Did you know about the Kentucky Meat Shower of 1876?
Last week, I got a request for some advice, and thought I’d share a version of my answer with y’all here.
I recently read through some of early posts on here. I’ve been at this for over five years now, and I’ve evolved over that time. (As I hope all people evolve!) I’ve learned quite a bit, and I do things differently in a variety of ways.
One of the things I’ve noticed is that I have steadily shifted a lot of the terminology that I’ve been using for topics in the practice of science, and teaching, and higher education.
The pipeline metaphor has a lot of problems. In STEM careers, people come from a wide range of backgrounds, receive undergraduate and graduate degrees, and are bound for a wide variety of destinations. A path into a STEM career shouldn’t have to be linear, so a pipeline doesn’t make much sense.
However, I get why people like to use the pipeline metaphor.
When I was a postdoc and looking for faculty jobs, I harbored a common misconception about faculty jobs. Even though my mentor definitely schooled me well in advance, it took multiple years on the job for me to get a clue.
I was at a conference this week, and chatted with a lot of folks about career stuff. The misconception that I used to have kept coming up repeatedly from others, so I’d just like to douse it here in the open with a wet blanket.
Yesterday, I gave a talk at the at the Entomology conference, and I’d like to share with you what I had to say.
This weekend, I had an Experience. For the second half of Saturday, I went down to San Diego to crash the Society for Neuroscience conference. I visited with and learned from the #MeTooSTEM folks, and I got to meet so many wonderful people in person who I’ve only known from twitterbloglandia. I’d heard about SfN before, of course, but never had the occasion to go because, well, the stuff at this meeting is way out of my wheelhouse.
Anyhoo, let me tell you about SfN. As soon as I walked into the poster hall, I was like ZOMG. HOLY MOLY. WHAT THE WHAT.
I’ve heard about some folks who are planning to give extra credit to their students for providing evidence that they voted.
Please don’t do this.
I’ve found that I’ve learned a lot from twitter. It’s given a window into the lived experiences of others. And hopefully it’s gone the other way a little bit as well.
I see so many useful and/or interesting things on there, and so few of you are on there yourselves. Instead of saving them for recommended reads, here’s a new tack I’m trying out. Over the past few days, I’ve been bookmarking a few highlights to share with you here. And here they are.
I’ve talked to a lot of talented undergraduates who have been in search of summer research opportunities, but end up not having any options available.
Doctoral programs expect undergraduate applicants to have meaningful research experience. This might not be on the application checklist, but it’s essentially a requirement. That means if we’re trying to be equitable about access to graduate education, that means we have make sure that access to undergraduate research experiences is equitable.
Surprise, surprise – a study looking at tenure and promotion criteria didn’t find that there’s much value placed in community engagement.
At a conference earlier this year, one of my science heroes was on a discussion panel, and was asked what steps matter most when fixing the gender equity problem in STEM. She answered: “The single most important thing we can do is get men to change their behavior.”
You might remember how I’ve said How People Learn is a supreme book that is foundational for evidence-based teaching practices, though it’s almost 20 years old and getting a dated?? Great news! The National Academies have now released How People Learn II. And you can download it for free!
This year’s crop of MacArthur Fellows just came out. As always, some amazing people and work are being supported. I was psyched to see developmental psychologist Kristina Olson (whose work was so spectacular, this year she managed to break the long drought of women recipients for NSF’s Waterman Award).
Why UC Merced is not the “dumb” university. I love this. I looooove this.
Science recently published a letter to the editor that that amplified the harm done to targets of sexual harassment. This letter needs to be retracted by the editor, though so far he has not apologized to the victims or issued a retraction.
For a good long while now, I’ve been working in catchup mode, like Indiana Jones running from the big stone. I had made a lot of commitments, and following through on them kept me so busy that I didn’t have enough hours in the day to focus on building new things.
I had some unanticipated teaching challenges last spring, when I was teaching a couple sections of an intro-level organismal biology lab. I was befuddled, because on the lab reports, students were getting some straightforward questions wrong. Remarkably wrong in an unexpected manner, nearly all with the same wrong answer.
It seems almost inevitable. Good people end up in toxic environments. Once there, they must suffer the consequences, or execute an escape plan, or eventually become the tormentor themselves.
When we choose an academic home, for grad school, a postdoc, or a faculty position, how can we sniff out the places that will undermine us rather than elevate us?
Last week was not easy for me, schedule-wise. It was the first week of classes for my campus, my son’s third week back to school, and I was solo parenting, while my spouse was traveling for work.
So what did I do? I made things a bunch harder on myself, and spent the majority of the week at the LA Convention Center, to participate in the Leadership Training for Climate Reality.
I once said in the late 1990s, “Shoot me if I ever talk about getting a cell phone.” But the world evolved, and so do we. So, this semester, I’m entirely out of the classroom, and am taking on a part-time acting administrative role. I’ll be applying for the longer-term slot, too.
If I ended up taking on a half-time administrative job at my university, there’s no way the job would end up being a half-time gig. Even if I somehow only spent twenty hours per week working at it (and fat chance at that), far more hours would be sucked away by the seven administrative sausage-makers taking up space in my head. I’d be worrying about preventing one person from trying to gain access to another person’s budget. I’d try to sort out who I could cajole to join a committee. My calendar would have deadlines for reports popping up. Even when not in meetings with people who wear suits, I wouldn’t be able to eliminate the conversations with suits from my consciousness.
I want to think about manuscript revisions, my next lesson, the next grant and keeping tabs on the projects students are doing over the year. This last semester had more admin work than I’m used to, and regardless of the time I spent on it, the administrative stuff handicapped everything else. I could be a part-time administrator by the clock, but not by the brain.
Why would I be doing this? What is the world coming to? I’m not entirely sure, but let me make some sense of this for both you and me.
I’m now acting for the moment as the Director of the Office of Undergraduate Research. Someone stepped down, and I stepped into it, so to speak, until the campus does a more official search. But I think I want to do this for more than a few weeks, and maybe for a few years, if the campus will have me.
Why would I let myself take on this kind of role, and divide my time even further, preventing me from focusing on my research, my own students, and other goals? Not to mention being a responsible parent and spouse? Here I am flouting the advice of EO Wilson, who advised junior scientists to avoid being involved in university governance. But I’m not fond of pulling up the ladder from junior scientists. My work calendar is radically different from what it looked like five years ago, when I adamantly wanted to keep all so many competing interests out of my head so that I could focus on research, teaching and mentorship. It turns out that staying out of admin hasn’t been a recipe for focus. I still have ended up in a variety of leadership roles on campus, and I’ve become more engaged off campus. I think that by stepping into this role, I will be able to have more focus — and in directions that I think will be most effective. If I’m going to be taking on leadership roles, I might as well make it part of my actual job.
I’m still a faculty member — my office is still in my department, and I definitely have an ambitious research agenda, which is as much a part of my workload as it has always been. Let’s see how it goes over the next few months.
There are a lot of students who are enrolled in institutions that lack the resources to provide the mentorship that they need. And, there are so many PhD students and postdocs who would be interested in gaining more experience mentoring undergrads who would benefit from the experience. How about we put them together?
It’s been a while since I posted about some of the science I’ve been doing, so here’s a fun natural history story for a change.
If you have the fortune of being in the northern end of Australia, you’ll find some ants at your feet that appear to be under a strobe light, paradoxically in the light of day. These gorgeous ants (see above) are colloquially known as strobe ants (genus Opisthopsis). They’re remarkably common, and definitely catch your eye.
This post is for your questions. Do you have a question? Ask it in the comments.