Friday, October 31, 2008
Since it is Halloween I was able to make a joke about the fact that I was going to dress up like their regular teacher, but that Iparty was out of Jesus wigs, foiling my plot. That seemed to go over well and they seemed to like that I printed out a couple of key slides and those that were a bit text-heavy so they didn't have to write everything down as students are often programed to. Overall, I think it was good, but I have no way of really knowing.
However, the scariest part of the whole thing had nothing to do with the paisley socks the professor was wearing under his cape, but the fact that probably half of the students immediately pulled out their phones to record his performance. Are you shitting me?
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
But, one thing that really struck me while doing the Science review was that it is hard to be totally objective with papers at that level. You are asked to evaluate whether the manuscript is “Science material”, which is completely subjective. If the paper is in your field then you might find it more interesting than most would, or you may want to increase the readership of papers related to your work, which might benefit you do the road. Even if I am not submitting a paper to Science or Nature later on, it still looks good to have a bunch of high-impact papers in your citation list. At the same time, it can be hard to evaluate the novelty of a study on something you are very familiar with in the way that someone outside the field might see it. I think we are all subject to these biases, whether we acknowledge them or not. Added to this is the possibility of writing a “perspective” (in the case of Science). If the paper is published and editors like your comments, they may ask you to do a summary paper with your own insights into the field added, which is a nice bonus on the CV. So, if the paper is something that has a shot, in many ways it is to the advantage of a reviewer to advocate for it. Is this a good thing? I don’t know.
Friday, October 24, 2008
I swear it is more predictable than the freshman 15, let's call it the new prof 10. It doesn't have the same ring as it's undergraduate counter-part, but it is no less of a force. I am referring to the fact that sitting at your desk all day long trying to keep up with the daily tasks is not very good for the waistline. When I was a post-doc I had the time to make it to the gym and go for long walks, but since making the move I get in around 7:30, leave around 5:30 (on a good day) and eat lunch at my desk. If I get outside at all during the day it is a little bit of a victory, unless I am running to get signatures on something because I am too close to a deadline to risk campus mail.
I had a physical yesterday so I could jump the administrative hoops for a part of my research and got the news that I am less than svelte these days, so I will be making a plan starting next week to get my tubby ass back to the gym. My theory is that if I schedule it in I will work everything else around it, but we'll see how that goes. I predict poorly, but we'll see.
One of the biggest issues in any department is the amount of space. No matter where you are there are always complaints about people feeling cramped in the space they have. An attractive part of this position was that the department would be moving into a new building before the end of my first year, especially since the building I am currently in is more depressing than "Requiem for a Dream". Well, that process is fully underway and we have begun to carve up space in the new building between ourselves and members of two other departments. As you might expect, everyone wants a space larger than what they currently occupy and new faculty, such as myself, are stuck trying to predict what they will need a few years down the road. When you have been at this for only a couple of months, that is not so easy, nor is it simple to defend your space needs when your lab is not up to capacity. By the time we occupy the new building I will have two graduate students working in the lab, but ideally I would like to have 4-6 students and two post-docs in there once I begin to bring some grants in. The trick is holding onto space that you can grow into before you have the personnel to fill it.
Complicating the matter is the design of the space. At it's conception, the building plan was adapted from some Ivy League school around the concept of shared space. So, each floor has 6 faculty members and 4 lab suites. For people who have run an independent lab for years, this is a major change and has made the process of allocating space a bit more difficult. I am lucky in that I have a colleague moving into the building with whom I share a number of techniques and a similar work-flow plan (i.e. we assign spaces to tasks rather than personal bench spaces). My department has actually been very supportive during the negotiations over who gets what space and I made out fairly well while several of my more senior colleagues are reducing their lab space considerably to make some space for the junior faculty. I was pleasantly surprised by this, because that is NOT how it is happening on some of the other floors being occupied by other departments.
In fact, one of the other departments has already tried to "suggest" that my colleague and I move to another floor (and occupy half the space we are currently assigned) so that one of their big dogs can take our space. The issue is more that they want to get an enormous ego off their floor and make him someone else's problem, but that isn't the most convincing argument for moving to a smaller space from where I sit. I don't think it has any chance of happening, but I am glad to be in the department I am in and not in one where I would be pressured into that kind of move.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
I am not sure what is motivating me to do this, but perhaps I need a place to express everything that is going on as a new faculty member and this seems like a good place to do it. I am also justifying it in my own head as a productive form of procrastination, unlike many of the less-productive activities I have used for such purpose in the past. I am choosing to do this anonymously because I want to be able to be honest about things and not have to pull any punch for fear of saying some that might turn out to be politically unwise at my university. Also, I have never been comfortable with self-praise, so when good things happen I would like to be able to express that as well, rather than downplaying my excitement. Call it academic therapy. In any case...
A bit of history. I started this job in August 2008, after 4 years of a post-doc and 5 years of grad school in places distant from here. Fortunately for me, I have managed to land a good job in a place close to where my partner and I grew up. The job market at the moment is not great, so the fact that we are close to our respective parents has worked out particularly well for us, especially since we have a child who is less than a year old.
Starting a faculty job has been by far the most difficult professional change I have gone through. Moving your life and family to a new place is bad enough, especially with a small child, but it is the different expectations of running a lab, compared with working in one, that have made it a challenge. Suddenly, the lab "buck" stops with you. All the administrative tasks have to be done. There are committees to be dealt with and grants to be written. I am now worrying about getting people into the lab (how many can I afford? How do I recruit/decide? What types of people should I bring in?) and which types of equipment to buy. I am an accountant, a manager, a mentor, a mentee, a writer, a trainer and the "new guy". I am figuring out how the university runs at multiple levels while trying to get my research off the ground. And I don't even have to teach this semester! That's a whole other worry for a few months down the road, but I have had to design the new course and advertise it. Luckily, I am breaking into that slowly with an advanced seminar course, rather than being thrown to the freshmen (read: wolves).
I have enjoyed it so far, but balancing everything at work, let alone at home, has made the past few months interesting. I figured that keeping some type of record of this time in my life would provide humor in the future and if someone else stumbles on this who is or will be in the same position not too far down the road, maybe we can commiserate together.