Unleash the introverts

Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, has started a company called Quiet Revolution. Their mission: “To unlock the power of introverts for the benefit of us all.”

I can get behind that. I am unambiguously an introvert. Class participation? Bane of my time in school. Open office plans? Makes me grateful that I work from home. Being a mom? Simultaneously the most wonderful and most exhausting thing that has ever happened to me.

In her widely viewed TED talk, Susan argues that a third to a half of the population are introverts. And yet, our schools and workplaces are designed for extroverts and so our introversion becomes a disability. And even more damaging, we’re taught that introversion is undesirable.

Interested to see how much awareness QR can drum up and whether changes will happen. Many of us learn to survive and succeed in an extroverted world. But what if we – and those around us – learned to embrace our introversion? What could we achieve then?


Five years

Five years since my defense.

Five years of bumbling, stumbling towards where I am now.

I’ve learned the importance of serendipity. Every step of my career since leaving the lab bench can be attributed to a chance encounter. None of my positions (editor, freelance writer, PR professional) were positions I set out to find.

There was a time when, bitter and frustrated after several years at the bench, I regretted my decision to pursue a Ph.D. But over the last five years, my degree has opened doors for me. And although sometimes tangential to the job, my training and experience has more often than not provided me with the tools and confidence to do the job well.

I would be lying if I said there weren’t times when I have thought the degree worthless – particularly in those hours spent crafting a placating email to an angry author, proofing a newsletter for the fifteenth time to try and catch the errant comma, or wrestling with Word to re-format a document to match someone’s exacting specifications.

But there are other moments that make it worthwhile – for example, realizing I could finally read a neurobiology paper without stopping at every other term, receiving an excited email from a grateful scientist who had just read my write-up of their latest paper, and watching a script and animation I had written and developed come to life.

I am confident I am not wasting my Ph.D. I am making the best of it.

Wanted: new blog name

I no longer like the name projectsteph, but I can’t think of another apt name for this blog. Until I think of one, [insert clever science blog name] will have to do as a placeholder. Any suggestions?

(Lack of) women in science

Thursday was International Women’s Day. The Lancet published an article discussing women in science and medicine and recounted the inspiring story of Utako Okamoto.

The article also contained statistics showing the drop in the proportion of women in academic science as we move from university graduates to professors – statistics that are very familiar to most of us.

The last European Commission’s SHE (statistics and indicators on Gender Equality in Science) figures in 2009 showed that in the 27 countries making up the European Union, 59% of university graduates are females but only 18% of full professors are women. …

Similarly in medicine, a recent survey by The Times newspaper found that despite 42% of British doctors being women, less than a quarter of clinical academics and only 14% of clinical professors are women. Worse still, some university-based medical schools have no tenured female professors in their research departments.

I find myself in an uncomfortable position with regards to the issue of women in science and academia. I am one of the many women who left the so-called pipeline. In fact, not only did I leave research and academia, I went into science writing and editing, where in many settings, it is the men who are outnumbered. As an editor, I worked on a team with one man and six women. I now work in PR, where my main team is comprised of one man and eight women.

It is worth noting that both these teams were and are led by a woman. Looking at the more senior positions, however, I suspect women may again be underrepresented.

I am where I need to be with regards to my career. But it makes me a little sad sometimes that the career move I made is not helping the gender gap in academia.

Updates to projectsteph

Made some quick updates tonight:

* Added the two synopses I wrote for PLoS Biology to the writings page.
* Updated the link to the Stowers Report on the writings page. The Stowers Institute recently launched their redesigned site.
* Made some other minor tweaks throughout the writings page and the about page.

2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog. If only they could help write my other posts as well.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,900 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 48 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Wishing everyone the best for 2012!

Alive! And renewing my commitment to this blog

Well, so much for posting at least once a month.

What happened? I got a new job. It’s been difficult to find time to write.

I am committed to maintaining this blog though, so that means revisiting how I write and when I can write. Blog posts will need to be shorter. I will have to write whenever and wherever I can squeeze in time.

For example, I wrote part of this post while waiting in a hair salon. And I am finishing it while sitting on a plane, on my first extended vacation since starting the job.

So what’s this new job that’s been keeping me so busy?

Oops, that’s the plane door closing. Looks like the description of the job will have to wait for another blog post.


View from my seat as I am writing this