Words of Wisdom: Dr. Levitus

Marcia Levitus, PhD: Words of Wisdom: Dr. Levitus

Urges students not to get wrapped into issues that do not directly involve them.

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Dr. Marcia Levitus's Bio

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Transcript: Words of Wisdom: Dr. Levitus

Maybe something I think about a lot is when I talk to female grad students, many people are thinking too much about [inaudible 52:18]. Sometimes you become very defensive about things that didn't happen to you because you-I mean if we-talking about these issues is extremely important, but if you hear a lot about something, sometimes you make an issue of things that maybe are not an issue for you. I think I relax and do my stuff and until actually something happens, I don't think it's worth talking to things how you would deal with something that never happened to you. I think also I'm very afraid of becoming paranoid that if something happens, it's because I'm a female because that's a very easy linear relationship that maybe is not true. I mean my main colleagues also have issues and clearly some are wide culcation 53:11 and still have issues. If you make the connection that happened to me because I'm a minority, that's dangerous. I fear that sometimes people are so sensitive and so expecting something bad happening, that I mean that's bad. You cannot be successful and happy and enjoy your life, if you are paranoid and because of your gender or ethnicity you're going to have an issue. I always recommend that relax and do your stuff, and if something happens, of course, I mean take it seriously. Don't modify your actions thinking that things will happen because you are a female. I mean that-it might be that nothing happens to you. Or if something happens, it's because of your gender or your ethnicity. I personally am very afraid of becoming very paranoid about those things. Very often students look at their advisers as the only possible career that they can have. So if you are doing a PhD with some professor, many people think that your PhD will get you there and nothing else. I think people don't realize how having a PhD in any discipline opens a million different doors; most of them that we professors are not aware that they exist because we have our narrow minded, usually our academic positions. I'm talking to, especially female grad students, they say well I cannot be a professor because I cannot possible have the compassion that my adviser has or the kind of time or I cannot be that person. People don't realize that you don't need to be that person at all.

I mean getting a PhD, I think nowadays if you can, is a tool that is so-it opens you a million different doors, and you can be doing a million different things that have nothing to do with your adviser's life. Not only you can work in industry or government, or you can do politics or you can work for the environment or you can teach. I mean there are a million different styles of careers and jobs; things that are very people oriented and things that are very-I mean if you are into education or you can work into politics education or you can, I don't know, you can have-if you are into business, you can start your company. I mean there's so many things you can do what we here maybe don't do-we don't do a good job of showing students where the choices are, probably because we don't know what the choices are because we went towards one particular direction.

In terms of getting a PhD, I feel a little bit like my parents did that if you can, you have to. That gives you freedom. It gives you choices. It opens doors, and you are a free person that can choose to go many things. Why would you choose not to? You don't need to be as your adviser. Your adviser is a tiny fraction of the population with a PhD, and that's why I think it's useful to look for mentors outside and talk to millions of people. Go to conferences. Talk to the companies, and go to the conferences, and people that do science in companies and people that teach in different places. Or if you like politics, you can be Washington D.C. doing policy in terms of stem cell research or environment or whatever you want. You can do patents and drive company for anything you need a PhD anyway.

In my vision, a PhD nowadays in this century is a tool that will open and gives you freedom. It will open doors and gives you lots of freedom. As a person, I need freedom to choose what I want to do, so you don't need to do what your adviser did at all."

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