Friday, November 20, 2009

To Change a Name -- Part II

So when I last left off I was oh-so-excited about changing my last name to the Architect's. ...But then I started thinking. See... I'm an academic. I went through 6 years of graduate school to get my Ph.D., and along the way I published a number of scientific papers. I have also started to make a (small) name for myself in my field. Yay for career success! But all of that success is tied to my maiden name.

So I started to worry about what would happen if I did change my last name when I got married. Would people be able to follow the change? ...or would some people fail to make the connection, and then it would look like I was a new person in the field, just starting out? In academia, it seems like it is more common for women to keep their last names than to change them these days. So, I was also worried that changing my last name would be frowned upon by women in my field who feel that your identity (and your scientific identity) is tied up in your birth name. I even toyed around with the idea of changing my last name in my personal life, but keeping my maiden name in my professional life... but that just sounded really confusing.

Finally I did the only logical thing that I could think of, and I turned to my fellow female astronomers for advice. I was heartened by the fact that many of my colleagues supported my name change, since it was clearly what I wanted. With their support, in the end I have decided to go with my initial idea and I will be changing my last name. Career-wise, I have come up with a plan that will hopefully keep my publication record and professional record clear and easy to follow, spanning my name change.

For those of you who are interested, here is my 4-step plan:
  1. For at least 2 years following my name change, I will publish under the name 'first name' 'mother's last name' dash 'father's last name' 'new last name'. Yes, that is three last names. However, I'm hoping that this scheme will tie together my unmarried and married last names so that my publication record is easier to follow. After 2 years I will drop my maiden name entirely and start publishing under my married name only.
  2. I am having my married name and my maiden name linked in the search engine for astronomy papers. ADS is the one search engine that astronomers use most frequently to look up papers. Luckily, the people who run ADS are able to link two names if someone decides to change their name. (How progressive of them!) So now, when a search is done for my new last name, papers from my old last name will still pop up on the website.
  3. I will be announcing my name change at the beginning of any scientific talks that I give for at least the next year or two, so that people take note.
  4. I will also be noting my name change at the top of my professional CV and resume.

So, what do you think? Have I thought this through sufficiently, or am I committing career suicide? Is your name tied with your career success? In that case, what decision are you making when it comes to changing your last name when you get married?

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