Monday, August 31, 2009

Moving numbers

Number of days until we actually move: 1

Days spent preparing to move: 7

Miles between current and "new" home: 12

Trips between them this weekend: 8

Staff at Lowes who already recognize us: 7

Boxes stacked and ready to go: lost count

Boxes unpacked by the Wee One just after we had packed them: 5

Muscles that feel like they were hit with a meat tenderizer: 632 (the remaining 7 feel pretty good)

Pounds of cat hair tumbleweed spontaneously generated by moving furniture: 6

Pieces of useable furniture left standing: 4

Days until the semester starts: 9

Days until my 20,000 word chapter is due: 31

Words written for said chapter: 87

Cups of coffee it will require to get through the day: 12

Friday, August 28, 2009

End of summer freak out

With classes starting next week, this week seems to be the time when everyone freaks out and starts doing completely bizarre things in the panic to finish things before the student body descends. A few words of advice.

To the admin person who decided that using a combination of bold, colored and highlighted text surrounded by clipart, would make their emails seem more important, I have news for you. None of the people you sent that to are 12-year-old gamers. We have the attention span to get through 6 lines of text without your "helpful" additions. If I wanted my email to have cartoon figures in it, I would work for Disney. In fact, on viewing the horrific text-edit vomit you sent, I'm pretty sure I just threw it out.

To Parking Services. It is completely unclear why you painted "No Parking" all over the street parking in front of the building that commuter students (including my grad students) have been using for the past 10 years to park on this side of campus. There was no hazard and the street was plenty wide enough. Further confounding the issue was your email explanation stating that those spots were closed because of the shortage of parking on campus! You get my award for the most absurdly justified stupidity of the year, and we're only just getting started. Congratulations, you set the bar impossibly high.

To the Provost's secretary. We've talked about this. Once on the phone and once over email. As much as I would like to go have a drink on the Uni's tab, I am not new faculty. I would be perfectly happy to go to your orientation mixer, but when I called to confirm, you reacted like I was trying to sneak into a VIP event when I asked if you wanted faculty who started last year to attend. WHY am I still getting your emails announcements for new faculty? I had assumed it's because no one was hired this year, making me still in the newest cohort, but this idea offended you and now you are just sending me mixed signals.

To me. Why didn't you think things through when you picked the first faculty office on the hallway? Yes, it's closest to your lab, but didn't you realize that in choosing office #1, you basically put an INFORMATION sign outside your office. Congratulations, you are now the info booth for every lost student, every touring family, every new sales rep and you are thought to know the whereabouts of every faculty member in the building at all times when students are looking for them. Not to worry, it'll just be your office for the next 25 years or so.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

New Home

Well, we finally signed all the paperwork yesterday and instantly went from having the most money we've ever had to the least with a few signatures. We are now happily in debt for the foreseeable future and I've already had my home repair skills tested. During the walk through yesterday, the sellers were running all around because when they removed the washing machine on Tuesday and closed the water valves, one of them started to leak in the middle of the night. Since they finished almost the entire basement with hardwood, that was a bit of a problem. Luckily the leak wasn't too bad and there is a Lowes about a mile away. We put a bag on it so we could go sign the paperwork and then I picked up a cap, teflon tape and a wrench on the way home. It's a goo thing for them we are low key and didn't flip out just before we were signing. 

We're having the floors refinished starting today, but we did spend the night there last night on our inflatable mattress and with the Wee One in a Pack and Play. She had fun running around the empty rooms and testing the echo, but she kept going to to the door to point and say "home?", hoping we would head back to our place. We kept telling her this was "new home", but the concept didn't quite work for her. The new environment, coupled with the Spartan furnishings and strange people stopping by to talk, left her confused. But, as we were driving away this morning she looked at the window and said "Bye new home."

Now we just have endure owning a house we can't go into for the next four days. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Dead things

 It really is amazing what people will bring into your office some days. Last week, one of the janitorial staff came into my office early in the morning with a bunch of paper towels in her hand. Immediately, I knew that she was bringing me something dead, the only question was which species the carcass belonged to. In fact, it was a hummingbird that had met an unfortunate end against one of the many glass panels of our building. I presented the body of the bird in the hopes that someone might want to use it in some way, particularly because it was "still warm". I did not verify the temperature of the corpse, but I also didn't have much of a choice in accepting the bird and pledging to ensure that it did not die in vain. 
The problem, of course, is that I have less than no use for dead birds, so I sent an email to two people who I thought might all the while assuming that I would have to chuck the thing by lunch time (realizing that I had to throw it out in anther building, lest I be caught by the woman who gave it to me and empties the trash in this building). Much to my surprise, I found a taker who planned to make it into a "bird on a stick". Alrighty then. Upon reporting this back to the janitor, she was pleased that I found a home for it. 

Fresh of this experience, I was on the phone this morning and witnessed a bird thwack against the glass wall by a set of doors. Curious, I went to see what kind of bird was laying on the pavement and it turned out to be another hummingbird (which makes me think we really need to get something on those windows to stop the devastation of the hummingbird population here). It was laying still, one wing outstretched and tongue hanging out like a cartoon parody of bird death. Rather than leave it there at the entrance that every campus tour comes into, I dutifully gathered some paper towels and picked it up with the plan to deliver it to the recipient of the previous one. 

When I picked it up it made a bit of a squeak and I realized it wasn't quite dead yet. Now the situation changed to having an almost dead bird, likely with a broken neck, held between paper towels and I was faced with the dilemma of leaving the bird to a protracted death outside or taking action to hasten the process. Not sure what to do, I took the bird back to my office, assuming it would expire along the way. But no, the damn thing started staring at me and blinking. When I moved it too much it would squeak, I assumed from pain. Not good, what to do? Having a bird die on your desk has to have some karmic consequences in some belief system. 

Unwilling to put the bird out of it's misery, I brought it back outside with the hope that it might surprise me and Rise and Walk, my son! I went to place it on the ground in the bushes, and to my surprise, it flew away as soon as I released it from it's papery confines. I guess it was only stunned and needed about 20 minutes and a walk through building to come around but I was about 2 minutes away from accidentally releasing an angry and confused humming bird in my office. That would have been a good way to spice up the morning. 

No more dead or almost dead things in my office. 

Monday, August 24, 2009

The "Hail Mary" title

 I have two invitations to give seminars at other institutions this year and my plan is to switch to using data exclusively from my own lab, rather than filling in holes using post-doc stuff. On the one hand, I'm excited to be able to do this because it means that my lab is churning out enough data that I can build a seminar around it . This is particularly good because my students are all working on very different projects that would not for a coherent story mushed together, so have to pick one project to talk about. 

With the semester starting, the organizers of those seminars have been contacted me for a title. The seminars are both in November and I expect to have substantially more data by that time for the two primary lab projects. At this point, however, I don't know which will produce a more interesting story, nor if the experiments we have on-going will work out for either, leaving me with a tough choice. Either project would make for an interesting talk for the audiences and I have no interest in doing two separate talks, one on each topic. Where is my Magic 8 Ball?

So, the fun begins by picking one of the two projects and continues in attempting to divine the amount and type of data I will have to talk about. If absolutely everything we have planned works out I should have a compelling story for each, but when has that ever happened? The real question comes down to whether it is better to provide a bold title and excuse your lack of data in the presentation if experiments don't work, or temper the title and surprise the audience with kick ass data if the experiments do work out? Is it better to have a bigger semi-disappointed audience or a smaller audience that walks away impressed. With that spin, probably the latter.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Why so down on teaching?

A couple of days ago I posted about my relatively low teaching load at the moment and how this was a mild source of jealousy among some colleagues in my department. An anonymous commenter left the following:

I work in the private sector - so I have a pretty insignificant "teaching load", and like P-lS I'll not apologize for this lack of teaching assignment. I did some TA work in grad school - and I appreciate how teaching might not be the first thing you want to do when you get up in the morning... but if P-lS and tideliar find it such a "sucking" proposition, might I suggest you've not chosen your line of work as cleverly as you might have?

While I did not say that teaching sucks (merely that my colleagues think that I suck for having a light load), I can see where the commenter is coming from and thought it might be an opportunity to clarify why it appears that new faculty are anti-teaching. Really, it comes down to one factor if you are at an research-oriented institution.

Teaching will not get you tenure. Research will.

It's as simple as that. As junior faculty, you are almost exclusively evaluated on your research output in terms of dollars brought in, papers published and students trained. I'm not saying that an ability to teach effectively is not important, and service is also important, but what you do with your research program is the primary focus. One could perform worse than average in both their teaching and service if their research was very successful, but the same is not true for either of the other two categories at the expense of research. From that perspective, the time one has to develop a research program and get the lab steaming along can be directly related to success at getting tenure. The time any academic researcher spends teaching undergraduates is time taken away from research productivity, so teaching load is extremely important to junior faculty. 

Another factor, of course, is that many of us got where we are based on our ability to do research. Every search committee wants candidates to pay lip service to teaching and teaching experience is valuable to have on one's CV, but rarely will those qualifications make or break a candidate's chance at landing a job (again, at a research-oriented university). Therefore, many starting faculty have limited or no serious teaching experience. One of the major failings of North American graduate training, IMO, is the lack of real training to teach. So, if you got a job based on one set of skills and then had to perform an entirely different set of activities for that job, would there not be an element of trepidation?

All of this is not to say that I am not looking forward to teaching. It is, after all, a good part of the reason we are here. I am excited (and nervous) to take on my first class and show the students why I think the subject is way better than studying something boring, like humans. I want to expose the undergraduates at my university to what I work on and the kinds of science that will make them think, I really do. But if that's my focus as a junior faculty member, I won't be teaching these students at all once I miss out on tenure. 

Friday, August 21, 2009

We have clearance, Clarence*

We finally have closing clearance on the house. It's always nice when things actually go smoothly. We should be closing mid-week next week and then moving in either over the weekend or on Monday, depending on how long the minor renos we are doing take. Of course, this all could have happened a few days ago, if not for the HR department at Employment University.

My wife had to run some paperwork through HR the other day and got talking to the lady and the topic of our house came up. The woman thought for a minuted and said, "Wait, this rings a bell. Does your husband work here too?" When my wife confirmed this, the HR lady leafed through a pile of paper on her desk, proclaiming "So that's what this message someone left me is all about, I guess I'll call the bank back about your employment verification tomorrow." To which my wife replied, "why don't you take care of that right now." The lady agreed. She had no choice.

Who knows how long that note would have remained buried if my wife had not randomly needed to go through that office or not brought up our pending house purchase. It's nice to know that the incompetence of our HR department even has the ability to mess with our personal lives.

*I think that's my second title reference to Airplane. I think I need to see more movies.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Grease me up!

To this point, I have been treated very well by my Dept. Chair when it comes to workload. I have essentially been given 1.5 years without having to teach an undergrad class (with no teaching at all in my first semester) and my "service" requirements have been very light. Even though my teaching load is still light through the fall semester, I can feel the hammer dropping on the service side. It's been subtle, but people are starting to "suggest" committees, advising, etc. I've been evasive thus far, but it is becoming *known* that I am still not teaching anything to the undergrads. Whenever anyone asks what I am teaching this semester and I tell them, I always get the same reaction. First surprise, then some statement about how easy I've gotten it, then some sort of "good for you" even though I can see that their really thoughts are more along the lines of "you suck."

I'm not going to apologize for either my negotiations, nor my continued discussions with the Chair that have resulted in my current teaching load. I know it'll ramp up eventually but the further I can push that off, the better. And if these grants start to get funded, that will buy me extra leverage for keeping my course load minimal.

But, service. That's a different beast. It's more difficult to account for per se and I have a feeling my colleagues will, consciously or unconsciously, endeavor to make up some of that perceived work gap with service duties. I successfully dodged one University-level committee this morning because it conflicts with a current obligation, but I wonder how long I'll continue to be the greased pig at this country fair.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Condolences to DGT

Unfortunately, today was a horrible day for DGT and she had a tragic addition to her family. I would encourage people to go over and offer their condolences for her unfortunate gain. It's really a heart breaking situation that could happen to any of us. In times like these, we just have to feel fortunate for the good things in life.

p.s. We're still taking recruits for the SciBlog NFL challenge. Oh, sorry. Too soon? Too insensitive?

The 20 minute problem

With the semester rapidly approaching it's time for me to start thinking about ways to address one of the biggest issues I ran into last year: the problem of what to do with 20 minutes. If you Google "20 minutes" you'll get millions of ways to improve your live in 20 minutes. I can workout, get a tan, sculpt my abs, make a million dollars at home - all in 20 minutes a day. But what I can't seem to come up with a good solution for is utilizing 20 minute chunks of time at work.

It's a bigger problem than I thought it would be and not one I really had to deal with on this scale prior to PIing. Unless I specifically block out time to do a task, where I clear the decks and close my door, much of my time to do my own work ends up being in short pieces between other obligations. 20 minutes between a meeting and a class, 30 minutes between talking with my students and going to pick up my daughter, 15 minutes between writing an incredibly entertaining blog post and saving the world while curing cancer and ending world hunger.... You get the idea.

Without a plan to do something during those small time slots, my day rapidly gets chewed up and I go home feeling like I didn't accomplish enough and I need to work after dinner. I try to keep the frequency of this to a minimum, so being efficient with the 20 minute problem is the best way I can see to maximize my time at work. I have enough writing on my plate right now, that I think my plan will have to be to tack;e small pieces of writing during those times. Usually I don't write this way at all, but if I can take it one paragraph at a time (outside of my morning writing time), it will probably get done faster than if I insist on using only hour+ time periods. I don't know how it will work, but my bet is that the more I try to do it, the better I'll get at it.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Real Estate top 11, er, 9

It’s looking like we should get the highly anticipated “cleared to close” green light today or tomorrow. Ignoring the potential of jumping the gun here, I thought I would acquiesce to people’s interest in the Top 11 list we submitted with our offer. I’m not sure how interesting it’ll be for people unfamiliar with the house (um, all of you), but it might provide some ideas for anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation. The sellers obviously liked enough to take our offer over three others (there were other factors, of course, but all offers were around asking price) and we have heard from our agent that they were hoping to leave a Top Ten list of their own in the house for us. I did end up having to cut two points out, because they were a bit too specific for this venue, so here are 9 of the Top 11.

10. While we waited for your agent to arrive, we planned out just the right spot for a slip ‘n slide in the backyard.

9. We like beams. We really like beams.

8. We were talking about a couple of other houses before we saw yours, and the plan was to put in bamboo floors. Um, done.

7. We spend a lot of time cooking. Seven burners might just be enough to satiate us. (Our new kitchen has both electric and gas ranges)

6. We love the fact that you gave the biggest bedroom in the house to one of your daughters. We won’t change a thing when our monkey rules the house.

5. We have two cats and they will already have access to the basement and their “shietza huts”. (There is a cat door to the basement)

4. We support your war on carpets, and appreciate hardwoods.

3. We had already planned to add a dogwood to our yard, but with everything you have growing, there is not much we would have to do but maintain the beautiful gardens you worked so hard to build.

1. We knew, driving up to your home, that we could spend our next decade there and hopefully add to our family during that time. We’re tired of renting and ready for a home.

We will love and respect your home, just as it is evident that you did.
the PLS family

Friday, August 14, 2009

Making a play

I am an ambitious person but I have never found the need to push my way to the front, throwing elbows along the way. I value the opinions of others and I listen to those who are more senior than I. When I first got here, much of my time was spent concentrating on my lab, my research and getting my work life together and I left politics and higher-level infrastructure-type grant writing to those with more experience. My feeling has been that until I secure my own funding, what would I have to offer in putting together something much larger?

For that reason, I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into when I got sucked into helping to write a massive multi-institutional grant. I could add a bit about what we do in my lab, because it is relevant, but without federal support for those activities, they don't have much teeth in the granting sense. The way things broke down in the initial meetings, I was relegated to writing support for a two page section, which was fine with me. When the person in charge of assembling the section never asked me to write anything, I was also fine with it. I've been here a year, why should I be shaping something as massive as this grant?

On Wednesday many of the pieces were in place to put a decent 1st draft together to be circulated today and as I read through the draft I noticed some major disconnects between what had been discussed in out meetings and what each section writer had put to paper. On top of that, the introduction was still a place-holder and the text was never meant as an introduction to the whole grant. I figured I had two options; I could either let the issues ride through the first draft circulation and they would clearly be pointed out for revision in the second round, or, I could jump in and take the lead with writing the intro.

Even 2 months ago I would have chosen the former. It's easier, allows me to focus on my own work and means I don't have to be the junior guy muscling in to the party. But this grant would substantially increase the infrastructure and capabilities of research in my area. It would open some new avenues for my lab and provide new toys tools. So, I jumped in and took over the introduction. In so doing, I am shifting the focus of the grant in a somewhat significant way from the direction it had been heading. While it is more toward my own work, it is also more in keeping with the stated mission of the program, which makes me feel justified in doing it. I am taking input from others, but by reworking the introduction, it will nudge the other section writers to incorporate the elements I am laying out at the start. I will be curious to see how this all plays out and how my input is valued among this group of more senior scientists. At the same time, the funding of this grant will have far more impact on the trajectory of my career than theirs at this point, so why shouldn't I have the opportunity to shape the direction?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Forgetting what you knew

Has it really been two years since I was capably using a Unix platform to perform basic functions and run programs? I guess it has. There are few things as depressing as staring blankly at a task your were once able to do, completely unable to recall the basic key strokes that you once took for granted. Damnit, why didn't I keep up on this a little better? Probably because I didn't have this type of data to analyze during that time, so there was no point playing in Unix. Now I have something to work with and no tools to do it and this is not proving to be "like ride a bike". Unless one is prone to falling off.

cd.. Dude/fuck/sigh

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Shifting strategy

I think it's time for me to change how I approach managing the lab personnel and I am trying to determine the best middle ground between keeping an eye on how things are going and not breathing down people's necks. Previous to now I have kept things very informal and basically checked in with people when I happened to have questions or had them come to me for the same. However, I have another grad student starting in a couple of weeks, at least one undergrad for the fall and a post-doc coming in on a project I am a co-PI on. On top of tat, I am available less because of the writing I have lined up for the fall. There is the potential for people to start falling through the cracks, and I can't afford that right now.

What I think makes the most sense is to block out an hour at some regular interval and have 15 or 20 minutes for each student to come in and informally chat about where they are at and where they are headed. I think this would give me a better sense of on-going problems in the lab and how each student is progressing. The question, however, is what is the interval in between meetings? My initial thought was a week, but that seems like a really short time period if we're going to discuss data and progress. Two weeks? Perhaps that would be better. I think once a month is too long and leaves the potential for things to really slide in between meetings.

While I am not trying to clamp down on the lab and micromanage, I want to establish a regular meeting time before there are issues that need to be dealt with so a mechanism is already in pace. I would rather not manage in a reactionary fashion, but keep dialog open and head things off before the are problematic. It's a fine line between proactively keeping things on the right track and making people feel like you are watching over them.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Dread

There's something about starting a new non-data writing project that always sucks. I do all the little things I need to get done for a while, all while knowing I'm like Wile E. Coyote with an Acme anvil suspended overhead. It's only a matter of time before the rope frays. Both a grant and a data paper have their motivations, but a review or book chapter? Where's the push or the urgency? Where is that feeling of wanting to get your cool shit out to the world as fast as possible? It's not there. Not quite the same feeling to wake up in the morning and think "Man, I can't wait to slog through the literature today to summarize the findings of others in a cohesive way!" Yes, I will be using examples from my lab as well, but the topic I am tackling is far too large for any one group to have a monopoly on.

So, the only way to approach this and get it done is a strict writing regimen of dedicated hours every day when nothing else happens. No interruptions, no meetings, just writing. I hate to have to do it like this, but it's the only way to stare this thing down and get it done. The deadline doesn't scare me and my co-author is a minor contributor, so there isn't even much peer-guilt. No, it's all about blunt force.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Academic gift registry

Female Science Professor has been tallying up the number of Facebook "Academic Gifts" that she has experienced in her career (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4) and was mildly horrified to have dealt with over 70% of the inane situations that these gifts describe. Reading through the list I recognized quite a few myself, even in my much shorter career as a scientist. But it also got me thinking about what is not on the list. FSP supplied a few of her own, but I thought I might take a stab. Feel free to add on to the list

- Vacationless summer (All too familiar).

- Building malfunction leading to extremes in temperature (It's 58F (14C) in my lab right now. My students have had to bring their coats in from home to wear while working)

- Exceedingly slow-to-respond colleague

- Overly defensive assistants to high-level administrators

- High-level administrator who is sighted less than Elvis

- Building over-run by random conference (I swear the most recent society to hold a meeting here had a completely non-sensical name with made-up words)

- Empty hallway before 9:30 (Seriously, why am I the only one here right now... and for the last hour and a half?)

I'm sure I'll think up others.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Why George Costanza was a genius

Season 9, episode 16: The Burning.

George decides that anytime he feels he has hit a high note (be it in conversation, a meeting, whatever), he's going to use that opportunity to leave - always going out on a high note, with the audience wanting more. It's a beautiful strategy. Simple, yet effective. Something I need to learn.

Employment university is in the process of putting together a large, multi-institution grant and there was a conference call yesterday to strategize. Since the conference call was originating on campus, I took the opportunity to go to the source and found myself in a room with a small group of people in charge of the writing of the grant, surrounding the conference phone-thingy with about 20 callers. It made it a lot easier to communicate my ideas to the group, which I did, but I did not listen to my inner George.

Once the call was over and the phone turned off, the people in the room continued discussion on ways to craft the grant. What will be the central themes? How do we structure it? How do we get useable input from all the players without being buried in text? Since I have a vested interest in much of what this grant would support, I stayed and opined rather than walking out when everyone else hung up their phone and went back to work. Shoulda left on the high note.

Suddenly, my name was being woven into the list of people writing the grant. Suddenly I am part of the "core group". Before I knew it, I have two meetings next week before the group meeting on Wednesday and I have 8 emails already this morning about this. What the fuck just happened?

I guess it's good because I can ensure that the pieces of the proposal that will most affect me will stay off the cutting room floor, but damnit. As if my summer weren't flying by fast enough already, now I'm basically taking on a service role for this massive proposal? No one gets credit for building the pyramid, no matter how great it is. Dude. Fuck. Sigh.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

SciBlogs NFL Challenge

The NFL preseason starts this Sunday. I'm not kidding, you can look it up. That means that we are little more than a month from the NFL regular season, which also means this summer has flown by way too quickly. However, rather than focus on the pending doom that the school year brings, I am inviting my fellow bloggers to join in an NFL pickem' pool. For those who have not been involved in something like this before, the rules are simple - pick which team will win each game. To make it a bit more complicated, we will be picking which team will when when the spread is taken into account, but the idea remains the same - if you give the team expected to lose an XX point handicap, who will win the game? The weekly results will be posted here on Tuesdays during the regular season and we will come up with some way to recognize both the overall and weekly leaders (like the Tour de' France... but different).

Now, in order to keep the numbers reasonable and to facilitate the shit-talking, let's start by limiting the participants to those with running blogs. If this motivates a couple of regular commenters to start up a place of their own, great. You've got a month. So, I've started a yahoo group for people to login and enter their picks. Email me (proflikesubstance at the gmail) for the login info and let the shenanigans begin.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Your CV says more than you think

I am in the midst of evaluating some applicants for a Post-doc position and have been fairly surprised at the CVs we have gotten in response to the advertisement. Almost all of the applicants are excellent, but the CVs are interesting in more than just their contents - the layouts vary widely. I don't know why this seems so odd to me, I guess that I assumed that most people know what potential employers are looking for when the open a CV, but clearly I am wrong on that count. But how you set up your CV also says something subtle about what you think are the important pieces of your history. With that in mind, I suggest the following to people applying for a postdoc.

Let's make a couple things clear.
1) Pretty much everyone does this, but it's worth mentioning that your training history should be the first thing in your CV.

2) The two things that should be next are either your awards (including grants) or your publications. I tend to put awards, then pubs, but it can go either way. If you have anything else above these two categories I would have to ask why. When it boils down to it, what does an employer want to see? What money or awards have you won and where have you published. This is what matters. DO NOT have other things above these because I don't want to have to sift through your hobbies and poster presentations to get to your pubs. Seriously.

3) It's fine to mention manuscripts "in prep", but don't bother putting journal titles with these, just to let me know where you plan on submitting them. It's useless information and I'm not going to take "Schmo, J. et al. in prep. All of the cool shit I do. Nature." very seriously, I'm sorry.

4) Everything you have after the sections mentioned above is fluff. Yeah, I might glance at it to see that you attend international meetings and you have some experience giving presentations, but if the training, awards and pubs are the steak, the rest is the broccoli. No one orders broccoli with some steak on the side.

5) If you're applying for a research post-doc, include your teaching experience, but it should not be front and center. Repeat after me: I'm not hiring a teacher, I want to know about your research acumen. Do you have the experience I am looking for and can you turn results into publications?

You might say "But layout shouldn't matter if everything is in there!" and you might be right in an ideal world. BUT, when you have a stack of CVs to get though and they have to be ranked, it is surprising what subtleties can make one CV get placed overtop another in the ranked stack. It's a competitive field, don't do yourself a disservice by not putting your best foot forward. If your publications are buried on page 3 of your CV (or worse, listed almost like an appendix) you are asking the employer to put in the effort you did not, in order to properly evaluate you. You are also suggesting that you don't understand what is important to emphasize to compete in academia.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The perils of shared space

Our new building was built with buzz words. I'm not complaining, because the new space is great, but the "research model" that was forced upon us set up for us involves a lot of shared space. The general idea is for individual groups to have benches in large multi-group labs. This model has worked well for some, whereas other groups have divvied up the space by area of the lab, with a virtual line on the floor mentality. Some of my space is shared with two other labs that do very similar basic tasks as we do and it has actually worked out very well to divide the space by function, rather than group, but with each group having their own benches. This arrangement has minimized the redundancy in low use equipment and helped with student interaction. It also helps that all of the PIs get along and respect each other, facilitating group interaction.

I do have one issue though. One of the PIs in the lab group is getting close to retirement (CtR). Obviously that is not an issue, but the problem is that when we moved in, CtR brought 30 years of stuff into the new space. In general, this would not be a problem because there is a good amount of storage, but the stuff is still in boxes all over the place. We have boxes on benches, stacked up against walls and windows and any place where there is not constant foot traffic. CtR's people have been in the new building for over 4 months now, and are doing work in the lab, but the stuff remains, strewn about under empty cabinets.

I don't really know how to approach the situation, because CtR is very busy with other things and the boxes don't directly impact my people, per se. Not bringing it up, however, virtually ensures that the boxes will sit for many more months, which is a prospect that makes me cringe. I don't want to go directly to CtR's students, because they didn't create the mess. I may just have to talk to CtR directly and try and suggest that it would be helpful if they took some time to deal with the stuff. Whether or not that will translate into action is the big question.