It is done.

After 5.5 years in graduate school – three years of full-time study (attending classes, writing papers, and doing the initial research and fieldwork for my thesis), two years in El Nido (some catch-up fieldwork, going back to full-time work because I ran out of scholarship money, writing my thesis in the evenings, and taking two months off work to hammer out the first complete draft of the thesis), and half a year back in MSI to finalize everything and actually defend my thesis – I finally earned my MS Marine Science, major in Marine Biology degree from the Marine Science Institute, University of the Philippines-Diliman last April 26, 2014. It’s the biggest accomplishment of my life to date.

2 MSI grads
Eight graduates from MSI! The awesomest professors on the right are Dr. Malou McGlone and Dr. Gil Jacinto (chemical oceanography)

05 cs medal
All graduate students get the College of Science medal. One of my mother’s gripes about my undergraduate graduation was that she didn’t get to go up on stage because I didn’t have any honors. So there Mom! You happy now? πŸ˜› #AsianMoms

So… what happens next? Well, I’m hoping to work again in corporate social responsibility because I enjoyed it so much the first time around. Another option is diving headfirst into research. I was offered a spot on the Benham Rise survey team but had to turn it down because it would coincide with a previously planned trip to Japan (*sob*). In the meantime, I’m thoroughly enjoying being a science writer for GMA News Online. I love science and I love sharing science with people (YouTube videos anyone?), so what better way than to get involved in science media? But whatever happens next, bring it on!

The famous sunflowers of the University of the Philippines-Diliman.
The famous sunflowers of the University of the Philippines-Diliman.

2012: a year in pictures

This is the first time I’ve ever done this. Hah! It was a challenge to try to summarize an entire year in just a bunch of photos but I think I got it right. Lots of challenges but lots of fun too.

Why women in science end up single

This blog post is a response to this article on successful women scientists. Among those interviewed is Dr. Luli Cruz from the University of the Philippines-Marine Science Institute (MSI represent!). Part of her interview:

Lourdes Cruz says that motherhood is one of the main reasons for the lack of female academicians in the country and elsewhere. Many women in the Philippines get first degrees β€” for example, 60 per cent of chemistry graduates are women β€” but few stay on to pursue careers in science.

“Women have greater opportunities here than in most Asian countries, but only 30 per cent of awardees [recipients of prestigious awards] are women,” says Cruz. “Sometimes you have to choose between career and family.” Cruz says this is one of the reasons she chose to remain single.

I’m estimating that the female senior faculty members of MSI are about 50/50 on the single versus married front. What I really want to know is out of the ones who are married, how many got married before getting their PhD versus those who married after getting the PhD. Why is this relevant?

Getting a PhD takes 6-7 years (maybe even longer) on top of the bachelor’s (and possibly a master’s) degree. You’d have to be very talented and determined to finish before you’re 30 years old. As Philippine society considers an unmarried 30-year-old female to be borderline “old maid”, with her chances of getting married decreasing exponentially with every year past 30, the “window of opportunity” for females to meet someone, start a relationship, and get married is between the ages of 21 and 29. For the women of Philippine science, this coincides with grad school – the years of your life where you’re too busy to do anything else.

Based on the people I know, female scientists who marry or otherwise have significant others either 1) met the guy during undergrad and they kept the relationship alive and healthy throughout grad school, or 2) met and dated a co-grad student (may or may not be in the same program). I’m not saying it’s impossible for a girl in grad school to nurture a relationship with someone who’s not in grad school. It’s just that people in the same boat as you tend to be more understanding when you say you can’t go out tonight because you have to finish looking at 2,000 more photographs from your transect. I give mad props to the people who stick with their grad students (whether male or female) through these tension-filled years. Remember: this is only the beginning! There’s also the tension to be had during grant-writing, manuscript-writing, and waiting for that tenure appointment πŸ˜›

I’m very happy to note that the “30-year-old finish line” is loosening its grip somewhat. Not that there’s anything wrong with wanting to get married and have your first baby before 30, but there shouldn’t be anything wrong with wanting to delay marriage for a few years in favor of a career either.