Getting your point across, plain and simple

“If you can’t explain it to a six year old you don’t understand it yourself.” Albert Einstein

Coming from Albert Einstein this point is particularly well made. Many more times I have heard this advice phrased as, “explain your project as you would to your grandmother or someone you just met at a dinner party.” The point is to first, keep it clear and second, engage the listener. Why is the latter as important? Because it is important for the listener to know your work matters. Oh…and your work should probably matter…if it doesn’t matter then why are you spending any time doing it, let alone telling me about it? A lot of stuff matters so chances are good that our work does too, and it is our not-so-easy task to explain why.
Continue reading

Do student evaluations make it harder to teach?

Classroom with Three Figures by Lavern Kelley, painted white pine, plywood, brass, and plastic, 1979, 1984–87. Photo by Cliff,

Being back in the classroom – as the professor – has reminded me of one of the aspects of teaching I have always disliked, feared, worried over the most: “How will I score on my students’ course evaluations?!?” It is an unfortunate preoccupation to have when I am just trying to make sure that my class has the right balance of interesting content and challenging, educational assignments and expectations, but it comes back to haunt me from time to time. So when I came across this article by Anya Kamenetz on NPR Ed entitled “Student Evaluations Get an ‘F,’” I realized that I am not alone.
Continue reading

Getting past procrastination

Procrastination is my worst enemy. This is to say that I am my own worst enemy. The thing is – and I know in advance this is coming from the part of my brain that rationalizes my procrastination – I am not lazy. I still feed and clothe myself and my son. I still keep our habitat clean and do at least a half decent job of teaching him some survival/life skills (like pooping in a potty…though it is a work in progress). It is not as though my procrastination began with domestic life, but at least now my means of procrastinating are more noble than binge watching Law and Order. Continue reading

The Love Bug

This post is dedicated to my husband, without whom I could be neither a PhD nor a mommy. In honor of the seven year anniversary of our office romance, I am posting a piece that I wrote for his amusement when we first started dating. The references are somewhat dated, but I think most of it still applies!

The Love Bug

It can happen to anyone at any time. Once it has, their life will never be the same. Love, also known as love sickness, elation, devotion, desire, or borderline insanity, is a global pandemic spanning throughout human history. The earliest poems about love date back 10 million years when pirates and ninjas ruled the world. Music, literature, and art have all been infected with the love bug. Scientists struggle to understand why. Continue reading

Homework! Oh, Homework!

It’s a necessary component of learning and teaching: homework. Oh, the dreaded word! The painful obligation! It must be the world’s leading cause of procrastination. Oh, that most delicious of clichéd doggy treats! The Jack Prelutsky poem sums up how most people feel about homework pretty succinctly.

But it isn’t just for students, is it? Continue reading

turning down ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunities

A ‘postdoc’ is basically the next step in academia after completing the “doc.” It is further training before you become a principal investigator. Finding a postdoctoral position or getting funding for one is no easy task. I will devote an entire post to finding a postdoc another time. Finding a great postdoc on the exact research you want to do is even harder, and, of course, you then have to get an offer. So once you have done all of that, why in the world would you pass it up? I can tell you my story, and hopefully there are some broader truths to be drawn from it or, at least, it may resonate with you.
Continue reading