Evaluating my semester

This semester I’ve had a teaching leave. Fifteen weeks to focus on research and getting papers out and research done. I had lofty ambitions for this semester, and slightly unrealistic expectations for how much I could do.

The plan
The cut down version of my plan (after planning my semester with far more, realizing that was not going to happen and re-planning with less) was to get 2 papers written and submitted, with one of those resubmitted. Another paper drafted, and one major grant submitted.
My softer goals were to spend more time in the lab at the bench, attend 3 conferences and speaking at two of them (lined up well before the semester), and increase the time I spent reading broadly and thinking about the future of projects happening in the lab.

So how did I do?

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On my role/effectiveness as a mentor

Graduate students are one of the best, and one of the most difficult aspects of my job. I constantly wonder if I’m doing it right. I worry because I care about the students. I care about whether they are learning and growing as scientists, and I care about them as human beings. I also care about their scientific output. In fact, as a lab-based scientist, I am dependent on the work that they do.

There are a two main flavors of my worry. First, Am I doing enough for their scientific development? Second, am I falling into the trope of the over-demanding pre-tenure faculty?

The first of these generally has two main steps transient* frustration with a student triggers a longer spiral of second guessing myself as a mentor.

The frustrations are usually normal** day-to-day things. Mistakes, failure to take notes of discussions, failure to locate notes from discussions, needing to repeat instructions that should not need to be explained again****, slowness of writing, oversharing about personal issues, failure to talk to me about research-related questions, and lack of keeping up with the literature, for example.

But then I start wondering: Is there something about what I am doing that could fix some of these problems? Am I giving my students too much room? Or am I micromanaging? Am I applying too much pressure? Not enough pressure? Is it contradictory if I am working on something up to a deadline, but demand they have drafts to me early? Continue reading


Today I’m hosting a guest blogger at Tenure She Wrote talking about Title IX office and the process by which complaints are handled. For reasons which will become clear, this is written by a contributor who will remain anonymous.


Gaslighting: How Universities Use Their Title IX Office to Crush Complaints.

by Anonymous

Sexual assaults, harassment, gender and racial biases occur with frightening regularity for women in academia. In spite of increasing awareness of these problems, there is very little about what the Title IX process looks like from a personal perspective.

Participating in a Title IX case is nothing short of soul crushing. Your university will not support you, you will be the subject of gossip and, perhaps most distressingly, you will be intimidated and retaliated against for your honesty. Retaliation is illegal under Title IX, but not only does it occur, it is cornerstone of the process by which academics are silenced and, I suspect, the reason I could find so few first hand accounts of participating in a case.

I offer this advice based on my experience. Continue reading

10 Ways that Academia Has Made Me a Better Athlete

I’m an academic with a serious time (and money)-consuming hobby – I like to run and bike and swim. I like to obsess about workout schedules and how fast I can bike 25 miles and how that changes depending on hills, road surface, and how my legs – and lungs – feel today. I like to do races, and this summer I have been training for a triathlon*, which means I’ve had a lot of time to think while running and biking and swimming, and what I keep coming back to is this: Academia has made me a better endurance athlete**.

There is a lot written about life lessons from running; and what-I-learned-about-X-from-sports. But my experience is the opposite – I’m not a natural athlete***, I have medical issues I need to constantly deal with in order to work out consistently, and I didn’t train for anything athletic until I was a postdoc. instead of learning about life from running, many of the lessons and strategies that have made me a better, tougher scientist are things that apply equally well to endurance events.

We don’t often think about the skills we learn in academia as applicable to much else (although it does and we should emphasize these transferable skills more), so here is a top 10 list of how academia made me a better athlete. Continue reading

Academic Job Hunting for Aliens

or Academic Job search for non-resident* foreign nationals in the US

In which @scitrigrrl discover one way that academics are like fashion models

DISCLAIMER: I am not an immigration lawyer, Tenure She Wrote does not have an immigration lawyer as a consultant, and what I have written here about visas is only the most cursory of notes about common things. If you have questions, concerns, worries about your immigration status, talk you the international center at your university (if you’re in the US), the International Center at your prospective institution, contact a US Consulate, or look at the USCIS website.

When @TenureSheWrote asked for reader questions, one that came up was this:

As a foreigner in US academia, there are some interesting challenges that are not always obvious to US-nationals, and some of these can be surprising as a foreigner even after over a decade in the US, particularly at transition points along the career trajectory, such as applying for faculty positions** in the US. Continue reading

Use your Academic an Professional Societies as Advocacy Machines

In which @Scitrigrrl begs for your help to generate a list of questions about advocacy to ask candidates seeking election for Professional-society positions.

[Disclaimer: I’m focusing on Society for Neuroscience here because that is the organization with elections going on right now. But this is broadly true for all of our major academic professional societies.]

Advocacy is one of the main missions of almost all Academic and Professional societies – not just the sciences  (American Historical Association has News and Advocacy as it’s first link on the menu bar; Modern Language Association has advocacy right there under Resources; Association for Psychological Science includes it front and center in its missions statement…I could go on). Right now when we think of advocacy we think about lobbying for support from congress, but we should be thinking more broadly than that. Workforce issues, public policies, public education about research and research ethics, supporting and yes, advocating for underrepresented groups in the field, I could go on.

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Summer Plans

It’s summer.

Well actually it’s that odd time – between the end of the semester and the start of summer proper, when we still have a few administrative tasks, time set aside for graduate student committee meetings and qualifying exams, and the other things pushed until after exams are done. The weather is also in between – or rather up and down (though that’s also climate change). Either way I am trying to plan out my summer – my personal plans, travel, and writing goals, determine my really specific (and manageable) goals, and sketch out a (reasonable) schedule to make them all happen.

There have been a few posts around – by @duffy_ma at @DynamicEcology and by @ProflikeSubstance – on planning a sabbatical (I am sure I’ve missed posts on this – please add links in the comments!). Planning summer feels similar – but without the external pressures of still being asked to do service. The common theme is: How do I make the best use of this time when this CHUNK of un-scheduled time stretches out in front of me? There are some good comment threads to those posts too and I’d love to hear what your summer plans are, and what works (or doesn’t work) for you. Continue reading