A Day in the Life
Juggling Family and Academic Science

Anita Corbett, Associate Professor of Biochemistry

Vol. 8 No. 4
February/March 2006

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The Art and Science of Persuasion
Faculty, fundraising, and Emory's comprehensive campaign

The Development and University Relations Faculty Advisory Council

The Emory College Faculty Committee on Fundraising

"Faculty should know that this train is moving, and if there are suggestions or claims to be made or priorities to be established, this is the time to do it."

"Fundraising is an enormously long process, with hours devoted to stewardship."

Dangerous Ideas
The responsibilities of courageous inquiry

Emory's Living Room
The case for a university faculty club

A Day in the Life
Juggling family and academic science


We quoted Corbett in the AE September 2005 cover story, “Women’s Work,” which dealt with the challenges facing women scientists in academia. Here, she offers an account of a typical day. Corbett emphasized that her experience is certainly shared by many of her colleagues—both male and female—who juggle a career and family. When she submitted the story, she included a note: “I don’t think I am some kind of martyr for doing this; I think this is rather typical for a lot of people in academia.”

5:11 AM: Is that my alarm already? It feels like I just fell into bed. Oh well, time to get up and brush my teeth and put on my gym clothes. It’s not raining, so I’ll run to the gym this morning. If I don’t get moving, I won’t make it in time to warm up before class. It’s nice to have some time to myself before the day begins.

6:35 AM:
My legs are going to hurt tomorrow! I need to get home before the gang wakes up. It’s a good thing it’s only half a mile down hill to get home.

6:46 AM: I’m in the door. It’s still quiet; nobody’s awake yet. I’ll rouse my husband so he can get ready while I make breakfast, brew some tea, pack lunch, and prepare the milk for the baby. I’ll heat the milk in the microwave for seventeen seconds—that’s time I can put to productive use, taking silverware out of the dishwasher.

7:00 AM: The baby’s awake. Luckily, with three kids under my belt (a bit too literally), I’ve become adept at accomplishing things with one hand and a baby on my hip. Now it’s time to get the girls up for breakfast.

7:30 AM: Everyone has finished eating. Now we just need to get them dressed, combed, washed, brushed, and out the door so that the girls can make it to school on time. I could simply not do this without my husband, who drops the kids off almost every morning and picks them up as well.

7:50 AM: Another morning successfully underway, with just enough time for me to hop in the shower and have a few minutes to myself.

8:00 AM: I better get going so I can get something accomplished before my lab meeting. While I sit in traffic during my commute, I think I can finish reading that manuscript I’ve been working on. I’ll grab a cup of coffee on the way in and stop by the lab as I head toward my office. I’ll say good morning and see what’s up with everyone. I know one of the
students is having a tough time cloning.

9:00 AM: I didn’t even make it to my office before lab meeting, but I think we figured out why the cloning is not working—time to go to lab meeting.

11:40 AM: The meeting is over and I have almost fifteen minutes before I have to go to seminar at noon—but that’s unexpectedly swallowed up when someone from the lab snags me to ask some questions. It’s a good thing that I love my work, and it is truly rewarding to realize that the students have been reading papers and really thinking about their experiments. I wouldn’t trade this for the world, even if I never do get time to sit down with my own thoughts.

12:00 PM: Time for seminar. I’ll bring that manuscript that I need to finish reviewing just in case the seminar is boring.

1:15 PM: Seminar is over, and I don’t have a student meeting for another ten minutes. Maybe I can make it to my office. But it’s not to be, as a grad student trying to schedule a committee meeting nabs me in the hall. I’ve frittered away those precious minutes.

1:30 PM: The meeting with this post-doc is going to take a while. We need to discuss not only her work but also the work being done by the rotating graduate student working with her and her undergrad.

3:00 PM: The undergrad actually has some really interesting data. I’m impressed. It is so rewarding to see someone turn the corner and begin to understand why what they are doing is important and realize when they have an interesting result.

3:15: PM: The meeting’s finished and the next seminar doesn’t start for forty-five minutes! As soon as I check on the cloning in the lab, I’ll have some time to comb through my e-mail and see why the light on my phone is blinking so desperately.

4:05 PM: I knew I shouldn’t have checked my voice mail, since I just spent the last few minutes dealing with a graduate program issue and now I am late for seminar. I would skip it if I were not on the presenter’s thesis committee.

5:15 PM: Seminar is over. I need to grab the revised manuscript that my student has been working on today and then head out the door so I can be home when my husband arrives after gathering the kids. I run by the lab one more time and out the door.

6:05 PM: Everyone is home, tired, and hungry. Where should we order dinner from tonight?

7:00 PM: It’s time to get the kids bathed and ready for bed.

8:15 PM: Things are started to wind down. My husband is putting the baby to bed while I read to the girls. The kids are clean and their clothes for tomorrow have been picked out.

8:45 PM: Three books later and the girls are finally asleep. Now I can sneak away and finish cleaning up the kitchen, loading the dishwasher, and if I’m really lucky I might find a few minutes to fold some of the mountain of laundry that is threatening to engulf the dryer.

9:30 PM: Since the girls fell asleep early tonight, I had a few minutes to finish some household chores, but I guess it’s about time to get to work. I’ll just quickly finish up that one manuscript review, and then I’ll have time to work on that revised manuscript from my student.

11:00 PM: Where does the time go? I just finished the review and now I must work on the paper from my lab. It’s going to be another late night.

12:15 AM: I am starting to make completely nonsensical statements in this paper, so I guess that it is time to hang it up for the night. Maybe I’ll have more time to work on this manuscript tomorrow . . . tomorrow . . . tomorrow (is there an echo in here?). It’s time for bed.

5:11 AM: Is that my alarm already? It feels like I just fell into bed.