Sunshine Blogger Award Q&A

sunshine-blogger-award.jpgThe Sunshine Blogger Award is an accolade given by one blogger to another in recognition for work that they find creative, inspiring and positive. We are tickled and humbled to be nominated and have been enjoying peeping all of the other recipients in this network!

The rules of the award are:

  • Thank blogger(s) who nominated you in the blog post and link back to their blog.
  • Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you.
  • Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.
  • List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog.

Last week Sweet Tea, Science was nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award by the fabulous Science Femina!

Tess, the woman behind The Science Femina, is a California native working and pursuing a graduate degree in Chemistry at California State University, Fresno. Her experiences partnering with countless outreach organizations to promote diversity in STEM translate nicely to super helpful blog posts. We love that she is writing about her experiences in order to guide and motivate future generations. Some of our favorite posts include: From JC to UC to MS Degree and You Can’t Do It All And 4 Things I’m Doing Instead. Also be sure to check her out on Twitter and Instagram.

The Science Femina asked us the following questions: img_2392

How did you come up with the title of your blog?

We wanted a name to tie together our southern roots and our love for all things science. We both grew up in the woods of Kentucky and met in undergrad at Western Kentucky University. Also alliteration is something we highly value. We used to have separate blogs (Always a Scientist and Practical Ecologist) but we found working together on a single project was more enjoyable because it gave us an excuse to spend more time together and explore what we could create as a team!

When did you realize you wanted to be a scientist?

MB: I always was a fan of exploring outside and reading a lot. In high school and college the STEM related courses were where I could really wrap my brain around the topics. To be honest I’m still figuring out what sort of scientist(/statistician) I want to be when I grow up, but I really like all the paths and options that are available to me through these fields of study.

RDW:  I’m super fortunate, in that both of my parents are scientists.  My Mom and Dad both have BS degrees from the University of Kentucky where they studied in the College of Agriculture.  Having two science nerds raise you on a farm gets you hooked on ecology early. I knew the names of the trees in our back field before I knew the names of all the states.  That, paired with the obnoxious amount of PBS nature documentaries and Zoobooks I consumed as a kid pretty well sealed the deal. Starting college, I actually thought I wanted to be a microbiologist, because cells are amazing.  However, when we hit the ecology section in the intro bio courses in undergrad, I realized ecology brought together my passion for the outdoors and my long held desire to be Jeff Corwin.  And here we are.

What motivated you to go into the sciences?

MB: Passion and curiosity. And a lot of support from others. I was motivated to pursue statistics more seriously after my M.S. coursework. It seems like all of the most useful courses I took were either statistics or statistical coding. So I eventually decided that I’d have more opportunities as a statistician who’s versed in ecology than an ecologist versed in some statistics.

RDW:  I really like to understand how things work, and I like complicated problems.  Ecology is the field of study I chose because of its infinite complexity paired with its importance to global health.  I’m motivated to keep working because I know my small contributions will increase our understanding of salt marsh conservation and I’m inspired by the contributions my peers are making in their own areas of ecological investigation. 

What inspired you to pick your current university/location?

MB: The Statistics department at Penn State was actually the only full on statistics department I applied to when searching for PhD programs. After visiting Penn State during a recruitment weekend I realized just how many opportunities I’d have to do some really awesome research still within the biological fields. It definitely helped to be surrounded by lots of parks and forest land after nearly three years in the desert of New Mexico. It’s been a tough journey but I’m really glad I came here!

RDW:  My undergrad mentor mentioned to me once, a little off hand, that UC Davis was a great place to go to study ecology, so I had been intrigued with the program for a long time before I even applied.  I was rejected from all the graduate fellowships I applied for my senior year of college (#ShareYourRejections), and the career soul searching that followed lead me to an MS at CSU Long Beach.  My adviser there, who I feel blessed to have met and learned from, brought down a guest speaker from UC Davis.  He seemed really kind and had work that overlapped my interests. When it came time to apply for PhD programs, I remembered the words of my undergrad mentor and how nice Ted had been when he visited CSULB, and the rest is history.  I feel so lucky that this string of events brought me to one of the most amazing, challenging, and supportive academic environments I can imagine.

Have you ever been hindered by being female in the science field?

MB: I have been privileged and lucky to have some very supportive mentors throughout college and graduate school. I’ve been able to see some badass women kicking ass in these fields and that representation cannot be underestimated. I’ve also at times felt very self-conscious about how I’m perceived as a woman in certain spaces. It can be frustrating to hear people in your field dismiss ideas of feminism or spaces/events that are centered around supporting women. I try to be mindful of what I can also do to help other women and underrepresented minorities to feel like they belong in STEM.

RDW: Like Meridith, I feel very lucky to have had lots of strong women in my corner as I’ve moved through my career as well as some really great male allies.  That said, I think a lot of my imposter syndrome is tied up with internalized sexism, which is often reinforced by microaggressions that are prevalent throughout many STEM fields.  So, while I feel fortunate to have never experienced someone outright telling me I cannot do something because of my gender, I have certainly said that to myself in my subconscious, and I would love to re-coupe the emotional energy it takes to hope over these mental barriers and use if for something that would benefit my career or bring me joy.  

What is your favorite part of grad school or your career?

MB: Finding those really amazing, supportive people that are also going through this wild ride. They make a lot of the hard parts bearable. Find your people. Support them. And let them support you.

RDW:  I really dig the flexibility and the freedom to follow my interests!  I also really love the mental stimulation of hanging around lots of other folks who are passionately following their curiosity.

What is the hardest part of grad school or your career?

MB: There’s so much uncertainty throughout grad school. Am I going to pass these exams? Am I smart enough to make it in this program. Why isn’t my code running?  It can feel extremely isolating at times. It’s hard not to be hard on yourself when your research isn’t progressing as you’d hoped or if you see others around you having an easier time. You have to be really sure that a PhD (or MS) is what’s best for you and what you want to do with your career.

RDW: The last year has been the hardest part, because I’ve been dealing with grief.  Other than that, I’d say self-doubt has been the most difficult part. Finding good mentors and peer mentors really help with this part.  We hardly ever give ourselves a fair shake.

If you had to change your career what would you pursue?

MB: My PhD Plan B is moving in next door to Rachel and her husband. We’ll have a shared backyard. With a pond for our turtles. I’ll open an online plant shop and just hang out all day in my garden or exploring. Basically I want to be retired? Y’all think the others will agree to this if I do the dishes?

RDW: I would be a writer if I couldn’t be a scientist.  I recently found a folder deep in my hard drive with like ~40 thousand words of a dystopian novel middle school/early high school Rachel was writing.  Obviously, my writing desk would look out into mine and Mer’s shared backyard so I could watch her putter around in the garden.

How do you maintain a work-life balance?

MB: I’m very lucky that both my husband and I have such flexible schedules. We try to spend time together in the mornings and evenings. I’m also getting much better at keeping my work contained within the “work” hours of the day. Planning in advance what I want to accomplish each day/week/month is super helpful to maintain my sanity. This planning is not just work related, but also what I’d like to accomplish with my fitness, stuff at home, mental health, etc.

RDW:  One of my mentors prefers to call these “work life compromises,” which I think is apt.  Some periods of my life are more work focused (like right now when I’m living away from my husband teaching and finishing my dissertation), and some seasons of life are more life focused.  I am committed to taking designated periods of rest each year. My husband and I almost always go on a vacation each summer, even if we don’t go far. I turn on that out of office email like it’s going out of style.  I also try really hard to get over the graduate school guilt and work very little over the holidays. I live far from my family, and it’s important to me to be present when I’m in the same physical space as them. On the daily, I prioritize exercise, I sit down at the table with no phone to eat dinner with my husband as often as I can, and I go on long walks with my dog.

What’s your favorite part about blogging?

MB: I love love love working on this blog with Rachel. It gives us a creative outlet separate from our graduate work and through it we get to meet so many amazing people on Twitter/Instagram/Tumblr. Y’all are the best!

RDW: I love that I get to flex my writing muscles outside of the scientific writing paradigm.  And my favorite part about writing is getting to create the type of content I want but can’t currently find.  It makes me feel like I’m making a difference in my own way.

What’s your best life advice?

MB: Your health is the most important. Treat yourself kindly even (especially) when it is hard. Reach out and speak up when you want/need something.

RDW: Always be a little bit kinder than it’s necessary to be.  This applies to how you treat/speak to others and yourself.  

We nominate the following bloggers:

  1. Finding Delight
  2. A Short Scientist
  3. Woman Meets Academia
  4. The Graduate Perspective
  5. Melissa Cristina Márquez
  6. The PhDepression (not strictly a blog but they def deserve loads of recognition)
  7. Anna Boegehold’s Adventure Blog
  8. Trading Waste for Abundance
  9. Dr of What?
  10. Wanderlustingk
  11. Fancy Scientist

Our 11 questions:

  1. How do you take your tea?
  2. What motivates you to blog every week (or as often as you blog)?
  3. What’s your favorite way to keep in touch with folks that have graduate/moved away?
  4. Where would you like to travel to next? Is it for work or pleasure?
  5. How has a mentor inspired you to take a risk? Or how have you inspired yourself?
  6. What is your favorite post you’ve written? Link that post! Go you!
  7. What is your favorite post someone else has written? Link that post! Go them!
  8. Where do you do your best blogging work? What sort of environment?
  9. What is that one productivity tool (app/website) you enjoy using for your blog?
  10. What is a big career challenge you have overcome?
  11. If you could only read one book, over and over, for the rest of your life, what would it be?
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