Nice to meet you. I know another Grace Lee! In fact, I know 8, and I'm married to one.
July 25, 2010 1:22 AM Subscribe
I've been fantasizing about changing my very common last name for several years. Now that I am a fledgling academic professional, the time has come to make a decision. Should I do it?
posted by nemutdero to Human Relations (23 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Think of a very common East Asian last name. Now, think of a popular Asian-American female first name. About 5-10% of you have probably guessed my name. I would like to legally change my last name to make it more unique.
My name wasn't such a big deal during and before undergrad, other than fleeting moments of being annoyed when I encountered others with the same name. I spent parts of my life in two other countries using my other (ethnic) first name, which is very unique, so having a common name in the U.S. has always felt quite strange to me. (I do recognize that the recognizability conferred by a unique name can be a double-edged sword. However, being told every few weeks by complete strangers that my name is terrifically common is also no fun.)
Personal reasons aside, I am now at the point where I must come to a decision about changing my name for professional reasons. I am a graduate student and an academic-in-training with a few publications under my belt, but nothing major yet. If all goes well, I will someday be working as a research scientist. From what I've seen, I've come to believe that having a unique/memorable last name generally helps you as you try to build a reputation in your field. It would be nice to not get confused with the oodles of other people in my research subfield with the same last name (or even first name, too) as me.
To complicate matters a bit more, I am also planning to be a physician someday. Since doctors rely on their last names heavily for identification purposes, I imagine that it would be pretty frustrating to be one of multiple Dr. Lastnames in the same department. The last time I went to my university eye clinic, I noticed that 4 out of the 10 or so ophthalmologists listed on the directory board had the same last name... mine.
OK, enough. My plan is to take my current last name (which is my father's last name) and add my mother's last name after it, separated by a hyphen, e.g. Li-Chang. This new last name is not aesthetically optimal, nor is it ethnically authentic, but it is very unique and I believe the advantages would outweigh the negatives.
Other potentially relevant points: I am late-twenties, single (and thus bracing myself for the flurry of "What! You! MARRIED?!" emails). Parents/siblings are generally supportive of the idea.
My questions are:
1) Have you changed your last name for mainly professional reasons, and if so, what was your experience like?
2) If someone you know did this, would you consider it reasonable, or silly/narcissistic/unnecessary? Would I be better off fabricating a different reason to give to people?
3) Should I announce this change publicly to coworkers and friends (e.g. by mass email), or do a stealth introduction (e.g. quietly changing my email name and signature)?
All advice will be greatly appreciated, even more so if specific to careers in academia/medicine. Thanks!