Why I don’t use my campus email address


What good things does an institutional email address do for you? Here is a list:

  • It gives you legitimacy. If you’re working at Important University, then people know this from your email address.

And that’s the end of the list.

What not-so-good things come with your institutional email address*?

  • It is ephemeral. If you are a student or postdoc, then you know there will be a day, not that far away, that emails to you at this address will bounce back to the sender.
  • It is subject to the changing tides of university IT office policies, support, and archiving practices.
  • In theory, and perhaps in practice, it can be read others in your university, (whereas all of your email can be read by big corporations even if you use your university account).

When people nowadays send you email, they find your email by typing your name in the header of the email and your address pops up. Ideally, the address that pops up will never change.

If you’re in grad school, you’re planning to do stuff when you get done, but you don’t know where that will be. (Unless you’re EO Wilson who transitioned from Harvard grad student to Harvard professor, odds are that you’ll be working somewhere else.) It’ll be just a little easier for your collaborators and everybody else to keep contacting you at the same email address no matter where you go.

How do I handle the mechanics of my personal and university accounts? My personal account grabs all of the mail that comes to me from my campus mail. And then I deal with it from my personal account.

I realize that lots of folks like to use university accounts for business, and personal accounts for personal stuff. That’s cool. While my life extends well beyond teaching, research and service, the bulk of my work-related email extends far before, and beyond, my current employer. The obligation to turn in a manuscript review ranks falls in the same category as the obligation to volunteer for my kid’s school, and the obligation to respond to a student email about homework falls in the same category as responding to a student from institution who has a specific question about the science that has come out of my lab. The obligation to pay an invoice for lab supplies ranks up there with paying my own credit card bill. So “one email account to rule them all” makes sense for me.

For the heck of it, here’s a history of the email addresses used: In college, when I was looking for grad school opportunities, I was using mcglynn@oxy.edu. (However, at this point in the early ’90s, some prospective advisors hadn’t joined the email bandwagon.) Our college told us that we could keep that address in perpetuity, so I always could have mcglynn@oxy.edu. A few years later, the campus IT people they realized they were naive and rescinded that commitment. (Now, there is some alumni.oxy.edu email address if want it, that I’ve never used.)

In grad school, after getting pushed around a couple weird domains like ucsub.colorado.edu, I got terrence.mcglynn@colorado.edu. When I applied for postdocs and faculty jobs, I used this address in my job applications. This account disappeared a few months after I graduated.

As a postdoc, I got mcglynn@uh.edu. I used this as my main address until I moved over to a 2-year visiting assistant professor position, where I used tmcglynn@gettysburg.edu. I left that job after a year, and then I started in a permanent position, where I would have some email address stability. I got tmcglynn@acusd.edu. That was a weird domain name (which apparently was created to represent “Academic Computing, University of San Diego”), so they eventually acquired a more normal one, sandiego.edu.

After about five years of using tmcglynn@sandiego.edu, I left that job for another one. My previous university account continued to exist for some while after my last paycheck, but I didn’t really notice because I was using my gmail account for all of my off-campus business.

This matters because even though I’ve been in my current job for several years, some colleagues think I still am at my old institution. If I had used that email address, I might be missing out on some important communications. But with my gmail account, my work travels with me no matter where I go. I started using it during the acusd.edu era, when I got an early invite.

Ironically, about twenty years after I lost my mcglynn@oxy.edu address, I got it back when I became adjunct faculty at my alma mater. However, a few months after I taught a course as an adjunct, that email address stopped working.

So, I’ve had several email addresses that I’ve used professionally throughout my career. None of which exist right now except my personal account and my current position. Which I might leave as early as six months from now, six years from now, or stay until retirement. All I know is that, whenever I do move, using my institutional address when dealing with journals, collaborators, funding agencies, friends, and everyone else will be a lot easier if my institutional email address isn’t the one that people are used to using.


*Of course, I could write a list of the not-so-good things that come with using a personal account with a corporate provider. It’s easy to find that kind of list.

Recommended reads #40


A peer-reviewed paper in a computational biology journal called “Ten simple rules for better figures.”

Lisa Buckley explains “Why I will always give new students scut-work.” Sounds mostly right to me, at least in that experimental system.

Jon Christensen, a historian at UCLA, wants us to abandon the legacy of John Muir. “‘Muir’s a dead end,’ he said. ‘It’s time to bury his legacy and move on’.” Or maybe Christensen wants some press. Which is a more parsimonious explanation?

As species decline, so does research funding, writes Terrie Williams. A powerful and on-point op-ed piece.

The University of British Columbia is opening a big fancy new college. Which is not open to Canadians, and designed primarily for high-spending international students, primarily from China.

In my opinion, a lot of ecology is a mess right now because we lack a clear vocabulary to discuss how processes vary with spatial scale. What does it mean that a phenomenon or a process is “scale-dependent?” You’ll get a different answer depending on who you ask as well as the context. Brody Sandel writes in Ecography in an attempt to clean this mess up, seeking a “taxonomy of spatial scale-depenence.”

Have you heard of The Knowledge? It’s the supremely difficult evaluation required to become a licensed London taxi driver, requiring years of study. If you’re not familiar, then this is a fascinating article about The Knowledge and whether or not it’s required in the era of GPS and uberlyft. If you are familiar with it, the article might be even more fascinating.

As far as I’m concerned, the science policy news of the decade or the century might be that the US and China have agreed to some mighty substantial cuts in carbon emission rates. It’s a helluva a lot better than what any of us have been expecting, and I bow deeply to Barack Obama, John Kerry, and their team for some incredible diplomacy.

“University sued after firing creationist fossil hunter.” Excerpt: “In recent years, a schoolteacher, academic and NASA employee who were creationists have claimed that they were fired unjustly for their religious beliefs. (None were reinstated.) But what makes this case different is that Armitage managed to survive for years in a mainstream academic institution and to publish research in a respected peer-reviewed journal.”

The BBC reports: It’s hard to get an academic job at an elite university in the UK. Duh.

Amanda Graves, a senior at a public high school in New Jersey writes in the Washington Post, “Dear elite colleges, please stop recruiting students like me if you know we won’t get in.

Jon Wilkins asks: “Is EO Wilson senile, narcissistic, or just an asshole?” I imagine that some are now asking the same question about Wilkins. (As for myself, I’m not trying to figure that out about either of them.)

Meanwhile, let’s consider the notion that Wilson floated that invoked the ire of Wilkins. Wilson called Richard Dawkins a “journalist.” Should be we thinking of Dawkins as scientist or a journalist? When I’m asked to assess someone’s science credentials, one of the first places I’ll go are their lab website and google scholar pages. Let’s go look at Dawkins’ page on Google Scholar. Oh, wait, he hasn’t created one. Let’s look at his lab page. Oh, he doesn’t have one that I can tell. I can just find a website for the Richard Dawkins Foundation. But here’s the result of a search for Richard Dawkins in google scholar. You can decide for yourself whether or not he’s more of a journalist than a scientist. Is Dawkins narcissistic? That’s an easier question to answer.

It’s not your kids holding your career back. It’s your husband. This about CEOs and other exec-types, but I think it applies just as well to scientists.

Eighty-nine percent of all fathers took some time off after their baby’s birth, but almost two-thirds of them took one week or less” and a lot more interesting stuff about paternity leaves.

Simon Leather explains that he’s been using social media for work for the last two years, and is still digging on it.

NASA creates a lava lampesque video showing CO2 emissions of the planet over a year.

A wikipedia page that lists the titles of deleted Wikipedia articles with “freaky” titles. Including: “Bring your Pez dispenser to work day,” “Chesterfield Snapdragon McFisticuffs,” “CNBC anchors who have never held even a moderately high position in the financial field,” and “Debated questions regarding the procreation and existence of certain Narnian creatures.” However, the majority appear to have been written by prepubescent boys.

As more academics use twitter, more people are live-tweeting talks from conferences. Is this okay, and if so, under which conditions? Here are a few pieces about the topic: “Let’s have a conversation about life-tweeting academic conferences” and “We need a clear policy on tweeting from academic conferences” and “Live-tweeting at academic conferences.” Tweeting is banned from the Neuroscience meeting. That should cover the bases. (Next time I talk, I encourage it!)

A few years ago, six scientists were convicted of killing civilians by inadequately predicting an earthquake. The good news is that they were just cleared of manslaughter charges by an appeals court. The bad news is, well, that scientists were convicted of manslaughter by failing to predict an earthquake.

If you’re Australian, probably know who Tim Winton is. If not, then it might be a good idea to pick up a book or two of his for a read. For a short taste, here is an account of Winton’s relationship with hospitals.

What does macroecology say about economic diversity?

Here is the entire abstract of a new paper by David Colquhoun:

If you use p=0.05 to suggest that you have made a discovery, you will be wrong at least 30% of the time. If, as is often the case, experiments are underpowered, you will be wrong most of the time. This conclusion is demonstrated from several points of view. First, tree diagrams which show the close analogy with the screening test problem. Similar conclusions are drawn by repeated simulations of t-tests. These mimic what is done in real life, which makes the results more persuasive. The simulation method is used also to evaluate the extent to which effect sizes are over-estimated, especially in underpowered experiments. A script is supplied to allow the reader to do simulations themselves, with numbers appropriate for their own work. It is concluded that if you wish to keep your false discovery rate below 5%, you need to use a three-sigma rule, or to insist on p≤0.001. And never use the word ‘significant’.

There’s been a lot about That Shirt. Here are two good ones: That Shirt and Science isn’t the problem; Scientists are. If anybody still thinks that That Shirt was okay, then I recommend “A guide for science guys trying to understand the fuss about that shirt” as well as “Slurstorm, and the flaws in “Shirtstorm” arguments.”

About that comet. It has organic molecules on it.

How the changes in the media environment alters the perception of public work:

These days, being attacked isn’t just the result of saying something badly, it’s the result of saying anything at all… 

But a funny thing has happened since the rise of professionalism. The tenets it embraced—that some people are more qualified than others, that training and apprenticeship have value, that not everyone can or should (or needs to) gain admission into the club—have become unfashionable. And that is because haterade is not exclusive to the media world. It’s not merely an occupational hazard of being a bigmouth. It affects just about anyone who tries to do anything that is subject to public (which is to say online) discussion. It affects the business owner who’s at the mercy of random, nameless Yelp reviewers who might well be his competitors in disguise. It affects the physician for whom the few patients who post reviews on medical-ratings sites are inevitably the disgruntled ones. It affects the educator who can’t give a poor grade without risking retribution via the websites Rate My Teachers or Rate My Professors. It takes the very essence of what it means to be a professional—training, experience, sheer chops—and reduces it to a stage act to be evaluated with an applause-o-meter.

You might have seen this make the rounds, and it’s a good one. The makers of Barbie wrote a really sexist book, showing how Barbie needs boys to code for her. And Casey Fiesler, a computer science PhD student, went ahead and fixed the book for all of us.


For links, thanks to those shared by Kate Bowles, Kate Clancy, Susan Letcher, Amy Parachnowitsch, Timotheé Poisot, Nate Sanders, John Thomlinson, Ed Yong, and Carly Ziter.

Academic dress code or why women seem to think about clothing more than men


Last week we saw a blatant example of not considering the implications of your wardrobe. There are a lot of good perspectives on That Shirt worn by Dr. Matt Taylor not the least Terry’s own last week; on twitter #shirtstorm or #shirtgate. Rather than discuss the incident itself, which has received plenty of play already and been written about more elegantly and thoroughly than I can, I want to write about academic dress codes in general. Continue reading

Setting formal expectations for lab members


Are your lab members aware when they do not meet expectations?

Out the outset, students should know what is expected of them. This enables their success as well as gives them a way to avoid a shortcoming. It also makes things easier on you when you’re dealing with underperforming students. Continue reading

New requirement for scientists: You cannot be a sexist pigdog


I live in the city where Richard Feynman did a bunch of amazing things. I’ve chatted with a number of people who knew him. He is fondly remembered as an inspiring teacher, engaging writer and phenomenal scientist. He is also remembered as a creepy guy who frequented a local strip club, and for misogynist quips, even in his popular writing. Continue reading

Even more sincere answers to stupid questions


For better or worse, I am able to see some of the search terms that are bring people to this site. Some are tragic, some are misdirected, and many people attempt to use google as an oracle. As I’ve done a couple times before, her are some sincere answers to some stupid questions entered into google over the past few months.


grading hell

According to yelp, Hell gets 3.5 stars out of a possible 5 stars. Continue reading

Recommended reads #39


There’s a site named Shit My Reviewers Say. Which has a bunch of heartless and unsubstantiated zingers that folks discover in their reviews. There are a several gems.

Wayne Maddison wrote a wonderful, brief obituary for Herbert Walter Levi, “one of the grand arachnologists of the 20th century.”

There was an absurdly absurd op-ed in the New York Times that explained to us that all of the sexism problems in science are fixed. This was based on data from an not-yet-in-print paper in a social science journal. I’ll spare you reading it, but I do think the response from Emily Willingham is worth your time. Continue reading

Social media: what is it good for?


For better or worse, I am the only person in my department who engages regularly in social media. Blogging here, reading other blogs (and occasionally commenting), chatting on twitter…over the last year or so these have become regular activities for me. So for our informal seminar series, I decided to talk about using social media as a scientist. Continue reading

What to do if you’re facing tenure denial


A nontrivial fraction of tenure-track faculty are denied tenure, well over the standard 5% threshold for Type I errors that we use in the sciences. Even though academia has a love for self-scrutiny, we overlook the consequences of tenure denial. Tenure denial is not rare, but thoughtful information about tenure denial is rare. Continue reading

The conference hangover


This week I definitely had a ‘hangover’. Two weeks of meetings* left me a strange mixture of excited, enthusiastic, invigorated and completely drained. I have lots of new ideas and enjoyed both making new connections and reconnecting with others. But I can forget how drained I can feel after such intense social activity, even if I don’t travel far. Continue reading