I once saw an interview with Beyonce where she explained that that she had created a separate name for her stage-self because the person she needed to be on stage was so different from how she saw herself.
I totally get this. I too have an alter ego and she is much better at being a professor than I am. You see, I find talking to people...draining. I can't explain it any better than that. Talking to people takes a lot of thought on my part, and often involves conversations in my head like, "Okay, what would a normal person say at this point?....pause....oh I should probably ask how their family is doing". It's draining maintaining a conversation not only with someone but also in your head about what you should or should not be saying. As I have recently discovered, however, talking to strangers is a common, actually daily, part of my job. Whether it is students at office hours, my new graduate students, scientists at other universities, attending meetings, there really isn't any aspect of this job that doesn't seem to involve me having conversations I would rather avoid.
So, what is a poor anti-social misfit to do? Like Beyonce, I have created an alter ego: Professor Chaos. She is my professional persona. When in a conversation with a big name scientist, Professor Chaos knows she's doing interesting novel science that is relevant and interesting. She also knows she's smart enough to maintain a scientific conversation with Professor Bigwig. She knows that speaking her mind will not cause everyone to suddenly realize she's an idiot. She gives confident lectures and seminars. She converses with colleagues with ease and grace (mostly). And when she is done, she is folded back into her box and River Tam reemerges (often a little freaked out and wondering if Professor Chaos just embarrassed her by making her sound like an idiot). The trick of course, is figuring out exactly how to construct an appropriate alter ego. After all, one wrong turn, and I could be giving my seminars like this:
While this persona seems to works very well for a musical superstar, I suspect that it might take my scientific reputation down a pathway I would rather it not go!