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2015 Susan Niebur LPSC Networking Event Summary

April 13, 2015


Photo by Heather Dalton

Many thanks to all the participants (120!), volunteers, and supporters, especially LPI and DPS, for making the annual Susan Niebur Women in Planetary Science Networking Event at LPSC a great success! The format of table discussions enabled us to cover a wide variety of topics in a short amount of time and to share experience and strategies (some highlights below). As always, the positive energy of the group was inspiring!

If you have any feedback, suggestions, and/or would like to help coordinate future events, please let us know.

–Zibi, Nicolle, Kelsi, Sarah

Careers Outside Academia, Kate Craft and Ingrid Daubar:

  • There are many rewarding opportunities outside of academia. Examples brought up at the table:
    • being a liaison between science and engineering working on cross-over projects
    • space policy
    • working at a research institution
    • private industry – example of Earth-oriented remote sensing company
    • science writing
    • museum curator
  • Choose what makes you happy, not what you feel pressured to do. It is not failure if you leave academia.
  • Because most scientists are trained in academia it may take some work/creativity to get exposure to different opportunities, but it is worth the effort.
  • You will have multiple marketable skills after you get your Ph.D.

Teaching at a 4-year college, Jennifer Anderson and Melissa Strait

  • Have the opportunity to work with teaching majors to help teachers teach science better wherever they go after college
  • About 30% of our students go on to master’s programs and many of the rest end up with jobs in industry (mining or environmental), state agencies, or as teachers.
  • In addition to teaching, advising, and committee work – you may have a research expectation – both for your own professional development and for getting undergrads involved in research
  • So you may have a heavy load, but you also have a steady paycheck.  You don’t need to write grants to survive.
  • Jennifer: “I also feel that I am making a difference every day in the lives of my students.  I am very passionate about science education and Science-For-All and I love that I get to teach all manners and levels of students about their Earth and their Universe.” For more info/advice feel free to contact Jennifer at

2 Body Problem, Brad Thompson and Molly McCanta:

  • Raise concerns early and be flexible
  • Networking can be key
  • If one has been offered the ideal situation, consider what would it take for the other person to be happy – good for both parties to discuss their expeacations/desires/plans
  • There are many variations of the problem, so it takes some effort to find a solution, but it can still help to hear what worked for others!

N-body Problem, Cari Corrigan and Michelle Nadi:

  • Child-care grants (e.g., DPS)
  • Swap conferences, take turns

Managing Stress, Britney Schmidt:

  • Recognize stress, adjusting living environment, the people you surround yourself with, to prevent high stress from becoming routine
  • Your goal-posts will be constantly moving, so be sure to acknowledge your accomplishments
  • Exercise helps reduce stress, but is hard to fit into a busy schedule, so it helps to make it routine
  • Also remember reducing stress is hard! It takes time to work on reducing stress, so don’t beat yourself up if your stress-reducing steps don’t go perfectly

Social Media/Professional Career, Noah Petro:

  • Use wisely and proceed with great caution, respecting collaborators and sources of funding
  • Consider it to be living breathing version of your resume
  • It can also be a source of networking, information about jobs, if used wisely

Proposal submission and review process, Sarah Noble:

  • Include in future workshops: how to do good reviews of proposals
  • Consider having online proposal writing workshops
  • In proposal, are you describing work sufficiently? Divide work into small bite sized chunks. Allocate FTE, enough time to get work done?
  • Ask program manager for debrief – this is your resource
  • Ask senior members to see their proposals and feedback.
  • Childcare options should be considered to facilitate having women on review panels.
  • Volunteer as a panel executive secretary (grad students) or panelist – as a reviewer provide well documented reasons for your review.

Impostor Syndrome, Louise Prockter, Zibi Turtle, Elizabeth Fisher:

Education and Communication (E/PO), Jennifer Grier:

  • Why do we do E/PO? Some of the reasons that were discussed at our table:
    • We have a responsibility to communicate our science
    • Those who have funded our work are entitled to hear our results
    • We can be role models for students interested in science
    • We can share our enthusiasm
    • We can encourage diversity in the sciences
  • Attitudes in general culture have shifted, although still room for improvement.
  • Good Idea/Solutions:
    • Good for all ages, genders, etc. to conduct EPO, although it requires careful time management to coordinate EPO among other responsibilities
  • Encourage those involved in E/PO, however small, to do some kind of evaluation to track their impact and effect. Collect this data in an open repository to show that E/PO is an effective means of changing minds and teaching about STEM.
  • Continue/expand outreach at nontraditional venues such as ComicCon (“science is about communication”).
  • Point people to existing resources. Check out and for activities, videos, community, tips and more.
  • Your thoughts! Please help us continue to add to this conversation!  Contact Jennifer Grier (jgrier ‘at’ if you’d like to contribute your ideas and thoughts.

Negotiating a New Position, Karly Pitman and Kelsi Singer:

  • First Post-Doc: Have someone with experience look over offer letter
    • Duties, stipend, healthcare, tools (new computer? lab?), authorship
    • Ask for copy of Grant Proposal à what science you’re doing, status of grant (pending?, #yrs)
  • Other things to negotiate: time off, start time, working remotely, office space, can ask for bridging funds for pilot studies, writing proposals
  • Practice negotiation in small or large ways whenever you get the chance (could be as small as for asking things you want/need at a hotel) – this way you will get used to some of the uncomfortable aspect of negotiation
  • If you are asked to state a number, don’t give order of magnitude answer if you don’t know
  • Your attitude when asking for things matters – you are asking for it because you want to be effective at your job when you come there – “This will help me succeed because…” – (not threatening like “If I don’t get this, I won’t…”)
  • Worst case scenario – get no for answer. No different than if you didn’t ask at all.

Special thanks to all of the table mentors, Cecelia Leung, and Pavithra Sekhar for taking notes and helping with pre-event organization.

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Photos by Sarah Noble

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