Have child, will travel
Dr Joanne Dawson is a DECRA Fellow and Senior Lecturer in Astronomy and Astrophysics. She’s also mum to her 3-year old son, Finley, whom she enjoys hanging out with, teaching him about the world and watching him grow.
As an academic, her work responsibilities involve undergraduate and HDR teaching, HDR student supervision, her own research, and a lot of varied committee and service roles, both within her discipline and the University more broadly. Her work days are variable and her hours are flexible, but Jo, like many working parents, has found it a challenge at times to find the right balance between caring for her son with meeting the needs of her role, particularly as it does involve travel.
Getting access to carer support funds as part of her internal Macquarie Research Development Grant (MQRDG) has been highly beneficial for Jo, as it has allowed her to take her child with her to three international workshops and a national meeting. Jo’s partner works casual shifts and when he takes time to do the day care drop off and pick up, it impacts them financially.
“Travelling with a small child is often hard for academic parents, but thanks to conference travel support from Macquarie, and the fact that conference childcare is fast becoming the norm in my field, this has been quite manageable so far for me,” Jo says. “I may not be around in the evenings when I travel due to my childcare duties, but I get to participate in my discipline, network and keep my knowledge current as a working parent.”
Can be both a mum and a scientist
Jo has recently mentored her first PhD student through his first paper, regularly participates in workshops and conferences and is working to make a difference to women and minorities in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM), as well as in Astronomy and Astrophysics, through contributions to various Diversity Committees.
Being able to travel with Finley has had many positive consequences for Jo, including for her students. For example, travelling overseas has allowed her to forge new collaborations with experts in Paris, one of is whom is now an adjunct supervisor for one of her students, and has hosted him on extended visits.
“The Macquarie University travel support has enabled me to be both a mum and a scientist without having to sacrifice the important aspects of either role,” Jo says.
“Perhaps one of the most important benefits is a mental one, since it removes the guilt and stress, either of leaving Finley behind for weeks while I travel, or of missing meetings I feel I need to attend to stay competitive. Taking him travelling has also strengthened the bond between us through shared experiences of seeing different places and meeting lots of new people. I believe that Finley has become quite a resilient child who is comfortable with change, which makes me proud as his mum”.