These are folks whose ideas I like, making every coffee conversation worth it. In my awesomest-7-year-postdoc, I am here to have an awesome time. So what better way than to spend it with people I truly have fun with!

In our community there is a lot of pressure to network and impress the perfect friends, e.g. senior faculty in your field who will sit on your grant panels, review your papers, and eventually write your tenure letters. These people are supposed to tell you your worth. Yikes! Good thing I wasn’t on tenure-track! When I started out, it was hard to simply walk up to such people and say, hey, instantly like me without any proof beyond my graduate thesis. Exposing myself to groups of people I didn’t know and had no reason to trust, just so they could shoot me down, didn’t seem like an effective way to learn. Plus, I get enough anonymous feedback as it is. Often it isn’t clear to me that the expert reviewers in my field have made a sincere effort to understand what it is I am trying to do, if I am saying it poorly. Four years later with some work under my belt, and a clearer idea of who I was, I did make many good friends in my field. But they will never replace my first friends who thought I was special from the start and who believed (on some inexplicable faith) that I would do good things.

My most valuable and constructive professional criticism has come from these friends — friends who were not in my field, but were in my “court”. These friends are the ones who read my proposals and papers for my first four years at Harvard. Even though they weren’t from my field, they caught 90% of the bugs in any argument or writing I did. They cared about me personally, so they put in a lot of time and effort to deliver honest critical evaluations of my work and my decisions, in a language I could understand. They helped me deal with the inevitable rejections and insults. These people were instrumental to my success, when I had few accomplishments and little experience to recommend me. These are the people who will still instantly care about whatever I care about at that moment, and give me their valuable time. These are the people who will proofread this article.

I get by with a little help from my friends…

I have fun “now”

In 2012 when I got tenure, people came up to me and said “Congratulations. Now you can do all the things you’ve always wanted to, take risk, take an easier pace, and have fun”. My answer was: “I’ve always done what I wanted to”. And its true. But its not because I have extra courage. Rather, by demoting the prize, the risk becomes less. People will say: you can do xyz after you get tenure. But if I am not here for tenure, then that doesn’t apply! I don’t have to worry about being so brave. I’m allowed to have fun now.

I have fun doing research I like at my natural balance for risk tolerance (even if it’s a 7-year-postdoc, I can’t take or handle unbounded risk in research). I take 1-month long vacations in the summer without touching my email (and I’ve ignored the advice that my away message would make people stop taking me seriously). My lab goes on an annual ski trip (the first trip was four years ago, and my lab’s productivity doubled that year). I enjoy working hard, but not at the expense of my principles or my personal judgment of what is actually important. Fun is essential to my research. It is essential to me wanting to have this career.

A faculty member once told me that when people are miserable and pushed to their limits, they do their best work. I told them that they were welcome to poke out their own eyes or shoot a bullet through their own leg. That would definitely cause huge misery and might even improve their research. Ok, yeah, I only thought about saying that.

Conclusion

Many who consider, or even try, the tenure-track faculty life feel like they don’t fit the stereotype. For some, the stereotype is so far, that one feels like an alien. The two options I hear most are getting burned out (by trying to live up to the rules) or opting-out (because one can’t play the game by the rules). I guess my hope is to add one more option to the list, which is covering your ears and making up your own rules.

I am not saying this approach or this list is a recipe for success. As one of my wise colleagues said, we know very little about what makes people actually succeed. Rather this is the recipe by which I have, and I am, having fun being in academia. And if I’m not having fun, I will quit and do something else. There are lots of ways to live a meaningful life.

I realize that my own case is special in many ways. It is a rare privilege to get a tenure-track faculty position at a place like Harvard. And engineering is a discipline with many reasonable career alternatives. And very, very few mothers get to raise kids with a feminist husband. Nevertheless, it seems to me that at all levels of academia, almost regardless of field and university, we are suffering from a similar myth: that this profession demands – even deserves – unmitigated dedication at the expense of self and family. This myth is more than about tenure-track, it is the very myth of being a “real” scholar.

By my confession, I hope to at least make some chinks in the armor of that myth. Maybe even inspire others to find their own unorthodox ways to cope with the academic career track, and to share them. And maybe, just maybe, I can inspire my senior colleagues to have an honest discussion about what expectations and value systems we are setting up for young faculty. I know that I do not want to participate in encouraging a world anchored by that myth. In fact, I have no choice but to openly oppose it. Because I can’t live – I can’t breathe – in that world.

So. Tenure. What’s that? Here’s to another 7 years! And then we’ll see.


Other Things to Read

Many of the ideas in this article were inspired by discussions I had with friends and things I’ve read. There have been some really terrific articles on this subject. Here’s a few that I find really useful. I often revisit them.

Uri Alon: Work-life Balance in Science: A Theory Lunch Video
(~30 minutes, parts 1-4, especially part 4 “Sunday at the Lab” spoof song)
The Alon lab has put together an excellent set of Materials for Nuturing Scientists.

Anne-Marie Slaughter: Why We Still Can’t Have It All, The Atlantic, July 2012

Ivan Sutherland: Technology and Courage, Perspectives, Sun Microsystems Inc, April 1996.

Kate Clancy: On being a Radical Scholar, Scientific American Blog, October, 2011

 

Radhika Nagpal About the Author: Radhika Nagpal is a Professor of Computer Science, in the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and a core faculty member of the Harvard Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. She received her PhD degree from MIT in Computer Science. Her research interests lie at the intersection of computer science, robotics, and biology.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.






Comments 68 Comments

Add Comment
  1. 1. HildaBast 3:13 pm 07/21/2013

    Very cool! And lovely to read, too.

    Link to this
  2. 2. garedawg 3:30 pm 07/21/2013

    Great article! I was in the same position a number of years ago – an assistant professor in a top department, with a wife starting her own business and two small children. I, too, treated it as a long, well-paid post-doc and did my best to balance things, secure in the knowledge that I had other skills to fall back upon if I did not get tenure. It so happened that I did not get tenure, but I’m very grateful for the time spent. I learned many interesting things and spent time with many fine, brilliant people. I ended up with a different job that I enjoy, and my kids are now happy and well-adjusted teenagers. My advice to assistant professors is always to have a “Plan B”, and decide right away that you will not pin your ego on your work. This will help you sleep at night.

    Link to this
  3. 3. axansh 1:06 am 07/22/2013

    Well written article… Good points to be implement in life :)

    Link to this
  4. 4. taiwanpostdoc 3:12 am 07/22/2013

    Your article reminds me a round table discussion with a very successful scholar. The eager postocs are asking how to be successful on the job market, while geting the answer someting like ” You will shine if you are a diamond”. After that, I learn two things. First, never ask successful people how they did it. Sometimes they have no idea nor plan on that. Second, all we have to do is to enjoy the moment even when we are actually our seven-year postoc. You are right, we all need real friends to support each other. Therefore, I would like to thank my dear friend for sharing this article with me !

    Link to this
  5. 5. dutchinrichmond 8:34 am 07/22/2013

    Thank you for this amazing article! I am filing it and printing it to make sure I will always be able to refer back to it – I’m starting my PhD journey next month and while that’s a different “animal” than the 7-year postdoc (love that description), I have a feeling much of it will apply. I am excited to get started, and at the same time a bit terrified. Your article makes me less terrified and more excited.

    Link to this
  6. 6. Marlies 9:00 am 07/22/2013

    Thank you for writing this! A very welcome read for a 4-year-postdoc (and mother of 2).

    Link to this
  7. 7. LynnSchofieldClark 10:55 am 07/22/2013

    Thanks for this. The author’s ability to embrace joy in life shines through this piece. We all need reminders of the importance of striving for wholeness rather than for some external measure!

    Link to this
  8. 8. eduhacker 11:22 am 07/22/2013

    Wonderful post. Thanks so much!

    Link to this
  9. 9. PsychologyAmy 11:27 am 07/22/2013

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this. It is the first thing I’ve read about junior faculty life that made me feel hope rather than depressed and inadequate. I’m up for tenure this fall and am sharing with everyone I know.

    Link to this
  10. 10. heidamaria 11:55 am 07/22/2013

    Reading this article should have made me think “She can do it, and so can I!” but, honestly, it just made me annoyed — yet again — with the stupid system that is Academia. Let’s review!

    1) “I decided that this is a 7-year postdoc” There she was in 2012, a 41 year old mother of 2, now knowing whether she would get tenure or whether she would have to completely turn her life around and do something different, probably involving moving to a different city. Call me crazy but I think scientists, who have worked very hard for many, many years, should have the right to have some stability in their life at the age of 41.

    2) “As far as I can tell, other seemingly-perpetually-positive faculty have coping mechanisms too…” This system is SO bad that we need to find mechanisms to simply COPE with it.

    3) “I do five days morning drop off (7-9am) and two days evening pickup (6-10pm)…” This life requires your kids to be in daycare for HOW LONG?!?

    4) “I’m afraid they don’t quite realize how few hours I am willing to give to the job.” She works 56 hours a week. In Norway, around 35 hours is considered a full work week (they get six week’s worth of paid vacation time too). She works the equivalent of 1.5 jobs, and that is considered FEW hours.

    So what can we do? My first suggestion would be to stop asking one person to do a two-person job. If you need 80 hours worth of science, you could just bloody well ask two qualified scientists to do the work! There are plenty of good people out there. This same completely surreal situation is also true for other fields such as medicine where doctors work crazy hours for the benefit of — no one?

    To the author: I am not criticizing you — you have several good points and I see that you are trying to do your best to survive in a harsh world. This is a call-for-action for changing this outdated and caustic system.

    Link to this
  11. 11. rggomes 12:29 pm 07/22/2013

    If you’re not in it for tenure, then why not make 2x the money as a CS PhD in industry during those 7 years? Plenty of smart people to talk to and interesting projects to work on.

    The lure of “academic freedom” and tenure must have played a part in the decision, even if telling yourself it’s not is an effective coping strategy.

    Link to this
  12. 12. matthewslater 12:54 pm 07/22/2013

    @rggomes: Perhaps — just *perhaps* — she enjoys teaching (and the other aspects unique to academic life).

    Link to this
  13. 13. ludwigvan968 1:27 pm 07/22/2013

    I am working on an article myself, it addresses grad school and being tenure track. Academia is an awesome field right now, but like any other competitive field it i vicious and has lots of “snake oil” associated with it.

    When I became a professor I knew things would change. I knew there was another side and there was… I have always seen myself as a kid and in many ways I still do, but something changed when I was given the keys to the front door. I always saw my academic journey as a battle between good and evil. I was climbing a mountain of knowledge, while leaving bread crumbs and signs as I saw fit along the way. The game has fundamentally changed, my responsibilities transcends my own needs and desires, something I am quickly learning others have failed to uphold.

    Here are some things I notice people do and shouldn’t be worried about:

    -Try to look like everyone else. Stop worrying about the status quo, the “look” of academics is based off of assimilation, one of the core theories we are taught to push against. Be yourself.

    -Publish for the sake of publishing. Publish with a purpose and not just for tenure graduate school cred, that is not a good enough reason, you need something at stake.

    -Teach even though you hate it. Get another profession and save the students and yourself heartache.

    -Go through graduate school thinking you need to emulate those before you. Put your anthropologist hat on and learn from their actions, again do not assimilate. Let the system develop around you.

    -Think there is a hierarchy to academia. There is a hierarchy, however they are meant to be broken. Build relationships with your peers and mentors because they have value to you, not because of hierarchy. Such relationships will pay off later in your journey to build an academic community for peer review. Your peers and students are just as important as your mentors, they are who will be around in 10 to 15 years.

    -Look at your thesis, dissertation or tenure as an approval from your colleagues and institution. These are handshakes, you are confirming your desire to be approved by the institution, leave if you do not like it there and save yourself and others time. Find what makes you happy.

    -Look for approval from your mentors and peers. Seek guidance and knowledge instead, your mentors and peers are there to help and guide you, not approve of you. Learn from them, but stand your ground.

    -Assume your struggle or privilege negates you from participation. The assumption that your struggle or privilege negates you from participation perpetuates the exact principles most in academia say they are trying to work against, i.e. inequality and discrimination.

    -Think your thesis, dissertation or tenure committee needs to all love your work in order to have it signed off. They all just need to understand their role within your journey and respect you.

    -Realize that all academics are human at best, they are not all knowing, even if they say they are. Arrogance runs rapid in academia, it is up to you to change that perception.

    Link to this
  14. 14. dunelady 3:13 pm 07/22/2013

    Thank you thank you thank you for writing this. I’m not a professor, but I’m a grant PI working at a soft-money scientific institute (think: take out all of the teaching and university committee responsibilities, take out the job stability and possibility of tenure, keep in all the grant-writing, paper and proposal reviews, conference travel, workshop organization, summer students, paper writing, seminars — oh yeah, and the research too).

    But there’s enough overlap that this is very much like my life: rather than worrying about getting tenure, my main concern is getting enough grants funded to pay the mortgage and preschool bills. Only I don’t get that 7 years to relax — when my grants run out and there’s nothing new to replace them, I simply won’t get paid (no pressure). Otherwise the pressures are the same: spend time with family and friends, carve out time to get work done, maybe go on vacation sometimes (which we have to anyway when our daycare lady goes on vacation…).

    I’ve done many of the same things. We handle the kids differently, but we’ve worked out a way to mostly keep things sane. Potty-training for the 21 month old is coming up soon, and that’s a few days off work that will be stressful but worth the time investment. I have to think very very hard about traveling to conferences or giving seminars (I’ve just turned another offer down). I also need to do fieldwork, which is more time away from the family, so I trade conference time for fieldwork. I just can’t do both.

    The way I phrase it is “sanity is worth its price”. It’s just really really really REALLY nice to hear another person in academia saying it and actually living it.

    Link to this
  15. 15. Georgia951753 3:27 pm 07/22/2013

    Thank you for this. I wish you had discussed your spouse more. Summing the brief mentions, it sounds like he left a private sector job to follow you and take up childcare duties. As a feminist, I have no problem with this. But practically speaking, what’s the chance of most people getting a good enough offer (e.g. Harvard) to justify a spouse abandoning his/her career? I understand it wasn’t the point of the article, but its omission is telling.

    Link to this
  16. 16. Quantumburrito 5:15 pm 07/22/2013

    @10 heidamaria: “There she was in 2012, a 41 year old mother of 2, not knowing whether she would get tenure”

    From Prof. Nagpal’s CV it’s clear that she got tenure in 2009.

    Link to this
  17. 17. mindycal 5:16 pm 07/22/2013

    Thanks for writing this article and while I hope academics will take your advice about finding a work/life balance, a tenure position at Harvard is luxurious and out of reach for most of your readers.

    With more and more work being given to adjunct faculty and TAS, budgets being slashed across t1 publics and certain depts in private, I’m not sure how much most of us can take away. Academia is in crisis across the board, maybe the effects are felt a bit less at an ivy league & when you’ve figured out how to make tenure life bearable.

    Race and gender discrimination is especially rampant, and I’ve been advising many women of color who approach me about a future in the university to weigh their job options carefully because its an uphill climb. And if you have a family, it does set you years back, compromises your earning power (some recent research backs this up).

    Thank you for sharing, though, a lot of advice here will be great for many career women.

    Link to this
  18. 18. heidamaria 5:41 pm 07/22/2013

    @Quantumburrito: In the article, she actually says: “In 2012 when I got tenure…” Not that it really changes my point.

    Link to this
  19. 19. dingane 5:43 pm 07/22/2013

    @heidamaria:

    You summed this up so well. If the goal is to survive an epic struggle for reasonable stability, one that you hope to achieve by the time your half way through your life-expectancy, then something is fundamentally wrong with the system. What’s odd is that you’d think academics would be less inclined to be exploited workers. Turns out they clamor for it. Strange.

    Link to original comment: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2013/07/21/the-awesomest-7-year-postdoc-or-how-i-learned-to-stop-worrying-and-love-the-tenure-track-faculty-life/#comment-9721

    Link to this
  20. 20. bobthechef 5:57 pm 07/22/2013

    I find these American solutions somewhat corny because they remind me of the way preschoolers are managed. However, let’s but that aside. First off, the academic culture you describe is rather horrid. The point of academia isn’t to spend 7 or some number of years busting your behind with an eye on some prize, or some ego trip, and then degenerating into an alcoholic because it didn’t work out. I generally don’t bother making posts that point out very fundamental flaws in the way some things are run because people seem afraid of actually confronting these things and continue about their business. However, I say the following with the utmost serious. The university is one thing and one thing only, i.e., a community of people who are interested in developing intellectually. And like any true community, it’s raison d’etre is the good of each member. There are of course various positive side effects of having a truly intellectually well-developed group of people in a society (and universities don’t quite succeed in this area; Chomsky will tell you that as will anyone who appreciates the origins and purpose of universities). Today, universities are to a large degree dehumanized and dumb. The employees don’t necessarily know that since they often have a poor grasp or a teenager’s idea of what being intellectually developed and a human being means (which at best is cliche). The mindless publish-or-perish industry, mode 2 science, a pseudo-intellectual spirit of crypto-anti-intellectualism, arrogance; these all contribute to a degenerate and obnoxious culture. This article, despite the fact that it’s ensnared in some of the badness of the current status quo, is a step in the right. You have to start somewhere. I hope that slowly there will be a reawakening in universities and in the world in general to the meaningful existence not shallow snobery. Technofetishism is but a symptom of a problem. We must inspire the sense of wonder for the timeless things, for the truth, that truly underpins academia. I don’t see it anymore. I see mutual admiration societies and competition instead of cooperation and concern for the common good. I say with with year of academic and industry experience. We’re in a bad place.

    Let’s abolish the Nobel Prize and see how many posers will abandon their posts.

    Link to this
  21. 21. professordavid 6:49 pm 07/22/2013

    Thanks to the author for her perspectives. I teach business at a smallish private university, and its a “second career” for me after a masters degree and 30 years in industry. Our emphasis is on teaching and mentoring. Small class sizes and modest academic research/publishing expectations for professors are what enable this focus. Tenure comes at the 4-year mark, and the primary factor is effective classroom teaching and learning outcomes.

    I think this article raises a more fundamental question: “Why is the academic work environment at top universities like what the author describes?” The answer is that the system has devolved to become bass-ackwards.

    What about the students paying rapidly-rising tuition to “learn?” Note how little the author talked about teaching, and isn’t that what school is supposed to be all about? But in most major universities, undergraduate teaching has largely been relegated to TAs, GAs, new professors, adjuncts, visitors, and other sorts of surrogates for “full professors.”

    Being a tenured professor is now all about researching, writing, publishing, conferencing, inventing, granting and the like, and it’s all often justified by the generally tenuous assertion that this expected activity results in being a better teacher. We’ve created a self-perpetuating system of PhD minting, hiring, tenuring, and accrediting that supports this vicious cycle which creates the burn and churn described in the article.

    Institutionalized big academia has become all about adding prestige and endowment back to the university instead of value to the real customer: students.

    Link to this
  22. 22. anotherbioprof 7:55 pm 07/22/2013

    Clearly the writer has good intentions. But she started her first job in a much better position than most of us, so inspirational advice coming from her is irritating. If you don’t get tenure, you can leave the academic track or take a job at an institution lower on the food chain. As a computer scientist, the writer could easily get a good job in the private sector. As a faculty member at Harvard, she would have job options lower on the food chain that were still rewarding. I’d take this piece more seriously coming from an evolutionary biologist or ecologist at a state school, but I think it’s no accident that that’s not who wrote it. I’m very happy with tenure at an institution that isn’t Harvard, but don’t want to think about where I’d be if I hadn’t gotten it.

    Link to this
  23. 23. southernnycer 9:59 pm 07/22/2013

    professordavid wrote: “Institutionalized big academia has become all about adding prestige and endowment back to the university instead of value to the real customer: students.”

    Actually, the BIG problem here is the word “customer.” They are consumers, stakeholders, a joy, but they are NOT customers. At my university, our newest edition of student evaluations have questions tantamount to “Did your server great you with a smile?”

    Universities have eagerly adopted a business model that is slowly but surely eroding the purpose of education. This business model, along with the quivering remnants of the 1990′s “everyone on the team gets a trophy” has made education mostly about purchasing a degree and certainly not about education. Students expect an A because they “came to every class” (this is said with a whine) and administration expects glowing reviews and high retention rates and huge class numbers.

    I relate a lot to this article and the truth is what keeps me in higher education are the students who come to learn or learn something despite themselves. I love to teach. I love the research I do. I love academia. My tenure boxes go up in about 6 weeks, and I am numb with fear and certain that if I order that floppy thing that folds shirts perfectly I can wield some order over my life. I can’t imagine doing anything else but teaching. And while I fully support the approach this author takes, she is in the ivory tower of ivory towers with a course load that surely doesn’t stretch beyond a 2/2, a travel budget, TAs, and a couch in her office (ah).

    But, I have totally tried to practice what she has done–I only publish pieces that are ready, in the best places for them, and endorse quality, not quantity. I don’t hobnob with those who might one day help me, tried (poorly) to live a balanced life, etc…. but the sad truth is that this most certainly is not a 7-year postdoc.

    It is a trial run, a marathon, one in which only 38% of the people who got PhDs in my field get to run in the first place—at the end of which not getting tenure almost certainly means you are out of the game, unhirable for another 5 or 7 year run because you got to run once and were deemed unfit. There are thousands of people lined up behind you who would happily take your spot (for less money to boot). And there is virtually no free market, real world market, I can transition into unless there is a company willing to hire me to teach employees how to think. There is a woman in my department who did get a second run with us after she did not get tenure at a 7 sisters school. A year behind me, she sadly now looks like a concentration camp survivor. I do not say this with anything but gravity and concern.

    I am rambling I know, but the point here is that 1) great that the author dealt with all these pressure as she did and 2) this is a deeply horrendous process.

    To be a successful candidate one must publish continually, present at conferences (with no travel funds), write and obtain grants, have heavy and excellent service for the department, the college, and the university (as well as the community), have excellent teaching evaluations and colleague evaluations, receive glowing letters of recommendation from scholars around the country who have agree to evaluate your tenure application, teach a 3 / 4 load with very few opportunities for release time and no graduate students (they are to busy blindly training to enter the glutted field), do advising, work with graduate students, have been a good departmental citizen (even to the guy who is famous and mean as a snake and gets paid 4 times what you do for 1 public talk a year), you have to be seen, be known, work 60, 70 hours a week (last year I actually counted a funeral as a “day off.”) You content with shared office space, no computer upgrades, no travel funds, the push toward hybrid classes ……..I could go on, but I am sure many, if not all, of you who made it this far down the comment’s section knows all of this all too well.

    34% of the people who have PhDs in my field get tenure. The number is actually substantially lower in my subspecialty. I have done well at most of the above. I hold a BA and a BA, an MA, an MEd, an MFA and a PhD (from both Ivies and state schools). I have published in some of the best journals in my field, I love my students and they love me; as does my department. And I’m still frightened. One slip, one bad vote and you’re done. And told you are in or out after your field’s hiring season and jobless in 5.5 months with no tenure track positions for a year and a half. It’s virtually impossible for most of us to think of tenure as a 7-yr postdoc. It’s a six year, full-on sprint to a finish line we all thought we had crossed when they shook our hands post dissertation defense and said, “Congratulations Dr. X.”

    Signed, Thank god I’ve therapy tomorrow!

    Link to this
  24. 24. professordavid 12:40 am 07/23/2013

    I’m afraid southernnycer missed my point and got caught up in semantics of customer/consumer/stakeholder, perhaps also suggesting that viewing students as the objects of value delivery means catering to whining, entitled buyers of knowledge.

    I view my students as fellow learners and my role as helping to facilitate their academic, social, and ethical growth. Like southernnycer, I find that a great joy. But I always remember the reason I have this great job is because they help pay for it, and thus I give them the respect they deserve–which, however, doesn’t mean feeling obligated to dispense A’s.

    Neither did I try to minimize the challenges or anxieties of the author or fellow academics. Indeed, my assertion is that today’s machine of big-school academia become obsessed with academic scholarship aimed only at impressing peers and donors, and has drifted away from the fundamental elements of school: students, teaching, and learning–all of which I think southernnycer would agree comprise the greatest part of being a professor.

    Link to this
  25. 25. slicendice 4:30 am 07/23/2013

    Thank you Prof Nagpal. Although I agree with several of the critical issues raised in the comments here regarding the article itself (especially no 22. anotherbioprof), I actually enjoyed reading this article and getting some fresh perspective.

    While the article makes for an interesting read, it presents an individual point of view that few others can relate to. For example, many female academics are single and have no children – and it is certainly not because of lack of a desire for either.

    The simple truth is that having children actually makes it necessary to adopt a healthy perspective on one’s work life. When your kids are ill and you don’t have help, you have to stay home as a parent. Period. The choice in question (ignore the child – go to work versus ignore work – take care of the child) is hardly a choice at all. To present it as though it is doesn’t help aspiring female academics.

    As human beings, our cognitive resources are limited – single or otherwise. So why does a parent who works 8 hours a day and then takes care of her kids for 4 hours a day have more of a “life” than someone who is single and devotes 12 hours a day to work. This kind of martyr-speak to market one’s own choices at the expense of others is poor form. I say this as an academic and a single mother, who has single, female and childless academics as friends.

    It is also worth considering whether the author would have ever written this article had she not already obtained tenure. Would one feel free to admit such things openly if one’s opportunity for tenure were really on the line? Would the proud sense of bravado for the so-called third option been just as brashly advocated? I am not so sure. Hindsight profoundly modifies our experiences of the past and evaluations of our selves.

    My feeling is that nothing is that black and white. Academics do not merely choose between two paths (become the science whore versus quit science). They carve their own journeys for their own reasons given their own individual pressures in life.

    It would have been wonderful to get a untainted sense of what people currently undergoing high levels of academic pressure tenure-track positions in R1 and other universities have to say. SCI-AM needs to give them a voice – that is, to those that dare to speak out.

    Link to this
  26. 26. kclancy 9:51 am 07/23/2013

    I’m flattered you included one of my pieces in your reading list at the end — thank you! I just got *your* piece passed on by a colleague. Wow. Thank you for telling your story so well. You are an inspiration! I have a few more years to go of this postdoc before we see what happens next. But I agree, I am excited by the ways in which any next step (tenure or not) will be fulfilling and exciting.

    Link to this
  27. 27. Page J 10:40 am 07/23/2013

    The author has found a good way to maintain work/life balance within the grueling system of academia, but many talented people choose to leave this system.

    Link to this
  28. 28. maddr 11:02 am 07/23/2013

    I also greatly appreciated this article, but I can’t help but notice that you say you “aim to raise kids as an equal 50-50 partnership,” then tell us you are responsible for 70% of weekday morning/evening childcare. You are still doing the majority of the childcare.

    Link to this
  29. 29. BillWW 12:09 pm 07/23/2013

    Overcoming my irritation at the word “awesomest” to comment….

    For her very first job the author landed a tenure-track spot at the #1 research university in the world. If eventually denied tenure there, she likely would have joined the ranks of fully-employed academics who also didn’t get tenure at Harvard, a school notorious for denying tenure to junior faculty. (It prefers to lure top-notch name professors from elsewhere.) Or, as she acknowledged, she could have gotten any number of jobs outside academia in a vibrant field. With Harvard and MIT on her CV, that would seem doable.

    My assumption is that the junior faculty at Harvard are all well aware of this dynamic and are more inclined than not to treat it as a “7-year post doc,” knowing that their chances of landing on their feet are relatively un-shabby. (I also know of more than one person who avoided Harvard because of this dynamic, preferring to put in their time somewhere more realistic.) I could be wrong, of course.

    So the fact that the author still got tenure while not trying as hard as everyone else (apparently), suggests that she’s not so much extraordinarily brave as extraordinarily brilliant. Harvard only hires/awards tenure to people whom it considers to be at or near the top of their field worldwide. I’m guessing they knew or sensed this about her when they first hired her.

    It’s good that she’s been able to find balance in her life. I don’t think her method applies to most others, who have to go all-out if they want a career.

    Link to this
  30. 30. dan5king 2:43 pm 07/23/2013

    This is probably my favorite of the work/life balance genre articles, and there are many wonderful points about how to be the best whole person possible, but it is difficult for us still struggling to get any sort of solid toe hold on a career path to not be a bit irritated. Yes, an academic career is grueling, but work/life balance is less of a challenge when you are an established professional at a prestigious institution than it is for a dual career couple with kids who are chasing *actual* postdoctoral appointments around the country with the pressure to find two jobs in the same place constantly present. (all while making a lot less money)

    I get the premise of treating it as a 7 year postdoc, but the author never was a postdoc, so I don’t trust her understanding of what it actually feels like to be a postdoc.

    I would have loved this article so much more if it were written pre-tenure, or written by someone who actually did not get tenure, or written by someone for whom the ‘plan B’ would be much more difficult to navigate than a Harvard/MIT computer scientist.

    Link to this
  31. 31. Cell Biologist 5:31 pm 07/23/2013

    One suggestion to add to this superb advice: When you say “no” to that invitation, offer the name of at least one other junior woman faculty member who could give a terrific talk instead of you. Organizers may have limited knowledge of other up and coming scientists and when you say no, they will automatically invite someone from the “old boys club”.

    Link to this
  32. 32. justanothergeek 6:28 pm 07/23/2013

    Very few people have 7-year long postdocs. The large majority have 2-3 year contracts. Your ‘life plan’ scenario is completely unrealistic for most postdocs. I bet you wouldn’t be so happy saying to yourself “this is just a 2-year postdoc”. Despite your good intentions with this article, it is quite annoying and borderline insulting for postdocs who struggle to build a career on 2-year contracts (many who also have a family to support). But you’re right in one thing: postdocs should not listen to YOUR advice.

    Link to this
  33. 33. Radhika Nagpal 7:47 pm 07/23/2013

    I want to thank everyone for their responses, here and through emails and facebook. I feel as though I’ve acquired a moral support group and I now have an entirely new feelgood folder to turn to. There are a lot of difficult issues, and I don’t claim to have the answers, or even the right to dispense advice. That being said, I wanted to share a few other articles and links that I found to be valuable.

    First, the comment by @garedawg #2: Thank you so much garedawg for sharing your perspective. I really hope that everyone who reads my article also reads your perspective on having these same choices, not getting tenure, and moving forward to enjoy life in plan B. I loved the whole comment, especially about not pinning your ego or life on the final answer.

    Another great article on the same subject, but written by a pre-tenure faculty member, is the article by Kate Clancy (and thank you Kate for your comment because your article was super important to me at that time and I still often reread it).

    Also, someone forwarded me this wonderful interview with a faculty member about life after not getting tenure. Again, some of the same things, but here’s the perspective of someone who never considered any other job until they were forced to.
    http://www.howtobecomeaprofessor.com/interviews/how-it-feels-not-to-get-tenure/

    And finally, at least in my world, these issues are much more pervasive than academia. But sometimes you hear about great places and people that forge a different path.

    http://www.xconomy.com/san-francisco/2013/04/23/dropcam-ceos-beef-with-brogramming-late-nights-and-free-dinners/?single_page=true

    Radhika

    Link to this
  34. 34. wiven57 8:00 pm 07/23/2013

    Thank you for a thoughtful and enjoyable read! These are issues that are constantly being discussed, often rather surreptitiously as if they shouldn’t be aired in the open, and it’s always nice to have well-written commentary that clearly comes from a lot of reflection.

    I found the comments and discussion interesting as well, though every time I read these type of online responses, I can’t help but wonder why people ever imagine that an article will manage to cover everything in a way that will satisfy everyone. Honestly, most of what was said in the articles and in the responses are not new to any academic who has thought about or discussed these issues. However, it is nice to have someone put the effort into writing their thoughts and experiences up in an engaging manner that clearly has resonated with many people. No one person’s experience is EVER going to apply to everyone. It probably won’t even apply to most people. The author acknowledges that (and that she was in a better position than most early career academics are likely to be), but she wanted to present themes that she saw as important. This is what she has found to work for her, and it provides fodder for further reflection and discussion.

    Different things will work for different people. Not everyone wants the same outcome, or will be happy with the same life. True, the system is not perfect (I’m in it, and far from happy with all of it) and has the real danger of convincing everyone that what we want IS that crazy overworked academic job. But you choose what your priorities are, and it’s ok if they’re different. You want to be that obsessed scientist whose life is career? Fine, go for it. You want to break the rules and change the system? Great! You want to find a work-life balance that works for you and share it with others? Also good. The point is, there are different routes. One is not objectively better than the others, and there is no guarantee that everyone will be happy and/or successful (note they are not always the same!) with the route they go. But you have options to try. All of them involve hard work and compromises, but hopefully, they will also bring rewards that are important to you.

    Link to this
  35. 35. cas99 7:06 am 07/24/2013

    As an assistant professor, it never hurts to praise your colleges!
    As an MIT PhD in computer science, this might work. But for anyone in the humanities and social sciences, not likely as we are often surrounded by those who mistake political fads and ideology for science.

    Link to this
  36. 36. down_under 7:47 am 07/24/2013

    Great article! I used/use a lot of the same coping mechanisms in my academic life. Basically, if you try to publish only good ideas, try to actually improve yourself, develop real relationships with real people, and take the time to cultivate creativity, then you might not totally ruin your career. I usually see a lot of people just going for the appearance of the good academic, rather than just trying to do their real best, at their best pace; i.e., the Tortoise and the Hair. But this is not what I really have to say…

    Reading the comments, I see a lot of people criticizing the current tenure/promotion system, and calling for it’s overhaul. I agree that it could be better. But the “we need to ….”, “we should …”, “if we don’t …” complaints only rely on everyone else to make the changes. That kind of stuff is for Ted.com. Highly educated people very often have one potent weapon: vote with your feet!

    I went through a very competitive post-doc market in the US and Canada; at the top institutions. Lot’s of stress everywhere. While everyone was worried about getting a job, and then getting tenure, I walked easily into a great faculty position at a top institution in Australia. Guess what: no tenure. Sure, you don’t have 100% job security, but after a pretty reasonable probation period (can you publish *a* paper? can you *apply* for *a* grant?), you can be pretty sure they won’t get rid of you. You just have to keep doing a pretty good job. What’s more, the salaries are great (12-months a year), the university supports my research and teaching just as much or more than a US institution, most everyone goes home by 5:30pm, and they have big white parrots in the city parks. I feel that if I’m going to make a world-changing discovery at some point in my life, I’ll do it here just as easily as the US or Europe. What am I missing? Well, it is a bit expensive to travel, but I mainly think that I miss out on the Buzz that comes from the US market. Too bad, great life, but just don’t expect the Big-Time Buzz.

    But up-shot is that Australia supports me enough that I feel making a jump back to a tenured job at Harvard is easier than if I’d stayed up North. Oh, did I mention they give out grants at about 5-times the rate as the US, and the students don’t whine as much? But there is that pesky issue of no Buzz.

    The funny thing is that a lot of things (but definitely not all) also apply to the UK. I’ve got a couple of good American friends who have made very enviable lives for themselves in the UK. Sans Buzz. If you’re feeling a bit down in the dumps over your job prospects, there are a handful of places around the world that would love to help. Just think outside the box a bit, and by box I mean the US. Vote with your feet folks!

    Link to this
  37. 37. katana 11:51 am 07/24/2013

    Thank you for sharing that! When I finished my undergrad years, I sat there during the ceremony and realized that I still would have been sitting in that exact same chair if I’d had more fun (read as: less than 3 majors and massive responsibilities). It wasn’t necessary. I missed out on so many of the undergrad life experiences because I was so nose-to-the-grindstone, and I already knew that I wasn’t doing EVERYTHING to the best of my ability. I don’t think one can, actually. As a grad student, I was routinely accused of not being dedicated enough, or of wanting a 9-5 job, or not belonging in science (from BOTH my PhD advisors). The problem is that I AM dedicated. I’m so amazingly stubborn that I have a PhD despite all that. I want my science to be the BEST it can be, and I don’t accept publishing data that I’m not willing to stand behind 100%. I want my work to be solid. It’s important to me. Enough so that I’ve passed up opportunities to put my name on things “just to get published.” Yet I still find myself struggling to be the perfect researcher (no traditional postdoc for me due to economics forcing Plan H), the perfect teacher, and have some semblance of a life. I can’t juggle all 3 well.
    Your story helped me realize that maybe it’s okay if I don’t follow everyone’s path. What difference does tenure make? I recently accepted a non-tenure-track teaching position because one job makes my life miserable and makes me feel like a sell-out. I can’t live with that. I took a pay cut, and potentially a career cut, to escape that pressure. Thank you for inadvertently reassuring me that maybe it will be the best move I could have made!

    Link to this
  38. 38. cjblack 9:02 pm 07/24/2013

    THANK YOU FOR WRITING THIS.

    Link to this
  39. 39. snarky 9:10 pm 07/24/2013

    Great post, although, as a 5th year PhD student teetering on the edge of leaving academia, it definitely reinforced the reasons I want to leave more than anything. I have nothing but respect for those who make it through this terrible process, I just don’t think I want to be one of them. Life is short. I like getting paid to think about my research, but at this point in my life, I’d operate a hot dog stand if it meant getting to spend weekends with my aging parents and my husband.

    Link to this
  40. 40. scienceprof 2:51 pm 07/25/2013

    Thanks for a great article, Radhika. For those of you criticizing her, I have a few observations. Nagpal is doing the work life balance her way. I (a man) and my spouse are doing it ours – that means both of us work in teaching universities with alternate times/days where we go to campus and work from home other times/days. No day/nanny care ever (sometimes with other family members/friends who live nearby for a few hours on and off), offspring go to co-op schools where we participate. 50 hours of work per week would disrupt the parent/spouse/elderly parent caretaker/community worker/hobbyist/traveler part of us (we do all these really a lot). We put much into teaching, and do research. No grad students or R1 research support/funding or expectations (we are in science/social science but not in applied science fields, where these might be insurmountable problems). So volume of publications, citations due to networking much lower. We choose interesting projects, and some of our papers have managed to advance our sub-fields (citations in definitive surveys and texts in our fields), and are known as minor personalities in our fields and recognized by some at the selected conferences we attend – so we are satisfied with our research/teaching/professional persona. Importantly, we are very satisfied with our parent/social personalities as well. This is our definition of being “whole” people, which differs in weights on different activities from Nagpal’s definition of that – but hers is hers and ours is ours. I am sure Radhika is more talented professionally than us as well, so her ambitions on that score figure. Sometimes, I am thankful that we are not that talented, because if we were, and had our personalities, it would have made us miserable. Both her path and ours are viable and good options, given one’s personality: choose and be satisfied. Maybe one day I will blog about our option for people who are more like us and will feel “whole” by taking our path. Actually, I know of at least one Harvad math PhD who was very well respected in his class who is teaching high school to do the work-life balance, and publishing on and off (and some other talented Harvard grads in teaching colleges), so that is yet another option. In sum, what Nagpal does is the most efficient work-life balance possible in a top R1 – do not go there if you wish otherwise. The otherwise can include a very satisfying and socially valuable life-profession mix.

    Link to this
  41. 41. jwest 1:54 am 07/26/2013

    @Quantumburrito Actually, it says that she became an Associate Professor in 2009, which isn’t the same as getting tenure. It’s only a title indicating that you are soon about to or are going through the process (which takes, from my understanding, at least a year at some places, because there are several different aspects to it). On her CV, in 2012, it says she became a professor with a title–that’s when she got tenure! :)

    Link to this
  42. 42. ThirdPath 7:34 am 07/26/2013

    What a pleasure to read this article and all of the very thoughtful comments!

    Yes – there are some significant barriers to finding a “balanced” or “integrated” approach to work and life in any field – whether it’s academia, law, medicine or working at an hourly wage job! But what the author has shown us, is that despite these very REAL challenges, there might be ways for each of us to push back and follow paths that feel more satisfying.

    Thanks also to “Scienceprof” for your insightful comments. When we no longer see these issues as “mothers” issues – but instead human issues, we will also be more successful finding “the right” path — whether it’s for balancing work and the care of children, an aging parent, or just wanting time for life.

    I’m the founder and president of the nonprofit ThirdPath Institute. We’ve been helping people develop their own unique paths for the last 14 years. Change isn’t easy, but change is possible. We certainly learned a lot about this at our recent Pioneering Leaders Summit where male and female leaders — all who had followed an integrated approach to work and their careers — joined us for a day of learning and celebration.

    Yes we need systemic change and good public policy – but we also need a growing group of pioneers to help inspire us to see that more change is possible

    Link to this
  43. 43. drDMJ 9:23 am 07/26/2013

    mmmm… I’ve read everything all the way down to here. I’m tempted to write my own essay, but won’t — not too much anyway :-) . At the end of reading it all my feeling is a huge sigh of “same old, same old” — and that there is probably nobody reading my comment by now anyway. OK, here goes: I got degrees (4 of them) from unquestionably prestigious universities (3 of them). From PhD I got an Assist. Prof. at a prestigious Ivy League — but it was not a tenure-track line, only a 3-year appointment. I did pretty much all the dedication things listed in Radhika’s original article and in the comments — the dedication, the publishing, the committee work, the outside lecturing and seminars, and the trying to support my wife in developing her career in, to her, a foreign country. No kids at the time, but we felt our positions were so tenuous that we couldn’t yet start our family (happily, we did later and are EXTREMELY proud of both of our children). I was especially passionate about teaching & lecturing and put my all into it. I got slaughtered. I got crushed. Just for example, in the teaching reviews students criticised me for giving them too much, ‘polishing’ my lectures and ‘preparing’ their seminar work too much; and for another example, at the end of the contract, when I didn’t get re-appointed — which was perfectly possible — every one of those who were voting on said re-appointment said they were ‘sorry’ I didn’t get reappointed, but that I’d ‘certainly had their support’. In short, some of them, a majority, were lying. I’m glad for “down_under”, but I can’t support your comment about, for example, the UK, mate. For about 2 years I applied for about 300 academic posts all over the world — US, UK, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, several African countries … and got two interviews, but no new academic teaching and research position. I eventually found a ‘Plan B’ and had a reasonably working life and, perhaps, some successes. But at the end of the day, folks, I did not get/have the academic career of teaching and doing research that I wanted so much. Retired now, it would be easy to say that I don’t care any more, but in truth, I feel that I was wasted. Egotistical? — yes. But I had things I could have given and didn’t really get to give them effectively enough. So now I do other things. Here’s one way of thinking about it, I guess: “La guitarra suena, la guitarra habla, cuando no tengas nada en la vida, oye la guitarra”. :-) )))

    Link to this
  44. 44. signalexc 1:32 pm 07/26/2013

    Very good read, especially about the part about advice. As a third year doctoral student, I have experienced more success when I have taken the initiative to get things done, as opposed to listening to advice. Not all of it is wrong, but there are those out there who might have had a negative experience in their doctoral program and cannot wait to rain on your parade with so-called “advice”. Or faculty members who think that their approach is the only one that works, and brazenly browbeat you with their own advice. I realized early that those who dispense advice do not have to live with the outcome should I follow it. So, I listen to advice with a filter, analyze it, and apply it when needed. This was a frank and honest perspective and I really enjoyed reading it. Thank you so much for sharing.

    Link to this
  45. 45. KiwiDoc 9:00 pm 07/26/2013

    Thank you ThirdPath and all the other positive and thoughtful comments. I am about to drift a bit off the primary topic. Another way in which the scientific community is abusive to its own people is the way much research is done by PhD students and post-docs. But once these people have put blood sweat and tears into their research the prospects for further employment on a reasonable living wage are minimal.

    Academia and research are so poorly funded that many have to find alternative employment. My wife after her post-doc research quit work to raise a child and then worked as an in vitro fertilization embryologist. Ten years after completing my PhD I was offered a research job with a salary about one tenth of the minimum medical doctors salary. Instead I went to medical school. After graduation I was offered a fellowship at Harvard but the pay was so pitiful that only a child of wealthy parents could afford to do it for the 5 years they wanted. Instead I have become a hospital doctor in Tennessee, which does not require much original thought and is really just a technicians job for a salary that can support my family and future retirement.

    The United States and other developed countries need to put a lot more money into research to make use of their human talent and to remain relevant in this competitive world. In New Zealand there is a minuscule tax on dairy exports that funds a dairy research institute. All industries including medicine should use this model.

    For example a 1-2% tax on all money paid out for medical care could go to a body who decides where the money is to be spent. Much of this money could go to studying drugs and treatments that do not make a profit for industry.

    Link to this
  46. 46. postdoc 12:41 am 07/28/2013

    Thank you for writing this. I’m a postdoc mom at a R1 university, and I was inspired by your article, but still a little depressed, because it sounds like you don’t really see your husband at all during the week, and never have family dinners; is that correct? I’ve read research that family dinners are quite important to kids’ well-being, plus I really enjoy them; not sure I could give them up. And it sounds like for 3 nights per week, you don’t see your kids at all that night; correct? Not sure I can give that up either. Even with all your great strategies, this career still sounds like a slog that is not feasible for many parents. I guess any job requiring 50hrs per week is not feasible for many parents (at least those without a stay-at-home spouse).

    (Do you actually work 50 hrs per week? I couldn’t quite tell. You said 50 on a good week… what’s an average week? Maybe the weekly schedule you outlined was the extreme end, and you see your kids and husband more than listed there…?)

    Link to this
  47. 47. ElleKami 9:03 pm 07/28/2013

    I loved this article, even though I’m an at-home parent. The glorification of workaholism harms us all; I watched it rob my children of their father throughout his residency in the Harvard system. For us, the answer wasn’t both working, but that’s purely specific to our own personalities and interests. I love being home (and I love it far more than I ever loved practicing law), and my husband is and will always be an obsessive perfectionist. I hope we’re not contributing to the system, just by being who we are and doing what we want to do. Our plan to achieve balance is for my husband to primarily do medical research rather than practicing medicine… a much more family-friendly lifestyle. This was our first easier year (he’s a senior fellow now) and it has been awesome. I’m with you: Weekends are a MUST for *all members* of the family! No idea how we made it through the past 4 years.

    Link to this
  48. 48. daianikochhannn 11:11 pm 07/28/2013

    Thank you for the article! This really gives me some hope!

    Link to this
  49. 49. Victorbai 2:16 pm 07/29/2013

    I should create a “Feel good” reading list, and add this post in.

    Link to this
  50. 50. muthua_sciam 10:41 pm 07/30/2013

    Hello Prof. Nagpal, I like your perspectives and sharing the travails of tenure-track, in quite intimate detail.

    I was introduced to your work, on DNA computing, through popular science book “Natural Computing,” http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/natural-computing-dennis-e-shasha/1103810560?ean=9780393336832

    I hope to read more popular science as well, as your (limited) time may allow you to share in a radio, social media, or non-fiction book.

    Link to this
  51. 51. MDuch 4:24 am 07/31/2013

    Dear prof. Nagpal,

    Thank you so much for this beautifully written article. I think it shows great wisdom and compassion for yourself and others. Even though I indeed, as you write, at first sniggered a bit at the idea of a feel good folder, I’ve actually just made one and added your article to it. Even though I’m nowhere near the level you are in academia, to me, life in a Dutch university feels much the same. And the basic thoughts behind coping are the same. As Ellekami writes, workaholism is glorified way too much.

    Link to this
  52. 52. Jean31 8:07 pm 07/31/2013

    Thank you so much for writing this! I’m a senior graduate student trying to decide what I want to do next. I just keep thinking, “how can I stay in academia and ever see my husband or have kids?” Thanks for letting me know it’s possible.

    Link to this
  53. 53. marylew 9:16 pm 08/2/2013

    While I’m sympathetic to much of what heidamaria wrote, she may be misreading the bit about the hours. The author clearly means she is the responsible parent from 6 to 10 pm on the days she does pick-up, not that she doesn’t pick up her kids until 10 pm!

    As for the person who feels that other sorts of people would have to work harder to get tenure, this is perhaps true in some circumstances, but since when is 50 hours/week plus 5 trips a year not hard work? Do you really think this is slacking off? I think the author’s point – that we need to redefine our expectations of what humans should be doing to satisfy expectations (whether of tenure, or making partner in a law firm, or any other kind of career expectations) — is important. She didn’t just coast her way to tenure at Harvard on brilliance alone; she figured out a way to concentrate her efforts and get more done in the time she allotted herself. Perhaps being happy makes a person more productive.

    Link to this
  54. 54. Corvussimo 4:38 pm 08/14/2013

    Excellent article! I was encouraged to find there are other university professors who understand what truly excellent priorities are. I was also interested to discover that I was already following most of the practices in this article. My only problem was that I didn’t get tenure, despite a solid record of student success, recruiting (yes, in my field we have to recruit big-time) creative/scholarly activity, and over-the-top service to the university. Why? Plain and simple: I didn’t do it their way. It wasn’t enough to do all I did; I had to do it exactly the way all the senior professors did it. Otherwise it counts for nothing. It seems that in academia–where creativity in all its forms should abound–there is either their way or the wrong way. So much for creativity.

    Link to this
  55. 55. romelspielberg 4:00 am 09/6/2013

    The best possible way to prepare for tomorrow is to concentrate with all your intelligence, all your enthusiasm, on doing today’s work superbly today. That is the only possible way you can prepare for the future.

    http://www.virtualstafffinder.com

    Link to this
  56. 56. StaceyBruno 2:21 am 09/23/2013

    I never believed in love spells or magic until I met this spell caster once when i went to see my friend in Indian this year on a business summit. I meant a man who’s name is Dr ATILA he is really powerful and could help cast spells to bring back one’s gone, lost, misbehaving lover and magic money spell or spell for a good job or luck spell .I’m now happy & a living testimony cos the man i had wanted to marry left me 5 weeks before our wedding and my life was upside down cos our relationship has been on for 3years. I really loved him, but his mother was against us and he had no good paying job. So when i met this spell caster, i told him what happened and explained the situation of things to him. At first i was undecided,skeptical and doubtful, but i just gave it a try. And in 7 days when i returned to Canada, my boyfriend (now husband) called me by himself and came to me apologizing that everything had been settled with his mom and family and he got a new job interview so we should get married. I didn’t believe it cos the spell caster only asked for my name and my boyfriends name and all i wanted him to do. Well we are happily married now and we are expecting our little kid, and my husband also got the new job and our lives became much better. His email is atilahealinghome@yahoo.com

    Link to this
  57. 57. mrslaura 7:45 pm 10/25/2013

    I want to specially thank Dr Wisdom of drwisdomspelltemple@gmail.com for casting a love spell that brought back my ex husband in three days i really do not know what i would have done if not for you Dr Wisdom,i want to inform you that your spell did not only brought back my ex but has also brought happiness to our lives.thank you very much for your kindness ………

    Link to this
  58. 58. michelletundox 11:00 pm 11/4/2013

    My Name is Miss Faith Mitchell.I will love to share my testimony to all the people in the forum cos i never thought i will have my boyfriend back and she means so much to me..The boy i want to get john to left me 4 weeks to our weeding for another girl..,When i called him she never picked my calls,him deleted me on hr Facebook and she changed her Facebook status from married to Single…when i went to her place of work she told her boss she never want to see me..i lost my girl as a result of this cos i cant get myself anymore,my life was upside down and everything did not go smooth with my life…I tried all i could do to have her back to all did not work out until i met a Man when i Travel to Africa to execute some business have been developing some years back..I told him my problem and all have passed through in getting her back and how i lost my girl…he told me he gonna help me…i don’t believe that in the first place.but he swore he will help me out and he told me the reason why my girlfriend left me and also told me some hidden secrets.i was amazed when i heard that from him..he said he will cast a spell for me and i will see the results in the next couple of days..then i travel back to US the following day and i called him when i got home and he said he’s busy casting those spells and he has bought all the materials needed for the spells,he said am gonna see positive results in the next 2 days that is Thursday…My girlfriend called me at exactly 12:35pm on Thursday and apologies for all she had done ..she said,she never knew what she’s doing and him sudden behavior was not intentional and she promised not to do that again.it was like am dreaming when i heard that from him and when we ended the call,i called the man and told him my wife called and he said i haven’t seen anything yet… he said i will also get my job back in 2 days time..and when its Sunday,they called me at my place of work that i should resume working on Monday and they gonna compensate me for the time limit have spent at home without girl ng..My life is back into shape,i have my boyfriend back and we are happily married now with kids and i have my girl back too,This man is really powerful..if we have up to 20 people like him in the world,the world would have been a better place..he has also helped many of my friends to solve many problems and they are all happy now..Am posting this to the forum for anybody that is interested in meeting the man for help.you can mail him on this e-mail:(DR.UKPOYANSPELLHOME@HOTMAIL.COM ) i cant give out his number cos he told me he don’t want to be disturbed by many people across the world..he said his email is okay and he’ will replied to any emails asap..hope he helped u out too..good luck his email;DR.UKPOYANSPELLHOME@HOTMAIL.COM

    Link to this
  59. 59. APLingras 3:16 pm 01/1/2014

    When our daughter got to be of school going age, I discovered an alternative approach. Kids are smarter than we give them credit for. While they don’t really know the concept of “fair and equitable” at that age, they have admirable skills in figuring out the “Path of Least Resistance” to get what they want. One day, very early in the game, I had a bright idea. What if I played dumb, stupid, clumsy in anything that needed work on my part (and, no, it did not come naturally to me – I had to work hard at it :) ) and wonderful and perfect in doing anything that was fun. So, I decided to try it out. And then in a week or so later, I overheard our daughter say to my wife in her “You are so wonderful, Mom” voice, “No, Mom. Dad does not know how to do that! Could you pleeease do it?”. It was working! And then I finally learned what “snow balling effect” is, as our daughter figured out who to go to for what and use that “I adore you so much” voice. And we parents want nothing more than our kids to adore us – and both Mom and Dad felt so adored, each in their own way :) But alas .. kids do grow up .. Moms suddenly stumble back into the sense of “fair and equitable”! It was great while it lasted!

    Link to this
  60. 60. ABlack 5:55 am 01/29/2014

    Must have been wonderful to have the chance to work at Harvard.

    Logged in as : https://www.facebook.com/buysteroids

    Link to this
  61. 61. Kristan 3:38 am 03/6/2014

    Thank you! Finally a positive story about women in science. I just created a feel good mail folder and put this article in it :-)
    Don’t know whether I’ll become a professor one day but for now I am gonna enjoy that I will be employed for another 4 years.
    a 32 year old (second) post-doc in oncology

    Link to this
  62. 62. BYWalker 3:59 am 03/12/2014

    Just wanna let the whole world know that if not for this lady i met online who used her spell to bring back the only girl i have ever loved, I almost lost her to someone else because she was now keeping distance. She said am some bully head that am wasting her time. I then met a woman whom people where talking about that she is good on reconciling relationships. She brought her back apologizing for ever letting me go. she is all that matters to me. All my thanks to this spell woman priestessifaa@ yahoo. com, She’s really powerful with her spell.

    Link to this
  63. 63. tina66 11:17 pm 04/1/2014

    Hi there to all, it’s really a nice for me to pay a visit this web site, it includes important Information.
    bathmate

    Link to this
  64. 64. staceybruno34 7:02 am 05/3/2014

    I never believed in love spells or magic until I met this spell caster once when i went to see my friend in Indian this year on a business summit. I meant a man who’s name is Dr ATILA he is really powerful and could help cast spells to bring back one’s gone, lost, misbehaving lover and magic money spell or spell for a good job or luck spell .I’m now happy & a living testimony cos the man i had wanted to marry left me 5 weeks before our wedding and my life was upside down cos our relationship has been on for 3years. I really loved him, but his mother was against us and he had no good paying job. So when i met this spell caster, i told him what happened and explained the situation of things to him. At first i was undecided,skeptical and doubtful, but i just gave it a try. And in 7 days when i returned to Canada, my boyfriend (now husband) called me by himself and came to me apologizing that everything had been settled with his mom and family and he got a new job interview so we should get married. I didn’t believe it cos the spell caster only asked for my name and my boyfriends name and all i wanted him to do. Well we are happily married now and we are expecting our little kid, and my husband also got the new job and our lives became much better. His email is atilahealinghome @ yahoo. com

    Link to this
  65. 65. SusannaLou 7:56 am 10/26/2014

    I agree with some of the commenters: justifying this lifestyle and giving tips for how to get by on “only” 56 hours a week is crazy. And it is irrational, when you consider that most people could earn far more in other fields. Earning power is important, because if you are going to give up time, then you should get money in return. With more money you can at least outsource the little things — more meals out, a housecleaning service, lawncare. That’s tough to do on an academic’s salary in a high cost of living city. Don’t forget student loans. The author of this article seems to have few of the financial constraints many in academia have. At my R1, all my travel is out of my own pocket. Five trips a year would probably be at least $6,000-8,000 a year, plus the added childcare I’d have to hire to help my partner while I was traveling. If I could spare that cash, it would certainly mean no vacation for our family. How many other careers expect business travel to be on the employee’s own nickel? And yet, if I don’t have enough of these trips and presentations each year, it hurts my chances at tenure. Also, every evening lecture or late afternoon (past five) faculty meeting I am required to attend costs childcare dollars. The chirpy idea that “attitude” can get you through this — which was essentially what was said here — is truly irritating. The author doesn’t mention teaching, or grading, or committee meetings — she also doesn’t mention kids’ doctors’ appointments, teacher workdays, or parent-teacher conferences, or their sports games or performances and how she accommodates any — even if she can’t do all — of those. But the big thing, which one commenter mentions, is that for most of us, 7 years in our 40s is a critical earning time and career development time. The risk of not getting tenure at the end of it — the risk of being mid-40s and having to start a new career, or to look for a new job that will drag spouse and kids across the country, or just to take an adjunct position and go on food stamps — those risks are just too great to think of this as “only a 7 year post-doc.” The system is F’ed up. It’s broken. It’s a pyramid scheme for suckers. Many are enticed to enter, but only a few come out on top.

    Link to this
  66. 66. carlazito 4:51 pm 11/6/2014

    At least i can say to the world that i have benefited from the powers of Dr.Adodo because through his help my broken relationship has been restored back and filled with love within 48 hours that i contacted Dr.Adodo. When i contacted Dr.Adodo i was not having an idea of what to expect but after proper explanation and i followed the instruction that Dr.Adodo gave and my relationship was reveal back, i guess whosoever that is in need for relationship help or any having any other problem can contact DR.Adodo at any time through these detail: Adodospelltemple@gmail.com or call +2348107527833

    Link to this
  67. 67. becky11 7:00 pm 11/13/2014

    hello every body my name is becky I just want to share my experience with the world on how PROPHETALUTA help me, I got my love back and saved my marriage¦ I was married for 3years with 1kid and we lived happily until things started getting ugly and we had fights and argued almost every time¦ it got worse at a point that he filed for divorce¦ I tried my best to make him change his mind & stay with me because I love him so much and don’t want to lose him but everything just didn’t work out¦ he moved out of the house because it was a rented apartment and still went ahead to file for divorce¦ I pleaded and tried everything but still nothing worked. The breakthrough came when someone introduced me to this wonderful, great spell caster who eventually helped me out¦ I have never been a fan of things like this but just decided to try reluctantly because I was desperate and left with no choice¦ He did special prayers and used his power¦ Within 4 days my husband called me and he said he was sorry for all the emotional pains he had cost me, moved back to the house and we continue to live happily nd our kid is happy too and we are expecting our second child¦ I have introduced him to a lot of couples with problems across the world and they have had good news¦ Just thought I should share my experience because I strongly believe someone out there need’s it¦ You can email him through his email.prophetalutasolutiontemple@gmail.com

    Link to this
  68. 68. Laura1 11:41 pm 11/15/2014

    I have been in great bondage for about 4 years suffering in the hands of a cheating husband. We were living happily until he meant his old time girl friend and he started dating her again outside our marriage and before i knew it he stopped caring for his own family, to the extent that he was planning to marry her and divorce me. I cried and reported him to his family members but he never listened to anyone and to cut the story short, i came in search for a real spell caster who could destroy their relationship and make him come back to me and our 2 kids again; on my search i saw people sharing testimony on how their marriage was restored by Dr. Eze Malaka and i pick his email and told him the problem that i was going through, and he agreed to help me and told me never to worry. After he had finished casting the spell, on the second day, they both had a quarrel and he beat up his girlfriend and he came back home begging me to forgive him that his eyes are clear now that he will never do any thing that will hurt his family again and promise to be a caring father and never to cheat on me again. I am so happy that i did not lose him to the girl and all appreciation goes to Dr. Eze Malaka for his great work. You are a Great spell caster and to you all that are faced with this or similar problem to this, please contact him now on extremewhitelovespell@yahoo. com or his WEBSITE ADDRESS is http://extremewhitelovespell.webs.com once again thank you Dr. thank you, thank you.

    Link to this

Add a Comment
You must sign in or register as a ScientificAmerican.com member to submit a comment.

More from Scientific American

Scientific American Holiday Sale

Give a Gift &
Get a Gift - Free!

Give a 1 year subscription as low as $14.99

Subscribe Now! >

X

Email this Article

X