How do you hand back papers?

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I was chatting with colleagues about the mechanics of handing back papers to students. How do you do this?

As a class gets bigger, the more time it takes to return assignments and exams back to students. And at some point, you hit a threshold where it’s just impracticable.

This is an issue that some people are handling very poorly, and others are struggling to handle well. Continue reading

Responding (or not) to prospective students

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For all the concern about pipeline problems, we seem to be fond of creating bottlenecks that filter out the people we’re trying to recruit. Let’s take a quick look at how people get into grad school in my field.

To my knowledge, in most other fields, prospective graduate students apply to graduate programs. And then the selection process happens from there. I don’t have much direct experience with these programs, obviously, because it’s not my field.

But in ecology/evolution and allied fields, it happens bassackwards. Continue reading

Getting lots of competitive REU applications from URM students

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We did a thing that worked. Maybe you could try it. It’s something that I’ve suggested before, but now some results are in and I’m sharing it with you.

If you’re looking to recruit more undergraduates to your campus for summer research opportunities (and more), listen up.

You know how when drug developers are doing a clinical trial, but they stop the trial early because the results are so promising, that they are ethically bound to give the treatment to everybody in the control group? That’s how I feel about what I’m telling you today. Continue reading

Government shutdown and the thin veil of normalcy

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This is going to be a quick or poorly edited post because it is extremely late, as I just uploaded the final bits of an NSF proposal that is due today.

Wait, did that make any sense to you? Our federal government is shut down. NSF is shut down. Nearly all NSF employees are furloughed, and are not allowed to work even if they wanted to, in the span of their newly copious free time.

But I still submitted my proposal?! The online submission portal is running swimmingly! These exclamation points are not joy, but are the surprise of consternation! Continue reading

We can create useful student evaluations of teaching. Here’s how.

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Student evaluations are here to stay. And that’s the way it should be. I think universities owe it to students to provide a structured opportunity to provide feedback on classroom experiences. It’s not a matter of “customer service,” but instead, of respecting students and hearing what they have to say. But the way evaluations are typically structured, they facilitate inappropriate application and interpretation, and they don’t ask what we should be asking. Continue reading

Recommended reads #142: back to work edition

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That was a restful two weeks. Now, back to business.

The Green New Deal, explained

Why do scientists reinvent wheels? (I think in ecology, a lot of concepts have a periodicity of about 30 years. And usually when an idea resurfaces, it’s not done with adequate awareness of the older literature.)

A few reality checks for internal candidates Continue reading

The Top 9 Small Pond posts of 2018

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I can’t say that 2018 has been a good year, but it has been a good one for Small Pond Science. Here’s a list of the most-viewed posts written in 2018:

9. When you are asked to review a paper that you’ve already reviewed for another journal

8. On the breadth of faculty job applications

7. Actions required of men to advance gender equity in academia

6. What if the PI recommendation letter is missing or is bad?

5. Really, faculty jobs in teaching-focused institutions are not inherently less stressful or easier or more balanced

4. Science has an atheism problem

3. Reimbursing students is not okay

2, Updating pedagogy for the mobile phone era

1. Let’s stop saying “native English speaker” in reviews

In a couple days, I’ll start winding down for the holidays. I hope you have a restful break.

Science twitter highlights #4

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Continue reading

Word choice is more than semantics

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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. Continue reading

Dismantle the pipeline

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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. Continue reading

Really, faculty jobs in teaching-focused institutions are not inherently less stressful or easier or more balanced

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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. Continue reading

Huge conferences and the potential for alienation and isolation of junior scientists

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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. Continue reading