Wednesday, April 7, 2010

start playing Alanis...


Monday night, I spent about an hour talking to two of my girls about the work I do in my lab (this after traveling and getting back to my room at about 9:30 pm and trying to eat dinner, get things cleaned up and hoping to get to bed by 10. ha. hahaha. I'm such a joker).

I start drawing on the white board on my door, drawing lots of pictures, and talking about the intra-erythrocytic development cycle, or the IDC (sounds really complicated, but it's not that bad...the parasite the causes malaria (Plasmodium) has to live inside red blood cells (intra means inside, erythrocyctic means red blood cell)---so the IDC references how the parasite matures inside red blood cells:

The black things are Plasmodium; the clear-ish purple things are your red blood cells. (funny enough, I was looking for a picture of the IDC and found this one on wikipedia and thought it was perfect; simple and clean. then I checked the licensing to make sure I could publish, and realized that it was made by my labmate. Excellent).

All in all, even though the timing wasn't optimal, it was great to have a girl majoring in architecture and a girl majoring in math at my door talking about a science they know very little about beyond the basic biology class they are required to take here at MIT. It's very satisfying...I love having an intended audience in front of me and tailoring the science to what they know and filling in the gaps with what they don't know. I mean, that's what science is all about. I'm certainly ignorant about many things, but all I need is the right person to explain it to me. And for the rest of my life, I want to be that teacher, that explainer, for all things biology, to anyone from age five to eighty-five.

Then yesterday morning I go into lab as usual and the guys let me know that tomorrow is documentary night (yeah, we're cool like that. potluck documentary night >>> going out to bars). I sighed and said, "Sorry guys, but I'm holding a questions-about-graduate school panel for the girls in McCormick tomorrow night---but have fun!"

No sooner do I say this then I get the email that I did not receive the NSF graduate fellowship. For the reasons of (and I quote...here's where you cue the Alanis):

"You state that you are interested in science policy and that you will take classes in this area. You also state that you have been involved in some aspects of science outreach previously. However, the application would be improved if you were more involved now in such activities."


Ouch.


So there are a couple of issues with this:

--Apparently I don't understand the words "science outreach." Or I'm just terrible at showing that hey, I actually care, and hey, I get things done. And that is my fault as a writer and as an applicant. Kind of hard, especially since four of my peers reviewed it, saying it sounded like "me." That's what I want. In some way, the selfish "screw the man" part of me wants to be myself no matter what for these applications. If you don't like what you see but will totally buy someone's shameless self-promoting, I don't want your money anyway. [and, to be clear, this is NOT an attack on my friends who have received this award (who I am super proud of!), nor on my reviewers...it is just an observation of my own work, my own writing, and how my writing is perceived]

--What do the reviewers thing these activities are that I should be doing? Just because I haven't taken a policy class yet I am not actively "doing" anything? I mean, I have seven semesters at least, plus summers to take a policy class. Cut me some slack. Additionally, GRT-ing is something that is a non-academic position and therefore not included on my application at all, nor given any mention in my application since I had just started the job less than a month before the application was due...and smaller events that I hold in McCormick are the grass-roots version of encouraging female scientists to go on in their education to graduate school in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) ---well, I'm sorry if that doesn't fit your bill of broader impacts and science outreach. I've also already given notice to my PI that I'll be working with Women's Initiative next January to talk about engineering and math to high schoolers for a week. So, what part of broader impact does my life lack?

And really, at the end of the day, I don't care about the money or the prestige. But I do care that something I strongly believe in and I work towards every day of my life being judged as simply a "fair" effort or of "fair" quality. It's really...disheartening.

I still have the dream that ten years from now I'll be presenting at TED as a biologist and engineer-by-training talking about how to bring science into daily life, how to be curious, how to ask questions...how to make mistakes, get messy, and learn a heckuva lot about the world around you.

But there are a lot of ways to get to that place, and just because one thing doesn't work out doesn't mean my life's dreams are a shambles. Far from it.

Now, on to finding other grants, planning a class to teach this summer, and doing the dishes. (probably in reverse order; but you get the idea).

1 comment:

Rachel M. Slough said...

You inspire me. Way to go, and keep it up :) You're doing amazing things.