Sunday, June 27, 2010

AAPA symposia proposals due July 15

A quick reminder that symposia proposals for the 80th AAPA meeting in Minneapolis are due on July 15. You need to submit a summary proposal and a list of speakers and topics. Your speakers don't need to submit their proposals until the normal due date of September 15.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Buy a book, donate to conservation!

Want to know how awesome the American Society of Primatologists is? If you link to* from their website, a percentage of your purchase price goes to their Conservation Fund! This fund allows ASP to award conservation grants and subscription awards to individuals living in habitat countries. And all you have to do is shop!

*Scroll down to the lower right corner of the ASP home page.

You'd be happy too if you invented Legos...

Fascinating new study from Nature on job contentment and equity among scientists from around the world. The Danes are doing damn well for themselves...women overall, not so much.

You've been rejected. What now? (Hint: Ice cream isn't the solution)

Just came across this really thoughtful piece on coping with job rejection by David Perlmutter, whose columns I generally enjoy. He contextualizes the timelessly awful feeling of being rejected for a job within this particularly bad era of the academic job search, making the suggestions he offers all the more realistic for our generation of scholars. He doesn't shy away from the possible strategy of leaving academe altogether. There is also some cringeworthy humor, as he describes the well-meaning but often clueless "support" offered by our non-academic loved ones:

"At least fellow academics understand the realities of a job hunt in higher education, so they tend not to overplay their confidence in you. Outsiders may be less sensitive, even though they mean well. A doctoral student recounted a dreadful campus visit from which he returned home certain of not getting the job only to find, to his horror, that his nonacademic parents and relatives had arranged a big party featuring posters with inspiring slogans like "We believe in you, Tony!" When the predictably thin letter arrived months later, informing him that he had not been chosen, his embarrassment was amplified."

BANDIT email list

If you didn't know, I maintain an email list for BANDIT so I can send digests of recent posts and other relevant information. If you would like to be added (or subtracted!) please send me a note at ruther4d at uic dot edu or on Facebook.

2010 Midwest Primate Interest Group meeting in Chicago!

Just wrapped up ASP in Louisville, and it's time to talk about MPIG in Chicago. MPIG is the brainchild of Agustin Fuentes, Bob Sussman, Katie MacKinnon, and Paul Garber who realized that the Midwest is home to an astonishing concentration of primatologists. A regional powerhouse was thus born, and we are now gearing up for our 7th annual meeting on September 24-25. This year it will be held in Chicago, co-sponsored by the Field Museum and my school, the University of Illinois at Chicago. Bob Martin will generously host the opening night reception at the Field Museum, which will include after-hours access to some of the exhibits. Fancy! The next day, UIC will host a full scientific program of both podium and poster presentations. This is a very student-friendly venue. For more info, check out

You don't have to be a Midwesterner to come to MPIG; you just need to be a PIG! (Thanks to Steve Schapiro for that bit of cleverness.)

Hope to see you in fabulous Chicago this fall!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

NIH Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD)

NIH has announced an initiative to foster training for underrepresented students in the biomedical and behavioral sciences:

"Several reports from the National Science Foundation (NSF) as well as from the National Academies reveal the national need for a well-trained workforce in biomedical and behavioral sciences and the continuing importance of developing and maintaining a strong, vital scientific workforce whose diversity reflects that of our nation. It was also reported that as a nation, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, American Indians, and Natives of US Pacific Islands have been found to be underrepresented (UR) in the biomedical and behavioral sciences...The goals of the IMSD program are to (a) increase the number of UR students that graduate from Ph.D. programs in the biomedical and behavioral sciences at institutions with research intensive environments; and (b) reduce the gap in the completion of Ph.D. degrees between UR and non-UR students in the biomedical and behavioral science departments of those institutions."

These awards are made to the institution to develop a training program. Only one award per institution will be made - check with your office of reseach to see if your institution is eligible.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Michelle Rodrigues is telling tales

Michelle Rodrigues, graduate student at (THE)Ohio State University, is currently in the field at El Zota, Costa Rica collecting dissertation data on spider monkey behavioral ecology. She has a great blog called Spider Monkey Tales that I highly recommend to other BANDITs, and she has blogged recently about her current field season.

An excerpt:
"It´s still raining, but the downpour is lessening. Evelyn and Elsa are still resting in the same spot. Through my binoculars, I can make out just a portion of Elsa´s face, pressed up against her mother´s fur. Both she and her mother have shifted slightly, though they remain tightly huddled. I love the way spider monkeys sleep. They tend to sit upright, hunch their backs and curl their limbs and tails, either around themselves and their resting partners. They then tuck their heads down, completing the transformation to an immobile, huddled mass of fur. When I did observations in the morning at Brookfield Zoo, there would usually be a small cluster of monkeys huddled in a quiet corner. Occasionally, Evita and Elvis would look up and whinny at me, and then tuck their heads back down."

Lovely writing and also a great way to educate others about fieldwork. Nicely done, Michelle!

It's better to burn out than it is to rust...

A new AAUP survey on the burnout phenomenon among academics is familiarly sobering.

The study was conducted using the Maslach Burnout Inventory Educators Survey, which "assesses three aspects of burnout on a multi-point scale. The categories include:
• Emotional Exhaustion: Feelings of being emotionally overextended or just worn out with work. (Average Scores: 14-23).
• Depersonalization: An unfeeling and impersonal response toward recipients of one’s service, care, treatment or instruction. (Average Scores 3-8).
• Personal Accomplishment : Feelings of competence and successful achievement in one’s work. (Average Scores 36-42)."

The higher the score, the greater the burnout. Interestingly, the academics reporting the highest composite "burnout" scores were untenured faculty, compared to non-tenure track faculty and tenured faculty. Also, women had higher scores in Emotional Exaustion. Although these findings might not seem so surprising anymore, it is important that we keep some sense of perspective, and I want to share some comments from a BANDIT member who provides that perspective eloquently:

"I realize all jobs cause some level of stress and that the tenure process is pretty stressful due to it's ambiguity. I have recently taken part in several studies on work/life balance and it is becoming more and more apparent that there is no formula for achieving tenure and/or appropriate work/life balance. Here, the three categories of our commitment to the university are reported to be measured as service (20%), scholarship (40%), and teaching (40%). Yet, it is evident that if you really pursue only 20% service, it will not work so well. So, it's more 40%, 40%,40%, thereby making little sense.... On the other hand, I feel strongly that we are in a pretty amazing position in that we are lucky enough to get a job that allows us to run around after monkeys in beautiful places (or basically in a dream job), have unstructured time during many portions of the year, and get to teach eager wide-eyed (usually) students in the things where we are passionate. So, I tire quickly of campus negative burned out attitudes. I think it is important that as new faculty, we work to avoid stress and attempt to appreciate that we have these amazing opportunities. My observations suggest that the burned out and stressed teach pretty poorly and are bitter about their accomplishments. That is just silly."

How to Get an Academic Job

Dr. Katie Hinde of the University of California at Davis organized a very successful lunchtime workshop for students and new investigators at ASP. The subject was how to get an academic job after finishing the PhD, with emphases on postdocs and tenure-track professorships. Two of the panel members (Paul Garber and Dorothy Cheney)had much experience as members of search committees and one of their key points was that ABD's and newly-minted PhD's have not yet come to a full realization of the significance of their dissertation research, making it difficult for them to sell to search committees where they plan to go in the future. Search committees might be initially seduced by your kickass dissertation research, but ultimately they want to know if will you be a good colleague in the FUTURE. So, what are your plans in the short- AND long-term? How do you plan on building your current project into a research program or how do you see it forming a foundation for your teaching and mentorship? You won't be granted tenure on your dissertation work alone, so it's never too early to at least practice taking a few steps back and framing your dissertation work in a larger context.

Katie put together some great tips and resources for the job search, and with a new season getting ready to gear up in the fall, take this time to start preparing and educating yourself.

Bringing BANDIT to a larger audience

Just returned from the American Society of Primatologists meeting and it was great! One especially exciting development is that I joined the Media and Information Committee chaired by Allyson Bennett, assistant professor at Wake Forest University. The committee is devoted to building an online, social media presence for primatologists and biological anthropologists to foster both outreach in our public communities and "in"reach, i.e. what BANDIT is all about.

Friday, June 18, 2010

American Society of Primatologists 2010 - happening NOW!

Hi BANDITs! I'm at the American Society of Primatologists meeting in Louisville, having a grand time. Lots of great papers and participation from the BANDITs: Magdalena Muchlinski, me, Katie Hinde, Cory Ross, Jessica Satkoski Trask, and other new investigators who are also new to bandit: Mike Jarcho, Adam Smith, Drew Birnie, Amanda Dettmer, and many, many others (let me know if I left you out!). Katie (incoming chair of the Education Committee) hosted a really great luncheon for students on the do's and don'ts of the academic job search. I was a panelist along with Paul Garber, Dorothy Cheney, Tom Gillespie, Dee Higley, and Charlie Nunn. Nice job, Katie!

My goal for the summer months is to put up at least one post per week, but, well, you know.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Thought leadership

I just stumbled across the blog Morgan on Science as I was searching for some tips on writing the specific aims portion of an NIH grant. Morgan Giddings is an associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Microbiology & Immunology, Biomedical Engineering, and Computer Science. I bring her to your attention because her mission neatly dovetails with that of BANDIT:

"Scientists go through many years of specialized training to learn how to do great science. But doing “great science” is only one part of having a great science career. The unfortunate thing is that most people receive little to no training in the “other stuff” that it takes to succeed in science. That “other stuff” includes things like marketing, managing money, managing people, and managing time. People like me who have climbed up the science career ladder have had to learn these things, usually by trial-and-error, and sometimes by getting lucky and having a really good mentor. But career success in science shouldn’t be a matter of luck. What is lacking is a systematized approach, e.g. a “blueprint” for success. I created this blog to develop such a blueprint. My goal is to help people figure out the “other stuff” that it takes to succeed in science."

From a recent blog post on women in science careers, Morgan offers this advice, again taking a page from the BANDIT playbook:
"Learn to promote yourself. A lot of us are really bad about this. We can’t promote ourselves, without feeling like we are violating some social taboo. But you won’t get anywhere in science (or life) without effectively promoting yourself. I’m not talking about standing up and saying “look at me, I’m great, I need to be appreciated.” That doesn’t work (I’ve tried, and that was a miserable failure). I’m talking about more subtle aspects of persuasion. Take, for example, my willingness to write on this blog, and take a stand on some issues here. That gets me recognized for some thought leadership. Ask yourself: is doing that an effective promotion of Morgan? If you answered “yes,” then find ways to do things like that... So, become a thought leader in your field. For example, organize a conference… write review articles … start a blog … or whatever."

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Higher Profile of Educational Debt

While it's long been a subject of anguished conversations in the grad student lounge, the topic of mounting educational debt and the toll it takes on young adults' earning power hasn't captured the public's attention. Until recently, that is. The New York Times published a story a couple of weeks ago about an NYU grad who has $100,000 in a combination of student loan and private loan debt, all for a BACHELOR's degree in religious and women's studies. Yikes. While this young woman and her family bear a large burden of WTF, the fact that NYU financial aid counselors, who were aware of the debt load, encouraged her to take out a loan through Citibank borders on the criminal. Today's Chronicle of Higher Ed reports that NYU has "discontinued the practice of callling prospective students and their parents to discuss the debt they could incur by attending." Why? Because they claim it didn't make a difference in people's decision making. This might be true, but considering the program lasted a single year, I would say the jury is still out.

Obviously, New York University isn't alone in having these problems. I am up to my eyeballs in debt (if I were this tall) and I attended a public university. As a graduate student, I didn't have financial support from my family, but was fortunate enough to not have any debt from my undergraduate degree. It didn't occur to me to seek financial counseling - taking out loans was just part of the program. I had a few tuition-remitting gigs in my department and then shifted into teaching anatomy. Because the anatomy program had its own graduate students, they did not offer tuition remission to "outsiders", even though anthropologists filled most of the teaching slots. To qualify to teach, I had to carry 6 credit hours. To be able to afford those 6 credit hours, I had to take out loans. I never sat down and did the math until it was too late. As an independent adult, I bear a ton of responsibility for that, but it is troubling that the system has so few off-ramps, and that so few advisors are aware of the student loan hamster wheel. Talking about finances is considered too personal, and debt is so shameful, that we avoid the conversation altogether, but for people entering such an uncertain job market, these enormous debt loads can be a real handicap and we need to start talking about it with our prospective students. In the short term, it may mean that programs only accept students to whom they can offer full financial packages, but in the long term it will require an overhaul of the financial aid system.

The Huffington Post Investigative Fund is teaming with graduate students at Columbia University's Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism to investigate abuses in the student debt industry. You can share your story, and read about other people's struggle with student loan debt.

College page on Huffington Post

Just wandered over to the Huffington Post to check on the state of the BPocalypse and came across the college page, a nice little digest of higher ed related news stories.

Five things to do with your evaluations...

How I wish that were the title of a borderline profane YouTube video, but alas, it is merely advice from the Chronicle of Higher Education. If we take evaluations seriously, how do we incorporate the actionable suggestions into our next round of teaching? The main suggestion I gleaned from my evaluations is that I need to teach this class a few more times, which the Lord and my college's administration willing, I will. Ta-daahh!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

It's a two-fer!

Just noticed that Kris Carlson strikes again in the June AJPA with Gait Dynamics of Cebus apella During Quadrupedalism on Different Substrates, co-authored with Brigette Demes.

BANDIT members in June AJPA

Southern Illinois University PhD candidate Matt Nowak, Kris Carlson of Indiana University and the University of Witwatersrand (and Australopithecus sediba fame!), and Biren Patel of Stony Brook University have published Apparent Density of the Primate Calcaneo-Cuboid Joint and Its Association with Locomotor Mode, Foot Posture, and the "Midtarsal Break" , a neat analysis of mechanical joint loading in the foot in a range of quadrupedal and arboreal primates, as well as humans. Also, there are some very cool figures in this paper - Figure 1 is a super drawing of the feet of three different primates, all in lateral view. I can see this figure being used in a ton of class lectures. Nice!