Monday, January 22, 2007

I picked up this little nugget of news while working in west Texas last week:
The professors that I discussed in the last post had written letters of recommendation for a brilliant student of theirs who is applying to PhD programs. The student already has guaranteed full-funding from an external institution, has great grades, an established research record and a very clear idea of what he wants to do in his research. This guy should pretty much be a lock for any place he applies to: a brilliant, highly motivated, FREE student.
The only problem, apparently, is that he is of Persian descent and has a traditional Persian first name and surname.....
One of his top choice schools (an institution that will go un-named on this blog, but, suffice it to say that what hapened is not a HUGE surprise considering the school's reputation) sent the student a rejection letter BEFORE receiving transcripts and letters of recommendation. Either he said something extremely offensive in his statement of research interests or his name was offensive enough for this particular university. Arrgh.

Inspiring Scientists in Service to Society

I spent last week doing some research at another university here in Texas. The scientists I was working with are both amazingly active in education, outreach and promoting minorities in research and the sciences. As such, they are dedicated to helping their former students in thier future careers and write many letters of recommendation for students going on to grad schools and jobs in the private sector.
All of the above is not necessarily new or surprising--it's part of a professor's job description--but it was so inspiring to see how they, a husband and wife team, put their beliefs and passions into actions. The have successfully created a working model for exciting inner-city youth and minorities about science and geosciences. For instance, in their former home in New Orleans, they partnered with their university to begin a project searching for illegal slave graveyards using shallow geophysical techniques. Such an amazing example of how science can be made accessible and interesting to a population that is so often overlooked.
In their new home in west Texas, they are teaming with local high school students and undergraduates to search for tunnels dug by Mexican immigrants under fences and rivers along the US-Mexican border.
I think the most inspiring aspect of these projects is not only getting young people and underserved minorities interested in geosciences and sciences in general, but introducing future scienctists to the importance of using techinical expertise and scientific knowledge in order to serve society.....definitely ideas to carry with me as I build my own research career.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

One for the money

Greetings internet surfers and procrastinators at large-
This is a blog about navigating the in's and out's of graduate school--more specifically: the in's and out's of being a female PhD student in a typically male-dominated field (geosciences). I plan to use this blog to record my experiences throughout the entire process of receiving my PhD degree:
writing publications, taking those dreaded qualifying exams (mine are in April (gasp!!)), generally getting people to take me seriously as a scientist, entering the competitive world of academic job searches, my life as a grad student in general, etc.

I hope to (maybe) inspire fellow aspiring scientists, at least by reassuring some folks that if I can do it (and I hope I can!) they can do it; create a broader network of women and minorities (and those white boys interested in diversity issues) in the sciences; make myself practice my writing; and generally create another way for me to put off the things that I am supposed to be doing in order to post them. (I think therein lies the primary contradiction in starting a blog of this nature...but, I'm a young, female geophysicist with tatoos, so, eff it, I'm learning to embrace those contradictions).

So, thanks for being willing to begin the journey of acheiving official "Pretty huge Dork" status with me, cuz we all know what "PhD" really stands for...