Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Ponderings of a PhD: Women in Science

Tomorrow, the publication Science, is hosting a live chat on the topic "Do female scientists get a raw deal?" check it out starting at 3PM EDT here.

The chat, focused on often hot topic of inequality of the genders in academia, features the author of a recent study carried out at Yale University. "Science Faculty's Subtle Gender Bias Favours Male Student" which was published in last month's PNAS. (PubMed ID 22988126) If you don't have access to the publication (like I do as a UofC student) let me give you a brief run down.

~120 faculty members from departments of Biology, Chemistry and Physics were given an application from an 'undergrad student' who was interested in a lab tech type position and hopefully eventual graduate studies. The trick was, the student did not exist, it was a complied CV Resume made for the purpose of the study, and it was submitted to half the faculty under the name John, and to half under the name Jane.

So here's were things get interesting, despite receiving applications identical in everything but a male vs female name, on average, the faculty members were more likely to hire the 'male student', thought them to be overall more competent and deserving of mentorship. Additionally, they were offered higher starting salaries.
 (Moss-Racusin CA, Dovidio JF, Brescoll VL, Graham MJ and Handelsman J (2012) PNAS)

The paper is a solid, and interesting read, I highly recommend, if you have access, and male or female you give it a read. But I have to say, this has me alarmed. As a female student, I really don't like the idea that there's a bias such that male students are more likely to receive mentorship than me. That means that I'm set back long before the choice to have kids, and take mat leave gets a shot at my career. (See what I've had to say about women in science in the past).

So check out the live chat tomorrow.... already there are some interesting comments happening in anticipation. Particularly one which suggests that part of the reason women have less success is because we aren't as good negotiators as men. This might be the fact in a somewhat related side note, I've been invited to the Young Women of Influence Evening Series next month, featuring:


Who will be talking on the topic of negotiating your career. I am thrilled to have been invited on a media pass to attend and blog about the event afterwards, and would recommend any other young ladies in the Calgary area who are interested to check out the event and consider attending.

So that's what I've been pondering today...have you ever felt held back by your gender? In science or otherwise? What do you think needs to change to avoid this in the future?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Today I: am back to class, and learning NMR

OK, so I just had to share this real quick, because it`s got me feeling a little like this kitty:

SO I`m doing a PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, so it stands to reason that I might have to take a couple graduate level biochem courses, tonight I have the first lecture of possibly my last class ever. The topic for the evening, metabonomics and pharmacology. The papers assigned to read in advance feature a lot of techniques, and a lot on NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance)  of which I previously know very little about... having coming from a physiology based undergrad (not biochemistry). The moral of this story is, in reading one of these papers I came across this sentence....and subsequently feel like the above cat.

``An NMR spectrum of biofluids can be thought of as an object with a multidimentional set of metabolic coordinates, the values of which are the spectral intensities at each data point, and the spectrum is therefor a point in a multidimensional metabolic hyperspace.``
 (Lindon JC, Holmes E and Nicholson JK, 2006)

So there you have it.....hopefully tonight`s class goes better than the reading of the papers did... looks like I`ll be working double time this semester.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Sometimes science isn't all it's cracked up to be. Experiments can go exceedingly well for months at a time, then suddenly stop working all together with seemingly no explanation. My project is challenging me right now, and not in a good, makes you thrilled to be doing science kind of way; but in a makes it hard to even want to come in to the lab in the morning kind of way. So what I need is some motivation.

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