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 synthetic DNA that could be used to identify folks who committed robberies.

Now that it’s start-of-semester-get-your-syllabus-ready season, let me remind you of this useful course workload estimator, to make sure that your expectations are well calibrated relative to the number of units associated with a course. Continue reading

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 be anti-science, and in places like this, it’s as clear as ever. If you haven’t seen this yet, it’s a short op-ed and a key piece of information if you’re trying to stay even the slightest informed about science policy in the US kleptocracy.

This one-minute clip of a US congress member asking a NASA scientist whether it is possible that a civilization was on Mars thousands of years ago is also a must-see. Continue reading

Recommended reads #104

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It’s been two weeks already!? Here’s some reads for what remains of the long holiday weekend, for those of us in the US.

In mentorship, a sense of belonging may be most important

Getting past Bloom’s taxonomy in a way that focuses on the minds of the students

This online comic as struck a big chord with a a lot of women I know. It explains how many men don’t share the burden of parenting and running a household by simply thinking that doing stuff when asked is enough. The cognitive load of keeping track of domestic affairs is not a trivial matter. Continue reading

Recommended reads #101

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When you study arctic glaciers that are rapidly melting away, and your samples at the Ice Core Archive melt away because of a freezer malfunction at your university.

A Neural Networks Approach to Predicting How Things Might Have Turned Out Had I Mustered the Nerve to Ask Barry Cottonfield to the Junior Prom Back in 1997

File this under, “No shit, sherlock”: A study finds that women do more departmental service than men, and that this harms career progression. Continue reading

Recommended reads #98

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Five practical ways you can help a first generation student succeed. If you’ve ever thought positively about anything I’ve written or shared on this topic, I bet you’ll really appreciate this piece by Abigail Dan. I bow to its wisdom and excellence.

Obsessed with smartness, by James Lang. I love this almost as much as the preceding piece.

Advice for my conservative students

Why facts don’t change our minds, by the inestimable Elizabeth Kolbert. Continue reading

Recommended reads #97

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Alan Townsend wrote an op-ed that I think you really need to read: Science might save my daughter. Don’t kill it. (And in his blog, which I absolutely love and have linked to on previous occasions, he explains why he wrote the piece.)

Science censorship is a global issue – a short letter to Nature written by three Aussie ecologists.

Unlearning descriptive statistics. I thought this was really interesting. Continue reading

Recommended reads #96

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I feel a bit guilty that I came upon some cool reads, in the precise moment that my country stopped being a proper democracy. This list is more decline-of-democracy-related than usual. But still even if you’ve had enough of this, there’s enough in here about other things I hope it’s worth your time. In part, because there’s a link in here about how to keep on keepin’ on while still doing your best to resist the the new authoritarian government that has taken over the US.

But I do have things to share, some of which aren’t even about our brave new world.

Just in case you didn’t know, academia.edu is a for-profit venture that exists primarily to gather our information and sell it. Ungood. I’ve stayed away from it for this reason – this article explains how they ended up with a .edu even though they’re not a .edu.

America’s great working class colleges. This is such a great piece of journalism (admittedly  I think this in part because it says things I try to say here often and get it better than I could). Here’s the interactive feature that accompanies the article, which I really suggest you play around with – if anything to get an idea about how the institutions that you are personally familiar with compare to others in ways that you might not have seen visualized before. It was an education for me, surely.

This is a good visualization of gerrymandering. Which (I don’t argue here) is specifically how we got into this hideous mess. Continue reading

Recommended reads #95

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In the United States, a woman died a few months ago of a bacterial infection. This microbe was resistant to all antibiotics available in the US that we were capable of throwing at it.

A paper came out this week, looking at predictors of publication rates among 280 graduate students accepted and enrolled into a biomedical grad program. And — shocker, I know — grades and standardized test scores didn’t matter. The best predictor was the content of the letters of recommendation. You want to know which undergraduates have the greatest research potential? Listen to their undergraduate mentors. Here’s a drugmonkey post about this paper. Continue reading

Recommended reads #93

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An argument for the funding of basic research makes it into the Wall Street Journal.

One way to teach critical thinking is to take a historical issue (in history, science, whatever) and look at the debates surrounding the issue by the people of the time, and then asking, “Who was right?” (I found this via Tavish Bell’s twitter account, where I see consistently interesting stuff about higher ed.)

The abduction of tortoise #1721 Continue reading

Recommended reads #92

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Caring isn’t coddling: “While I’m not without gallows humor and can enjoy an ‘it’s in the syllabus’ joke as much as the next person, I also feel deeply that the best teaching arises in faculty-student relationships that are mutually respectful and that mutually honor the worth each side is bringing to the table.”

A shark that was (maybe) choking on a massive chunk of moose was (maybe) saved by a couple guys. Continue reading

Recommended reads #89

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A couple truly spectacular reads have already made the rounds in social media in the last week, but in case you haven’t caught them, be sure to do so:

First, the Washington Post published a long-form piece about Derek Black, former media star of white nationalists who grew to repudiate his views. How did this happen? The free exchange of ideas and mutual respect found in higher education. If you’re looking for a defense of a liberal arts education (which can be found in potentially any university), then this might be as great as it gets.

Second, the Arizona Republic editorial staff received many death threats because they endorsed a particular presidential candidate. (Okay, a let’s all take moment to breathe, to absorb this fact.) The response from the publisher is powerful and important.

How you might change as a professor as you get older. Continue reading

Recommended reads #88

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Without tenure, professors become terrified sheep.

The terrorist inside my husband’s brain. This piece by Robin Williams’s widow, written for practicing neurologists, is an important read for all of us.

Why people wince at talk of “flipping classrooms.” This phrase has pretty much lost any specific meaning or utility, and that’s why I haven’t really used it. I’m a fan of active learning approaches but not a fan of flipping sensu stricto. Continue reading

Recommended reads #85

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In 10 years, Harvey Mudd (an exclusive STEM-focused college in the LA area, one of the Claremont Colleges) went from 15% women students to having a majority of women. Here’s how they did it.

What I learned as a hired consultant to autodidact physicists” Or, what happens when a trained physicist takes crackpots (and their money) seriously. Continue reading

Recommended reads #84

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Are you familiar with the work of the Holotypic Occlupanid Research Group? I applaud their dedication and excellence in chronicling the diversity and natural history of this unappreciated yet widespread taxon. This is where the line between science and art is invisible.

Women are woven deeply into the history of science, stretching back to ancient Egypt, over 4,000 years ago. But because their contributions often go unacknowledged, they fade into obscurity—and the threads of their influence today aren’t as apparent as they ought to be.” I’d like to call this one early: We’ll be looking back at Dr. Emily Temple-Wood as the person who rewrote the history of scientific discovery.

Racism in the research lab. This post, from two scientists from prestigious institutions, is important. Continue reading

Recommended reads #83

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New Zealand is developing detailed plans to eradicate every exotic predator, including feral cats, rats, and weasels.

How women are harassed out of science. Let’s be clear about this: It’s not just that scientific institutions and individual scientists are implicitly biased against women. That is true, but on top of all that, direct harassment itself drives women out of science. Not convinced this is true? Then please please please read this story. Continue reading