Wednesday, August 25, 2010

BANDITs dominate this month's issue of AJPA!

Wow, three articles in the latest issue of AJPA are by BANDIT members. You know what that is? That is awesome! (As is this.)

We already sent out the early view alerts for these articles by Libby Cowgill (Asst. Professor, University of Missouri)& Herman Pontzer (Washington University) et al., Dan Eisenberg (PhD student, Northwestern University) et al., and Gwen Robbins (Asst. Professor, Appalachian State University)et al., but it's so cool to see all three in a single issue. The whippersnappers are kicking ass!

Cowgill et al.: Waddling and toddling: The biomechanic effects of an immature gait

Eisenberg et al.: Worldwide allele frequencies of the human apolipoprotein E gene: Climate, local adaptations, and evolutionary history

Robbins et al.: Estimating body mass in subadult human skeletons

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Elizabeth Miller is awesome!

Elizabeth M. Miller, ABD in Anthropology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, has published a paper in the American Journal of Human Biology on Maternal hemoglobin depletion in a settled Northern Kenyan pastoral population, demonstrating decline in hemoglobin with increasing parity. Heard a rumor that Elizabeth will be presenting some of her fascinating work on the reproductive ecology of breastmilk immunity in Ariaal women at what will surely be a fantastic symposium at the upcoming AAPA meeting in Minneapolis this spring. Some of her previous work has explored changes in serum markers of immunity during pregnancy using NHANES data. Can't wait to hear more from her!

Monday, August 23, 2010

An open letter to the 2010-11 tenure track cohort

A pithy CHE post from back in May designed for folks getting ready for their first year on the tenure track. Heading into year two, I still found much of this advice incredibly useful.

Check in at the 2010-11 cohort forum at CHE to make friends.

Sending out an SOS...

Liz Stillwaggon Swan, PhD 2008, recounts her job search saga, using The Police song Message in a Bottle as a heuristic device:

"Perhaps the only glimmer of hope offered by the song comes in the last verse, which recounts the castaway's discovery one morning, upon waking and finding "a hundred billion bottles washed up on the shore." That discovery affords him the comforting realization that "I'm not alone at being alone"; he's just one of the "hundred billion castaways, looking for a home."

If those of us on the academic market cannot be assured that someone will find our message and secure our rescue, we can at least take comfort in the fact that we're not alone. Here's to hoping that this year, more of us will find an academic home after the long search from that lonely island."

I love this woman. (Plus, her research sounds super cool: "My research incorporates philosophy and natural science; specifically, I'm interested in the biological origins of the mammalian mind.")

Thursday, August 19, 2010

In the Classroom

I love the CHE Forum - so many helpful threads, so much drama. LOVE! Considering school starts for many of us next week (people on a quarter system often have my sympathy but not at this particular moment), wander into the threads over In the Classroom, where you can seek useful advice on whether/how to use multiple choice tests, commiserate about student evaluations, or just complain about the randomly annoying things your students do. (Students who might be reading this post: Don't take this personally. Generally, we really like you. It's just that our jobs are tough, and sometimes we need to blow off some steam, especially when you send us poorly-written or staggeringly self-entitled emails.)

Thoughts on the syllabus

A discussion over at the CHE on syllabus prep and content. I teach a basic medical science course that is part of a fixed curriculum in a professional school so our syllabus is little more than a schedule. All the info on issues of conduct and academic dishonesty is handled at the college level. When I was teaching anthropology courses the syllabus was far more complex because of the readings, lab activities, writing exercises, etc. in addition to outlining course, departmental, college, and university policies. So, there's a lot of variation out there in the anatomy of the syllabus, and I hope some of the comments in the CHE piece might be of use to you.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Productivity 101

The semester starts next week and I need a good sweeping out of the summer cobwebs to get going. Came across some really great ideas from Matt Might, assistant professor in the School of Computing at the University of Idaho.

"Optimize transaction costs:
1. Reduce transaction costs to engaging in productive behavior.
2. Erect transaction costs to engaging in counter-productive behavior.
3. Minimize opportunity cost. Do what you're best at doing, and partner with specialists when you need to do something else. (Emphasized by me because I think this elegantly sums up why wise collaborations and outsourcing are such a boon to productivity. As often as possible, do the thing that only you can do.)

In short, mold your life so that the path of least resistance is the path of maximum productivity. People are shocked when I tell them I'm lazy. I don't try to change the fact that I'm lazy; I exploit it. I try to make sure that the laziest thing I can do at any moment is what I should be doing...As an anecdote, I'll offer my experience with doing pull-ups. I wanted to start doing pull-ups, so I attached a portable pull-up bar to the door outside our bedroom. Every time I passed by, the transaction cost of a pull-up was near zero, so I did some pull-ups. Moreover, I didn't have to remember to do pull-ups, because I saw the pull-up bar all the time. One day, for whatever reason, the bar was taken down and placed on the floor. It's been on the floor for months, and I haven't done a pull-up since. It would take about ten seconds to re-install the bar, but I'm often in a rush, and that ten seconds has become a transaction cost."

Thanks to that salient anecdote, I am planning to install some metaphorical pull-up bars in my office. I was also inpired by his take on perfection paralyis:

"Treat perfection like a process, not an achievable state. Perfectionism is crippling to productivity. I've known academics that can't even start projects because of perfectionism. I know some academics that defend their lack of productivity by proudly proclaiming themselves to be perfectionists. I'm not so sure one should be proud of perfectionism. I don't think it's bad to want perfection; I just think it's unrealistic to expect it.
The metric academics need to hit is "good enough," and after that, "better than good enough," if time permits. Forget that the word perfect exists. Otherwise, one can sink endless amounts of time into a project long after the scientific mission was accomplished. One good-enough paper that got submitted is worth an infinite number of perfect papers that don't exist."

Wow. That is powerful, so let me write it again in all caps: "ONE GOOD-ENOUGH PAPER THAT GOT SUBMITTED IS WORTH AN INFINITE NUMBER OF PERFECT PAPERS THAT DON'T EXIST." (This goes for dissertations, too. Just finish the damn thing already.)

Making a dent

Thanks to Katie Hinde via Mike Jarcho (both from UC Davis) for sending me a simple pictorial guide for those trying to explain to their friends and family (and self?)what the hell is the point of a Ph.D.

Jobs in the non-profit sector

As a biological anthropologist with a serious degree and an unusual skillset and range of experience, you might be surpised to find your qualifications extend beyond the academy and into the non-profit world. Research and development, fundraising, community outreach, writing, project management, volunteering, mentoring, etc. are opportunities that Ph.D.'s looking to broaden their horizons can explore at

Job Postings on the AAPA site

Here's a link to jobs posted on the AAPA website. Quite a bit of overlap with the postings here, but not entirely, so be sure you are really beating teh internetz when conducting your job search.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The job search in 140 characters

Keep abreast of the anthro search as it unfolds in real time on Get Anthropology Jobs on Twitter.

New paleopathology journal!

Elsevier is announcing one of its newest titles, the International Journal of Paleopathology, the official journal of the Paleopathology Association.

Note from IJP's first editor-in-chief, Dr. Jane Buikstra:
"The International Journal of Paleopathology (IJP) carves out a dedicated academic space for communication, collaborations and cutting-edge research in paleopathology - human and non-human.

As the new editor-in-chief of IJP, I am energized by the challenge of creating an academic journal format that seeks to encourage research and foster interdisciplinary communication. As the only dedicated paleopathology journal in the community, we are extremely proud to have the designation of Official Journal of the Paleopathology Association.

Looking ahead to our first year, we will be publishing a series of inaugural essays by leading paleopathologists focusing on General Paleopathology, the History of Paleopathology, Non-human Paleopathology, and Mummy Science. The issues of IJP will include articles, case studies, book reviews, technical notes and brief communications on topics such as ancient animal and human health, dental disease, historical paleopathology, imaging technologies, paleohistology, and paleoparasitology."

The journal is clearly in capable hands, and is an exciting addition to the anthropological archive. Submit your work online!

The 2011-2012 job season

There are 13 professorial postings currently listed on the anthro job wiki.

Here's my take on the specialty breakdown (note that the total may exceed 13 depending on the job description)-->
Medical anthropology: 1
Human health & disease/Biocultural approaches to disease/Global Health: 3
Primatology: 1
Skeletal/bioarch/paleo: 6
Ecological anthro/ecotourism: 1
Generic bio/physical: 3

The Career Center at AAA lists 10 bio/phys positions and 7 medanth positions. Note that there is overlap between these categories and also that these postings include administrative and other non-academic opportunities.

The Chronicle of Higher Education appears to list only 4 bio faculty jobs.

Good luck!

Back in the saddle again...

I just came home from a lovely Midwestern road trip. I sure do appreciate all of the visits to the blog in my absence - thanks, BANDITs!

Just as it's time for me to rev up the blog posts, it's time for many of us to rev up our job search for the coming year. On that note, it's not too early to start preparing for potential in-person interviews (campus or conference). The following tips were written with administrative positions in mind, but the advice is generalizable to other positions in academe.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

You are coming to MPIG. End of discussion.

Don't worry! You still have two weeks to send in your abstracts and registration for the upcoming Midwest Primate Interest Group meeting (September 24-25) in Chicago. Deadline is August 15 - see for information. We especially encourage undergraduate and graduate students to present their work at MPIG. All primatological topics/foci are welcome: behavioral, morphological (soft tissue/skeletal/fossil), evolutionary, comparative, biomedical, psychobiological, ecological, ethical, educational, wild/lab/zoo...get the picture? Remember, you do not have to be in the Midwest to join us at MPIG. All are welcome!

Here's a brief rundown of events:
Friday, September 24: Opening night of MPIG 2010 is at the Field Museum, with many thanks to Dr. Robert Martin! This includes guided tours of two major exhibits*, the presentation of the 2010 Distinguished Primatologist Award to Dr. Russell Tuttle of the University of Chicago, and a reception.
*YOU MUST SIGN UP IN ADVANCE for a guided tour of EITHER "Ancient Americas" OR "Evolving Planet." The tours will be held from 3:45-4:45. This is the only available time slot for seeing the exhibits as part of MPIG. PLEASE CONTACT ME BY FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 10 TO SIGN UP FOR A TOUR, INDICATING WHICH EXHIBIT YOU WOULD PREFER TO SEE. If there is an overwhelming imbalance, we may schedule a tour of only one exhibit.

Saturday, September 25: A full scientific program at the UIC College of Dentistry. Tours will be available of the duBrul archives, a permanent exhibit on the history of dentistry at UIC, and the Comparative Primate Biology Laboratory. A huge variety of restaurants is readily accessible within easy walking distance of the campus. There will be a party Saturday night.

Remember these three dates:
1. August 15, abstract due
2. September 2, hotel room block expires
3. September 10, deadline to sign up for guided tour at the Field Museum
(Note that the abstract deadline, and details about the Friday night schedule as described in this email are correct. Changes will be made to the website information as we make the final arrangements.)

Please check out this snazzy guide to help you make arrangements for your trip to Chicago. This map might give some ideas to maximize the awesomeness of your Chicago experience.

Biological Anthropologists on National Public Radio

For two mornings in a row, my daily ablutions were accompanied by fascinating NPR stories of anthropological significance, thanks to Herman Pontzer , Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Washington University, Leslie Aiello, President of the Wenner-Gren Foundation, and Richard Wrangham, Professor of Anthropology at Harvard University.

In Orangutans Aren't Lazy, Just Evolved To Hang Around, Dr. Pontzer discusses the amazing metabolism of orangutans, reporting that even large 250 pound males consume only about 2,000 calories daily, about 20% less than a typical human male. Pontzer and associates posit in the latest issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that this surprising metabolic apportioning may be due to the relative scarcity of orangutans preferred food: ripe fruit.

Food For Thought: Meat-Based Diet Made Us Smarter is a thoughtful and entertaining mashup of Aiello and Wheeler's Expensive Tissue Hypothesis and Wrangham et al.'s ecology of cooking .
In short, brains are expensive and the ancestral hominin diet (root vegetables or underground storage organs as we in the biz like to call them, fruits, nuts, etc., presumably all uncooked) cannot be expected to have provided the nutritional substrate for the significant racheting up of brain size and function that appears to be so critical in the last two million years of hominin evolution. Add meat, that calorie-, protein-, and fat-rich foodstuff and wowza! Holy Big Brain, Batman! Cook that dead zebra and you break down indigestible connective tissue, render fat, and unwind the long protein chains in the muscle tissue, making the whole package that much more nutritious. Adding veggies to the fire, particularly starchy tubers, makes the nutrients locked within more accessible as well. As one expects from Wrangham, there's a bit of showmanship in the kitchen scenes in the NPR piece, but it's stuff like that that makes what we do fun, exciting, and as accessible as cooked meat.

It's all in the toes....

Brian Switek is a well-known science blogger & twitterer who writes on all matters evolutionary, and has recently posted a nice review of BANDIT Biren Patel's recent paper in AJPA: Speed effects on forelimb kinematics in cercopithecine monkeys and implications for digitigrade postures in primates