Recently, I was an invited participant to a prestigious scientific convention for the brightest shining early-career stars. I was flattered of course. It is fun to meet with scientists from every discipline, and hear interesting talks, and meet new people. I like conferences, and am always on the lookout for good science and kindred spirits.
The registration form contained the usual spaces for poster title, research abstract, brief biography, and birthdate. With year. This last bit I left blank.
The conference organizers—smart people—would easily see that one of the reasons I’m such an exemplary early career person—all those accomplishments!—is because I’ve been “early career” for (-ahem-) 15 to 20 years, depending on how you count. And at either bound, it was not an early start.
I'm afraid I'd be kicked out. Or perhaps added to the panel tasked with discussing "Old-Fart Science."
If you normalize my accomplishments to my years-at-it, I am not at all exemplary, but simply a working scientist who divides her time among research, teaching, service, family, friendships, occasional recreation, and sleeping and eating.
Why am I perceived as early career when I am actually much closer to menopause?
Here are my top 3 ideas:
1. I’m short, but not without gravitas. Excuse me. Gravity.
2. I use the word “awesome” liberally when talking about science that I think is awesome.
3. Perhaps it’s the pink glitter I use in my hair.