siaa_logo_blue Amy J. Lovell lovell_circle

Agnes Scott College

Atlanta, USA
Job Title: Associate Professor


SIAA: How long is it since you got your maximum academic degree?

AJL: 10 years


SIAA: Do you feel it was more difficult for you to get a job or a promotion in comparison with male astronomers?

AJL: I had a very easy career path into the job that I wanted. After graduate school, I worked as the Five College Astronomy Science Education Fellow, situated at Amherst College, and then applied in my second year to Agnes Scott, where I was hired into a tenure-track faculty position. This was perhaps a faster track than some, with a permanent job only two years after my PhD was completed; however, some of my colleagues (male and female) began working here straight from graduate school, without working as a post-doc.  Gender does have an affect on employment advancement, but I believe it is somewhat less so here than at larger schools.


SIAA: Are women under-represented in your institution?

AJL: Agnes Scott is a women's college, so women are about 60% of the faculty at every rank. In the sciences (Biology, Chemistry, and Physics), the faculty are 50% women and 50% men. Admittedly, this is unusual, particularly in astronomy and physics!


SIAA: What is your family status?  

AJL: I have been married 19 years and have two children, a girl and a boy, one in middle school and one in high school. We find time to be together as a family and to visit with extended family several times a year as well, though our relatives are quite spread out over the Eastern USA.  


SIAA: Have you had career breaks?  

AJL: I have not taken a break in my career for family reasons.  Both of my children were born while I was still a graduate student. I had a one-semester leave from teaching in 2004, and spent it as a visiting scientist in Instituto Nacional de AstrofÌsica, ”ptica y ElectrÛnica in Puebla, Mexico.  I was on a sabbatical leave for the school year 2006-2007, and spent it as a visiting scientist at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.


SIAA: How difficult did you find the return to your work?  

AJL: I appreciate the structure of the school year, and like working with a schedule of classes in general.  It was difficult to adjust to setting my own work schedule during the leave times, just as it is an adjustment each summer, and it is also somewhat difficult to adjust back to a structured day at the end!  I found that after becoming a parent, I was better at managing my time, and made more use of smaller openings in my day.


SIAA: How many hours per day do you normally dedicate to work?  

AJL: The number of hours I work per day varies a lot. During the semester I spend almost all of my time teaching, grading, preparing for classes and labs, and advising students.  Administrative and committee duties probably take about an hour a day as well. Many times I am able to complete my daily responsibilities while I'm in the office, but other times I take work home, especially when there are lots of papers to grade.


SIAA: What would most help you advance your career?   

AJL: My career has moved along nicely - I wanted a job in a small college where I would be involved in teaching and working closely with students, and that is what I am doing.  One of the things I depend on is a system of publicly-available government-funded telescopes to make the observations that support my research.  I also depend on capable and enthusiastic students who want to study astronomy and physics.  Given that, two things that will help me advance my career are scientifically literate voters who support public funding of astronomy, and young women who enroll in astronomy courses!


SIAA: What recommendation would you make to young women starting their career in astronomy?  

AJL: My best advice for young women starting a career in astronomy is to find what they love to do, and to work on whatever that is. Your career will follow a natural path if your work is something that really interests you.  Many young women worry about having a scientific career and also participating in other natural human pursuits such as finding a partner and having children. I always encourage women (who have the opportunity and want to be mothers) to start their families while they are young, flexible, and energetic. Of course, it is helpful to have a supportive partner willing to share family responsibilities, but I had both of my children while I was still a graduate student and still have no regrets about that!