Monday, June 11, 2007


Today, it's just me alone in my office. My office-mate is not in this afternoon. I have no meeting with my advisor scheduled. Even if my advisor and I had planned a meeting, he might just blow it off, which is what said advisor did with both of our meetings last week. No message, no note, nothing--just a no-show, leaving me hanging with an unfinished paper draft and lots of questions.

Sometimes this alone-ness can be a real drag. All the energy and enthusiasm I had this morning has drained for want of stimulation. I was pathetically grateful to nice Professor P. for exchanging a few words with me in the mailroom, when we were trying to un-jam the petulant printer.

But as numbing is it is to hear only the sound of one's keyboard, often interactions with one's colleagues are a real bummer. So it was last week at morning coffee, when I had a magazine about women and science tucked under my arm. I didn't intend this magazine for a discussion piece; I just happened to go straight to coffee after checking my mail. One harmless male, trying to make conversation, asked what was in the magazine, so I gave the highlight--a report of consistent bias against women at a prestigious university that's an important employer in our field.

Of course, this prompted a knobbish, irksome male student to expostulate that all discrimination against women was in the past, and now we're just waiting for women to move up the pipeline and fill senior positions. So I tried to explain how the pipeline leaks, and proportionally more men than women advance at each career milestone. The discussion went downhill from there.

I don't know what possessed me to engage with Knob Boy at all. It was entirely predictable that I would just expend energy and get frustrated, while his mind would remain firmly unchanged. This whole story, though, is just to illustrate the catch-22 that exists in my little slice of academia. Working completely alone is, well, lonely, but being around one's colleagues is sometimes worse.

What to do? Go to Graduate Women's Group every week, look forward to my next visit to nice collaborators in SoCal, and finish my degree so I can get out of here.

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