are you the secretary?

Sabine Dippel sabine at
Mon Feb 26 04:25:00 EST 1996

This thread has really shown me how naive I sometimes am. It happens to me 
all the time, but I put it down to the fact that if you meet a woman in a 
physics department, chances ARE very high that she's the secretary. I thought
that in a field where women are more common, this would not happen (or at least
far less frequently). Well, now I know better.

By the way, now that I'm at it, I'd like to tell a little story that happened
to me some time ago which somehow fits into the "getting heard" thread (which
I found very interesting). I'd like to hear if there's anything I might have 
done or might do better in future to avoid this happening.

Some months ago we had a visitor at the institute, an american professor in
his early 60's (I don't know if the age is important). He eventually turned 
up in our office to be told what we are working on (nothing to do with his
field of work, but he was interested). He first turned to the (male, and 
definitely young-looking) undergraduate student to ask him about his work, 
but Tim just mumbled "Well, I have only just started, there is actually not
much I can tell you..." and fell into silence. So I took over, and told him
what Tim was supposed to do, how that related to what a grad student who had
just finished his theses had done, about my own work, etc. (BTW, I am a grad
student myself.) Eventually my advisor turned
up and asked Tim and me to show a video of simulations that had been done
at our institute (before we came there), because "you know that work very 
well" (you meaning me). He wanted Tim to come along because he has some 
(in my opinion crazy) plans of a possible collaboration with this prof 
on something only very slightly related to what we are doing here at present,
but it is related to the present work of the group who worked in our institute
before us. So I gave him an account of their work as well, then showed the 
video and gave lots of explanations with it. 
In the end, he asked Tim (who had said maybe one sentence during all this time)
for his name and e-mail address, in case of a future collaboration. He never 
even asked my name. When done with all this stuff, I handed him on to someone
else and never saw him again. On the next day a colleague asked me how dinner
had been, and was astonished to hear that I had not even been asked by this 
visitor to join him and some others at the institute. I don't know if he 
would have asked Tim, since he had to bolt earlier to catch his bus.

So basically what I am saying is this. I devoted all in all 2 hours of my time
to this man, giving him a quite complete account of the present, past and
future work in our group, as well as the present and past work of another 
group, and he did not even seem to have noted my existence after all this. 
It did not have to do with my being "just a student", since he noticed Tim.
Though it does not really matter in this special case, since I don't think
there will ever be a collaboration, and I don't think I will ever have to 
deal with him again, I wonder if there is anything I could have done to be
noticed. He might as well have been someone who could be important for me.
This is really the first time this has happened to me - the people I deal 
with usually listen to what I tell them.


| Sabine Dippel     | e-mail: s.dippel at                | 
| HLRZ              | phone : [++49] (2461) 61-2318                  | 
| KFA Juelich       | fax   : [++49] (2461) 61-2430                  | 
| 52425 Juelich     | WWW   : | 
| Germany           |                                                | 

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