Prof. John Johnson at Harvard invited me to write a guest post, and I chose to talk about the benefits of being a mentor. Check it out HERE.


“If you dream of something worth doing and then simply go to work on it and don’t think anything of personalities, or emotional conflicts, or of money, or of family distractions; if you just think of, detail by detail, what you have to do next, it is a wonderful dream even if the end is a long way off, for there are about five thousand steps to be taken before we realize it; and start making the first ten, and stay making twenty after, it is amazing how quickly you get through those five thousand steps.”

Edwin Land, co-founder of Polaroid, to Polaroid employees

December 23, 1942

“You don’t have a smartphone? Are you serious? How do you survive? You’re like my grandma, but you’re in your mid-20’s.”

This is inevitably the reaction whenever a friend sees my “dinosaur” phone that is so five years ago. It’s a solid phone though: It can make phone calls, it can send/receive text messages, what else do I need? I spent most of my waking day in front of a computer anyway, why would I also need to check my email at the bus stop, while waiting in line at the grocery store, walking home from work, etc etc etc. I now absolutely cherish those few moments when I am disconnected, and can just take in the world around me or be left with my own thoughts. Since when did that become super cheesy and boring?

I understand the convenience of having a smartphone but I also sometimes wish we could go back to the era where people talked to each other at bus stops or on the subway trains, instead of being glued to their phones. Yeah, I guess I really am a mid-20’s grandma.

Studies have shown that we all have unconscious bias against women. That is, we devalue the contributions of women. Men and women alike are guilty of this. I guess I can believe it. But in a scientific field like astronomy, where the female:male ratio is so low, if this unconscious bias really exists, I think it’s especially important for women to stick up for other women. Of course it’s important for men to stick up for women too but that’s a different issue, I think.

Recently I’ve thought about how I can overcome whatever unconscious bias I have… Because how strange is it that as a woman, I have unconscious bias against other women! But how do I go about reversing a bias that is unconscious, when I don’t even really know how it manifests itself? And on a deeper level, how did we all develop this unconscious bias? It seems awfully unfair, doesn’t it? (And of course there are other types of unconscious bias, not only toward women, but toward minorities, etc).

Funnily enough, I was inspired about the concept of women supporting other women by an interview I read with Selena Gomez, a child Disney Channel star, a few weeks ago. When asked to dish some gossip about her very famous friend Taylor Swift, instead of telling all, Selena said, “I think girls need to be more supportive of each other. I definitely agree with that… She is very strong. She doesn’t care what people think and she inspires me.”

“Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.”

-John Steinbeck

Much of graduate school is about publishing papers, and managing the emotional distress that comes with not meeting your own personal deadlines for publishing those papers. For my current paper, instead of focusing on the question, “When am I going to finish this?” as I always have in the past, I’ve decided to focus on “OK, what can I accomplish today?” I’m actually happier, more focused and more productive as a result. It’s amazing what a simple change of mindset can do. Thanks, John Steinbeck!

My first journal was a log of the freshwater fish that magically appeared and died in my father’s fish tank. Written in a 2nd-grader’s hand-writing, smudged from the awkwardness of being left-handed, one post reads, “Sunrise the goldfish was introduced to the tank today.” A few days later, the next post reads, “Sunrise passed away today. We flushed him down the toilet. Today is a sad day.”

Although not necessarily profound, I still appreciate these early habits of writing as it taught me something about myself — not only did I have a weird attachment to fish (which I’ve completely lost, by the way) but that I liked to log things so I could remember them later on.

I kept a journal all through middle and high school, filled with angsty teenager thoughts that I look back and laugh at now. Still, I am able to remember what I was going through and how awkward and difficult it was to be a teenager. Without these journals to look back on, I would mistakenly tell you “High school wasn’t so bad.” After all, things always seem better in retrospect.

Yesterday, I was sitting in a meeting with a good number of younger Harvard astronomy graduate students, and it dawned on me that I don’t really remember what it was like to be in their shoes despite having been through it. All of the emotions and thoughts I had with each passing year, that at the time seemed profoundly important, have now become one giant blur, because I never wrote about it. I really wish I had some of those thoughts to hang on to.

So for the benefit of my future self, I am starting this journal. I don’t have a direction in mind, nor do I plan on proof-reading or spell-checking much. I just want a piece of myself to look back on. How wonderfully narcissistic. Let’s go!