Academaze: Finding Your Way through the American Research University by Sydney Phlox

Academaze Book Review

I was given an advance free copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Blogger Sydney Phlox (academic science blog ) is woman in a (mostly) man’s world – a professor in a physical science field at a major research university in the U.S.

SP is a US university professor, so the book provides us with insight into how things work across the Pond (tenure, funding, teaching, travel for work, etc). Having said that, I think that the principles might be pretty similar elsewhere (UK and Europe at least, I can’t comment on Asia or Australia).

This book is a must read for anybody interested in how the STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths) world works, what the life of a scientist/researcher/lecturer is like at an American university, the things they have to do to keep their labs/ research groups going;

  • anybody interested/ thinking of/wanting to work in STEM/ especially, but not exclusively, women;
  • family and friends of the said women or men; undergrads and postgrads wanting to pursue career in academia, career advisors and student advisors, PhD students and post-docs, PIs and mentors;
  • anybody wanting to know what the life of a(n) (academic) researcher is like.

I think this is a fantastic book to prepare you for what to expect of a career in Academia.

I really enjoyed reading Academaze, which is such an appropriate title for it. The book is very easy to read, the chapters and subjects covered flow very well. While I was reading the book, it felt like I was talking to a more experienced, very friendly and professional colleague over a cup of tea. The world of academia would benefit from more Sidney Phloxes!

Academaze is a very inspiring book from a very inspiring person, Sydney Phlox is a role model for women in STEM, or any career. The book is bursting with excellent advice, great humour, a realistic but hopeful ‘can-be-done’ tone. Things are well explained, but not at all patronising, and with funny cartoons galore to illustrate the points. It also makes you contemplate roles within STEM from the perspective of colleagues across an institution’s hierarchy.

She’s covered it all: advice on how to navigate your relationships with your colleagues, supervisors, PIs, mentors, lab/group/ institution and field politics, career advice and job hunting for recent graduates, even mental-health advice (it doesn’t need to be perfect, it just needs to get done up to an “it’ll do” standard) and coping techniques; from impostor syndrome, writing papers and grant proposals, to balancing family with work, teaching and advising on travel for job/career, even advice for non-native English speakers.

I am a woman in STEM  in the UK and have recently completed my postgrad studies. I wish I had read this book as an undergraduate or just after graduating, as it would have answered a lot of questions I had, and quite a few I didn’t know I had. It also would have saved me a lot of grief and help me make more informed decisions.