Archive for: April, 2007

Some quick thoughts on undergraduate research.

Jake, Chad, and Rob have posted about a newly published study about the benefits of research experiences for undergraduates. The quick version is that involvement in research (at least in science/technology/engineering/mathematics disciplines) seems to boost the student's enthusiasm for the subject and confidence, not to mention nearly doubling the chances that the student will pursue a Ph.D.
I'm going to chime in with some observations of my own:

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Any questions for Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education Margaret Spellings?

This Friday, as part of my university's sesquicentennial celebration, there's going to be a two hour session on "The Future of Higher Education". The keynote speaker will be Margaret Spellings, the U.S. Secrtetary of Education. There will also be a "panel discussion with national experts", after which they will entertain questions from the audience.
So, what questions about the future of higher education would you like me to ask?
In case you're stuck for ideas, here's a potential prompt: Spellings' Commission on the Future of Higher Education has been hailed as a way to bring No Child Left Behind-like reforms to colleges and universities. How does that idea sit with you?
Thanks in advance!
UPDATE: SInce the link to information on the Spellings commission is apparently a little pokey today, here's a viewpoint piece about the commision. It's a critical view, but may be useful in illuminating some of what the commission is asking for. Also, here's a page with links to the extensive coverage of the commission at Inside Higher Ed.

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Bloggers who regularly make me think.

I've been dawdling on this. I was tagged by not one but two of my blog pals for the Thinking Blogger meme. Here are the official rules of the meme:

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I thought I understood the extent of the bureaucracy here.

I haven't mentioned it here before, but I'm currently working on a project to launch an online dialogue at my university (using a weblog, of course) to engage different members of the campus community with the question of what they think the college experience here ought to be, and how we can make that happen. The project team has a bunch of great people on it, and we thought we had anticipated all the "stake holders" at the university from whom we ought to seek "buy-in".
As we were poised to execute the project, we discovered that we had forgotten one:

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Friday Sprog Blogging: Bioblitz!

Apr 27 2007 Published by under Kids and science

Dr. Free-Ride: Hey, can you guys draw me a picture with some of the wildlife you've seen in the last week?
Elder offspring: Sure!
Younger offspring: But ... I haven't seen any wildlife in the last week.
Dr. Free-Ride: What are you talking about? We see wildlife every day when we walk to school.
Elder offspring: Yeah, the squirrels and the different kinds of birds and the snails.
Younger offspring: That counts as wildlife? OK, I can make you a picture.

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To correct or to retract? The ethics of setting the record straight.

An important part of the practice of science is not just the creation of knowledge but also the transmission of that knowledge. Knowledge that's stuck in your head or lab notebooks doesn't do anyone else any good. So, scientists are supposed to spread the knowledge through means such as peer reviewed scientific journals. And, scientists are supposed to do their level best to make sure the findings they report are honest and accurate.
Sometimes, scientists screw up. Ideally, scientists who have screwed up in a scientific communication need to set the record straight. Just what is involved in setting the record straight, however, sometimes presents interesting problems, as the following case illustrates nicely.

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And the point of publishing scientific findings was what again?

Pencils ready? Here's a quick quiz; circle all that apply*:
1. You're a scientist and you've just published some research in a peer reviewed journal. You want:
a. Scientists in your field to read and discuss your work.
b. Interested non-scientists to get the important bits of what you found and why it matters, whether by powering through the article themselves or by getting a clear explanation of the article from a scientist.
c. No discussion of your article at all -- once it's on the page in the journal, there's nothing else to say about it.
d. All discussions of your findings to be based on press releases rather than the details in your journal article.

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Do I blog like a girl?

This tool uses an algorithm to guess whether the chunk of text you enter into the text box was written by a male or a female. What do you suppose it thought about my writing?

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Homeschooling and chemistry.

The April 16 issue of Chemical & Engineering News has an interesting article about homeschooling families looking for chemistry curricula. (You need an individual or institutional subscription to view the article; it might be worth checking with your local library.)
I'm far from an expert on homeschooling (as we're availing ourselves of the public schools), but I'm fascinated by the ways some of the families featured in the article are piecing together what they need for their kids.

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Friday Sprog Blogging: fragments of conversations about nature

Apr 20 2007 Published by under Kids and science

There's a lot going on this week and next that captures the interest and imagination of the Free-Ride offspring. They've been thinking about animals that live in places we do not (like the briny seas), noticing the critters that live in our neighborhood, contemplating the ways a domestic animal might interact with our backyard ecosystem, and even musing on human nature.
But what you'll really want to know is why does this penguin look so scared? Read on and find out.

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