Are babies career-killers for women? for men?

I’m female. I’m a student. I’m in science. I want a professional career. I think I also want a baby or two in a decade, when I’m in my mid-thirties.

But, the question then looms: will I be professionally derailed by motherhood, like everyone says? I’m thinking right now, the answer is yes, but not because of work/life balance.


I found some articles, and they bring up really good points:


“ex-Cornell University researchers Shelley J. Correll, Stephen Benard, and In Paik found this:

In a 2007 study, they found a pervasive and significant bias against mothers in the workplace, no matter how qualified or productive they are. First the authors had participants rate equally qualified female job candidates—some mothers, some childless—on the basis of fake résumés that contained clues about their status. They found that the mothers were perceived to be less competent and committed to their jobs than the single women, and the mothers were less likely to be hired. Those mothers who were hired were offered salaries far lower than single female candidates with the same qualifications. The authors also had the participants rate equally qualified male candidates. The fathers were rated as significantly more committed to their jobs than the single men. Fathers were offered much higher pay than non-dads, too. “


What the heck…


and more importantly, this article made some good points:

“In a study with kindred results, subjects were asked to read files of fictitious applicants for positions as an attorney. Among the male applicants, fathers were held to lower standards than non-fathers…

Fathers could get hired and promoted, in other words, even when their performance was worse than that of men without children. (Kathleen Fuegen, Monica Biernat, Elizabeth Haines, and Kay Deaux. 2004. Mothers and Fathers in the Workplace: How Gender and Parental Status Influence Judgments of Job-Related Competence. Journal of Social Issues.)

In another study in which subjects rate files of fictitious applicants, the benefits of fatherhood were many. (Shelley J. Correll, Stephen Benard, and In Paik. 2007. Getting a job: Is there a Motherhood PenaltyAmerican Journal of Sociology.)

Applicants who were fathers were rated significantly more committed to their job than non-fathers. Fathers were allowed to be late to work significantly more times than non-fathers. Finally, they were offered significantly higher salaries than non-fathers.

Why do fathers get ahead?

Does fatherhood bring out the traits we value in a good colleague? At the very least, it seems that fatherhood enhances the perception of highly valued social skills. This is what Stephen Benard and Shelley J. Correll report in their article Normative discrimination and the motherhood penalty from Gender & Society 2010.

Compared to men without children, highly successful fathers are perceived as significantly less hostile, as more likable, and warmer. Parenthood enhances the perceived interpersonal qualities of male but not female applicants. Fatherhood is a signal of positive interpersonal qualities.”


And the major points that I think are rational and look at things far more analytically:


“As we learn about the enhanced careers of fathers, we realize that a difference work/life balance cannot possibly be the explanation for slower careers for mothers. Fathers have a different work/life balance than their childless male peers. Yet that doesn’t slow them down.

Even if mothers spend more time on childcare than fathers, fathers nonetheless spend more time on childcare than non-fathers. If women are slowed down in their careers by the actual effect parenthood has on their daily lives, then we would expect to see the same effect slowing down fathers as compared to non-fathers. But we don’t.”



Neuroscientist to Software Engineer

I found this blog, and thought it was very enlightening. And I have to agree with the list in many respects.

I myself have trained/am training as a neuroscientist, but I have found myself recently gravitating towards the idea of picking up software engineering. I think it would enhance my research (the whole cognitive/behavioral applied to computational neuroscience thing), but I also think it would develop my analytical skills more. Plus, if anything, it opens job opportunities for me. I recently picked up Python, since some computational neuroscience work deals with python, and I’ve been hearing about Python being good for science research. And my plans are to go from Python to MATLAB to C, C+ and C++, and then maybe move on to other things. Idk yet.


But, at any rate, I wanted to share this blog:

View story at

Planning and the Comfort of Control

So, I’m a planner. I love making schedules, planning out the next year of studies, finances, etc. I love doing that. So much. In fact, I look forward to creating spreadsheets on Excel and planning ahead.

And so I’ve been thinking: why is that? What’s it about planning that I like so much?


I think it gives me the feeling of being in control. If I know what’s ahead (supposedly, considering my schedules are always changing. I don’t know how many times I’ve modified my budget spreadsheet this past year), it makes me feel more secure. I think it’s all about feeling in control, having power over your life, and even if you have to change schedules/plans, it still gives a sense of being in control. I wonder if that’s a good thing, overall, this sense of being in control. Because, ultimately, you’re kinda not. So is having this illusion of being in control a good thing?

Or maybe it’s nothing, or little, to do with control and everything to do with how my brain is wired, and that’s all there is to it.



What makes neurons so special?

We all know that neurons are the building blocks of the brain. They are the main cells that do a lot of the brain’s work, besides the glial cells. (More on glial cells with a later post, though).

 Now, what is it that makes neurons so special? Neurons are really good quickly and precisely. But what is it that gives them this ability?

 It’s their asymmetry and their excitability!

 Neurons are asymmetrical because they have dendrites at one end, and axons on the other. The dendrites receive signals, and the axons transmit that signal to the next neuron’s dendrites. This allows for unidirectional cell signaling between neurons.


Neurons are excitable because they can be stimulated. What’s interesting is that neurons can be excited both electrically and chemically. The ion channels redistribute charge and serve as the bases for the electrical signaling while receptors serve as the bases for chemical signaling.


And those two simple, yet not-so-simple characteristics makes neurons unique and great at communication!





Masters vs Phd

So I’ve recently had to re-evaluate the whole, should I get my PhD after all, or should I settle for a Masters?

I have in the past wanted a PhD for the social prestige, the social power, etc, that I thought it would afford me. And sure, there is an element of respect and credibility gained from holding a doctorate degree, but that’s isn’t a good reason to go for a PhD. 

So, I’ve begin wondering more, what is it that I want out of life?

Well, I want to be happy. What does that entail? Well, creating, so writing, and traveling, and going places, and trying new things, and having wonderful relationships. and a career. But I’ve noticed career is ranking a bit less than it used to. Now, I’m more starting to focus on, what will bring me ultimate happiness.

And part of all of this is, I don’t know what will bring me ultimate happiness. I feel like it’s one of those things that I take one day at a time to figure out.

I think having a job that I love will bring me a degree, a measure of happiness. But more, the things I get to do regularly, like travel, and trying new things. And writing. Writing fantasy. And having good relationships with people, like my friends, my SO, my family. 

In terms of a career, I honestly want one that’s 9-5, not like a boring office job, but a 9-5, go do my thing, have fun, be frustrated because I’m problem solving but frustrated in a good way, then go home and do things I enjoy, like studying languages, or reading about Buddhism. 

Basically, I want a job that won’t consume me or my day. Unless it’s writing, then it’s fine if it consumes my dad; I love it that much. I love how anything and everything becomes my characters, my plot, when I’m in the throes of a creative fury. It’s the best feeling, being overtaken by a dash of creative madness, it’s all-consuming, all-beautiful, all-powerful. It’s wonderful. 

Sadly, research does not do that for me, or it hasn’t, so far.

And I’ve been thinking, if I did research as a career, I’d still write.

And in thinking about that proverbial question, what would I do if money didn’t matter? I’d write and travel. That’s what I would do!

So I should probably do that, huh. 


But I keep thinking, I still want at least Masters so I can get a challenging job besides writing, because honestly, I want to leave the house and have this outside-schedule. Mostly for the social aspect of having colleagues I can have occasional dinners with, or have happy hour with. So I want an outside-the-house job for the social aspects it will afford me. 

So, I can get a job with Masters. BUT, I was thinking, the first two years of Masters or PhD programs, at least in neuro research, are about the same: take courses, do some lab rotations, so research. The difference is that Masters is 2-3 years, while PhD is 5-7 years. With Masters, you gather your data and write your thesis and defend it, and same with PhD. So, what’s stopping me from getting a PhD?

Well, the time. But then I think to myself, well, i’m going to be 30-something regardless. So if I get this degree or that, I still age, ya know. And it’s like, after 2-3 yrs of a PhD program it’s like a 9-5 job anyway: no classes, no exams, just research. Go into lab in the morning, leave in the evening. Except after your 5th-7th year, you write then defend your thesis. But is that so different from a Masters? After 2-3 yrs with a Masters, you go find a 9-5 job. It’s the same, isn’t it?

The only sucky thing is as a PhD student, you don’t make that much money. Like less than 30k/year. That’s not much to live on, especially my super-expensive area I live in…

But, with good budgeting, it’s doable, and you’d still get to travel. I mean, not all the time, obviously, but you couldn’t with a regular outside job, anyway. Unless your job entails traveling. In which case, lucky you, and can you get me an application to fill out…

So it almost seems to me that getting the PhD makes the most sense, except when counting fiscal elements, because you don’t get to build up your savings, retirement funds, etc. as much. 

So, it comes down, in some ways, to money…either get Masters then get a 40-50k paying job. Or get a PhD, then get a 50-100k paying job. And you’re not even guaranteed 100k, or even 90k or 80k. So, in essence, long-run, you’re probably losing out in savings, etc, compared to those who got “real jobs” when they were 24 or 25, jobs that paid like 40-50k, and they began building up their 401k or whatever…

To get a Masters or a PhD, that is the question…


Let me figure out costs..ok, so let’s say after 2-3 yrs, you get your Masters. Say I’d be 27-28. Let’s say 28. I then get a job that pays about..mmm, let’s say 40k.
That’s about $3300/month. So with taxes, etc, let’s just say net is about $2800/month

Let’s say housing costs: $1250/month
Food/monthly expenses/general expenses: $350
Gas for car: $100/month
Car payments/insurance: $300/month
Total: $2000

That leaves $800. So out of that $800, $300 goes to your travel fund. That brings you down to $500. That $500, you put into savings.

And let’s figure after a decade…
so age 28-38: $500/month x 10 years: $60,000.

Let’s say you get a PhD, and then start a “real job” when you’re 31. This job pays about mmm, let’s figure…$60,000/ year. So that’s $5000/month. But with net, it might be closer to, let’s give a guess of about…$4000/month

So using the same monthly expenses as before:

Let’s say housing costs: $1250/month
Food/monthly expenses/general expenses: $350
Gas for car: $100/month
Car payments/insurance: $300/month
Total: $2000

That leaves $2000…
So, $300 to travel fund, that leaves $1700 put away to savings every month.
Now, you’re 31. So from age 31-38, that’s 7 years…
So: $1700/month x 7 years: $142,800.
$142,800-$60,000=$82, 800.

Yea, you’d still save more with PhD. BUT, you’d also probably start a family then, and from my understanding, babies are the world’s most expensive alarm clock…

Unless you don’t have babies and keep renting an apartment when you’re 40…

Are we really only after squirts of dopamine

So what is it that we’re all after? Happiness, I’m willing to bet that’s what most, if not all, people will say. There may be other variants to the answer, maybe, say self-actualization, peace, love, etc. but in the end, they’re all related to what? To happiness.

So what is happiness? Neurochemically, isn’t it squirts of dopamine, a certain level of serotonin, some norepinephrine?

Are we really only seeking a certain neurochemical balance then?

Even if people say something like their ultimate goal is to get into (insert afterlife term here, e.g heaven), isn’t that a variant of happiness?

So we’re all running after dopamine?… That seems so…mundane…and a bit lame, if you ask me. Are we so simple?


Living for the Future instead of the Present

I haven’t written on this blog page for a long time, but I’ve been penning in my thought journal these past few months.

I’ve always suffered, or if not always, since I was a teenager, from these emotional lows. I wouldn’t call it a depression, but it’s this sort of restlessness, and this ennui, or boredom, that settles in around me like a thick fog and stays clutching onto me for a few days at a time. Then it all dissipates and I am more or less back to my normal mood.

I have been trying to figure out what is causing these lows. I have thought it could very well be hormonal, a la, premenstrual loveliness.
And it may be that, except that the moods don’t always manifest during my period.

I think it may all have something to do with me not leading a fulfilling life. There’s always something missing. Or maybe there’s something present that should be missing. I’m actually not sure.

I’m just so bored. Everything feels so unreal sometimes, like I’m just repeating motions. I want to do more with my life, but I can’t, or don’t. So much to do, to experience, and I do so little, simply because I’m in graduate school getting my PhD. I feel jealous when I hear of people going to different countries and getting to do things. I try not to judge the jealousy but use it as a tool to recognize what it is that I want or value. And experiencing other cultures and activities is something that I clearly value and want to engage in.

And I think to myself, what am I getting this degree for? Enhanced job prospects? Jobs I may or may not feel fulfilled in? But they’re safe fiscally, and they’d get me out of the house on a daily basis. I have thought that if I can manage to be a full-time writer and make a decent living out of it, then I would do that. But I fear that may not be enough socially, because I like getting out of the house and interacting with colleagues daily. Don’t get me wrong, I like my daily dose of me-time (it’s that introverted nature of mine, I suppose), but I also LOVE listening to people chat.

So, I would need an outside job, and then write on the side, but make an avocation out of the fantasy writing.

But honestly, I don’t even know what I want. It feels like a waiting game. I hit the milestones (graduate high school with honors/AP classes under my belt to get into a college to graduate with honors so I can get into a graduate school to earn a doctorate so I can get a job), but for what?
And I don’t know if it’s that whole, I live for the future more than the present thing, like always doing things presently for future rewards. Everything is always about working towards a future goal. I think I don’t enjoy the present enough, and that leads to life dissatisfaction.

I’m not sure, but I think I feel disconnected from myself. I don’t know if I partly feel this way right now because I feel unattractive (courtesy of my period and also seeing pretty people around me).

I feel like my life hasn’t changed. I moved out of my parents’ house and yet all I do really is study, and go out a little with friends/boyfriend to dinner or maybe a little sight-seeing, but nothing much past that. I don’t have the time nor the funds for much more than that.

My life seems to be one long study-session, with bursts of activity that make me happy. But happiness has to be internal, it can’t be based on external things, or events. So something has to change within me. I just don’t know what.

I think I need to get back into meditation…