Archive for the 'Education' category

Doctoral Student Training: The Hazing Process Qualification Exam

Feb 20 2010 Published by under Education, Mentoring, Tribe of Science

One contentious part of graduate student training in the US system is the mechanism by which we evaluate student potential for continuing on to the dissertation about halfway along.
Oral or written "qualification" exams. Closed book, open book or take home. Research or grant proposals. Review articles. On specific subfield topics or designed to cover the breath of the fields defined by the Department itself.
It is almost always a constant argument within the faculty, within the student body and between students and faculty about the "best" way to construct the process. I recall that over the course of my doctoral stint, my training department had three distinct qualification processes in place!
As a student I was a big fan of the breadth exam, either written as closed-book or as oral exam. My rationale was basically what I saw as the continued "value" of me getting a doctorate from the department in question. It was a matter of the reputation gained by other grads from the program conversing with scientists across the field. I wanted them to come across as informed as possible, to as many discussants as possible.
Maturing through the career arc, I care less for this. Mostly because I've come to realize nobody that is judging me now gives a rat's patootie what University or Department of -ology appears on my doctorate. They care about the papers I have published. Period. Full freaking stop.
So if I were dictating a graduate program, I'd be looking to enhance the ability of the students to publish papers. This would pretty much rule out the examination approach.
My younger self would be absolutely appalled.

70 responses so far

Good Riddance

Female Science Professor has proposed a most interesting meme.

What tradition or other general characteristic of academia would you like to see eliminated completely?
According to the rules, which I just invented, the things to be eliminated have to be of a general nature. So, for example, the answer "my department chair" or "my university's moronic president" are unacceptable unless you want to eliminate the general concept of department chairs or university presidents.
The candidates for disposal can be anything to do with academia, from the most momentous of traditions (tenure) to the most bizarre but inconsequential (academic gowns).

My proposal after the jump.

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25 responses so far

What do you expect to see on a faculty web page?

Our good blog friend Professor in Training wants to know what trainees and faculty peers expect to find on a faculty web site.

Students
When you're hunting for prospective mentors, what type of stuff do you want to see on their sites? Do you just want a list of degrees, publications and a couple of keywords that describe the PI's research or do you want a little bit more?
If/when you join a lab, do you want your project/information/photo included in the lab page?
Faculty
When you google other faculty, what types of things do you hope to find on their site?
Do you look through faculty websites when reviewing grants? If so, why?

The answers already range from incredibly detailed to "just the email address".
What do you want to see? Go play over at PiT's blog, I'm turning comments off here.

No responses yet

OK waahmbulance workers, let's play "Balance the UC Budget"

Nov 25 2009 Published by under Education

Okay people, now that you are all fired up about the plight of the poor undergraduates of the UC system, let's get to work. What would you do to keep the undergraduates from having to pay more for tuition and fees?
How about this proposal from some UCSD faculty to close a campus or two?

We suggest, more generally, that in discussions systemwide, you drop the pretence that all campuses are equal, and argue for a selective reallocation of funds to preserve excellence, not the current disastrous blunderbuss policy of even, across the board cuts. Or, if that is too hard, we suggest that what ought to be done is to shut one or more of these campuses down, in whole or in part.

You have to come up with anywhere from $100-$300 million dollars folks so get creative!

Regents board Chairman Richard Blum and Yudof placed the blame on state government, which is expected to cut UC's $3 billion in general revenue funding by at least $115 million next year and not cover an additional $200 million or more in increased salaries and other costs.

12 responses so far

UC undergraduate whiners

Nov 24 2009 Published by under Education

The University of California undergraduates have been protesting and complaining and generally whinging about the recent decision of the UC Regents to up their fees by 32%, making tuition and fees about $10,000 per year. The national average is about $7,000 but that source has no range info.
Well, I was around one of the UC campuses during a rather long-distant prior episode of this sort of thing. The students were unjustifiable whiners then and they still are now.

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33 responses so far

The doctorate is the new bachelor's?

Nov 11 2009 Published by under Careerism, Education, Mentoring, Tribe of Science

Commenter qaz raised an issue the I think I last took up following an observation of Larry Moran. That was also in the context of discussing so-called over-production of PhDs. The new comment from qaz frames the issue as follows:

I AM advocating graduate PhD-level science training for the rest of the population - imagine if our politicians actually understood science (or even critical thinking) for example. A lot of professions would be improved by having scientific training. (But they don't need it, you say. I say, why can't they have it? Why can't spending five years doing some good science not be a part of someone's path in life, even if they don't go on to do NIH-R01-Research?)

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35 responses so far

Student Interns Should Get Credit or Paid, Full Stop

Sep 28 2009 Published by under Conduct of Science, Education, Ethics

Undergraduate students approach professors with research labs all the time about getting "experience" they think they need for something or other. Typically for med school application in the biological science areas. I think it is bogus to let them in without either 1) academic credit through enrollment in the appropriate course descriptor or 2) being paid an hourly wage, preferably minimum wage or above.
Making them Allowing them to work for nothing other than a recommendation letter, even if they are willing to do so, is exploitation pure and simple.
That's how I see it anyway.
I was reading these interesting comments at The First Excited State blog recently. The author was responding to some idiocy from a Mark Cuban who of course would not possibly be where he is today be exploiting other people's labor, would he? The First Excited State blogger sums it up succinctly:

So, let's recap Cuban's argument in favor of unpaid interns:
* Isn't it great that so many talented people are unemployed? Maybe I can use this for my gain!
* Perhaps they will work for free in the name of gaining experience.
* They can also do the dirty work that would normally be done by "The Assistant to the Secretary's Secretary."
* They don't complain, so it must be okay. Oppressed people always speak up, right? Or maybe they know we'll blacklist them...

Cuban's logic is basically that of the pre-worker-protection robber baron. If you can find someone desperate enough to work long hours, under unsafe and dehumanizing conditions for minimal compensation then you should be allowed to exploit them right? No? Than why is it okay to exploit the relatively well-off middle class college kid / recent grad who can afford to intern for free so that you can avoid paying a worker for the work you are receiving?
Don't be a Cuban.

43 responses so far

Evoking a Thirst

Sep 11 2009 Published by under Blogging, Education

The Flying Trilobite has posted a compelling endorsement of GrrlScientist's bid to become the blogger selected for a Quark Expeditions journey to Antarctica.

I have wished to find another review of art -any art- that speaks so favourably it evokes a thirst to experience the art through the critic's eyes.

When Open Laboratory 2008 came out, I was stunned by one contribution in particular. In that anthology of blog posts is one by GrrlScientist about John James Audubon, the ornithologist and painter, the only scientific illustrator found in most fine art survey texts. The blog post, entitled, Audubon's Aviary: Portraits of Endangered Species rings with well-deserved reverence and love for the artwork. Grrl laments the loss of the birds now gone that Audubon lovingly captured full of inquisitive life. It's a blog post I find moving and inspiring and that has changed how I look at Audubon and scientific illustration.

There's more, go read Flying Trilobite's post.
And then go and use all your valid email addresses to vote for Grrl. Only 50 or so needed to pass ol' Don Osmond Jr!

2 responses so far

Is this the definition of insanity, political wingnuttery or racism?

Sep 03 2009 Published by under Education, General Politics

President Barack Obama is planning a webcast directed at the nation's school children.

During this special address, the president will speak directly to the nation's children and youth about persisting and succeeding in school. The president will challenge students to work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for their learning.

Apparently, this is something parents must protect their darling children against! [h/t: drdrA who asks you to crash an associated poll]

In Bryan, the end of the school day, did not mean phones in the district's administration office stopped ringing.
In a message left to the district's communication director, Sandy Farris, one parent said "I have a child in middle school and a child in elementary school and I am very concerned about the content and the intent behind President Obama's speech to kids on the 8th."
Phones were equally busy at College Station I.S.D., said Superintendent Eddie Coulson.

Really? "Very concerned"?

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118 responses so far

On the Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Sep 03 2009 Published by under Education, Underrepresented Groups

I expressed my appreciation last year to Abel Pharmboy for posting a primer on the HBCUs of the United States. His observations and links were highly informative to me.
We are once again in a week of celebration of these institutions of higher education which have catered to African-American and other students who were either formally or informally alienated from the Historically Lily White Colleges and Universities.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim August 30 through September 5, 2009, as National Historically Black Colleges and Universities Week. I call upon public officials, educators, and all the people of the United States to observe this week with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities that acknowledge the tremendous
contributions these institutions and their graduates have made to our country.

You might as well start your reading with Abel Pharmboy's post for this year. As Abel noted:

Here's a pretty impressive list of well-known HBCU graduates including this Chicago businesswoman, a graduate of Tennessee State University.

One response so far

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