Friday, March 23, 2012

Love Letters: On the joys of intellectual partnerships

I'm in a great mood. As usual, there's too much to do and not enough time/resources to do it all, and there are policies and politics that stand in the way of true intellectual nirvana. I still struggle with time management and procrastination (yes, I'm supposed to be writing a grant. RIGHT. NOW. OMGZ!) and guilt and the missing of the baby when I'm at work and the itch to get back to work when I'm with the baby. Yes, of course, to all of that. But today I've had a series of "high five" emails with various collaborators about various projects and it hit me how much joy those relationships bring me on a professional and personal front. Where would we be if we tried to do it all alone? It takes a village to raise a child (as I totes know firsthand now), but it's equally true that it takes a village to make meaningful work happen. So today I just want to write a love letter to my intellectual village (which is heavily populated by amazing and brilliant women), and encourage you in the comments to do the same!

Thanks Kate Clancy and Katie Hinde! I admired you both individually as friends and scientists before we started on our journey to build a book about building babies, and am so happy this project brought us all together. The Lady Editors are a force to be reckoned with.

Thanks Alison Doubleday! From grad school in Bloomington to faculty meetings in Chicago, we've known each other a long time. I love working with you whether it's on our American Association of Anatomists-funded anatomy workshop at AAPA, teaching in the College of Dentistry, or collecting prom dresses. You are a deeply decent and humane person.

Thanks Victoria DeMartelly! Assistant, researcher, style inspiration, friend: you make my job so much easier and you do it with spirit, grace, a great sense of humor, and fantastic shoes. You went to the Philippines! You collected placentas! You killed cockroaches! You went to the Outpost and Bead Street! And you said the magic words that made me fall in love with you: "Do you want me to put all your articles in EndNote for you?" Yes, yes I do.

Thanks Betsy Abrams! If it weren't for you, I never would have thought about postpartum hemorrhage and evolution. And end up with the cover of American Anthropologist! You inspire me to trade out of my biomedical hat and get anthropological. Plus you knitted a marmoset hat for my baby .

Thanks Robin Nelson! I thank Northwestern and the 2008 election for bringing us together. You are brilliant. Someday can we work on a project together, PLEASE?  The babies can play with toys and you and I can play with ideas. And cookies, of course.

Thanks Suzette Tardif! From mentor to colleague. No words can express how much your encouragement, belief in me, and awesome dance moves have guided my career. Really, I can't ever tell you. But thanks.

Thanks Chris Kuzawa! Our work in the Philippines together continues to be rewarding and I can't wait to see what happens next.

Thanks, Agustin Fuentes, Katie MacKinnon, Michelle Bezanson, Kristi Lewton, Stephanie Meredith, Erin Phelps Riley, Christina Campbell, Lorena Havill, Diane Warren, Jim McKenna and SO MANY MORE! You drink with me at meetings and say brilliant funny things, some of which I understand and others I don't. But you remind me that what we do is a BLAST and that we are lucky to find so many people who just get it. Sometimes during dark times, the thought of seeing you at meetings is what keeps me going.

I'm sure there are many others I'm leaving out of this, and as I think of them I will amend the post. But I just wanted you all to know that I think you're pretty great.

Hugs, kisses, and high fives all around,


  1. Right back at you lady!!! Also your love letter, and the people its directed to, make me really excited for the AAPAs next month!! Muah!

  2. This was my love letter to my intellectual village, excerpted from my dissertation acknowledgements. I was planning to send it to you at some point, anyway, so here it is.

    "Finally, I thank my friends. Not for helpful and stimulating conversations. Sure, we have had them, but that’s not the point. I thank you for being the types of people with whom it is possible to have such conversations—anytime, anywhere, about anything. The types of people who stay outside in the heat for 45 minutes to watch while you try to pound the cork out of a wine bottle at a party, and who design imaginary future cork-pounding experiments to isolate what makes it work. The types of people who understand when you walk away from them mid-sentence or interrupt them because you’ve seen something you think is exciting, because they do that to you, too. I thank you for being the types of people I am proud to call my colleagues and friends. To me, you feel like a perfectly broken-in pillow, or like the coziest old sweatshirt in the closet, or like the first time you put on your favorite pair of jeans in the fall after not having worn pants all summer. And I thank you for that. This path has not always been the easiest. It has never been the most lucrative. But it has been the richest, the most interesting, and it has made me the most happy, due in no small part to the bright, challenging, creative, quirky, thoughtful, earnest and honest wonderers with whom it has afforded me the privilege of sharing not just my work, but also my life and myself."

  3. Stephanie, that is lovely! I can totally picture the conversation about cork-pounding experiments. I have had a several-years-running conversation with grad school friends about a line of hominin action figures called "Hominidz" - someday I will realize that dream.

  4. I am so full of lady editor love now... sigh.