Academics

 

Every time you communicate your research you will receive some form of feedback.

It could be excellent, direct feedback: go change X.

It could be bad, direct feedback. Think about what/where the issue is and address that. You don’t have to do exactly what they say, but you should modify so they don’t have that same feedback again.

It could be people looking bored and tuning out: figure out where they get bored then work on communicating that, so they don’t get bored next time.

It could be confusion. It is your job to communicate in a way that does not confuse people.

 

You’ve spent months (or years) of your life on this, and they need to understand in 10 minutes. Be generous to whoever you are communicating to.

 

You will receive contradictory advice

Two people you respect will tell you opposite things.

Your supervisor will want you do something in Week 1, so you do it. Then in Week 3, they will question why you’ve done that very thing they asked you to do, and tell you to remove it.

It will sometimes be frustrating.

Sometimes it will be amusing.

Often you will think “why have I wasted my time doing what they wanted when they are just changing their mind?”

 

There is no one way to deal with this.

Some useful ways to deal with it are to think about theory and measurement:

What is the rationale for what you’ve done?

Can it be better?

Do you want to do things this way?

Is this something you know a lot about?

Is this something your supervisor has thought about carefully, or is it a flippant remark?

 

Choose your battles. Aim to make your research better and your life easier*.

 

The Adviser

Avoid:

Thinking your supervisor is the greatest, smartest person, and the ideal academic.

All supervisors have good and bad qualities.

Idolising can limit what you try to achieve.

And when there is an issue, you are likely to either harshly blame yourself, or feel immensely let down.

Thinking your supervisor is awful [for whatever reason]**

 

 

And your supervisor is not an enemy because they don’t do what you expected or wanted.

They sometimes have more to do than is humanly possible and something has to give. Sometimes that is you.
Or maybe there is a learning process you need to get on top of.

Clearly see your supervisor’s strengths and weaknesses

Utilise their strengths.

Either give room for weaknesses, pester them, or go to someone else who can help you on those specific issues.

E.g.:
Excellent with feedback, but terrible with responding to emails:
send reminder emails or talk to them in person more frequently.
E.g.:
Great with networking and introducing you to people, but doesn’t provide a lot of feedback on drafts:
Get a few other people to review drafts before sending to your supervisor

Engage in scholarly conversations

You will learn how others see the world. This will help you to communicate your own research.

You will also hear about research you wouldn’t have otherwise known about. Every now and then, this will have important links with your own work.

 

Scholarly conversation is what creates a scholarly, intellectual environment. Otherwise, you may as well sit at a computer at home***.

 

 

 

But

Sometimes people act like dicks.

Some people are dicks.

 

YOU WILL EXPERIENCE SEXISM, RACISM, AND OTHER BULLSHIT BEHAVIOUR.

It shouldn’t be in research, but it is.

Yes, it is so fucked up.

 

You need to not only mentally survive sexism/racism/other but

succeed in a world where “academic” is associated with tweed jackets.

Yes. Intellectualism is symbolised by clothes worn almost exclusively by white men.

What are some signs of sexism/racism/other in academia? (apart from overt shit…)

  • “that’s the way things are done here”
  • “Person X is just like that”
  • “you’ll get used to it”
  • Comments on your figure
  • Comments on your relationships
  • Comments on your hair
  • No female leadership (e.g., lecturers or professors)

The other side of this

is people traditionally thought to "benefit" from sexism, racism etc: white men

Often they are assumed to have knowledge, abilities, and a capacity that they do not yet have. This can be a crippling pressure: are you going to let down these people that have put their faith in you?

It can be hard to not get swayed by the pressure of others to be “the next Professor WhiteMan”. What if you don’t want to follow that path?

 

It is clear Impostor Syndrome**** can interact with these instances of sexism, racism, etc.

 

As a new generation of academic, you need to help to implement change, so we can remove these unfair and unequal pressures/experiences.

Did you get hit on?

Remember in high school when there was a girl dating a college guy and he seemed so cool? Then you got to college, and the college guy dating the high school girl was the biggest loser?

Same for university. Any PhD, postdoc or professor hitting on someone junior to them is likely a massive loser. They have also probably tried it on others

 

If that person is hitting on your and making you feel special, they have tried the same thing on many others. Don’t feel special for their attention.

If a person is making you feel uncomfortable because of your gender/race/other, that is their fault.

You shouldn’t feel uncomfortable for existing at work.

 

Reporting

If you want to report, do it.

If you don’t want to report, that’s ok too.

 

Prioritise your needs. Not the university and not the others in the lab, and not the person being sexist/racist/other. Universities have been notoriously bad at handling this type of thing.

 

Remember: It is wrong. It is not your fault

 

How can you overcome this?

Be intelligent. Be emotionally mature. Be respectful (most of the time)

Connect with people who aren’t sexist/racist/other

Make others aware of the behaviour you endure. A lot of people don’t notice. But we all need to be aware. We all have a responsibility to help fix it for ourselves and others

Be confident in yourself. And harshly judge others for their inappropriate behaviour. This harsh judgement is not only deserved, but will also help you dismiss their comments / behaviours and feel ok within yourself.

Also, rant to a close friend so you can get it out of your system. Do not rant to everyone. Then build from it to become even better than you already are.

All of us are affected by sexism, racism, etc.

Most people in academia are great.

It is a wonderful community. You will make friendships that define you.

You will learn more than research

 

They are supportive, kind, and respectful people. You must reciprocate their support, kindness, and respect.*****

 

 

*Ok, these are often opposing. Still...
**Unless your supervisor is abusive, sexist, racist, etc. Then they are awful.
***Don't do this
****A fun read ahead
*****Too many footnotes