Research with undergraduates on an empty campus

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Summer is go-time for research, particularly in undergraduate institutions. But yet, when I walk across the desolate campus in summer, I inevitably get from the first person I see, “What are you doing here?” If classes aren’t in session, most folks campus can’t imagine why we’d stick around. Continue reading

We need distributed power structures in grad school

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For most grad students in the sciences, their doctoral advisor has an extraordinary level of power over their professional and personal life. This is long overdue for an overhaul. No single person should have that much power over another, particularly in academia where institutions chronically overlook and enable misconduct. Continue reading

Recommended reads #151

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If you haven’t read this editorial about “What ‘good’ dads get away with,” please do. It’s about the the “Myth of Equal Partnership.”

The best (and worst) ways to respond to student anxiety

Someone measured the disregard that natural scientists hold for research in the social sciences. You can imagine how this article is being received by the people they studied. Continue reading

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