Monday, January 30, 2006

On the paucity of (Sg) women in Grad School; Jorge Cham

A continuation (somewhat) from the previous post. Both online higher education sources that I follow on a regular basis reported today of Stanford putting in place a new childbirth policy intended to encourage more women to pursue advanced degrees (targetted primarily at PhDs). MIT also has a similar one, and that was used as a prototype for Stanford's.

It is designed to partially ameliorate the intrinsic conflict between the ‘biological’ and the ‘research’ and ‘training’ clocks for women graduate students. I guess the late 20s/early 30s is the crunch period for the majority of us. Most graduate students do not finish their Ph.D. programs until this time, and it happens to coincide with the important decision to start a family (if you are married; if not you probably want to seriously start dating). Many do not have children in grad school simply because of limited financial support. The stipends we receive are meant for one person only, and for most it is only slightly above the poverty line. (I hear that the humanities students are basically living hand-to-mouth.)

Many of my (JC and BS) female peers I have spoken to have this mistaken notion that PhDs lead primarily to a professoriate position, and then the problem of the tenure clock comes in. For engineering, tenure decisions are made on average 5 - 7 years after entry to the assistant professor rank. This has yet to take into account an additional 2 years for post-doctoral research. For the women who leave halfway for pregnancies this would definitely have a negative impact on their academic careers. If they wait too long, they either have to give up the chance of being a mother or go for adoption or undergo expensive fertilization treatments which may or may not work.

S, a close friend, on why she didn't consider grad school after her bachelors: In other professions, you leave because you find better opportunities elsewhere. In academia, you leave if you are a failure (no tenure). And besides, I do want to have a life (in both sense of the word) you know. Ouch.

For those who choose to go into industry, it ain't any much better. But at least many companies (here) will still consider your application if your PhD is recent and skill-sets relevant.

Guess I won't be seeing that many (Sg or otherwise) women at the grad level anytime soon.

Someone was asking me why there aren't that many male grad students dating women outside of school. 2 reasons:

a) Grad students earn much less relative to what we could have had if we had chosen to work after getting our bachelor degrees. Dating is expensive you know.

b) Outsiders don't really understand that we can be working in our labs 24/7. Although I think junior i-bankers and housemen also have similar workloads.

Edit: Another anonymous source has tipped me off on this article in Nature.


Addenum (Jan 31): Now that you mentioned it,

Here's the (most famous) cartoonist ever

Jorge Cham
Jorge Cham

and the lecture he gave while touring various US campuses

Inside the Brain of a typical Grad student

Go attend it, if he's coming to your school. Guaranteed to be worth your while skipping classes/lab research for that 1 hour of laughter.


P said...

Were you answering my question? Haha. Well, in response, yes, dating can be expensive, but that's a sorry excuse to use. A lot of my grad school friends are dating outside their academic circle - there are women who do go for sexy brains than money you know. Haha.

Anonymous said...

Volume 18 No 12 December 2005

Page 7


A new type of battery that runs on urine looks set to bring its inventor financial success. The battery, which could be used to power disposable diabetes test kits, could be on sale within the next three years. It was invented by Ki Bang Lee, an engineer who received global media attention after publishing details of the battery in the Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering (15 210) in August. Reports subsequently appeared everywhere from Der Speigel and National Geographic to the BBC and Business Week.

Lee has now resigned from his research post at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) in Singapore and set up a company to commercialize the technology. He plans to manufacture the batteries himself or licence the technology to other companies. Lee is already being courted by venture capitalists and private firms keen for a slice of the action.

The battery consists of a strip of filter paper containing copper chloride (the cathode), sandwiched between a film of magnesium (the anode) and a copper layer. When a drop of urine is placed on the magnesium, capillary forces drive it onto the filter paper. The urine then reacts with the copper chloride to release electrons that flow into the magnesium layer and onto the copper.

The credit-card sized device, which can be contained within a plastic coating, generates a power of about 1.5 milli-Watt when connected to a 1 kilo-Ohm load. It could be connected to a suitable biosensor to monitor the composition of, say, a patient's urine or blood. Although there are many medical test kits on the market, these generally need an external power source, such as a traditional battery or a laser.

Lee invented the device in the summer of 2004 while working as an independent researcher in his native Korea. He patented his invention in September of that year, before joining the IBN a month later. Although he was an employee of the lab when his paper was published, he is unhappy that the IBN sought to take credit for the device in a press release that it issued at the time.

"I decided to resign to get more freedom," says Lee. "If people recognize that I am the inventor and owner of the battery, I hope more venture capitalists and firms will contact me."

Matin Durrani

See also:

smazh said...

Haha, I read the PhD comics as well! Have been a faithful reader for quite some time now, but doubt Jorge Cham will ever come to this campus

L'oiseau rebelle said...

Actually, most of the (math/science/engineering) male grad students (or recent grad students) I know are attached to / engaged to / married to women outside of the academy.

Ce n'est pas impossible.

Although, a large number of the grad students in this sample are from the same lab group, which I am told is not representative of grad students in general or even the department.

Interestingly, most female grad students I know are attached to / married to men in the academy.