Happy Anniversary to ME!

If you’ve followed my blog, you know that I experienced a very severe bout of depression a little over 10 years ago (if you haven’t read it, you should… ). This illness occurred, likely coincidentally, during a transitional time in my life, as I was making the transition from a graduate student to a tenure-track assistant professor. After 1 year in that position, I wanted to kill myself. Literally. There is no clear cause of depression; certainly there are chemical imbalances that play a role, but it is unknown what triggers instigate bouts of depression. I really don’t know what my trigger was at that time, but I had always feared that the major transition in my life played a role. This fear haunted me as I went through the process of interviewing for my current position, moving and getting settled in. In fact, all the academic aspects of being a Department Chair didn’t frighten me as much as the fear that my depression would return.

And now, here I am 1 year into my new job – Happy Anniversary to Me! And it couldn’t have gone better! Rather than hiding under my desk crying, I am welcoming 3 new faculty to my Department! Rather than barely making it through the day, I’m excited to get out of bed in the morning to learn what awaits me at work. That’s not to say that there haven’t been challenges and that it is all flowers and rainbows. But overall, it has been an exciting year, during which I have learned an incredible amount.DSC_0224

Some of the lessons I’ve learned are very specific to my institution, like the process for approving grant proposals, how to approve time-off requests, how to approve expense reports (Department Chairs do a lot of approving!). But others are more about academic life in general – things I wish someone had told me about being a Department Chair, and things I wish someone had told me about being a good faculty member. Not to say that I wasn’t a good faculty member before, but there are things I could have done to be better.

Once upon a time, I loved email – when I first met my now husband back in the early 90s, email was new to us and was a fun way to communicate. I loved going to the computer lab to see if I had any new email and was always disappointed if I didn’t. I’ve always thought I was good about returning emails, and I realize now how important it is to reply to emails. However, I’ve grown to HATE email! I hate, hate, hate it! (I know, as my husband likes to reminds me, it isn’t nice to hate.) But email has become the primary means for communicating these days (for us old people, at least) which means that I receive a lot more email every day that I need to deal with, but also that I send a lot more email every day that I expect others to deal with. In both instances, the process of actual work can stop if one party does not respond. Luckily, I had been adequately prepared for the increased volume of emails that I would be receiving, so I wasn’t so surprised by that. However, I always thought that everyone else was as good about returning emails as I am, and wasn’t prepared for how I needed to compensate for those who aren’t.

Something else I was not prepared for was how lonely I would feel in this position. I was at my former institution for 11 years and had built a huge community there. Last fall, I went back for a research meeting, and could not walk down the street without running into someone I know. A benefit of that was that if I needed a statistical consult, or if I felt overwhelmed and needed to get some reassurance that everything would be okay, or even if I just wanted someone to go to lunch with, I knew who I could ask – different people for each of these, possibly, but all those roles were filled. Even as my role in the Department changed, my relationships with my colleagues were solid and I was able to easily balance my leadership responsibilities with my professional support system.

However, I’ve come into my new position new to my institution. I really like the faculty in my Department, but I haven’t had the benefit of “growing up” with them academically. While I realize it takes time to build the types of relationships I had previously, I also am cognizant of the fact that my relationship with the faculty in my Department is a little different. If I want to complain about something that happens in a Department meeting, I can’t always do so with them. If I need to get advice about a personnel issue, I have to be careful what I say and to whom I say it. One solution I’ve found for this is to build a different type of network – I have a monthly breakfast with the other department chairs in my school (there are 4 of us total), and have just started having lunch with a few other department heads outside of my school. And I need to practice patience – my relationships with the faculty in my Department are starting to grow, and I know that in time my loneliness will dissipate. Plus, my department has a great staff who I share my office suite with, and they are always wiling to help cure my loneliness (even if they don’t know that they’re doing it!).

This last year hasn’t been easy – there has been a tremendous amount of new things I’ve had to learn, both because I’m at a new institution and also because I’m in a new role. I’ve actually enjoyed this very much – I often say that I’m in academics because I love to learn new things, and this was the only way I could stay a student forever. While some of the things I’ve had to learn have been monotonous, others have been hard lessons about dealing with very personal issues. I’ve had the great fortune to hire 3 new faculty, but this also meant I had the extremely difficult job of telling very well-qualified candidates, who I really got to know and came to like very much, that I wasn’t going to be able to hire them. I had a long-standing adjunct stop teaching for our department, in part because I was unwilling to provide a substantive salary increase (I think), and had to scramble to find someone to teach a class this fall. I’ve made choices that I know haven’t always pleased everyone, but I feel confident that I’ve made those choices with the best intentions and the belief that they are the best for our Department. And I know that I’ve made mistakes – all leaders do, we ALL do– and I hope that I’ve learned from those mistakes and moved on.

As I face my second year as Chair, I know there will be many more challenges, and also much more learning. I’m looking forward to new things, such as teaching my first undergraduate class in my professional career; in collaboration with my department, developing a PhD program in Biostatistics; and advising my first doctoral student since I arrived. I also get to begin my fall with the annual reviews with the faculty and staff, a process that isn’t always easy, but I enjoy because it provides an opportunity to connect with each person individually and discuss their accomplishments and goals. It is also a time for me to reflect on what I’ve accomplished, and to set some goals for myself and my department. I look forward to reflecting back on those goals in a year, hopefully with the same enthusiasm for moving forward that I have now.

 

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My name is StatGirl and I’m a teach-a-holic

I have a confession to make. I love teaching. And as we approach the start of a new school year, I’m getting ready to teach a new class – an undergraduate biostatistics class to public health majors. This is in stark contrast to anything I have ever taught in my professional career, as I have only taught graduate courses, often advanced doctoral-level classes. My only previous experience teaching undergraduates was over 20 years ago when I was an undergrad myself, teaching introduction to algebra and college algebra to other undergrads. As I’ve been struggling to find time to prepare my syllabus, I got to thinking about teaching in a research world. Many biostatisticians are extremely research-active, often covering high proportions of their salaries through grant funding. This impacts the time available to teach, both from a practical and from a legal perspective. If you are spending 90% of your time on research, then theoretically, it is illegal (andhours worked by academic rank_1 sometimes impossible) to spend more than 10% of your time on teaching. Of course, there is no actual definition of the denominator – academic workload is not always based on a 40-hour workweek: some estimates indicate that academics spend 50-60 hours per week working (although Chairs report the fewest hours worked, Whoohoo!), with some faculty reporting up to 80 hour workweeks! (NOTE: no comment on the quality of some of these charts, which I would never let my students/mentees/coauthors/friends/kids present, but you get the idea).

Teaching requirements differ from institution to institution, and also depend on other expectations. At my former institution, most faculty averaged about 1.5 classes per year in my department, but expectations were that you would cover a very high proportion of your salary through external funding (>70%). If your funding dropped, you could expect to teach more; in fact, more teaching was often seen as a punishment for not doing enough research. However, in my previous department, those who were successful as researchers also often (but not always) really enjoyed teaching, leading to very long hours during semesters while teaching, since the research responsibilities didn’t stop – or even slow down.

At my current institution, the workload policy specifies that teaching activities should account for about 50% of a tenure track faculty member’s effort (research is assigned 30% effort). This translates into about 4 quarter-classes per year for a 12-month appointed faculty member, plus advising students, course development and other teaching activities. Research-active faculty can buy out of a class with an additional 15% research funding; administrative responsibilities also lessen the teaching load. Since I’m just now completing my first year here, I still don’t have a good sense for how the faculty feel about this balance – and since I haven’t taught yet, I don’t have my own perspective. However, my research effort is already approaching 50%, so I already know that I will be working like a crazy woman this quarter.

ecardThese expectations are very different from those of tenure track faculty in primarily teaching institutions, where teaching loads still vary considerably, but can be as high as 4 classes in a single term across each term. There is little data available about what is “typical” from any institution, regardless of whether it is a research-intensive university or a small liberal arts college. Each institution has their own policy, some formal, others ad hoc.

It is also difficult to ascertain how much time is actually spent on teaching activities among tenure track faculty. One small study  at a single doctoral-granting institution published in 2014 (n=30) estimated that faculty spent 40% of their time on teaching-related activities. This is by no means generalizable – the institution at which this research was done is not as research active as many (237th in 2014 for total R&D expenditures), so this could be an overestimate for some. Very old data (1989) from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching showed that the more research funding at an institution, the less time spent on teaching activities, and that the emphasis on teaching-related activities during tenure and promotion is much lower for research-intensive institutions.

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So, what do you do if you are at a research-intensive institution but love to teach? There is a lot of advice floating around the internet on this topic, including some that is repeated over and over in academics: “You will never get promoted based on good teaching alone, but being a bad teacher might keep you from getting promoted.” Add to the mix that it is difficult to measure effectiveness of teaching whereas it is much easier to quantify research productivity, and where does that leave us?

I often tell my mentees to do what they love and the rest will follow. If you are not having fun at work, you are wasting your time. If you are not going to get promoted doing what you have fun doing, you are not in the right place (others agree – see #7). If teaching is what you love, this may be a difficult pill to swallow – many faculty at research-intensive institutions train for decades in order to get tenure track positions. However, it is important to be in a place that fits with your goals and talents. I am not advocating quitting a tenure-track position just because you love teaching, but I am suggesting that you should evaluate your expectations and goals, and make sure they are in agreement with those of your chair and institution.

In my past life, I was at an institution that expected faculty to be at least 70% externally funded through grants, and I was routinely 85-90% funded. During my very first faculty meeting, my chair said that there was no reason we couldn’t be 95% funded and still teach.* As a tenure track faculty member, who also had a service requirement, I was floored… how could I be 95% funded, teach well, work with students, and also fulfill the service requirements for tenure? I also remember being told by a trusted mentor that it is okay to only give about 75% to my teaching – while I would know that I wasn’t giving it my all, my students just wouldn’t know the difference. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a teacher. For a semester in college, I was a Math Ed major, but eventually decided I wanted to teach college, which motivated me to get a PhD. Although I learned how much I enjoy research when I was in grad school, I always have, and always will, consider myself a teacher. So this news that students would not be able to tell how much effort I put into my classes was devastating to me. Despite this advice, I still threw myself into my teaching, teaching more than was expected and doing it well.

All these years later, I am still throwing myself in to my teaching. I’m extremely excited for my new challenge in the classroom, despite the time it will take away from other commitments, such as my research and my administrative responsibilities. Let alone the time it will take away from my family. It will be difficult, but I know it will be rewarding because I will be doing something I love, and hopefully I will make impact on the students. In the end, that will make it all worth it.

*Footnote: my chair was always very supportive of my desire to teach and to teach well, and I mean no disrespect to someone for whom I have the utmost respect!

PhD Qualifying Exams, or Purgatory for Graduate Students

For many PhD students, summer is the time of year when classes slow down and research picks up. When campuses are quieter and happy hour is earlier. Summer is an idyllic time for most PhD students. Except for those who have to take the dreaded qualifying exam. At many institutions, qualifying exams happen during the summer. They take many forms – some students must pass true qualifying exams, where they show mastery of the Master’s level curriculum. Others take comprehensive exams, where they show mastery of the PhD level curriculum. Some take both, typically separated by about a year. In some fields, qualifying exams may be written; in other fields these may be oral exams. Sometimes PhD students gain candidacy (and cheaper tuition) upon completion of their exams, in other instances there may be additional hoops to jump through before this can occur. Ugh.

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Qualifying exams are a rite of passage. It is hard to provide rationale for why they are necessary, other than: I had to do it so you do, too. OK – that’s not entirely true. There are good reasons for students to show that they can synthesize the information from several classes and utilize that knowledge to solve problems which may be more complicated than ones they might find in a classroom. In Biostatistics, there is often an a theory exam and applied exam, the latter which allows a student to demonstrate that they have mastery of important collaborative skills. Regardless of the process or procedure by which a student must prove that they are “qualified” to continue in the PhD, it is a very stressful time for most students. And rightfully so. Their performance on their exam could have long-lasting implications for their career. Not to mention their psyche.

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Psyche: William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1892)

To complete my Master’s degree in Biostatistics, I needed to pass an MS comprehensive exam. This was also the qualifying exam for the PhD students, so my classmates in the first year of their PhD program took this same exam as I did at the conclusion of my master’s degree. The exam went moderately well for me, with the exception of the last question. As I completed the problem, for which it was necessary for me to compute a probability, with almost no time left, I was dismayed to find that my solution was negative! I clearly had made a math error somewhere – of course I knew that a probability had to be in the set [0,1]. I was almost out of time, so just made a note “I know this can’t be right since my probability is negative, but I am out of time and cannot go back to figure out where my error is.” When I saw the results of my exam, although I passed, I was disappointed to find that the Professor who graded it disregarded my note, and essentially dismissed my solution, with a rather degrading comment. This was the first time in my academic career I felt downright stupid. It had an impact on my confidence in my future studies. All of a sudden, I considered myself to be no good at theory.

And then, my PhD. I did very well in my classes and prepared like hell for my qualifying exams. At my institution, we had a 2-day in-class theory exam, followed by a 1-day applied exam. I studied with classmates. I studied alone. I ate, slept and breathed the central limit theorem. I was ready. This exam was mine. Except it wasn’t. The day of the theory exam came and I found myself hiding in the bathroom, hyperventilating. And did you know that you could play Minesweeper on the HP-48G calculator?

calcminesweeperEventually, I picked myself up, went back to the exam, and did what I could, which wasn’t much. And so I failed the theory exam. No one had failed the theory exam in so many years, that none of the current students could remember the name of the last person to have failed. I was dejected. I was humiliated. I was sure that I needed to consider my non-scientific career choice (an event planner, by the way… which I may have to reconsider now that I’m planning a Bat Mitzvah celebration). Lucky for me, I had the opportunity to take the exam a second time. I just had to decide if I wanted to. Could my ego handle more failure? Seriously: what would I do if I didn’t pass? I took long walks with my friends (now my colleagues), and talked about what my alternatives were. My husband and I considered what options I had. In the end, I decided to take the exam again. And long story short, I passed. As my advisor told me, I didn’t “do great”, but I did “well enough”. Well HOLY SHIT! As far as I was concerned, well enough was good enough to pass, and that was good enough for me to continue in the PhD. Woohoo! But the damage was done.

I continued in my PhD, and successfully defended my dissertation some time later. After that, I started a job as an Assistant Professor, and the rest is history. And like all history, we tend to forget the parts that aren’t as pleasant. However, I could never quite forget my experiences with my exams. For years, I would tell people that I wasn’t theoretical, that I’m an outstanding applied statistics, even while teaching one of the more theoretical doctoral level courses my Department offered. I descried my methodological work as applied, since it was motivated by real problems. The damage was done.

As time went on, I became the Director of Graduate Studies. Now it was MY responsibility to oversee the qualifying exams of others. This was excruciating for me. All of my anxiety would well up each time the exam came around. I would agonize over whether the questions were consistent with those we asked in previous years. I would lose sleep about whether we had sufficiently prepared our students to do what we were asking of them. When the exam was being administered, I would delegate a different member of the committee to proctor the exam and I would not step foot in the building. The students’ fear and anxiety were too real to me. The damage was done.

Like most negative experiences, though, I found a way to use my failures to help others. Unfortunately, we typically had a student or two each year who did not pass their qualifying exam. It was my responsibility to pass that news along to them. When I did so, I always shared my experience, and I believe it helped them to know that this negative did not define me. Even if I still struggled to believe this, I was able to convince them that it was true.

And now? Now I’m a Department Chair. It is clear that my qualifying exam experiences did not hinder my career. Do I think I will ever have a JASA paper? No. But that’s okay – there are plenty of other statisticians who can fill that role. I am pretty good at what I do, and there are many strong theoretical statisticians who are terrible collaborators. Does it still sting sometimes? Absolutely. People who get PhDs are over-achievers, and experiencing failure is not something we do often or handle well. However, learning from my failures, and using them to help others, is a skill that I’m so glad I have. I believe that my failures make me much better at my job today. I know that my failure helped me better understand my strengths and my weaknesses.

Could things have been different if my experience with my Master’s exam had been different? Maybe. Perhaps I would have been more confident in my theoretical abilities, which in turn could have led to me passing my PhD qualifying exam on the first try. But maybe not. I am a really good collaborative statistician, and I enjoy it. So it could be that I still would have found that path, even if I felt that I excelled in the theory.

In the end, I still hate qualifying exams and always will. I understand their purpose, I understand the benefit they provide to our students in the long-run (in a multitude of ways), and I know they’re not going away. Unless the Department Chair has the power to do that….

 

The Joint Statistical Meetings… Then & Now

In just over a week, I will be attending the 2016 Joint Statistical Meetings (JSM) in Chicago, the largest annual gathering of statisticians in North America. I can see my non-statistical friends cringing, but to me it is pure nerdvana! With over 6000 attendees and over 600 sessions, JSM can be overwhelming at best, and downright scary at worst. As I’ve started planning my time in Chicago, I realized that 20 years ago, I attended my very first JSM, also in Chicago, which caused me to stop and reflect on how much has changed in that time.

 

Twenty years ago, I was in the middle of my Master’s degree at the University of Iowa, a wide-eyed kid trying to figure out what my next steps would be. A group of my classmates and I piled into a car and made our way to Chicago from Iowa City. There were 4 of us, 3 girls and a boy, and we all piled into a single room, with my male classmate respectfully sleeping on the floor. Each night we would all review the program for the next day, amazed by all the different talks we could see, trying to figure out which matched our interests. It was during this meeting that I attended talks which sparked my interest in clinical trials, drove my desire to someday write a statistics in sports paper, and reinforced my professors’ repeated lessons that good communications skills are a vital part of being a statistician. I remember walking into rooms in which I was the only woman, amazed that this was the 90s and that could still happen! I encountered “famous” statisticians (yes, there are such people) and was in awe; I also encountered my first instance of sexual harassment, from which I learned a valuable lesson about humanity. I learned as much from those few days in Chicago as I had in a year in graduate school – different lessons, to be sure, but still a tremendous amount. Most of all, I learned how little I knew, how much more there was to learn, and promptly decided that I needed to stay in school and get my PhD.

 

Fast forward 20 years, and here I am again, heading to Chicago with 6000 of my closest friends. Now, as a Professor and Department Chair, my perspective is different. I still go to JSM with my eyes wide open, with plans to continue to learn. However, what I learn will be decidedly different. This year at JSM, I will attend a chair workshop, during which I’ll have the chance to learn how to do my job better from others who have been doing it longer. I will meet with colleagues from the National Math Alliance, an amazing organization with a goal of increasing the number of underrepresented students in PhD programs in the math sciences and be reminded of how important it is to have diversity in our profession. I will have the chance to catch up with former classmates and colleagues, during which time we will laugh at the people we once were, and talk about the people we hope to be. And I’ll get to listen to people talk about statistics for 3 days. Three wonderful days during which I will remember what inspired me to be who I am today, and reinvigorate my passion for statistics. I will be inspired to become a better statistician. Because, no matter what my job title, no matter what my day-to-day responsibilities, deep down, I’m still just a nerdy girl who likes statistics and who thinks that data are cool. And maybe I’ll get a good idea for that sports paper I still haven’t written.

 

Twenty years is a long time, and I’ve come a long way in that time, but I still have a long way to go. The experiences I bring home with me from JSM will help set me on the path for my next 20 years. And who knows, maybe in 2036 I’ll be celebrating JSM back in Chicago!

Why I love study section (and why you should too)

I recently returned from serving on study section. My academic friends probably read that and groaned, but for me, study section is one of the most scientifically interesting things I do. For my non-academic friends, let me give you a little context. Study section is a group of scientists brought together to review scientific grants, and give input to the funding agency as to which are of high scientific quality and should be considered for funding, and which should not. Each member of the panel receives several grants to read ahead of time, provides critiques and scores, and then everyone comes together for a couple of days to discuss each grant proposal and its merits and weaknesses. At the end of the day the researchers who submitted the grants will receive scores comments from all of the reviewers. The agency to which the grant was submitted then determines which researchers will receive the money they requested. The NIH has a very comprehensive description of the process here, and if you’re not into reading information prepared by the government, you can listen to someone else read you government information on a very dry YouTube video.

The person who organizes and runs the study section is called the Scientific Review Officer – the SRO. Every study section is run differently, and this is highly dependent on the SRO. I have served on several different review panels for different agencies (e.g. NIH, NASA, American Heart Association) and truly believe that the SRO can totally make or break the experience.

The study section I regularly serve on reviews grant submissions that are concerned with clinical trials evaluating therapies for neurologic diseases and disorders. We are often evaluating grants that are requesting very large amounts of money that could have a big impact on patient populations. Our SRO works extremely hard to put together a multidisciplinary group of reviewers who take this responsibility very seriously. These are some of the most intelligent people I have ever met. While some study sections only have 3 reviewers who read each grant, our study section routinely has 5-9 – this allows each person who reviews the grant to focus on their area of expertise. We have extremely thorough discussions about each grant, and we all hold each other accountable.

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Our study section is very diverse – we have expertise in neurology, neurosurgery, pharmacology, biostatistics, physiology, and several other areas that come and go based on the science we are evaluating. We come from all over the country, each have different research backgrounds, and the group includes Deans and Department Chairs, researchers from industry, as well as Assistant Professors who may be reviewing grants for their first time. However, when we discuss the science, we all respect each other for their expertise, regardless of our positions in our real lives. We may not always agree, but we don’t view our discourse as a problem, rather as a learning experience. It is truly extraordinary, amazingly intense, and unbelievably exhausting. We spend very long days doing something for which we get very little reward, except for the satisfaction in knowing that we are helping to advance science (and a small honorarium which probably comes to pennies on the hour given the time we spend).

It is a lot of hard work. But I always look forward to it. My fellow members of the study section are also my friends. We share our stories with each other. We greet each other with our photos of our children out front, and with our egos behind us. At the end of the day, we share meals and drinks and laughs and try to unwind after some very tough discussions. We all go home having learned a tremendous amount from each other, and better scientists for it.

There is a lot of discussion in the statistical community about serving on content-area study sections. It is a lot of hard work and not all experiences are as positive as mine. But it is extremely important that we continue to bring our expertise to the table, and continue to build relationships with other researchers. In fact, it is our responsibility as scientists to ensure that all research is subject to statistical rigor that ensure good study design and results.

I am fortunate that I regularly serve on a study section that respects all opinions, even those of the statisticians. I am lucky that I serve on a study section that provides me with so much scientific satisfaction. And I am lucky to have served with so many amazing, brilliant people, from whom I learn to be a better scientist.

Lord, I was born a ramblin’ (wo)man

 

Recently on NPR, there was an interview with Laura Okmin (http://www.npr.org/2016/03/12/470176420/female-sportscasters-feel-staying-on-defensive-is-part-of-the-job), an NFL sideline reporter for Fox Sports, who discussed the implications of the Erin Andrews settlement, and some of the concerns of traveling as a woman both as a sportscaster and in general. As a woman who travels alone for work quite often, I found the interview very interesting. Much of what she described resonated with me – the feelings of fear when a man gets on my elevator and appears to be going to the same floor as I am, the concern about people just seeing that I’m alone. There are other things that I hate about traveling alone that she didn’t discuss, like the riding in a cab. I never feel more vulnerable while traveling as I do alone in a cab. Forget an Uber, which feels even scarier to me! And I’m sure there are things I do while traveling that Okmin would suggest are bad ideas during her travel boot camp for woman sportscasters. For example, I frequently go for a run in an unfamiliar area. Also, I really enjoy sitting at the bar to eat my meals. If my daughter were to one day tell me that she does these things, I know that I would probably tell her that they’re not the best idea, just as my father often expresses his concern about me doing so.

In addition to the safety concerns, there are other negatives that come with traveling. I miss my family, and sometimes I miss important kid-events, such as a band or choir concert, or a soccer game. Travel is exhausting, and I find I come home grumpy, having a hard time with re-entry into “regular life”. And there are work obligations that get ignored while I’m away, causing a backlog when I return. Finally, there is a stigma that comes with being the mommy that travels – although not necessarily always overt, people have made comments that imply I don’t take my family obligations seriously, or worse.

However, the statistician in me recognizes that there is risk-benefit trade-off. While I don’t think my fears about my safety are completely irrational, I do know that the statistics indicate that I am more likely to be injured, raped or murdered by someone known to me than through some chance encounter. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), approximately 80% of all rapes were committed by someone known to the victim, with similar statistics for sexual assault. Over half of all murders are committed by someone known to the victim (US Department of Justice).

And there are benefits to travel. In addition to having mostly intellectual stimulus that are typically good for my professional growth (e.g. study section, conferences, study meetings), I also get to have mostly adult interactions for a short period of time. When I’m traveling, because I typically have fewer demands on my time, I’m able to find more opportunities to exercise than when I’m at home. I also get a tremendous amount of work done on airplanes and in hotel rooms. And when I catch up on whatever work reading I need to do, I often read for fun, something I do infrequently at home, since I tend to get so sucked into a book that I ignore everything else – a luxury I can’t afford on a regular basis. As for the stigma of being the traveling mommy, well, like many other things in my life, I see this as someone else’s problem. We are all responsible for the choices we make and their implications, and this is no exception. Does it sting? Occasionally. But judgment is just someone else reflecting their own insecurities, so I often feel pity towards those who judge me and just try (usually unsuccessfully) not to judge them in return. Finally, if I didn’t travel, I would never know the joy of coming home to my family, my bed and my home.

So for the time being, I think that the benefits outweigh the risks. And so I continue to choose a crazy travel schedule. Maybe one day, I’ll reconsider the data and choose otherwise, but for now, I’m just “trying to make a livin’ and doin’ the best I can”.