Category Archives: Uncategorized

Interview Tips from FSP

Female Science Professor strikes again! Her calm, practical advice for interviewing is definitely beneficial to any future doctor. There’s a whole series, but this post particularly addresses issues that are worried over often, including wardrobe and family issues.

Productivity Porn

Is that what I write? I am not a huge fan of the phrase, but it did get my attention. And I do like reading about productivity. So does Marc Andreesen, and here are his productivity tips:

Pmarca’s Guide to Personal Productivity

Chipped Shoulder

I got an e-mail from my friend L. that said, “I realized I have been walking around with a chip on my shoulder, angry and mad that I ‘have to finish’ my dissertation.”

Oh, I know that feeling! It’s so easy to think that you’re only going forward because you’re trapped, or you’ve gone too far to turn back. It can start to seem like there’s no way out but through. That fate or God or the economy or your student loans won’t let you out of grad school.

But, as L. went on to say, it’s possible to let that anger go. To realize that you are finishing, ultimately, because you want to.  Maybe you don’t want to finish all of the time, with every fiber of your being. But you are the one who is making yourself work–not because you’re a masochist but because you want it.


I’ve been impressed with Gerald Graff before (see here and here). His 2008 Presidential Address to the MLA also contains some interesting food for thought (PMLA Volume 124, # 3, May 2009 pgs. 727-743).

Graff says that we professors “still think of teaching in ways that are narrowly private and individualistic, as something we do in isolated classrooms while knowing little about what our colleagues are doing in the next classroom or the next building.” I know that feeling of isolation well. I can teach exactly what I think is appropriate, but I have no way of knowing how well the class is jiving with the students’ other courses.

Graff argues that “there is reason to think that the quality of education students receive is determined as much by the curriculum’s shape as by its content.” Intuitively, this seems true to me, because the best part of my college education was a well-shaped humanities, social science, and physical science curriculum called Core. The Core professors designed the program in dialogue with one another. The lectures were given by about a dozen different faculty members and guest lecturers per semester, and all the professors of the program attended the lectures. They decided as a group which texts to include on the syllabi. Students were encouraged to connect the material of one course to that of another.

When a student complains to me about the different expectations of different teachers, I see the student’s complaint as a lack of ability to think critically, and occasionally grumble about Texas public high schools. However, as Graff points out, the students who can’t understand how to handle conflicting ideas taught in different courses need to be educated the most; they are also the students most harmed by the isolationist approach to teaching.

It’s Labor Day! Celebrate!

Concentrate on following Natalie Dee’s advice instead of writing this weekend. Celebrate one of the precious few working holidays we have in America.


Female Science Professor strikes again!Her post “Years-to-Degree” made me happy. I privately determined that I would graduate in six years when I began graduate school, and I saw no reason why I wouldn’t be able to. Even though at orientation they told us that hardly anyone graduated in six years, I figured I was quicker and better than most people and I would be able to do it. As FSP points out, there’s many many factors that determine years to degree. Among the ones she listed that slowed me down: “extent of research experience prior to starting the graduate program” (almost none), significant events (a wedding in my case), and nature of funding (teaching-based funding).

But here’s my favorite part:

3. When a colleague and I looked at the dataset and applied our qualitative and totally subjective evaluations as to which students were our most ‘successful’ (as in smart and hard-working, got awards/fellowships in grad school, published, got jobs after graduation etc.), we saw no trend in years-to-degree. Some ‘successful’ students zipped through the PhD program, finishing in 3-4 years; others took significantly longer.

Change the University!

Sunday, Doctor Mark Taylor published an op-ed about changing the university as we know it.

And here’s Female Science Professor’s response.

I like many of Doctor Taylor’s ideas, particularly 7-year contracts instead of tenure and an increasingly interdisciplinary approach to research, but mainly I like the idea of radically changing the academy.

It’s kind of like imagining how the Catholic church is going to change . . . one knows it’s not going to happen fast, but it’s fun to imagine the improvements that might be made someday.