Are some people just innately smarter?

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I don’t know about you, but I’m used to hearing academics talking about how some people are just inherently brilliant. That there are people with oodles of raw talent, that just needs to be molded, and it’s our job as academia to find them and raise them up. Continue reading

Recommended reads #150

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One hundred fifty. I’ve done this 150 times! How ’bout that, eh?

8 ways to teach climate change in almost any classroom

This review of a new book about Joy Division by Henry Rollins is not Everything, but it’s Quite A Lot. (And here’s a blog post about the science of the cover of Unknown Pleasures, which you’ve definitely seen in t-shirt form.)

A survey of female undergraduates in physics found that three quarters of them experience some form of sexual harassment, leaving them alienated from the field. Continue reading

The conversation I often have with PhD students

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When I visit other universities and chat with grad students, I love fielding questions about career stuff. I realize that’s part of why I was invited. Since I often get the same questions, I suppose I should also answer those questions here, too. Because if I get asked a question every time I visit an R1 department, it must be a really common question. Continue reading

On sickness and teaching and respect

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This is my ninth day of being sick. I think it was a flu. (Yes, I had this year’s flu shot.) It caught everybody in my home.

I’ve been back at work for a couple days, though I’m still coughing regularly, and my brain remains foggy. I’ve dropped so many balls. Fortunately, none of them are glass, though there are enough of them bouncing that I can’t quite keep up. There are a few things I am waaaaaay too late on. Continue reading

NSF Graduate Fellowships and the distant mirage of an equitable pipeline

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It’s that time of year again. Congrats to the 2000 students who are recipients of the GRFP! From talking to so many panelists about their experiences, it’s clear that they could fund so more people, and every single one of them would be quite worthy of the support.

If there was such a thing as a Blog Citation Classic™ list for this site, then discussions about equitable distributions of NSF graduate fellowships would definitely be on there.

I can concisely encapsulate these concerns: Your odds of personally knowing someone who got a GRFP from your undergrad years might be best predicted by the size of the endowment of that institution. NSF is working hard to be inclusive with respect to gender, ethnicity, and various axes of diversity, but the bottom line is that students attending wealthier and more prestigious undergraduate institutions are more likely to end up with fellowships. Continue reading

The price of the Gender Tax at home

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Since the news broke about the college admissions bribery sting by the FBI, I’ve had a lot of thoughts. And so has everybody else, it seems. (If you have not looked at media in the last 1.5 days, here’s the LA Times page that collects the many articles they’ve already assembled about it.)

This story is a singularity of problems in higher education in the United States, a convergence of drama into a single high-gravity point. Continue reading

Othering ourselves from the research community in teaching-focused institutions

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I started this blog back in 201cough because I was fed up with so many people in the broader research community not understanding what happens in teaching-focused universities. And people who think they have an understanding, but that understanding is filled with stereotypes, bias, and misinformation, driven by a lack of direct personal experience.

I was fed up with being Othered, mostly because of how this translates to the perception of our students. Continue reading

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