Sunday, November 30, 2008


I'd like to know what genetic mistake left me with absolutely no appreciation for girly footwear. It's not just that, since my feet are "special" and have always been so, I can't wear any type of heel without enduring some serious pain. Even with that specific genetic issue, you'd think I might appreciate other people's shoes, or think they were cute, or even wish I could wear them myself. But no, I look at things like the Naughty Monkey line and I cringe inside, wondering what crazy person would want these monstrosities (although, if I was going to try a monstrosity, the name of that brand would likely lead me to try them first).

And so, I wear flats (usually relatively boring ones), and have no shoe fetish, and am one of the few females I know without a significant shoe collection (I generally have one pair for each purpose). Maybe that will bring me some pity from someone, but I'm fine with it. Until I'm asked to measure my science by the hotness of shoes. In which case I can only say that shoes have nothing to do with it.

As a field scientist I've always had the good fortune of combining work and travel; I spend a lot of time in 'exotic' places doing things that other people would probably pay a lot of money to do. And sometimes when I'm forced to actually be a tourist that annoys me, because I'm used to being more integrated into the local culture and I know when I'm being an annoying foreigner - this is far less avoidable when traveling as "tourist" instead of "researcher." Sometimes the scientific questions I'm examining aren't terribly fantastic, but when you put the name of a far-away country at the end people seem to pay more attention.

When I made the move to SLAC, and hell even when I was just thinking about applying to SLACs, I worried that my research areas might be out of reach, and I would have to find something new and local to focus on - I just can't answer the same questions in North America. However, I've been pleasantly surprised to find that SLAC might end up being an even better place to pursue my personal research than I had hoped:

- My students are only in my classes, or in my research group, because they want to be. Teaching is so much better when the information is desired instead of forced down their throats.

- SLAC is far more generous than I expected concerning research money, especially student travel (which was going to be my biggest obstacle).

- SLAC has a fancy machine that I couldn't get access to as a grad student at R1U. I'm now gathering some preliminary data on this machine, which I can use for FREE. This is completely insane from my pre-SLAC viewpoint, where using this machine would cost me lots of money and probably require extended time in a national lab. Now I can take the next step on some of my dissertation work without any grants or red tape, and if things work out the data might take some of my fieldwork in an entirely new and exciting direction.

- Much of my work is multidisciplinary, which gets me points from administration and gives me a much wider net to cast for potential students and collaborators. I'm hoping to get something local set up this spring working with colleagues in other departments.

Half a year ago I was accepting this job, worried that I was saying goodbye to travel, important research questions, and funding. Instead I find that I have too many opportunities, minimal stress regarding publication or grant-writing, multiple funding opportunities within SLAC, and free unlimited access to high-end equipment. I'm looking forward to taking over my subfield with an army of interested, well-funded undergraduates. And I'll be wearing hiking boots.


Shannon said...

I have developed a bit of a love for shoes over time. Since my work involves sitting around talking all day, and dressing nicely to do so, pretty shoes can be part of the uniform. They don't have to be, but they make it nicer. :) And frankly, the Naughty Monkey shoes are hideous. I think pretty, girly shoes do not have to be hideous girly monstrosities. Or maybe I haven't developed my shoe love as much as I should I have. In which case, I'm totally fine with that.

T said...

Huh. I have one of those pairs of Naughty Monkey shoes and am now contemplating a second pair (on sale for $18!!). But I'll refrain... who needs sandals when it's snowing out? Maybe for xmas...

By the way, heels are something you have to get used to. I don't really understand WHY anyone would subject themselves to it - some women I guess like the look. When my life was more fancypants and heels seemed more de rigueur, I got so that I could wear them all day with no discomfort - now, I find it to be hell.

EcoGeoFemme said...

I suspect my mentor at my undergrad U had similar feelings. It was not technically a SLAC but was similar to one. She has been able to keep up a decent research program with undergrads and a handful of masters students. She always shows up at conferences with a trail of undergrads behind her. I really admire this because it would have been so easy for her to throw in the research towel when she arrived at that university. Her encouragement was what got me into research in my field and I bet it will invite others in as well. Hats off and good luck to you!

Liberal Arts Lady said...

Yeah, I tried heels when I was first starting to go to conferences...maybe I just didn't try hard enough, but heels are the devil. Also, my feet a freaky. So I like to blame them regardless.

EGF - I can only hope to do as well as your (and my) mentors have done. Getting some of my perspective back after having been immersed in a research U is definitely making me more optimistic.