Career Breaks (in Physics)

Content last updated 1/2/11; a design update is in the works.

Send email to careerbreaks at earthlink dot net.

A web page devoted to the dissemination of information about career breaks for scientists with the main focus being physics and related fields. By "career break" I mean any deviation from the usual full-time job commitment. This includes everything from not working at all for a few months or years, to having a reduced schedule. Here you can find:

Branching out a bit, here is a New York Times video from December 2010 about part-time professionals in the Netherlands. Remember to keep thinking outside the box!

Articles and talks I have given on career breaks

In October 2009, I gave an invited talk at the Women in Astronomy and Space Science conference. Slides are availible now, and the proceeding are to be up by January 9, 2011.

I have written articles on career-break grants and my career break in, repsectively, the Spring '04 and Fall '06 issues of "The Gazette." A newsletter published by the APS's Committee on the Status of Women in Physics.

In March 2006, Symmetry Magazine published an article describing my career path and discussing career breaks in physics.

People who have taken a break and returned

Shireen Adenwalla (sadenwal at
Condensed Matter Experimentalist
She took intermittent time off to raise a family, worked part time and on soft money for approximately 5 years (two body problem). Dr. Adenwalla is currently in a tenure-track position at the Department of Physics, University of Nebraska - Lincoln.

Jackie Johnson (jaj at
Material Science: amorphous materials
She took 10 years off from research to start a family of four children. She did some intermittent teaching during that time. Dr. Johnson is currently a staff scientist at Argonne National Lab in the Tribology Section of Energy Technology.

Catherine Mavriplis (mavripli at
Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering: fluids, heat transfer, aerodynamics, computational techniques
She began working in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at The George Washington University after obtaining her Ph.D. from MIT and doing a post-doc at Princeton. Four children later, she is a Research Scientist at the University of Oklahoma (NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory) and teaches part-time, via distance education, at George Washington.

The M. Hildred Blewett Scholarship page includes a list of recipients. These are women who are working their way back.

Grants amenable to people with career breaks

This information was collected by Elizabeth Freeland. Information about other grants suitable for persons with career breaks can be sent to her at careerbreaks at earthlink dot net ( email ).

New NSF Policies for breaks during grants
The NSF now allows PI's to have breaks and may even pay for an assistant to keep a lab running during the break.

Forward to Professorship in Science, Engineering, and Mathematics
This is a NSF funded workshop sponsored by the George Washington & Gallaudet Universities. "This workshop is provided for women and minorities who may be considering, or are currently in, a tenure track position in science, engineering or mathematics." Attending this workshop can be useful to someone ready to return to a full-time career.

American Association of University Women: American Fellowships
There are three fellowships open to scientist and non-scientist: one for postdoctoral research, one for dissertation writing, and one that is short-term for research publication. Applicants who have taken time off and/or work part time will be considered.

Alfred P. Sloan Foundation: Sloan Research Fellowships
Applicants with career breaks due to special circumstances such as military service, a change of field, or child rearing will be considered.

APS's M. Hildred Belwett Scholarship for Women in Physics
The creation of this scholarship was announced in the November '04 issue of APS News . The scholarship targets women with career breaks, women who want to change fields, and women in their first academic position.

There are three types of awards in this program targeted towards women. The Fellows Award is targeted towards individuals who have had disruptions to their careers. There are conditions of eligibility, such as previous employment, which exclude certain circumstances. NOTE: As of December '04 future guidlines/solicitations are unavailible for this program. It seems to be on hold... Check the NSF website for current status.

The Daphne Jackson Trust
Anyone interested in re-entry or re-training grants should look over this website. For specific program information, click on the "fellowships" tab at the top. For actual funds though, it's only useful to residents of the U.K.

Places where career breaks are discussed

Also see links for/about women in science below.

Beyond Bias and Barriers is the 2006 report from the National Academies. Scroll down to access the free, online version.

Creating Options: Models for Flexible Academic Career Pathways a report from the American Council on Education's Office of Women in Higher Education funded by the A.P. Sloan Foundation. The executive summary is availible as a 12 page pdf and gives suggestions to institutions for creating flexibile career paths. Arguments for the need for flexibility are also reviewed here.

The Nov/Dec 2004 issue of Academe from AAUP is dedicated to work-family issues. Titles include: Working Part Time After Tenure, Hitting the Maternal Wall (a nice overview of the current situation), and Balancing Work and Family for Faculty: Why It's Important. As of December '04 these are articles are availible online.

The Chronicle of Higher Education
The Chronicle of Higher Education has many archived articles concerning women and families in academe. Topics such as reduced schedules, and staying vs. leaving are not uncommon. Six month and month-to-month subscriptions are available. All their materials can be accessed online once you have a subscription. Without it one is limited to certain sections. Some example article titles are:

At least one issue discusses the very real but rarely mentioned issue of career breaks due to military service.

Women in Science links

American Physical Society, APS The Committee on the Status of Women in Physics (CSWP) sponsors WIPHYS, a listserv, and a newsletter, "The Gazette". Information for both can be found at:

American Astronomical Society, AAS Their committee on the status of women (CSWA) has a web site and a weekly email newsletter "AASWomen".

IUPAP Working Group on Women in Physics has sponsored an international conference every few years since 2002 The first took place in Paris in 2002. This was followed by
Brazil in 2005,
Seoul in 2008, and
Stellenbosch in 2011.
The conferences discuss and give recommnedations on a variety of topics including: General Recommendations Attracting Girls into Physics (childhood to university) Launching a Successful Career (University to Mid-Career) Balancing Family and Career Getting Women into Physics Leadership International Aspects conferences. from AWIS (Association for Women in Science) One could easily spend a lunch break browsing the information on this site. For administrators or others interested in improving academic life of women physicist try the "Model Program and Policies" and "Recommendations" links. There are also links for resources (grants), statistics, literature, surveys, and more.

Becoming Leaders: A Handbook for Women In Science, Engineering and Technology written by F. Mary Williams and Carolyn J. Emerson From the web site: "Becoming Leaders provides practical information to assist women in science, engineering and technology fields to advance their careers and develop their leadership style." This book has a lot of practical advice and deals with all the steps and directions of one's career. See their website for a table of contents and ordering information.

The Chronicle of Higher Education The Chronicle of Higher Education has many articles concerning women and families in academe. Six month and month-to-month subscriptions are available. All their materials can be accessed online once you have a subscription. Without it one is limited to certain sections. Some example article titles are:

Dual Careers

As for split-positions, hiring couples, and finding a job for the trailing spouse, Laurie McNeil and Marc Sher did a web survey and report on the topic back in 1998. For more information go to Marc Sher's web page on dual science careers in general and also the specific link to the "Report on the Dual-Career-Couple Survey".

Another page, maintained by Eric Jensen, deals with dual career couples in general, not limited to the sciences.

The NSF funded Forward to Professorship program has a resource site . The "Having it All" section has many references relating to the dual-career issue.

If you are looking for two jobs in the bay area (Califonia), try their Higher Education Recruitment Consortium . Other U of C schools have individual dual-career pages. Try finding them via Google.

Families in Science, Academia

As mentioned above, the Nov/Dec 2004 issue of "Academe" from AAUP is dedicated to work-family issues. Titles include: "Working Part Time After Tenure", "Hitting the Maternal Wall", and "Balancing Work and Family for Faculty: Why It's Important". As of December '04 these are articles are availible online.

From the April '04 Issue of the Chronicle of Higer Ed: Singing the Grad-School Baby Blues by Joan C. Williams.

See the last chapter (pgs 140 - 142) of Sue Rosser's book "The Science Glass Ceiling" (2004) for ideas about institutional change AND institutions testing these changes.

Jerry Jacob's website has links to his sociological studies done with grad student Sarah Winslow. Recent work includes studies of the time demands of academic life, its affect on work-family balance, and its role in the perpetuation of gender inequality.

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