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…

Recommended reads #144

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To groom better scientists, harness the power of narrative. Applying for faculty jobs and don’t know what an institution means when they’re asking for you to “demonstrate interest and ability to advance diversity, equity and inclusion?” Apparently enough people asked UC Berkeley, so they decided to spell it out.

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…

Is there a shortage of summer research opportunities?

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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…

Recommended reads #110

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This, I think, is ingenious and next-level stuff: Designing malware to hack bioinformatics software by coding it into the DNA of organisms that get sequenced! Which, in the future, maybe could be a real problem? This is old news, but not to me. In Holland there is (was?) a place that used a misting spray of…

Recommended reads #108

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Wow. This opinion piece written by a scientist, who is a whistleblower working in the Department of Interior, is both important and landmine. They essentially reassigned him — and many other senior scientists — to work in the mailroom. Far away from home. We knew in advance that our new federal government was going to…

We need to stop calling professional development a “pipeline”

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When we talk about increasing the representation of women and ethnic minorities in STEM, the path towards a professional career is often characterized as a “pipeline.” The pipeline metaphor is so entrenched, it affects how people think about our deep-rooted problems. This metaphor has become counterproductive, because it fails to capture the nature of the…

Recommended reads #106

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The case against using Turnitin in your own classroom. When teaching for understanding is pitted against teaching for doing well on the test. Stop the presses!!! Here is a shocking new finding: A new meta-analysis shows that student evaluations of teacher performance are unrelated to student learning.

Recommended reads #103

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Why academics need to focus on structuring their time Superstar artist Ai Weiwei wrote a piece about how censorship works for the New York Times — gosh knows he’s had plenty of opportunity to gain expertise. It’s revelatory, and relevant for those of in the US more than ever. On being broken, and the kindness of others.

Recommended reads #102

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The Field Guide to Dumb Birds of North America “To teach, we must believe in the potential of each person in the room.” The founders of the field of cryptanalysis, William and Elizabeth Friedman, had a cipher on their tombstone. Which was just solved.

I am complicit

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My academic societies support the March for Science. So do I. I’m familiar with the arguments for and against the March, from major newspapers and social media. If you’re not familiar, don’t worry, I won’t rehash them for you. I think it’s possible for some people to have an ethical position to oppose something, and for others…