Mock cover letter

So I’m working in the application package for this academic administrative job. I don’t need a research or a teaching statement for this position, but just a cover letter and my CV. The main problem is that I’m used to write cover letters for academic scientific jobs and this one has to be really different from those. It has to show passion and it has to show who I am. The more I read the job add, the more I think I’d be perfect for that position and that I’d be very happy to do it. Just talked to my collaborator and she suggested me to use part of my last blogpost into my cover letter. Instead of that, I decided to write a mock cover letter here, to my readers! It seems that it will be easier to express emotions when there’s no pressure about it being to apply for a job you really like:)

Dear reader,

I am writing to apply to this awesome academic administrative job. I am currently a postdoctoral associate working in neuroscience. I believe my years of academic research combined to my excellent networking skills will make me an ideal candidate for this position. Someone once told me that I am a hub, connecting people and ideas. I am a very social person, and passionate about research and science. I sincerely think that this job will be a wonderful opportunity to use my ability to deal with people in an academic environment.

One of the things I love most about being in academia is to interact with people at all levels. I feel truly happy and rewarded to mentor undergraduate students, opening the research path into their lives and watching them grow as a person and as a scientist. I look forward going to scientific meetings where I can spend all day surrounded by other researchers and discussing science. I attend to the SFN meeting every year since 2002, which involves more than 30k attendees come from all over the world. Most of the people think that this is really overwhelming, but I just love it! Another thing that really brings me joy is to organize academic and social events. I love to be in charged of everything! From the list of participants, topics and panelists to the details of the closing ceremony, food and drinks. It is always a lot of work, but there is nothing like the feeling of reward when you see your event happening successfully.

Over my academic years, I’ve always acknowledge the importance of advocating for our rights. Specifically, I’ve been a representative for every single position I’ve ever had. Back in my home country, I was the president of my undergraduate class and representative in the Physiology department for many years. As a graduate student, I was involved in the reorganization of the local association and later I was assigned as the vice-president for the national undergraduate student association for 2 years. As a postdoctoral associate in the US, I’ve been part of our PDA for almost 2 years, advocating for PD rights and helping the establishment of an actual niche for the PDs inside the University. I have worked closely to the former holder of this position at the University, what makes me feel somewhat familiar with what to expect from this position and confident that I can do it accordingly.

Conciliating all these extra-academic activities during my undergraduate, graduate and PD taught me a lot about time management and multi-tasking. And patience! Dealing with people is not easy and many times you need to find a way to conciliate different ways of thinking. The academic part of my training developed a sense of prioritizing but also helped me to deal with frustration. Failed experiments, nasty comments from reviewers of my manuscripts and grant refusals. But most important, to overcome all the frustration and be able to try again, and be even happier when you are successful 🙂

As requested, I’m enclosing a copy of my CV and arranged three letters of recommendation to be sent directly to your email address. I will gladly provide any other supporting materials that would be helpful. I am looking forward hearing from you soon and thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,
Doctor_PMS

So, dear reader, would you hire me?

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#BlackLivesMatter… but what about in academia? A #DiversityJC recap.

I don’t know about anyone else, but in the wake of the non-indictments of Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo for the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner (and allllllll the other people of color assaulted and made dead by police), I had a tough time getting work done. I felt distracted and depressed, exhausted from the excuses I saw on social media and how backwards everything seemed. Yet, as Jon Stewart (another person of considerable privilege) put it, I could only imagine what it would be like to actually live these experiences as a person of color. On twitter, we discussed briefly if the Diversity Journal Club should address the current state of things more directly, or if we needed to stay more academic.

Laura Williams (@MicroWaveSci) had a great solution:

For me, these articles (found here and here) made painfully clear that diversity issues directly concern academic and scientific communities. Even if you feel racial injustice doesn’t affect you directly, these articles demonstrate they do impact your colleagues, your friends, and your students.

Our discussion opened with the divide between racial groups, and how this persists in academia. These can be physical, such as living in a very white or racially divided area. They similarly exist in academic communities, where departments are very often dominated by white men.

Yet the divide also manifests in less obvious ways: When you are not part of the minority group, you don’t have to care about minority issues. We don’t have to talk about them, even when we talk about other major social events.

And if we do talk about them, we can be woefully, painfully, ignorant.

And this is at the mild end of the spectrum. The excuses I heard on social media were downright disturbing.

But even if you do care, and you are aware of the real issues, and you do discuss them appropriately, as the articles make clear, they don’t affect you nearly as acutely.


This has real repercussions across academic communities, and across the career arc of minorities
. As students, as the article points out, their science may not feel as immediate as the injustice they and others deal with every day – injustice that may get them arrested or dead. This is a real threat to their person, and their ability to work and learn.

Furthermore, if the community around them while in school isn’t discussing very real injustice, or is outwardly dismissing it, this only increases the divide, deepening the difference between a student’s life and their academic training and community. They can feel so disconnected, as albatrossphd (@albatrossphd) noted, some mentees don’t even know others would care. If this isn’t enough, they are often also expected to shoulder the responsibility of enacting change, while others around them don’t have to care.

As students progress in their careers, they continue to be the minority as faculty. They continue to be surrounded by colleagues that don’t appear to care or be affected, and remain responsible for changing things when others don’t speak up. They are likely to also want or be expected to sit on a range of committees and do additional work as the token minority faculty member. Little of this work is acknowledged, valued, or included in the tenure process.


This is how diversity directly impacts peopleyour colleagues and peers and students if you aren’t in a minority groupthroughout their careers. From start to finish.

Add to all of this the fact that white peers and colleagues don’t have to care about anything but their research, and can focus their passion on science and science alone. This is likely not the case for minority students and academics, as one of our articles argues. There is a struggle to balance your life’s work, with your life.


In addition, academia operates as if we are all under the same standards. It wants us to believe it is a meritocracy. If you are smart enough, work hard enough, are passionate enough, you will succeed. This idea is willfully ignorant of reality.


So. What do we do? While we discussed why and how diversity matters to academia, we also discussed what steps we can take – especially as allies for people of color. First, we talked about whether or not we should bring these issues up with our students – is it appropriate to talk about Ferguson in class? Did we need to? How do we bring it up and in what space?

Personally, I believe we have a responsibility to discuss these issues, to make clear that we do care and we are not going to be silence. We need to initiate conversations, “signal support” to mentees (Laura Williams, @MicroWaveSci), and figure out “stating your stance” to the community at large (Luna CM Centifanti, @LunaCentifanti). As Chris Rock has put it recently, racism is really a white problem. It is about white actions, it is white people that need to be educated and it is our behavior that needs to be altered. It is up to us as white people to make change. Our silence, our inability or unwillingness to speak up, does nothing for that change.

But how do we go about it? We also shared some experiences and some tips for bringing up what are indeed difficult subjects that are outside the scope of the classes we seek. For instance, it can be as simple as checking in with our students.

…and it can be helpful and safe to have the conversation one-on-one:

In addition to smaller conversations, we can bring these things up in class:

Sometimes other issues are more important than science.

There is a larger world out there with significant problems we as a society need to address, issues that feed back into scientific institutions and communities that claim to be above the fray. They are not, and if we do nothing, they will remain that way.

One piece of advice was to bring recent events and transition them to discussions of why they matter to the science we’re doing and discussing.

However, albatrossphd (@albatrossphd) shared that her attempt at conversation didn’t go that well at first:

Despite this, we determined that even bringing it up at all still demonstrates these issues are important to you, and could be helpful in the long term – that students may think about later. It still clearly mattered to some in the classroom, even if they didn’t know how to continue the dialogue:


In addition to students, as Laura Williams (@MicroWaveSci) pointed out, we also need to be thinking about ways to reach out to staff, faculty, and others.

We can mentor and support junior faculty and junior staff, including postdocs. In addition, for me, this means being visible and vocal. Show up for rallies and on-campus conversations, volunteer to be on committees. Share your views on the importance of diversity at your institution and be informed on why diversity matters. We are scientists – every day we discuss evidence and make arguments. We can and should do that with diversity at our respective institutions. Speak up about student issues, hiring, promotion, etc.

…and encourage our institutions to directly address diversity:

This is also happening at my previous institution, the University of New Hampshire, but we need people ensuring it isn’t just lip service and translates into action. This, of course, means we get leadership and administration on board. After all, leadership is key for systemic change, and determining the direction, priorities, and environment of an institution:

We can do more to make clear that these things matter to us. That we are allies, and we are (or want to be) engaged in the movement.

We can also “just check in” with our friends and colleagues, with our peers.

But we should follow such check-ins with “what can I do?”

Check-ins should also be done broadly, as a way to focus attention on these important issues. It’s not just checking in individually, it’s checking in with our communities, our institutions, asking “how are we doing on this? What are we doing about this?” Doing this alone makes clear you know these things affect everyone together, and that it is something we address together.

Doing all of these things are critical steps we can all take, and they have a secondary result: they also mean you help share the responsibility of creating change.


Of course, it’s more than just our immediate academic communities. We need to look at the people around us, too – including our families and our kids.


In the end, I realized the connection between science and diversity is not just about how we speak up and take action around diversity and for social justice specifically, but it also means doing great, interesting science that we share with others.

This is also where it matters. Where we connect with others, with the next generations. Where we encourage passion and curiosity – and where we say “yes. You can do this too.”


For me, it also means doing the best science now will put me in a better position, in a leadership position, later down the line – one I can leverage to address diversity issues, to amplify diverse voices, and support diverse careers. This is also how my science can make a difference one day. I am committed to a career that focuses on diversity issues, as well as a career of interesting and useful science. These are not mutually exclusive career objectives.


I know I am not alone.


Thank you to everyone who joined in and followed the discussion! Please let me know if there are any errors here, or if I missed anyone. Leave additional thoughts, questions, etc, in the comments here, or on twitter under #DiversityJC!


Give these fine folks a follow, too (in no particular order)!

Ruth Hufbauer (@hufbauer)
Luna CM Centifanti (@LunaCentifanti)
Megan McCuller (@mccullermi)
Laura Williams (@MicroWaveSci)
albatrossphd (@albatrossphd)
Rebecca Pollet (@rmpollet)
urbie delgado (@urbie)
Joshua Drew (@Drew_Lab)
Cynthia Malone (@cynth_malone)
Cleyde Helena (@cleydevan)
Roy W. Smolens Jr (@smoroi)
April Wright (@WrightingApril)
Cheng H. Lee (@chenghlee)


Thanks again and watch for a new article – the last of 2014! – on Monday 15 December.

Doctor PMS (@Doctor_PMS)
Emily Klein (@DrEmilySKlein)

2nd #DiversityJC recap

For those who don’t know, the idea to create a #DiversityJC (a twitter journal club discussion around #diversity in #STEM) was born of twitter interactions between Emily Klein (@DrEmilySKlein), Jonathan Goaya (@jkgoya), and myself (@Doctor_PMS). You can read more about it here. For our first #DiversityJC we discussed the paper that started the conversation and it was a great discussion (recap)! For this second #DiversityJC we chose a more general article by Kenneth Gibbs (@KennyGibbsPhD), describing what is diversity more broadly and why it matters in science and STEM fields. I was gladly surprised by the number of people that joined our discussion, I barely could keep up with my feed! There was a lot going on, so I’m going to try to focus on the main points in this recap.

As a heterogeneous group, many issues were brought up in the beginning of the discussion. Beth Hellen (@PhdGeek) stated the importance of having people who make determined efforts to promote diversity, Dr. Wrasse (@labroides) pointed out the loss of smart people from the academy when only traditional groups are supported, with big implications in conservation because we are closing doors to people from biodiverse countries. Emily Klein (@DrEmilySKlein) commented on the serious issue of meritocracy in academia (that is, the idea that diversity can be ignored because those that are best at science will still rise like cream to the top). Importantly, @PhdGeek pointed out the comments of the article, where it seems many people don’t recognize the issue as a problem “we need deportation programs”.

Exactly. “So if the answer is increasing diversity, can we do that through recruiting more diverse applicants into programs?” (@labroides). This is one option. Other alternatives suggested were diversity training at work (@MicroWavesSci), mentoring programs for minorities (@Doctor_PMS), target grant-writing seminars, fellowships for diverse peoples aim to prepare women and POC (@AlyciaPhD), on-paper diversity (@jkgoya), and more formal hiring criteria (@PhdGeek). Perhaps formalized diversity committees in Institutions. Of course, hiring is one end of the pipeline. “Problem has to be tackled at an earlier stage than job search” (@CoralReefFish).

Another point was  the importance of a good mentor. “Potential mentors should be approaching minorities, not wait to be approached” (@mccullermi). The importance of having a role model, teaching not only skills but also demonstrating passion for research. To this end, we also needmentoring training, as well as diversity training.

Our second Diversity Journal Club made clear we all cared about this issue, and had a lot to say. The take home message I believe it’s that “Diversity needs to be seen as mission-critical, not as an add-on” (@AlyciaPhD).

Please feel free to contact me to be added to the #DiversityJC twitter list. And here is the article for our next #DiversityJC on October 17th, 11EST: Diversity at 100: women and underrepresented minorities in the ESA. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 12: 434–436 from Kate Boersma (@kateboersma). All are welcome to join!

Thanks to all participants: Emily Klein (@DrEmilySKlein), Jonathan Goaya (@jkgoya), Beth Hellen (@PhdGeek), Dr. Wrasse (@labroides), Cheng H. Lee (@chenghlee), Rhiannon Jeans (@PositronicNet), Laura Williams (@MicroWavesSci), Alycia Mosley Austin (@AlyciaPhD), Rebecca Weinberg (@sciliz), albatrossphd (@albatrossphd), Luiz Rocha (@CoralReefFish), Megan McCuller (@mccullermi), Wes Wilson (@WesleyWilson), Cara Fiore (@clfiore1).

Back to USA resolutions

Wow, it’s been a while since I don’t write here. But for a very good reason. After a very long time I was able to fulfill all the requirements and finally got my VISA! I have no words to describe how I feel about finally being able to come back to what it became “home” to me.  A lot of people here asked me why I wanted so badly to come back. I felt a lot of pressure of trying to get a job here and forget about coming back to the US. I cannot deny that sometime in the middle of all the trouble I gave it a thought. But… no. I live there for 5 years already. I got used to the way people are, the way science is done, and this year here at home country made me realize how those things became important in my life!

So now what? I have one week remaining here, that seems like eternity for me! Although I still have tons of things to arrange, friends to say goodbye, some data analysis and last meetings in visiting lab, I am so ready to come back! We are renewing our R01 in my US lab, finishing two papers… I am receiving my collaborator two days after I’m back in town and I’m so much looking forward to it! I’m talking about MY collaborator, not from my lab. A line of research of my own, kind of my first step towards independence! All I can think about is to come back and work hard. If there’s something that is left from this year away is that I really know what I want now. To get a TT position ASAP and have my own lab!

I met someone at one workshop here that gave me 3 advices: 1) keep publishing, 2) do networking, 3) apply everywhere. And that’s what I’m planning to do. Work on smaller projects, yes or no answers that can get published easier. Of course, continue with the big questions, but try to balance that. I already sent emails to several researchers of my area to let them know that I’m coming back and asking to meet them at SFN (that of course, I am attending this year!). Still not sure about when I’ll be able to start applying for jobs, I already applied for a couple, but I still spend too much time tailoring the cover letter and everything that is seems that I won’t have too much time for that in a short term.

Does anyone have some other good advice for me to get that dreamed TT position?