Archive for: June, 2010

Drag your lazy ass back to the lab! Don't you know postdocs are a dime a dozen?

Via Abi, I learn that Chemistry Blog has posted an interesting letter from a PI to his postdoc dated July 27, 1996. The letter, on official Caltech Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering letterhead, suggests that not all the stories one hears about the unreasonable work hours demanded of postdocs are exaggerated. Indeed, the most surprising thing about the letter is that it puts the PI's expectations in writing.
The letter reads:

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10 responses so far

Necessity is the mother of longer text messages?

Recently, I traded up from my nowhere-near-smart phone to a slightly more advanced (but still nearly obsolete) phone -- one maybe about a year newer (in terms of technological endowment) than the old one.
Practically, what this means is that I am now able not only to receive text messages, but also to send them. And, tremendous Luddite though I am, I have discovered contexts in which sending a text message actually seem reasonable (e.g., to contact a fellow conference-goer in the morning after a night of conference-carousing, when a phone call might interrupt sleep or networking or something else important).
However, I've run into an unforeseen complication:

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7 responses so far

IGERT meeting: what do grown-up interdisciplinary scientists do for a living?

One of the most interesting sessions at the NSF IGERT 2010 Project Meeting was a panel of men and women who participated in the IGERT program as students and are now working in a variety of different careers. The point of the panel was to hear about the ways that they felt their experiences as IGERT trainees prepared them for their current positions, as well as to identify aspects of their current jobs where more preparation might have been helpful.
The session was moderated by Judy Giordan (President and Co-Founder, Visions in Education, Inc.). The IGERT alums who participated in the panel were:
Fabrisia Ambrosio (University of Pittsburgh)
Abigail Anthony (Environment Northeast, a non-profit)
Edward Hederick (Congressional Fellow)
Lisa Kemp (Co-founder, Ablitech, Inc.)
Henry Lin (Amgen, Inc.)
Yaniria Sanchez de Leon (University of Puerto Rico)
Andrew Todd (U.S. Geological Survey)
Marie Tripp (Intel)
What helped you prepare for your current role?

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Corrupting the youth at freshman orientation.

Jun 25 2010 Published by under Academia, Personal, Teaching and learning

The funding situation in the California State University system being what it is (scary-bad), departments at my fair university are also scrambling to adjust to a shift in the logic governing resource distribution. It used to be that resources followed enrollments -- that the more students you could pack into your classes, the more money your department would be given to educate students.
Now, in the era of enrollment caps (because the state can't put up its share of the cost for as many students as it used to), it's looking like resources will be driven by how many majors a department can enroll (without violating caps on total enrollment for that department's course offerings -- this is a seriously complicated optimization problem).
Plus, because we (i.e., the bean-counters and the tax-payers) don't want students frittering away tax-payer subsidized coursework (i.e., taking a single unit in excess of the minimum number of units needed to earn a degree), there is an imperative for incoming frosh to declare a major within two semesters, and for incoming transfer students to declare a major within one semester -- and then, once the major has been declared, it is permanent. Like a tattoo. (Because, see, changing majors often requires doubling back to complete the requirements of the new major to which you have switched, which pushed you beyond the minimum number of units needed to earn a degree.)
Among other things, this means my department is working hard at this summer's weekly freshman orientation events to drum up prospective majors. To that end, my colleagues Anand Vaidya and Jim Lindahl put together something of a top 10 list:

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11 responses so far

Friday Sprog Blogging: Mummies, Bones, and Body Parts.

Jun 25 2010 Published by under Book review, Kids and science

The Free-Ride offspring are currently summering (for a couple weeks, anyway) with The Grandparents Who Lurk But Seldom Comment. Practically, this means the conversations between Free-Ride offspring and parents over the past week have been brief and focused on how awesome day camp is.
I have, however, taken steps to ensure that while I am deprived of the physical presence of my offspring, you will not be deprived of the weekly installment of sprog blogging. To this end, I gave each of the sprogs a book to read during their visit with their grandparents and asked them to report back on their books via email.
Of course, I forgot to issue a mid-week reminder.
Nonetheless, the elder Free-Ride offspring was prepared to deliver a report on this book:


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8 responses so far

IGERT meeting: the Digital Science panel.

As mentioned in an earlier post, I was recently part of a panel on Digital Science at the NSF IGERT 2010 Project Meeting in Washington, D.C. The meeting itself brought together PIs, trainees, and project coordinators who are involved in a stunning array of interdisciplinary research programs. Since the IGERT program embraces mottos like "get out of the silos" and "think outside the box", my sense is that the Digital Science panel was meant to offer up some new-ish tools for accomplishing tasks that scientists might want to accomplish.

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Friday Sprog Blogging: I scream, you scream.

Jun 18 2010 Published by under Kids and science

Dr. Free-Ride: Do you remember what [Dr. Free-Ride's better half] said we were going to do at some point this summer? Using the machine in our garage that Uncle Fishy and RMD left for us?
Younger offspring: That ice cream machine?
Dr. Free-Ride: Yeah.
Younger offspring: Oh, I love that!
Dr. Free-Ride: Well, what are we going to do with it?
Younger offspring: Make ice cream.

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7 responses so far

If search strings were writing assignments ...

From time to time I have a look at the search strings that have brought readers to this blog. Looking at some of the recent queries, I can't help but wonder what kind of blog this would be if these described my main focus:

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3 responses so far

Teaching, learning, grades, and student evaluations.

Jun 17 2010 Published by under Academia, Teaching and learning

Chad has posted an interesting discussion of a study of students' academic performance and how it is correlated to their evaluations of the faculty teaching them. The study in question is Carrell, S., & West, J. (2010). Does Professor Quality Matter? Evidence from Random Assignment of Students to Professors Journal of Political Economy, 118 (3), 409-432 (DOI 10.1086/653808) . Go read Chad's post for a detailed discussion of the methodology of the study, since it will likely answer your questions about my quick overview here. After the overview, I'm going to offer a few more thoughts on the explanations the study authors propose for their findings.
The study, done with data from the U.S. Air Force Academy (where there is a large-ish set of courses all students are required to take, to which students are assigned at random, and which are evaluated on the basis of common exams in which faculty are not necessarily grading their own students, etc.), found that:

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The blogger's hypothetical imperatives.

In the midst of the ongoing conversation about managing career and housework and who knows what else (happening here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and likely some places I've missed), ScientistMother wondered about one of the blogospheric voices that wasn't taking an active role in the discussion. She mused in a comment at Isis's blog:

Do we ever get a post from DrugMonkey about how he does it? He has kids and a wife (who I think is a scientist) but he rarely talks about balance issues. I'm sure its been an issue. Until the MEN start talking about its not going to change.

When DrugMonkey demurred, she followed up with a post at her own blog:

You have stated on your blog that you believe that gender equality in science is a good thing. Yet you rarely talk about some of the balancing issues or the parental issues. I have the link up that shows you think its important. Yet outside of that post originally done 2 years ago, you don't talk about fatherhood or balancing fatherhood and partnerhood with science.

In the discussion in the comments following her post, ScientistMother quotes from the post from the DrugMonkey vault she has in mind:

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7 responses so far

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