Posted by Melissa on September 23, 2011
This month’s Scientiae asks about choosing where not to be. Since the call was posted on August 30th, I’ve been noting times when I’ve had to make choices about when to be here and when to be there. Here are a few examples of the times when I’ve not been somewhere:
- Not at department lunch because I’m at a mentoring event
- Not at the Learning and Teaching Center lunch because I’m at physics table
- Not at home on Saturday because I’m in lab dealing with power glitch problem
- Not in my office working on a grant proposal because I’m at big research university using specialized instrumentation
- Not at big research university using specialized instrumentation because I’m doing daycare pick-up/drop-off
- Not home by toddler’s bedtime because I’m on campus for a kick-off dinner
- Not on campus for a program welcome event because I’m home cooking dinner
- Not at the strategic planning seminar because I’m at a department meeting
- Not at a campus event because I’m working with a student
For all the flexibility of academic schedules, I’m always amazed at how many times there are multiple conflicting events/appointments on my calendar. On the worst day of here-or-there choices this month, I had four different times in one day where scheduling conflicts forced me to choose to not be somewhere. While I love what I do (the students, the teaching, the physics), I don’t love the barrage of demands on my time. With a toddler in the house, the phrase “Not here, (not there, not anywhere)” immediately brings to mind Green Eggs and Ham. My apologies to Theodor Geisel.
I do not like it, Sam-I-am,
I do not like to-do list cram.
I do not like the need to rush.
I do not like the calendar crush.
There is but only one of me,
I can’t do more, oh don’t you see.
I cannot be both here and there,
I simply can’t be everywhere.
I do not like the work day creep.
I do not like the lack of sleep.
I do not like the constant juggle.
I do not like “do more” struggle.
Research students need a guide,
Committee work’s a rising tide,
Teaching prep can fill my day,
While at home, it’s toddler play.
I do not have sufficient hours
Or time-stretching superpowers.
I do not like to-do list cram,
I do not like it, Sam-I-am.
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Posted by Melissa on September 16, 2011
At many campuses, including Carleton, during the fall term, science students are encouraged to present their summer research to the wider community, either in brief oral presentations or as part of a poster session. To that end, I’ve been reviewing resources on communicating science to share with students. Some are old standbys, like Rick Reis’ Chronicle article that provides samples of two sentence elevator pitches, while others are new additions to my collection, such at the recent article from The Scientist, “Poster Perfect,” about how to create effective scientific posters. What are some of your favorite articles/blog posts/podcasts about science communication that you think would be helpful to students as they prepare to present their summer research results on campus this fall?
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Posted by Melissa on September 7, 2011
Today Microsoft released the results of a survey the company commissioned titled STEM Perceptions: Student & Parent Study. The survey asked college students majoring in STEM fields and parents of K-12 students about a range of topics related to the importance of STEM education, the quality of the preparation provided by K-12 education, and the factors motivating students to choose to study STEM. The results of the survey provide interesting snapshots of student and parent perceptions on a variety of topics related to STEM education.
I was particularly interested in the questions about when students decided to study STEM and what got them interested in these fields. Fifty-seven percent of the survey respondents decided that they wanted to study STEM when in high school followed by 20% who decided in college and 13% who decided in middle/junior high school. I was under the impression that more students decided they were interested in studying STEM earlier in their educational careers.
When asked what got them interested in STEM before college, student responses exhibited a gender divide. For female students, the number one thing that got them interested in STEM was a teacher or a class. Sixty-eight percent of females said a teacher/class was influential in promoting interest as compared to 51% of males. On the other hand, for male students games or toys were the most cited source of interest in STEM. Sixty-one percent of males said games/toys got them interested in STEM as compared to 29% of females.
My own experience is somewhat consistent with the survey results. I only became interested in studying STEM during my junior year of high school; the biggest factor leading to my interest was outreach programs (as I have discussed in a previous post) supplemented by an excellent high school physics teacher. For those of you who are in STEM fields, what got you interested in STEM? When did you decide you wanted to study STEM?
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Posted by Melissa on September 5, 2011
I’m beginning to face the reality I’ve been trying to ignore – summer is over. Classes start in about a week.
This summer, as usual, was extremely busy, but it’s a different busy than the academic year. I find summer to be a “comfortable” busy. What do I mean by that? It certainly doesn’t mean my schedule is more flexible. You’ll find me in my office by 8 or 8:30 most days during the summer; when working with students on research, I need to be available to them day in and day out. My to-do list isn’t any shorter than it is during the academic year, although there are fewer immediate deadlines. Rather, the sense of being comfortably busy comes because I’m doing what I’ve always done during the summer, what first got me interested in physics. Since my sophomore year of college, every summer has been spent doing physics research, and graduate school was six years focused on training me to be an experimental physicist. There’s a familiarity about the work that is comfortable.
On the other hand, during the academic year, my schedule is primarily filled with teaching responsibilities and service work. I do have students working in my lab, but research mostly gets squeezed in around the edges of other responsibilities. And these other responsibilities are precisely the activities for which graduate school did not train me. I’m exaggerating a bit — I did participate in the Preparing Future Faculty program as a graduate student, but much less of my graduate career was spent preparing me for teaching than was spent preparing me for research.
In my first few years teaching, the academic year was filled not just with deadlines of classes to prepare or exams to grade, but with anxiety about how I should deal with a problem student or whether the in-class activities I designed were the best way to meet the learning goals for my course. My mind was always busy worrying about how to handle this or that situation, which, when added to my hectic schedule, made the academic year uncomfortably busy. As I begin my seventh year at Carleton, I feel more at ease in the classroom; experience is a valuable teacher. However, every class, every group of students is different, and each year I know that no matter how prepared I am, I’m never prepared enough. The surprises, the challenges, the changes—they are inevitable and they add to the sense of (often uncomfortable) busyness that comes with the new academic year.
Wishing everyone a wonderful academic year!
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