I am currently reading Blazingthe Trail: Essays by Leading Women in Science edited by Emma Ideal and Rhiannon Meharchand. The inspiration for this book came at the Fourth IUPAP International Conference on Women in Physics in South Africa in April 2011. At that conference there was a presentation about the book Lilivati’s Daughters: the Women Scientists of India, which is a collection of essays about female physicists in India. Ideal and Meharchand decided to produce a similar book about women physicists in the United States. Blazing the Trail consists of thirty-five short essays by women working in physics or related areas. Rather than try to review the whole book I am going to record my thoughts as I read.
The first thought to strike me was the importance of perseverance. The author of the first essay, Christine Aidala, describes how she started graduate school immediately after finishing her bachelor’s degree but dropped out quite quickly and travelled for a while. Eventually she decided she wanted to get back into research. She tried to find a suitable position using her contacts from her undergraduate days without any luck but eventually found a suitable research position, completed a Ph.D. and is now in a tenure-track position in a university. There are two points here. First, you do not have to follow one route into research. You can recover from apparent disasters. Second, when you are looking for a position the chances are that most of the opportunities you pursue will not work out. Keep trying.