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Freedom Sinking in Wyoming…

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

I’m a professor at the University of Wyoming, and usually proud of that.  We have a quality program for a very reasonable price, and generally enjoy the academic freedoms and freedom of expression that faculty everywhere require to best pursue their goals.  The whole concept of tenure was designed so that academics could pursue research […]

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How much are you willing to work for a PhD?

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

Another busy, stressful week.  I know I need to give myself some time off to cut down on the stress and worry, but a lot has to get done, too.  I’ve got one big thing in particular that has to be done really well, and it’s not coming together easily, but it is gumming up […]

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I Love My Job

Friday, October 5th, 2012

I’ve had another busy week that has dragged in places, and there were some issues with the website for a couple of days, but I wanted to remind myself today that I love my job and shouldn’t take it for granted. That’s probably true of a lot of people reading this as well. The coolest […]

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Voting Ends Today for PhD Comics Competion for Two-Minute Thesis

Monday, August 20th, 2012

Here’s the link. The contest is about finishing PhD students being able to present their thesis to an educated layperson cogently in two minutes.  Personally, I know this is really hard to do for veteran scientists speaking with the public about broad topics, and must represent a special challenge to younger academics with less experience […]

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Another Issue with Peer Review

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

I’ve written in the past about peer review (and links therein), particularly my annoyances with how some referees don’t seem to be constructive about it, and in fact can be condescending assholes.  I made my suggestions about improving it while keeping it anonymous.  Another option is to remove anonymity, which I think does have drawbacks, […]

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The Big Bang Crisis?

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

I don’t think so…but it’s a classic lesson in how not to get into grad school. I recently had an exchange with a student who queried me about why they had not been admitted into our graduate program. I won’t name names, or say where they were from, or their gender, and I won’t quote […]

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Great Advice for Prospective Graduate Students

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Prospective graduate students need to make their choices by April 15 of each year.  We’ve had some acceptances already for our department, but are waiting on a few people still to decide.  I’m hoping if they decline, there are still students on our wait list.  Anyway, onto the advice about how to decide, courtesy of […]

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Spring Break for Professors

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

It’s not like it is for students! I spent several nights at our local observatory collecting data successfully.  The internet was down, however.  And since we were working, I didn’t get a lot of other work done.  I have to write a magazine article this week, review 23 graduate fellowship proposals for NASA (hundreds of […]

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The Importance of, and How to Choose, a Mentor

Saturday, November 26th, 2011

Academia and writing are two systems where mentors are still common, something like the old system of Apprentice/Journeyman/Master. I think in nearly every field of individual excellence that requires serious expertise, you’ll find mentors.  Tiger Wood’s had his dad teaching him golf.  The Polgar sisters had rigorous chess coaching.  Every scientist these days has or […]

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The Importance of Grad Students

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

While I guess I always feel busy and sometimes overwhelmed, I’m usually getting more done than I think and it’s often worthwhile.  I spent a lot of time running on Sunday (18 miles), and much of my time Friday and Saturday was spent with prospective graduate students. Most PhD programs make acceptances of graduate students […]

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Negotiating an Academic Job Offer

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

I’ve written about applying for jobs and given some tips about on-campus interviews.   I wanted to give some brief advice about what to do when you actually get a tenure-track job offer.   My advice will be pretty general, but with a few more specific things for science jobs like astronomy. First, celebrate.   It’s hard to […]

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Losing (some) Faith in Science, but it still Beats the Alternatives

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

In my second or third year of graduate school, I went through a period of depression of several months after realizing that the Ivory Tower was pretty dirty, even in a field of pure research like astronomy.   I was starting to see how politics and power interfered with my ideal of how science, especially a […]

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