Thursday, April 26, 2007

Household duties and mathematical life

Here I try to focus on my work as a mathematician, but of course I also have the duties of every normal human being. In particular, today I spent quite a lot of time doing my laundry with an unfamiliar machine, and even more drying it with very mysterious objects (a real waste on a dry and sunny day).

As part of my lesser duties to the mathematical life, I went to lunch with a group of colleagues, and attended a really good talk by a young member of the Institute I'm visiting.
I have a long-standing prejudice that dutch mathematicians are trained to become really, really good lecturer: it goes back 20 years now, and the counterexamples (if any) are few and far apart. Today's talk confirmed the prejudice: it was very clear, extremely well organized, and managed to finish quite on time.

I received a sad email telling me that one of the top two applicants for our forthcoming postdoctoral position has accepted a (much better) offer somewhere else. I must admit not being too surprised, since I thought he was way too good for us; still, I hope the other outstanding candidate doesn't vanish the same way.

I have started studying a very beautiful book that a colleague has lent me: unfortunately, the library here doesn't have it, and as usual buying it will take at least two weeks. Of course had I been staying in the US I would have gotten it tomorrow (and cheaper too). It is part of the work for the project with UCo, and might help me understand what is really going on. At least I'm learning a beautiful piece of mathematics, something that a research scientist rarely has time to do (that might actually be a good topic for a detailed rant one of these days).

I also did write a couple more pages for the paper with WS, which hopefully is really going to be ready any day now.

WS and I are also discussing a much more serious issue, namely if we want to stay where we are or try to move to a different country. We both agree that in the country we are now we are in an optimal situation, but the question is whether somewhere else we could live better. Of course I am scared as hell at the thought of moving a whole family, have the kids get used to a new town/school/language etc, learning to fight with a different burocracy, and in general moving to a country with a lower precentage of female mathematicians (basically any move will have that effect).

On the other hand, as professors it is hard to move once you are 50+, and WS, despite looking like a teenager and for some things reasoning like an 8-year old, is not that terribly far away from the half-century mark. So if we want to go it better be soon, and whatever move we make is very likely going to be the last one. It is kind of comforting that I am not the only Female Science Professor entertaining similar thoughts of moving as a mid-career academic couple.

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