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To change your name or not to change your name: Options for married scientists.

March 23, 2011

“A rose by any other name…”  Romeo and Juliet, Shakespere

What’s in a name?  This question has come to my mind a lot recently since attending LPSC.  There I noticed a lot more people with hyphenated last names, and not all of them women.  It started me wondering about my last name.  I am married and changed my last name to my husband’s about 6 months after our wedding.  At the time I was working on my master’s degree in geophysics and didn’t really think too much about the effects of changing my name.  Okay, I did think about it for a second, but I thought, well I haven’t had any real publications yet (only a couple meeting abstracts and 1 meeting paper), so what difference would it make?  Now, in my 3rd year of my PhD work, I wonder if I made the right decision.  Will it matter that, without explanation, people won’t likely put together that my formerly named self, an aerospace engineer, is the same person as my currently named planetary scientist self?  Do I need to be concerned about this?

Since this topic kept coming up at LPSC, for both Kelsi and I, we wanted to explore the variety of options available.   We heard about people who hyphenated their name legally, people who hyphenated only for a short period to let people associate the two names, people who legally changed their name but who still publish under their maiden name, people who replaced their middle name with their maiden name etc.

We’d love to hear what you think about this topic, what you decided to do, and how you think has changed your professional and/or personal life.

55 Comments leave one →
  1. October 16, 2014 10:12 am

    Where there any issues you had to face when you didn’t change your lastname? Well, apart from the questions coming from the people around you. What if you have kids and you are traveling abroad? I heard you have to prove that you are their parent, therefore, you still need to bring with you legal documents to support your claims. Thanks! Will be marrying my 5-year boyfriend soon and I do not like the sound of his lastname (sorry).

  2. Pazzizza permalink
    August 26, 2014 2:30 pm

    What a great discussion. I realize this is an old post but it is the first one I came across in my search. I am getting married soon and I am going to change my name. Hyphenating just isn’t an option (you’d agree if I wrote both last names here). I have weighed various options for what to do professionally. I have a number of papers and abstracts published under my maiden name and I am now established professionally. Here is what I have decided:
    I’m changing my name and the world can just get used to it (yes!). Since I am established in my field, people will just have to note my name change. Luckily I have an uncommon first name so that makes the change less drastic. I will still reference papers under my maiden name. I will still answer to my maiden name. I will change my LinkedIn to say Firstname Marriedname (maidenname) so that I am still searchable and I will update my list of publications under both names. I’ll make a note and add (maidenname) to my work email. I can usually input what name I want on my badge when I register for conferences so I can put (maidenname) there too so that I am identifiable. Eventually, people will adopt the new name and my professional life will continue under that name.
    All the best no matter what you decide to do!

  3. July 2, 2014 10:16 am

    I’m grateful for the thoughts and experiences shared above, but mine is a little different, so I thought I would add to the discussion. I entered my PhD program later in life and had been married awhile. I’ve always used my husband’s last name for as long as we have been married. However, my family has a long history in academics, with almost 50% of each generation either being a teacher or married to one. There are multiple doctorates in each generation. Even my grandmother, in the 30’s and early 40’s, taught at the college level and had an M.A. So I want to honor my grandparents influence on my desire to research and teach by using our shared last name.

    Since I have not published yet, I have used firstname maidenname marriedname for all of graduate school thus far. My concern with this format has been rarely seeing both names in print, unless hyphenated. I have been trying to decide whether to revert to my maiden name for the purposes of publishing, but am thinking after reading the comments above that it can be possible to have an unhyphenated double last name. So I will go that route. Additionally, when I have completed the program, I will present myself to others as Dr. maidenname lastname, as someone else suggested above.

    I wouldn’t mind having separate names for different contexts, but I think my husband would be deeply hurt if, after 19 years of marriage, I effectively dropped his name in half of my life. And feminist or not, his feelings matter to me.

    • lovenstars permalink
      July 2, 2014 8:36 pm

      Hi AK, Thanks for the comment! I think your plan sounds great! Its a great way to honor both your ancestors’ and your husband’s influence on your life. All the best to you!

  4. August 16, 2013 7:15 am

    This post and the comments have given me a great deal to mull over. I am not a scientist, but I am an author, and since my divorce I’ve been experiencing an odd identity crisis of sorts. I kept my maiden name as my middle name when I married, and that created plenty of confusion, since I can’t even get the State Department and the Social Security Administration to agree on what to do with my old middle name. The former dropped it completely, and the latter moved it to my first name. Each approach has spawned its own gigantic web of legal confusion. But when I divorced, it seemed simpler to just leave everything as it was, rather than change everything back. Besides, I had been that person for nearly my entire adult life. Why regress? Now I’m questioning that decision AND looking at the possibility of remarrying someday, all while trying to reestablish myself in the writing world after a lengthy absence. So it’s nice to hear about a wide variety of options.

    • Maribeth permalink
      January 16, 2016 9:19 pm

      Your comment from two years ago is exactly what I was looking for. I’m just beginning to publish and write online, but I don’t want to use my soon to be ex husband’s name because he may have an issue with what I write (which is more emotional than analytical). What did you end up doing? Does a pen name have to be made “legal” somehow?

      • January 28, 2016 9:21 am

        I got married last year and it was very important to me to take his last name, but I had already published under my maiden name. So socially I go by his last name, but professionally I decided to hyphenate, and now I publish under maiden name-married name. This allows people to still realize I’m the same person and gives me the flexibility to change to one or the other later in life, if I so choose. I once looked into whether pen names had to be legal or not, but I don’t remember what I found. I haven’t made it legal and I haven’t had any problems. It may have been dependent on the state you live in – but there are resources online that you can look into.

  5. July 27, 2013 12:55 pm

    At my conference last week I came across more discussion of name changing. Many people are changing their name legally if it is meaningful to their significant others, but keeping their old names professionally. Giving their children one or the other last name as a middle name is a popular option. Also, many people are attached to their names, even if logically they feel it is the right thing to do to change it.

    On the other end of the spectrum, I recently met a couple of whom neither is attached to their last name, so they are both changing.

    Every situation is unique, so it is great to see people continuing to post their stories here :).

  6. Heather permalink
    June 26, 2012 5:28 am

    I’m glad I stumbled upon this blog. I am about to gain my PhD and get married and move abroad in the next few months. I want to take my nearly husbands name in social arenas as it’s important to me to have the same name as my future family. But I really like my surname and have a few papers in my name already – although not lead author (two lead author papers in pipeline now). I would like to use both names from now on so use my surname name as a middle name and his as my new surname. I plan on using Dr myname hisname for work and for everything out of work Mrs hisname is fine. I think this is the best way I can use both names sensibly, and I too like the idea of making this clear on business cards and CVs.
    I am only unsure as to whether I should have my new legal name placed on my PhD certificate or just my maiden name, I get married before I graduate, but I have achieved it before getting married.

  7. October 13, 2011 2:17 pm

    I get married, never change legally from my maiden name, all my diplomas, profesional cards are on my maiden name. I am from another country all the information are on my original name and is part of my ancestry and is the only thing i can hold from there, i feel very happy with my decision, no confusion, sometimes i use his last name on my childrens school o other social events with no problems. My advice is do what makes you easy and happy.

  8. Fish not Planets permalink
    October 12, 2011 6:23 pm

    I’m in bio, not planetary science, but I wanted to look around the internet and see if I was “allowed” (legally and scientifically) to do what my gut reaction to my situation was – continue to publish under my maiden name, but legally and socially take my soon-to-be husband’s last name.

    I only have 4 things (soon to be 6 I hope) things with my name on them, but I plan to continue on in research and I want to keep everything consistent. I’ve even (so far) kept everything “First M. Last”. There’s nothing wrong with my last name, I like it pretty well, but I WANT to take my fiance’s last name (I can here the feminist outrage). I may be a female scientist, but I also value tradition.

    The idea of a hyphenated name or making up a new name really bothers me personally (not that other people shouldn’t – true feminism means you should do what is best for you). I guess I could deal with making my maiden name my middle name, but I would rather not. Actually, my mom did that several years after divorcing my father. She always hated her middle name. Curiously, she keeps my dad’s last name – either to match my siblings and I, because that’s what she’s now published under (she went to school after the divorce), or because it’s easier to say.

    Also, I hate hearing that ‘marriage won’t last’ because most things don’t last. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put your full effort into them and get full enjoyment out of them while they do last!

    • Shelley permalink
      December 23, 2012 7:25 pm

      Hello, I would be very interested to hear what you ended up deciding to do. I am planning on legally changing to son-to-be husbands but keep publishing and receive my PhD under maiden…. any advice would be greatly appreciated, thank you.

      • Anne MaidenLastName permalink
        April 3, 2013 7:44 am

        Hi there,

        It’s certainly a personal decision but I’m happy to share my experience.

        I did this: I changed my legal name to be Anne MaidenLastName HusbandLastName (thus taking my maiden name as my middle name) and socially, I generally use Anne HusbandLastName. I was shocked to find that this is actually traditional in my family – at least three generations of women in my maternal line have kept their maiden name as their middle name, and I think it’s a lovely compromise and way to show honor to your roots and that side of the family. It gives you flexibility to emphasize your middle name or not depending on the circumstances – when first married you might tell people your full name (which makes it almost equivalent to hyphenated and reminds people who knew you only by the maiden name who you are), but after a while you might skip saying/writing your middle name so much. Socially, this has all the obvious benefits, mainly having the same name as your husband and children, which I personally value.

        Then, scientifically, I use my maiden name. I love this. It preserved my hard-earned reputation and kept my publications easier to follow. It almost feels like a secret ‘alias’ and allows me to feel like my work and home life are separate… Anne MaidenLastName: super-famous world-class scientist by day; Anne HusbandLastName: devoted mother by night. Sounds funny, but it’s true.

        The only time this strategy is annoying is when booking flights and getting reimbursements because TSA and your HR department needs to use your ‘real’ legal name. But that has been a relatively minor issue compared to the benefits. HR sees Anne MaidenLastName HusbandLastName and within it they see the name they’re familiar with (Anne MaidenLastName) and figure it out. Booking a flight with the wrong name is a serious problem, though, so you just have to remember to tell people so when they’re booking on your behalf.

  9. keebs28 permalink
    August 1, 2011 6:39 pm

    I recently received an academic position. I never intended to change my last name at all, it’s what my PhD and all publications are in so far. However, we lost our first child and it made me realize that I liked the idea of having the same last name as my family unit. So, after 2 years of marriage, I changed my name to where my last name is legally Maiden then Married (no hyphen). Say my name is Jane Smith and married name is Jones, my legal last name would be Smith Jones. I did this so I could drop the married part professionally and not have to worry about the hyphen. I really didn’t think this would be a big deal but some people at my school are insisting that my last name is ONLY my married name (even though if you contact Social Security, it is listed that both are my legal last name) and insisting that I put it on everything (e-mail signature, syllabus, mailbox, office door). All letters are addressed to Dr. Married Last Name. I have tried to explain my position that I want to go by my maiden name professionally but some of the “higher ups” are very insistent on this. I would really appreciate some advice on how to handle this situation since I am new and don’t want to ruffle feathers but having my maiden name, the name on all my degrees and publications, for my entire career and as my professional identity is very important to me.

  10. Colleen Sorbera permalink
    June 8, 2011 4:47 pm

    How about what name to receive your degree under? I am about to get my master’s and don’t want to “lose” that if we get divorced . . . .

  11. Lillian Ostrach permalink
    April 21, 2011 12:01 am

    Hi Kate! No worries — sometimes (and I hate to admit this) I just skim the comments before writing my own. Yay dual identities — we can be superheroes! Thanks for the well-wishes; we are in a “very long engagement” and have not yet set a date (he is across the country in a well-established job, home, etc)….we kind of need to know where I go next, so to speak. 🙂

  12. Kat Gardner-Vandy permalink
    April 14, 2011 12:56 am

    I (obviously!) decided to hyphenate my name. For me, the publication issue was secondary. I had one paper at the time I got married and several conference abstracts. The issue that was most important in my decision that I want to point out here (since no one has mentioned it) is a cultural one. I love the last name “Gardner” because it is one of the only ties my family has to our Choctaw heritage. It was really important to me and my father (the last male of the family) for me to keep it as a last name. On the other hand, it was important to both me and my husband for me to take my husband’s name. Thus, the hyphenation. Our little man has only my husband’s last name, and so far, we haven’t had a problem. Similar to many women who have posted here, I just use my husband’s last name in social contexts.

    • Lillian Ostrach permalink
      April 14, 2011 1:19 pm

      Kat – I actually posted along similar lines my plans for when I do get married that are very similar to yours. Especially about the continuity of the family name. 🙂

      • Kat Gardner-Vandy permalink
        April 20, 2011 4:59 pm

        Hi Lillian! I’m sorry I missed that part of your post…my apologies! I especially love your comment about dual identities. After being married almost 4 years and now being a mother, I definitely feel like that a lot of the time. Congratulations on getting married–what an exciting time!

  13. Yolanda permalink
    April 7, 2011 10:59 pm

    I am a PhD candidate and getting married in a few months – so I really appreciate this post and would love any suggestions!!

    I want to take my husband’s last name but I am not sure how that would work professionally. Ideally, I want to take his last name only and not hyphenate, etc. I am on a few lab papers but no first author (but I am planning on submitting one soon). All the married scientists I know either kept their maiden name or were married before graduate school, so I’m really not sure how involved it is to publish under a different name (hyphenated, for example). And what do I put on my CV? I guess I am asking what is the best option professionally if I want to take my husbands last name legally. Please help!

    • April 16, 2011 6:05 am

      Yolanda, there are a large number of married scientists who have taken their husband’s last name and use it professionally. There’s nothing special you have to do, really — just submit new journal articles under your new name, and then note on your CV and web site that previous papers were published under the name ___. This can be done with an asterisk and footnote if you like; that’s how I handled it.
      Most if not all journals are set up to handle hyphenated last names; the trouble comes if you keep and use them both as a “double last name” — it’s easy for journals, indexes, and collaborators to get confused. But see Amy’s comment about airline reservation systems and such above.

      • Ogo permalink
        November 30, 2014 8:55 am

        I really like the way you explained it. This is probably what I will do. I got married after my Master’s and has 4 publications in my maiden name. I went back to school 10 years later and will be completing my PHD in 2015. I had been wondering what to do with this last name issue. All of my documents except my previous degrees are in my husband’s name. I did not want to get myself into an identity crisis situation, where I am switching back and forth 2 different last names. The only thing will be to add my maiden name to my PHD certificate, so all my degrees contain my maiden name. Then I will just keep my married last name and note publications in my maiden name where necessary.

        Thank you so much!

    • Shelley permalink
      December 23, 2012 7:21 pm

      Hello Yolanda,

      I see this post was almost a year ago and I was hoping to hear what you ended up doing. I am in exactly the same situation, 2nd year of a PhD. I have one 1st author and 2 second author publications with pretty good impact factor. I really want to legally change my name to that of my soon-to-be husbands and am thinking of just publishing under my maiden name….. but will that make things confusing? I don’t want to hyphenate.

      Any advice/ words of wisdom would be greatly appreciated.

      Thank you 🙂

  14. April 3, 2011 4:05 pm

    I kept my name for various reasons. One of which being that I’m stubborn as hell and have issues in general with “tradition”. Also my first first author publication was when I was 19, so long before I even got married and I didn’t want to “lose” my publication history. Of course now the losing of the publication history isn’t as much of a concern because I changed subfields and now my publication record overlaps with the other E. Ryan who does asteroid work 😉 So I think there are a number of reasons why in ADS we need some unique author identifier that isn’t a name besides just name change issues.

    And I’m also another one of the staunchly childfree types, so I won’t need to concern myself about my last name and hypothetical children. I must say though that I’m glad that the kids thing never had to work into the last name deliberations.

  15. Amy permalink
    March 31, 2011 9:01 pm

    Well, I had no intention of taking his name or hyphenating, but after I went from Dr. Simon to Mrs. Miller to my less illuminated family, I decided to hyphenate. Now, my son’s teachers call me Mrs. Miller, which is fine, of course. However, in this day and age of no-fly lists, and so on, I have ENDLESS trouble with my last name. Many U.S. reservations systems still can’t handle a hyphen. Pharmacies, doctor’s offices, etc., never seem to know “which name to look under.” I spend more time than I’d ever imagined trying to be found in a system or explaining why my name doesn’t match, etc. If I had to do it over, I wouldn’t have hyphenated.

  16. Gwen permalink
    March 29, 2011 12:07 am

    I took my husband’s name when I got married but still publish under my maiden name. I think this is a huge pain and really awkward under a vast number of circumstances, but I can’t think of what else I could have done. Having a common family name is important to me. And I don’t want to publish under his/my very common last name; my maiden name is more unique. But I find it very frustrating to try to figure out when to use which name, and how to keep people from being confused about who I am.

    • March 29, 2011 7:32 pm

      Hi Gwen 🙂

      I thought it was useful that you put your “legal name” in addition to your maiden/professional name on your business cards. At least it was helpful for me :).


    • April 2, 2011 10:11 pm

      Gwen, I am glad that you commented. I am currently engaged and while I am planning to legally take my future-husband’s surname because it’s important to him, I am planning to use my maiden name for all my publications. My personal feeling is that marriage is full of compromise and I want my marriage to be a partnership — but I’ve also been my maiden name my entire life and it is who I am as a scientist (up to this juncture anyway). Furthermore, it is exceedingly important to me that I somehow “keep” my maiden name once I receive my Ph.D. because of the pride I have in my family: I will be the first woman with this surname to get my Ph.D. as well as another family member of a long line of family members with a Ph.D. Not necessarily rational, but something I feel is really really important. …in any case, I look at my situation as an opportunity to have dual identities (Superhero Syndrome?): Dr. Ostrach will be the hardworking planetary scientist by day while the Mrs. will be the loving mother and wife at night. …of course, real life won’t be *that* easy, but I can pretend, right?

      Kelsi – good point! I will have to keep the business card idea in mind.

  17. sutari permalink
    March 28, 2011 12:44 pm

    I was married at the end of graduate school. Even had I not had publications under my maiden name, I would have kept my name anyway. I might have hyphenated had my husband’s name not already been 2 long confusing words! But I have kept my name.

    It has caused no trouble, though sometimes a bit of confusion. Both daycare and now (private Catholic) elementary school have managed to deal with my name being different from my daughters’ (they got dad’s last name – much to their dismay when they were learning to write!). Even their doctor’s can deal with it and there has been (surprisingly) no trouble. Their friends usually call me “Mrs husband’s name” and I don’t correct them or object. Some of their friends “get it right”. And I encourage “Ms. Susan” whenever possible and avoid the whole last name problem entirely. And like Faith, we can often tell who is calling by who they ask for! (handy sometimes).

    When I was in graduate school, there was a woman who got married and divorced. She changed her name from maiden to maiden-hisname to hisname to maiden-hisname to maiden. Phew. Exhausting. I have no idea how or if she takes credit for all those various papers… fortunately she is not tenure track, so maybe it doesn’t matter.

    I think the key is to just be flexible and not get bent out of shape when people “get it wrong”.

  18. MariaD permalink
    March 28, 2011 4:21 am

    It is great to hear that everyone has such great relationships with their spouses but one thing that struck me about changing your name after marriage is what happens if the worst happens and you get divorced? Depending on the circumstances surely it would be quite painful for some people to have to continue working under their married name.

    It is such a pain because it is not exactly the most romantic thought for a newly-wed to be thinking about!

    • Amy E permalink
      June 9, 2012 12:54 pm

      The worst is happening to me. I took my husband’s name for whatever reason and now that I’m in the process of getting divorced, I’m thinking hard about this topic. I strongly would prefer to go back to my maiden name and am worried about not only publications but my national network of colleagues that won’t recognize my name. I don’t want two different identities though…so I’m in a bind. I already have tenure and will (hopefully) be a ‘full’ professor by the time the divorce goes through, so job stability really isn’t the issue.

      Maria: Thank you for mentioning this issue. I know that this post is a year old but it is the kindest and least judgmental way I’ve seen it addressed in articles and blogs thus far.

      • Anne MaidenLastName permalink
        April 3, 2013 7:58 am

        Amy E, my heart goes out to you; hope you are doing well now, a year later. My story had thankfully fewer consequences: married at 19 and took my husband’s last name, published papers under that name (and was so excited that my whole publication record would be under one name! yay!)… then divorced 7 years later. Yes, 7 years. Yes, the affair began literally on the day I defended my PhD.

        My PhD is under my married name but that specifically is not a big deal at all (it’s not like I have it posted on my wall or anything), the bigger concern are papers and reputation – I changed my name immediately because there was no question that I couldn’t live with my ex-husband’s name the rest of my life. I was able to establish a new reputation under my maiden name – I had no choice and it was really annoying but at my career stage relatively manageable. One thing that helps is to contemplate how much of your life, and how many of your publications, are ahead of you. That kept me feeling positive about re-establishing myself: the best is yet to come. A good strategy regardless!

        It’s horrible to contemplate at the beginning of a marriage “What if the marriage ends?” so I can’t say I recommend to everyone that they think about this possibility in making their decision. All I can say is that given how things turned out, I obviously wish I’d published only under my maiden name and did the dual-identity thing I described in a comment above for my first marriage (in the comment above, I’m describing my second, thankfully stable, marriage!)

  19. Karly permalink
    March 25, 2011 11:34 am

    For those deciding on what surname to use, has a list of books on the topic. The study “What’s in a Name? 361.708 euros: The effects of marital name change” by Noordewier et al. breaks down stats on salary and workplace perceptions (e.g., of intelligence, ambition) by use of maiden name, married name, hyphenated names, etc.

    One advantage to “double barreling” (hyphenating or combining names) that hasn’t been mentioned above is that when traveling, you are likely to be seated with family and not be questioned or detained when taking your child out of the country. Disadvantage: colleagues who have gotten divorced have very difficult to track publication records, long names are unwieldy on forms.

    p.s. Kept my name; wouldn’t have it any other way. (In 2011, Japanese women are still fighting for the right to choose their names after marriage; in the U.S., that right has only been protected since the ’70s.) No professional disadvantages to this choice.

  20. March 24, 2011 8:34 pm

    I changed my name, for personal and family reasons, and I’m very happy with the decision. My husband and I have lived and worked together for so many years now, it just feels right. BUT I do have an astrisk on my resume identifying publications under my maiden name.

    I’ve heard some rumblings about ways to link the prior name on a resume, in a pub list, or in an ADSABS search. . . I’d love to hear more ideas!

    • March 24, 2011 8:36 pm

      Oh, and we’ll hold this post on the front of the blog for a few more days to encourage discussion. There will be time for the rest. (Unless anyone wants to talk about the new Women@NASA press conference images that were released last week. Whee.)

    • April 3, 2011 4:29 pm

      I actually know folks who when they got married double barrelled (hypenated) for a set period of time in publications for a few years and then published only under the married last name.

      Some fields however like bio have enough publication cross over that they have unique identifier codes for publications so you can keep track of all the papers you “own”. The arxiv server has a similar function and I’ll admit in the last month or so I’ve made sure to go through and “claim” all my papers there with my unique identifier because my last name and first initial has way too much slop in the ADS records. When I get tired of listing my publications on my website and go for the simple author search link, I’ll probably put in my astro-ph profile first because I’ll know all the papers tagged under my profile are mine.

  21. Karly permalink
    March 24, 2011 5:42 pm

    Kept my name for everything; happy with decision. Plan to give girls husband’s last name, boys my last name so we each get a “junior.” Pros of keeping name: People can always find me, professionally and personally. Globally, scientists don’t necessarily know each other well enough to automatically know X. Jones = X. Jones nee Smith when searching online for articles. Cons: When traveling with family, getting seated together is a problem. My colleagues who have children with a different last name get stopped when traveling internationally to make sure they’re not taking the kids out of the country illegally. “Double barrel” (hyphenated or combination) names get around that. But combo names get unwieldy on forms, and it can screw up 2 sets of publication records if you get divorced (among other things). Pick a short, unique name if you’re both sharing it.

  22. spacegeek permalink
    March 24, 2011 1:27 pm

    I didn’t change my name, and it has been a sore spot for my husband for 15 years! (You’d think he has bigger things to worry about but… ) I will call myself Mrs. HisLastName when I call his workplace, as different people answer the phone, and also sometimes for vendors who have been working with him. In emails to my children’s school, I usually sign off with MyLastName, Mother of Kid1 HisLastName and Kid2 HisLastName.

    I’m comfortable with all of it. I used to get upset when people called me Mrs. HisLastName, but I’ve gotten used to being called many things! LOL

  23. March 23, 2011 7:45 pm

    When I got married, I was right in the middle of starting up an astronomy outreach program, & scheduled to present at a convention later that month. So I kept my maiden name as a middle name, & added my husband’s last name. Which, growing up, I actually thought was the normal thing to do, as my mom, all my (married) aunts, & both my grandmothers had done just that. The only difference is that I use my full name in all my written communications. When talking to someone in person, I’m either Laura or Mrs. Lind, depending on the situation.

  24. Karen Stockstill Cahill permalink
    March 23, 2011 6:23 pm

    I had finished my Ph.D. and published a number of papers under my maiden name when we got engaged. One of the first questions I got was if I was going to change my name – I had no idea how to answer. I discussed options with my fiance (who is also in planetary geology and didn’t mind either way) and decided that I wanted the same last name as my husband and children. I settled upon moving my maiden name to a second middle name and taking my husbands surname as my new surname. When I mentioned this to my husband, he suggested that he do the same. So, we both changed our names and have two middle names/initials. It worked for us. In my personal life, I tend to introduce myself as Karen Cahill; professionally I publish as Karen Stockstill-Cahill. It doesn’t really matter if your publication name is the same as your legal name, and this practice helps to keep track of my pub history – or at least that’s my hope. So far, I have not noticed a problem either personally or professionally with this choice.

  25. Kristen permalink
    March 23, 2011 6:04 pm

    I’m not a planetary scientist but I come from an equally male-dominated occupation. I hope it’s okay to contribute to the discussion because I feel it extends to many occupations.

    I think this “dilemma” has everything to do with self-identification. Who are you? I married my husband in my 30s, I inherited a SIL with practically the same name and I was Wife #2. no brainer for me. We dated at the end of law school (2nd career for both of us) and I had a 10 year career before him that knew me as my both name.

    His feelings were hurt but he admitted that he wouldn’t change his name for me. I agreed not to correct school teacher when they call me the kids’ name and it’s all good.

  26. Faith Vilas permalink
    March 23, 2011 5:34 pm

    I didn’t change my last name as I got married when I was (relatively) older and had published under my name. This has made little difference, except that we know that a call for “Mrs. Smith” is often the chemical plant where my husband works, and ones for “Mr. Vilas” are usually solicitors. I recall a few couples where they took the woman’s family name – just preferred it. I think it is anyone’s choice.

  27. julie permalink
    March 23, 2011 5:17 pm

    That’s such a good question!!
    When I got married, I added my husband’s name after mine. For two reasons. First because my husband has contributed enormously to my research in many different manners, so this was a symbolic way to acknowledge his support. Also, my maiden name is very common, thus this was an opportunity to make it easier for colleagues to find my work in databases.

    Well, this was not such a good idea: first, half of the people I work with have not integrated the change. Most of the time I spot and fix the way my name is used by colleagues, but once in a while the wrong patronym is used. And then, some people believe that I started writing papers just a few years ago… Again, in my case the C. part of the name is very common, so I understand people will not necessarily make the connection between my maiden name and my full name.

    All in all, I see this as a minor problem now that Dr. C.-R. has written more papers than Dr. C, but I understand this can be a matter of concern for younger scientists.

  28. March 23, 2011 5:16 pm

    While I’m not married (yet!), my boyfriend of almost a year and I have had this discussion. I’m not going to bother to change my name, since I have a few decent journal articles with my name on them already. He doesn’t care one way or another because “it’s your name, why would you have to change it?” We’ll give our kids his last name, since his is much harder to make fun of, and give my last name as their middle names.

    • Kristen permalink
      March 26, 2011 8:00 pm

      Just a thought for you – my husband’s daughter from his first relationship bears his last name, and her mother has always had trouble with school and doctors and such because they have different last names… You may reconsider hyphenation or taking his name for that reason if you guys are definitely planning on having kids.

  29. Megan Elwood Madden permalink
    March 23, 2011 3:43 pm

    I got married at the beginning of graduate school with no previous publications. As a pretty ardent feminist, I wanted to keep my last name in some form. My husband wanted to have a joint family name that we could share with our future kids. We briefly discussed becoming the Maddwoods. Like many things in marriage we compromised. I officially took my husband’s last name, then added my maiden name as a 2nd middle name. Professionally I use Megan E. Elwood Madden and introduce myself to students as Dr. Elwood Madden. There have been some snafus with publications showing up as M.E.E. Madden, but I plan to put a note on my tenure portfolio explaining how to look for me in ISI and GeoRef (I heard a rumor once that you could contact them to have it changed, but I haven’t done it yet…) Since both my husband and I are both faculty in the same department, it has become an advantage to have slightly different last names so the students can tell us and our mailboxes apart.

  30. March 23, 2011 2:41 pm

    I would like to hear some acknowledgment of the existence of female scientists who are not married. This post makes it sound like we don’t exist. We do, and many of us are very happy with our lives the way they are. Not everything relating to women and science has to do with marriage and children.

    • Anonymous permalink
      March 23, 2011 3:06 pm

      Laurel, have you looked at most of this blog? I find it hard to understand you comment when there is so much posted here about women in science in general–have a look at the recent posts on the right. Though on occasion there are posts about balancing relationships and/or families, that’s not the bulk of the discussion here.

    • Kristen permalink
      March 23, 2011 6:09 pm

      Laurel, I’m sorry you feel that way about this post but I hope you don’t feel that way about the whole blog. Every situation in life has its unique challenges. I remember it was socially acceptable for my married male colleagues to leave at 3:30 THREE times a week to watch a kid’s soccer game but I got in trouble for leaving at 5:45 (after an 11 hour day) to attend law school classes. Offer to contribute a post here!!! Please. You have things to offer to this group.

      • April 1, 2011 5:38 pm


        Sorry for the belated response. A close friend of mine died last Thursday unexpectedly, and my attention was elsewhere.

        I absolutely do not feel this way about the whole blog! My issue is more with the fact that almost every “women’s” group, regardless of profession or interest, seems to default to the issue of marriage and kids. For example, groups on women in politics always presume women come from a different place as men because we are “wives, daughters, and mothers.” When I speak to strangers on the phone, whether it’s customer service for electronic equipment or someone soliciting money for a charity, they always address me as “Mrs.” There is an inherent assumption there, likely not conscious, that single and/or childless women by choice do not exist or are somehow disadvantaged, at a time when more people than ever are choosing single lifestyles.

        I would love to contribute to the group. Do you recommend any particular topic?

    • Karen permalink
      March 23, 2011 6:32 pm

      I agree with anonymous – many of the recent posts have nothing to do with balancing work with marriage/motherhood. But this blog is for all women in planetary science (and beyond!) and, for some of us, these issues are pertinent. I don’t think an occasional post regarding such topics is unreasonable. If a given post is not of interest, one could just skip over it.

    • March 24, 2011 8:30 pm

      Absolutely you do, and your contributions are valued. Would you like to post on the blog? I’d be happy to help you do that — just send me your post or email me at susanniebur at nieburconsulting dot com and we’ll talk.

    • astrodel permalink
      March 21, 2012 9:19 pm

      I understand what you are saying. For a long time I was single (and personally, I wanted to- and still plan to- have kids), and it was frustrating to feel ostracized for being single, when you already feel ostracized as a women, in certain cases. I often feel that a lot of ‘women in science’ issues are social based (networking, mentors, communication styles), and that is often not discussed as much.
      I do agree that family issues are important, especially when a women follows her husband career-wise because of age, and because of the clicking tock. They may be relevant to me soon! However, almost every women in science event I have been to (except for the one today, ironically) has been largely about family and kids.
      Thanks for sharing your opinion, you are not alone!

      • Lisa permalink
        July 25, 2013 1:47 am

        Hello all

        I realise that this thread hasn’t been live for over a year but I feel compelled to write a thank you to you all for this discussion. I have two doctorate degrees in my maiden name and a few publications. I also have tenure. I am now engaged and facing the decision about my name. It’s been so helpful to read about so many different ways of approaching this.

        It is important to me to be my husband-to-be’s wife and for me that involves taking his name. On the other hand, I’m attached to my maiden name. I feel it forms my identity of the past 30 years.

        I like the idea of having my maiden name and married name legally, although I wouldn’t hyphenate. I have previously thought that being one name at work and one at home would be too confusing. But I feel reassured by those women scientists that have posted here. I think this is the solution I’m likely to go for.

        Many thanks again.


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