Tuesday, September 20, 2005

New Kids in the Hall - academic sprogs

For various reasons it is timely to consider children and academia...

I have some close or passing acquiantance with a fair fraction of US astro departments, and some notion of not a few physics or physics/astro departments.

The collective attitude of those departments of faculty having children ranges the full spectrum from "ah, the Good Old Days of monk scholars", through "have you thought about the impact on your career", to "we don't want to know", all the way to "you're on your own with this".

For female scientists it is generally worse (though overcompensation may provide a few helpful spots).

I don't think I could say I know of a single department where children are actively welcomed or accommodated, much less encouraged (this is a time dependent statement, sensitive to changes in small numbers of personnel).
Further, anecdotally, I don't think I can think of any science department which proactively welcomes children of faculty. Biology, strangely, seems to be even worse.

I have heard, that this is not universally true in academia, and that there are departments who are actively welcoming and helpful. Not surprisingly, many of those seem to be "human development" or "nursing" departments, where there is actual professional interest in the process.

So, anyone, anonymous or public persona: care to offer up an example of a department that is proactively welcoming or helpful to faculty who are having children or have young children?

It is a somewhat strange attitude for a profession whose long term prospects are critically dependent on the abundance of teenagers...


Anonymous jfaberuiuc said...

We had a session at last year's NSF post-doctoral fellows symposium that touched pretty heavily on this topic (it's on the minds of a large percentage of us). From what I remember, most of the speakers thought that youngun's were a managable situation, but I am drawing a blank on what they said of their respective departments. I know Meg Urry from Yale was invited to speak about that issue specifically, but for the life of me I forget what she said about Yale and the other places she'd been. She's certainly a good person to ask, in any case.

4:42 PM  
Blogger Adam Solomon said...

Interesting you mention Meg Urry--she's one of the "better ones" when it comes to this issue. I know she was extremely enthusiastic to work with me, until she found out I didn't have any physics background. At which point the whole thing fell apart :)

Anyway, here's an example of a child-friendly department. An astro department at that. I work, as I probably mentioned, at AMNH. I can think of at least 5 researchers there with little kids (from baby to 7 years, maybe)--and it's a relatively small department--and I saw all of those kids quite a few times over the summer. They'd very often bring the kids just to hang out in the office or the Perkins Room (our little library, where the undergrads and I worked) and at wine every Friday afternoon, there were often kids all over the place. Maybe it's just an unusually child-friendly department?

P.S. What was Dr. Urry talking about exactly? Having young kids and being in the department, or integrating older kids (like myself) into research? I know she has a husband who works one building down in the bio dept. so if they have kids, I'd imagine they spent quite a bit of time on Yale's science hill....

11:53 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home