Saturday, September 29, 2012

Invocations to precede decision-making for hiring scientists

Please grant me the serenity
To squarely face my own biases.
To recognize others’ strengths, even in areas where I lack that strength.
To accept others’ failings in the same way that I strive to accept my own.
To realize that there is more than one way to do good science.
And that my way is not necessarily the only way.
Please grant me the serenity
To recognize accomplishments
And to recognize potential in others.
Even though others might look very very very different from me

Speak out, Hallelujah!
When you hear a wrong, make it right!
When you hear bias, pick the fight!
Equality should not require riot!
But this is not the time for quiet!
Use your logic!
Mind your fears!
Support young colleagues!
And their careers!

Dear Gods of Science
Please forgive me
For I am biased.
It is not on purpose, for I bear no ill will towards any gender.
I might even be a girl (excuse me a woman) myself.
I’m just as biased as any man.
Because my brain is not very scientific.
(Except for when it is consciously trying to be)
For even though I am a scientist
I am human.
And though I serve the Gods of Science whilst I am awake
I am not always awake.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Skills for Scientists

Please drop a line if you have more to add!
Scientific knowledge base
Depth of knowledge in chosen subject area
Breadth of knowledge in general field, adjacent fields, scientific literacy

Approach-specific knowledge base
Laboratory, field, theoretical/modeling approaches

Quantitative skills
Setting up a problem
Back of the envelope calculations
            Basic computing--algebra
            More advanced computing—linear algebra/differential equations
Receptive communication skills
            Listening to seminars

Active communication skills
            Writing papers
            Writing proposals
            Writing “one-pagers”
            Designing Posters
            Presenting research
            Graphic design

Dynamic communication skills
            Reviewing papers/proposals
Poster sessions
            Working in pairs and/or groups

“fuzzy” skills
Creativity: coming up with new approaches
Curiosity: asking scientific questions
 Sense of scale of problem: How much detail is necessary?
Productivity: Getting things off the desk, though not necessarily perfect

Clich├ęd but useful:
“Eighty percent of success is showing up”            -Woody Allen
 “Don’t boil the ocean”

Science is (or should be) about play: playing with ideas, numbers, pictures, puzzles.
A good science course should introduce students to scientific puzzling—so that scientists can ultimately figure out their own puzzles and solve them.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

List of Department Seminars in Geo* Field Part I

I started with the top part of the list of NRC rankings for geosciences, and am working my way through it.
If your department isn't listed here, it's either because I have not yet looked or the current seminar series is not published in an easily-accessed way.

7 men
3 women

12 men
1 woman

2 women
10 men

9 men
1 woman

12 Men
3 Women

2 women
6 men

3 women
4 women
6 men

13 men
1 woman

3 women
9 men

9 men
4 women

0 women
8 men

6 women
10 men
6 men
5 women
6 women
6 men

7 men
3 women

6 men
0 women

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The longest ever “Early Career”

Recently, I was an invited participant to a prestigious scientific convention for the brightest shining early-career stars. I was flattered of course. It is fun to meet with scientists from every discipline, and hear interesting talks, and meet new people. I like conferences, and am always on the lookout for good science and kindred spirits.

The registration form contained the usual spaces for poster title, research abstract, brief biography, and birthdate. With year. This last bit I left blank.

The conference organizers—smart people—would easily see that one of the reasons I’m such an exemplary early career person—all those accomplishments!—is because I’ve been “early career” for (-ahem-) 15 to 20 years, depending on how you count. And at either bound, it was not an early start. 
I'm afraid I'd be kicked out. Or perhaps added to the panel tasked with discussing "Old-Fart Science."
If you normalize my accomplishments to my years-at-it, I am not at all exemplary, but simply a working scientist who divides her time among research, teaching, service, family, friendships, occasional recreation, and sleeping and eating.

Why am I perceived as early career when I am actually much closer to menopause?
Here are my top 3 ideas:
1.     I’m short, but not without gravitas. Excuse me. Gravity.
2.     I use the word “awesome” liberally when talking about science that I think is awesome.
3.     Perhaps it’s the pink glitter I use in my hair.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Departmental Colloquia Aggregator

It is interesting to track who is giving what talks and at which University/Research Center.

I have decided to start a Tumblr to aggregate this information for my field.

I am also tweeting the links. Please follow @goearlytobed

Please send me links to departments you would like to see included in the aggregator!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Personal Statement Mad-Lib

(Scientific Sub-Sub-Field) Research at  (Venerable Institution)

            My research group examines the behavior of (plural noun) under conditions of (adjective) (state variable) which is important for (place) within the larger (another place). My group consists of (a whole number) people who do (experimental, theoretical, modeling) work to measure (a physical property) to unprecedented precisions of (a number) (SI unit). Our results tell us about the (gerund) of (noun: singular or plural). This research is especially relevant to (adjacent scientific sub-sub-field) and (scientific sub field). This research program is funded by (government agency).

Sunday, September 16, 2012

New Academic Year

The summer has ended, most of the rest of the people in my life have been back into the swing of the new academic year. Since classes don’t start at my University until the end of next week, I have been able to pretend until now that it is still glorious summer. But this is my new year.

And it has been a glorious summer, though with close reminders of the bittersweet necessity to live life as richly as possible. I enjoyed family, friends, messing about in boats, and a new turn of phrase: to do a science. I did lots of sciences this summer. I derived a series of equations. I started to learn programming in Mathematica so I may see how the equations behave. I ran a few fun experiments at synchrotrons. I talked with students about their research, and did lots of reading, writing, and editing.

Each year, my summer ends with my first teaching dream of the school year. Spoiler alert: this dream is a teaching-anxiety dream in impostor-syndrome subcategory.

Here’s the real part: This fall I am taking on a new course (for me), a meaty, required graduate class that is required for the PhD program, and taken by most of the first year graduate students. I requested this change after teaching an also meaty, also required undergraduate course for the past ten years. I loved it for nine years, and then all of a sudden I didn’t and I knew I needed a break. Also, the graduate class is squarely in my discipline, and I had concerns that some of my colleagues were forgetting I was of that discipline. I asked the department chair nicely, and my requests were accommodated. Or, as my department chair put it recently in a slightly different context: “You asked for it!”

Here’s the dream part: Remember the retirement party from my first blog post? The professor who retired, one of the shining stars of the discipline, and had famously/infamously taught this course for many years. He consulted with the department chair and together they decided that I shouldn’t be allowed to teach this course, because I have never TA’d it. So eminent professor came back from retirement *solely* so he could teach this course so that I could be his TA. I woke up in the middle of the first lecture, when the professor introduced their TA (me) to the class, and walked out of the room while I addressed them.

I was happy to wake up, but sad the summer’s over, but glad to be kick-starting the swing of the new academic year, and glad to be preparing my own teaching notes, and learning a new course.