Thursday, July 29, 2010

Applying to a small college?

A nice piece in the Chronicle of Higher Ed on tailoring your job letters for small liberal arts colleges. The tips here are applicable beyond the home department of the essay's author, and some of them are common sense regardless of the target college, e.g. no typos! However, there are some useful tidbits for customizing your sales pitch to the unique mission and requirements of the small/selective liberal arts college (SLAC).

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Yet another BANDIT with a great blog...

Teague O'Mara, ABD in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at Arizona State University, has a fun and informative blog called RingTales. Teague recently returned from an extensive field excursion to Madagascar where he is conducting his dissertation research on "why and when male and female primates develop sex-typical diets."

Check out his blog and website to learn more about his fascinating research!

Goodbye to Those Overpaid Professors in Their Cushy Jobs

Look, I don't post these kinds of articles to depress you. I think the issue of tensions among members of the academy regarding teaching loads and the public perception of the tenured life is fascinating, and will only grow more fraught as the economic downturn continues and as the business model of higher education becomes more focused on the bottom line. The article reports that some academics are growing more vocal in their disdain for colleagues who eschew taking on additional courses or administrative duties when the overall economic picture on most campuses is bleaker by the semester:

"Last September some professors at the University of California decided that not working on days they were supposed to teach might actually help the university win more support from the Legislature. The professors called for a walkout of classes—to demonstrate how budget decisions were affecting students—even though the president's office had prohibited them from taking furloughs on teaching days.
James Hamilton, a tenured professor of economics on the San Diego campus, called out his fellow professors on his blog. "If some of my colleagues perceive that they now have better opportunities than teaching at the University of California, I'd encourage them to resign so that they can take advantage of those opportunities," he wrote. "If not, they need to stop whining and do their jobs. And perhaps even be thankful that, unlike many other Americans, they still have one.""

Public perception is the another target of the article:
"The professoriate may be policing its own perceived slackers, and there may not be as much grumbling from legislators as there once was about professors out mowing their lawns on Friday mornings. But what about professors' pay—does it qualify as cushy?
For those people lucky enough to land full-time jobs at universities, the pay can be good, although, of course, it's all relative. For example, a mathematician at a college or university makes an average salary of $72,320 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. (An annual survey by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources provides a more detailed breakdown: A full professor in mathematics and statistics at a four-year institution makes $84,32; an associate professor, $66,012; an assistant professor, $55,765; a new assistant professor, $55,186; and an instructor, $42,782.) That compares with an average salary of $67,430 for an accountant or auditor, according to BLS figures, and $75,22 for a statistician.
The average annual salary for English instructors at a college or university, meanwhile, is $65,570, according to the bureau. That's about $10,000 per year more than high-school teachers make ($55,150), but high-school teachers probably started earning real wages at least six years earlier, and have a better shot at tenure."

I think the article obscures some issues, particularly those regarding faculty unionization and work-life balance, but I find this to be a really compelling piece. What's your take?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

New Wiley title joins the BANDIT bandwagon!

I'm very happy to announce that a new title under the Wiley-Blackwell umbrella has teamed up with BANDIT to provide free access to selected articles. The International Journal of Osteoarchaeology has a new article by Gwen Robbins in early view. We look forward to highlighting many more IJO articles by the BANDIT community in the future!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Emerging Technologies for Online Learning

A recent conference on Emerging Technologies for Online Learning brought hundreds of professors together to learn how to incorporate social media into their curricula. The Chronicle of Higher Education summarized some of the main takeaways, including concern about privacy and novel ideas for using new media as pedagogical tools:

"Among the more unusual suggestions during presentations:

Ask students to do role-playing exercises on Facebook or Twitter. For instance, students in an American-history course could each be required to set up a Facebook page for a historical figure and periodically post "status updates" of things the famous people did. Similarly, Utah State University organized a Civil War re-enactment on Twitter.

Learn how to use the tracking feature of YouTube to see how many students tune in to videos of lectures that professors post. Sam McGuire, an assistant professor of music at the University of Colorado at Denver, said by doing so, he learned that some students came back months later to watch his videos.

Send students one-minute video reminders about class assignments using a free service called Eyejot. Traci LaBarbera Stromie, an instructional designer at Kennesaw State University near Atlanta, said video messages, rather than e-mail reminders, could "keep students more engaged" in the class."

Here's how I've used YouTube in my class on embryology.

Make your MPIG lodging arrangements SOON!

If you are planning to come to MPIG 2010, please book your hotel room at the UIC Medical District Marriott now! The hotel is an easy walk to the meeting site, and near lots of public transportation. We have reserved a block of rooms at a very good discounted rate. THIS RATE WILL EXPIRE ON SEPTEMBER 2!

You may want to consider reserving a room at the Hosteling International Chicago, a very nice hostel in the heart of downtown. Space in a dorm room costs $29-35/night, and larger groups can get even better deals: . The hostel is near the Pink Line "L" train, which will take you directly to UIC.

You can explore your options through these Priceline searches--->
Downtown, up to $200/night
Loop/Grant Park, up to $200/night

Wherever you decide to stay, keep in mind your public transportation options. Google Maps allows you to get directions using public transit. You can also go to the CTA site to plan your routes around the city.

You have affordably priced options for traveling to Chicago from many locations in the Midwest on Amtrak and MegaBus (I highly recommend this). Please don't hesitate to email me with questions regarding your trip - I am happy to help!

We look forward to seeing you in Chicago,


Hey folks, the abstract deadline for MPIG 2010 Chicago is fast approaching. Please submit abstracts and your registration by August 15 so you don't miss all the crazy fun we're going to have in the Windy City. Also bear in mind that the deadline for taking advantage of our amazing group rate at the lovely UIC Medical District Marriott.

Please join us!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Danielle Whittaker, Directrix of Awesomeness

I am so darn excited to announce that Dr. Danielle Whittaker (Ph.D. in Biological Anthropology from City University of New York, and co-editor of a previously mentioned volume on the gibbons) has accepted a position as Managing Director of the NSF-funded BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action at Michigan State University.

Congratulations, Danielle!

Guide for students considering grad school

High fives, fist bumps, etc. to Rich Lawler, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at James Madison University, who is generously sharing with BANDIT a fantastic guide he wrote up in response to the number of questions he's received over the years from students interested in going to graduate school. Here's a snippet:

"Here is the only good reason to go to grad school:
--I am intellectually curious about a particular academic topic; I enjoy reading, thinking, writing, and researching about this topic and my motivation for studying this topic comes entirely from within. I understand that in order to gain further expertise in my chosen topic I need to pursue a post-graduate degree. I hope to use this degree in order to land a job in an academic (e.g., University or museum) or applied (e.g., conservation organization or non-profit agency) environment that takes advantage of my educational expertise.

Here are some terrifically bad reasons to go to grad school:
--I don’t know what else to do with my life so I’ll just go to grad school
--I think it’d be really cool to have a Ph.D. in something
--My parents have high expectations for me and I don’t want to let them down.
--I think that I kinda like Anthropology I guess, so I’ll just apply to grad school
--I got mostly A’s in college and I got a great GRE score so therefore I’m smart. Since grad school is just like undergrad, I’m certain I’ll succeed in grad school." (hee hee, right?)

Thanks, Rich! I'm sure this will be very useful for those of us mentoring undergraduates who are considering this kind of commitment.

Monday, July 19, 2010

2010-11 Bioanthro Job Wiki

The count is up to eight. Not bad for July!


I don't know if you've noticed, but I kinda like that word. I have now tagged as awesome all posts wherein a BANDIT member has been highlighted so you can easily track this community's amazing achievements.

Follow me on Twitter!

My Twitter handle is @monkeyprof. I plan on tweeting about new BANDIT posts as well as being a contributor to the forthcoming American Society of Primatologists Twitter feed.

Summer days, driftin' away...

In my endless quest to claim the title of Queen of Procrastination, I inadvertently stumbled upon some fantastic inspiration to get moving on my summer writing projects. Kerry Anne Rockquemore's Support for Summer Writers series in InsideHigherEd is a goldmine of supportive, compassionate advice for those of us (all of us?) who are facing the waning weeks of the summer with increasing trepidation. She explores the concept that Writing IS Thinking in her most recent column, saying that you need to "expand your sense of what "counts" as writing... If the pen is moving on the page (or your fingers on the keyboard), then you’re writing. Drafting a manuscript “counts,” but so does freewriting, generating field-notes, editing and revising, outlining, mind-mapping, describing a new idea, preparing a bibliography, consolidating reviewer comments into a list for revision, etc. In other words, anything that helps move a manuscript out the door “counts” as writing. Expanding your notion of what constitutes writing should help you reduce your resistance by making daily writing feel like a normal part of your every day routine."

I feel more productive already, just being reassured that I have indeed been writing!! (Although I notice blogging doesn't make the list...damn.)

She also suggests it's perfectly acceptable to Lower Your Expectations: "High expectations are tricky. On the one hand, if you're reading this column, you've already experienced tremendous educational success and that is likely tied to having high expectations for yourself. On the other hand, when our expectations about who we should be, how we should feel, what we should achieve, and the impact our work should have in the world are too high, unexamined, inappropriate for our current career stage, or generated from a desperate need to prove ourselves, they become a straitjacket."

I especially like her idea of establishing a 0-100% reviewer list. You subdivide manuscript "doneness" into quartiles: 0-25%, 25-50%, 50-75%, and 75-100%. At each stage, have somebody take a look. Holding onto a manuscript until it is "perfect" can increase your perfectionist anxiety. This sounds like pure genius to me and I plan on implementing it soon, which means that some of my fellow BANDITs may soon be called into service. Kerry also suggests that you "try adjusting how you approach your first drafts from perfectionist judgment to compassion by treating your initial writing with the same loving gentleness you would give to a baby, a puppy, a seedling, or whatever is small and fragile but will grow into something big and strong."

I really like this imagery of our writing as something that is alive, organic, evolving. Appropriate for us, don't you think?

Friday, July 16, 2010

For-profit colleges and the threat of a new bubble

Please read Sen. Tom Harkin's essay in the LA times on the growing concerns over for-profit college loan defaults.

Some thoughts on this issue from BANDIT member Sean Dougherty (who sent me the above link):
"There is some concern that the for-profit "schools" practice of acquiring loans for students with little hope of recovering from the debt will lead to a credit crisis akin to the subprime loan crisis. On a more personal level, since I teach at a technical college that serves urban, non-traditional students, I have seen several casualties of the for-profit system. They make their way through the for-profit program only to discover one or all of the following: their degree is unaccredited and worthless; their credits won't transfer to any accredited school; the classes did not prepare them; the per class cost was actually more than the state university that they thought was "too expensive"; they've acquired enough debt to prohibit or limit further student loans for another school. And, unfortunately, these students who are single mothers at the poverty level have very few options for getting out of debt, or affording educational alternatives. So, the hope for socio-economic mobility that they had invested in their for-profit education just becomes another contributing factor of their downward spiral.

I just wish people would realize that if the school is in a strip mall, it's probably not a school."

Colleen Nyberg is awesome!

Are you looking for a comprehensive text suitable for graduate students in biological anthropology, evolutionary biology, or the medical sciences? Your wait is over...
Fellow BANDIT member and tenure-track newbie at the University of Massachusetts Boston Dr. Colleen Nyberg has a chapter co-authored with Dr. Thomas McDade in the forthcoming text Human Evolutionary Biology. Edited by Michael Muehlenbein and including contributions from such heavyweights as Doug Futuyma, Paul Ewald, and Nina Jablonski, this volume provides the historical, theoretical, and methodological grounding to understand the themes of phenotypic and genetic variation, reproductive physiology and behavior, growth and development, and human health from evolutionary and ecological perspectives. The final chapter by McDade and Nyberg provides a comprehensive review of Acculturation and Health that disentangles the complexities and contradictions in assessing the localized health consequences of globalization. The book is available August 31, 2010. Congratulations, Colleen!

New media in the classroom

Believe it or not, summer will come to a close soon and school will be in session, but there is still time to incorporate some of these fabulous and user-friendly tips to using new media in the classroom. Although this site seems to be geared toward K-12 educators, the information is perfectly applicable to postsecondary and professional school curricula. You will find great information on using YouTube, Facebook, wikis, Twitter, GPS, and more in your course presentations. Props to Cory Ross for bringing this site to my attention!

Let's do the Postdoc Limbo!

A couple of current postdocs in the biological sciences share their tips for Making the Most of Your Postdoc. Having been a postdoc, I agree with the authors of this piece that constructing a list of expectations WITH YOUR ADVISOR is key to a mutually successful relationship:
"Make a plan. Early in your postdoc, discuss, prioritize, and write down the goals that both you and your advisor hope you will accomplish. That includes research goals, such as the number of publications you hope to write or co-write, and other professional goals, such as teaching experience, organizing a symposium or workshop, writing a review paper, or improving your grant-writing skills. Make sure your plan takes into account your personal and family responsibilities."

I also congratulate the authors for encouraging postdocs to prioritize their non-work life. Striking work-life balance isn't something that magically happens when you're a professor. It's a commitment you have to make to yourself early and often.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bayblab Blog

Thanks to Pablo (again) for sharing another great blog with me. Bayblab is a far-ranging science blog and podcast that was originally started by grad students in the sciences. The founders are now postdocs. The tone is thoughtful, informed, provocative, funny, and often sarcastic. Just the way I like my science.

Two of my favorite reviews:
"The bayblab is so much better [than Science Friday]. It even has Stephen Hawking. All Ira Flatow can claim is that he’s interrupted people who are talking about Stephen Hawking."

"It's like butter melting over my pancakes good. I especially enjoyed the information on saving my genitals from a zipper accident."

A recent post on gender imbalance in the sciences caught my eye, as it relates well to one of my earlier posts on working moms on the tenure track.

An unrelated (hmmm, maybe not) post on the astonishing and amusing diversity of penises across the animal kingdom contains this bon mot about the bee penis:
"Like any man, the male honeybee climaxes with an explosion. Unlike men, the male bee genitals literally explode and snap off inside the queen. Afterwards, the males do what any of us would if our testes exploded and our penis snapped off - they wander off to the corner and die."

AAPA Symposium Proposal Deadline TODAY

I assume that folks planning on submitting AAPA symposium proposals are aware they are due today, but just in case, well, they're due today!

NIH announces R21 opportunity for funding in women's health research

The National Institutes of Health has recently announced an initiative to fund research in women's health issues, spanning most of the institutes and centers. The mechanism is an R21 which carries $275,000 in direct costs over two years. The R21 mechanism generally supports novel, high risk-high reward research.

"The purpose of this Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA), issued by the Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH) and co-sponsoring NIH institutes and centers (ICs), is to promote innovative, interdisciplinary research that will advance new concepts in women’s health research and the study of sex/gender differences. Recent research reports have established the importance of studying issues specific to women, including the scientific and clinical importance of analyzing data separately for females and males. ORWH is particularly interested in encouraging extramural investigators to undertake new interdisciplinary research to advance studies on how sex and gender factors affect women's health; however, applications in all areas of women’s health and/or sex/gender research are invited."

Alison Doubleday is awesome!

Dr. Alison Doubleday, brand new assistant professor of anatomy at the University of Illinois at Chicago (and my neighbor!) was recently awarded a Curriculum & Instructional Grant through the UIC Council for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. The program provides seed money for faculty initiatives designed to enhance the quality of teaching and learning at UIC. Alison's project is titled Improving Learning in the Human Gross Anatomy Lab; she has enlisted the assistance of several dentistry students to produce prosected cadaver specimens, plastinated organ specimens, and videos documenting the process. These videos will be used to build a series of online learning modules which will incorporate video, animations and static images as well as self-test features to help students learn anatomy. Alison's success is a good reminder to become familiar with similar curriculum initiatives at your own institutions. These institutional grants can be valuable for tenure by demonstrating your commitment to the teaching mission of your school. Way to go, Alison! (Meet you for drinks on the deck later?)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Gwen Robbins is awesome!

Dr. Gwen Robbins, assistant professor at Appalachian State University, has been busy lately. She currently has two articles in early view:

Don't Throw Out the Baby With the Bathwater: Estimating Fertility from Subadult Skeletons, in International Journal of Osteoarchaeology

Estimating body mass in subadult human skeletons, co-authored with Paul Sciulli and Samantha Blatt, in American Journal of Physical Anthropology

In addition, Gwen was recently awarded a Fulbright to return to India for a bioarchaeological project on the skeletons from the Indus civilization.

Congratulations to Gwen on some great work! I know there's more to (spoiler alert!) book form. Stay tuned.

Government Vastly Undercounts Student Loan Defaults

Default rates on student loans are higher than recent federal government estimates, according to this article in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

"According to unpublished data obtained by The Chronicle, one in every five government loans that entered repayment in 1995 has gone into default. The default rate is higher for loans made to students from two-year colleges, and higher still, reaching 40 percent, for those who attended for-profit institutions."

"By any measure, for-profit colleges account for a disproportionate share of student-loan defaults. Two years into repayment, 11.9 percent of borrowers who attended for-profit colleges have defaulted on their federal loans, compared with 6.2 percent of those who attended public colleges and 4.1 percent who attended private colleges, according to provisional data that the Education Department released in February. Three years out, for-profit colleges' default rate has nearly doubled, to 21.2 percent of borrowers, and the gap between the sectors has widened."

How to run a meeting

Many of us are new to committee work - the cornerstone of the service component of our job - so may not be in the position to run meetings, but these tips serve as a great illustration of how to handle that responsibility when it comes our way. Beyond the departmental and college committees we may serve on, these tips are relevant to running meetings at our professional conferences, lab meetings, collaborator conference calls, etc.

Keep me posted!

Have you recently published a paper, a chapter, a book? Been interviewed for radio, television, print or electronic media? Received an award or a grant? Had a great field season? Please let me know so I can let BANDIT blog readers know about it!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Working moms on the tenure track - yeah, it's hard

Study from the AAUP corroborates what many women already know: trying to attain tenure and be a mother is really difficult, largely because institutional support is insufficient, but also because of internal pressure and guilt and interpersonal gender dynamics. The study reports that becoming a father does not have the same deleterious effect on male faculty.

Read the original study here.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Parenting Blog for Science Nerds

Big props to the ever-dashing Pablo Nepomnaschy for bringing to my attention one of the most awesome websites I've seen in a long time. Gwen Dewar, a fellow biological anthropologist with degrees from Berkeley and University of Michigan, is also a parent. She weds the two brilliantly on her site, the tagline of which is "Evidence-based information for the thinking parent." Nice.

From Dr. Dewar's homepage:
"No folk theories. No preachy advice. No authoritarian pronouncements or pseudoscientific political dogma. Instead, you’ll find something pretty rare among popular resources for parents: In-depth analysis with fully referenced citations from the scientific and medical literature.

I’ve got opinions. But who cares? What’s really important is critical thinking. Parents deserve to be treated like intelligent, rational beings. You may be a scientist, physician, or teacher. Maybe you’re an educated, skeptical layperson who loves science. Whatever the case, you don’t need dogma. You need evidence. You can draw your own conclusions."

In addition to being helpful to academic parents, I see this site being useful in anthropology courses on human sexuality, life history, parenting, evolutionary medicine,evolutionary psychology, etc. Please check it out!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Becoming a Successful Principal Investigator

Today's Chronicle of Higher Education has a great piece on developing yourself into a successful (i.e. funded) researcher. The author, David Stone, makes important distinctions between establishing yourself as a scholar (e.g. contributing to the literature), a researcher (e.g. having the appropriate skills and contacts to get the work done), and a grantwriter (e.g. compiling the literature review, recruiting the research team, understanding the granting body's regulations and culture).

"Grant writing is the end of a process, not the beginning. Long before you make the decision to write a grant proposal for your research, you should be taking concrete steps to raise your profile in the eyes of reviewers.

What does that mean? Most basically, it means preparing yourself as a scholar, a researcher, and a grant writer in ways that will strengthen the ideas behind your proposal, demonstrate that you have the wherewithal to carry out your project, and enhance your ability to communicate what reviewers are looking for."

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Vintage job info from AAPA

Thanks to Katie Hinde for bringing to my attention the Fall 2000 AAPA newsletter which was devoted to the job search. One thing you might notice is the large number of job postings advertised that year. Try not to cry. The other thing is that the tips provided by Steve Leigh and Peter Ungar are really worth tucking away in your job search folder.

Friday, July 2, 2010

They're baaaack...

Just when you thought it was safe to enjoy the rest of your summer, the 2010-11 job search has begun. If you don't know about the job wiki already, your subclinical academic OCD is about to get kicked into agonizing and entertaining overdrive.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Guide to reviewing manuscripts

Crazy-thanks to Dr. Colleen Nyberg for passing along this very helpful guide to reviewing manuscripts. Although the authors of the article are radiologists, their guidelines are fairly universal. Especially helpful is their comparison of informative and non-informative reviews. Both authors and reviewers should learn something new from this piece.