Saturday, May 29, 2010


In response to my Facebook post about my recent teaching evaluations, my dear friend James McKenna shared these thoughts:

"After many years of teaching, however frustrating, for some odd reason (maybe for our own good) it's not the students who love you that seem to matter, but rather its the one that doesn't, that seems to matter most. And while over time you gain some pitiful abstract, intellectual understanding ... suggesting that it may well be their, and not your problem..somehow, it STILL really hurts. But you know, it's just a wonderful reflection of how seriously we all take our privileged try however unlikely to be perfectly and equally relevant and 'on point' to meet the intellectual and psychological needs of every, single student we teach. A true sign of eventual maturity for which I continue to aspire in this domain comes when you can still feel very proud, indeed, more than satisfied if not joyous for the overwhelming number of your students you have touched and who have touched you, and when you realize just how much you actually did for them which, as it turns out, is what all of your most treasured and wonderful professors did for you. It proves to be a kind of realization that is life sustaining, and life fulfilling."

Jim McKenna: anthropologist, teacher, role model

Friday, May 28, 2010

Dear Professor, you suck.

I received my first student evaluations at my new job. Overall I'm pleased and relieved and will be completely comfortable having my department chair see them, but there was that ONE evaluation that really sticks in my craw. I'm sure you are familiar with the phenomenon: the outliers that can drown out all the rest. What is it about that ONE apple that spoils the batch of what are generally some pretty nice apples?

Again, I turn to a Chronicle of Higher Education forum to lighten the mood: Let's play "What's the Nastiest Evaluation Comment this Semester?" Will you be a contender?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ain't we lucky we got 'em....Good times!

As I'm sure you do, I like to browse the greeting card section at Walgreens and select cards that would be perfect to send myself. Yesterday, I found one of those cards that breaks into song when you open it. It was a congratulations card and this was the song. What am I celebrating? The totally unexpected awesomeness of NIH deciding last Friday to fund a grant that was scored highly but missed the original payline. They changed the payline (the funding cutoff), and voila!, I now have money to go back to the Philippines and get some major science action. Whoo!

Good times, people!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Hold on to your hats: the economy is really bad

It's hard out there for a pimp, yes, but it's no picnic for a professor, given the dismal state of salary increases this past year, as reported in a recent AAUP faculty salary survey.

One fun excerpt from the Chronicle of Higher Ed article:
"In 2009-10, the average salary of a full-time faculty member rose only 1.2 percent. That's the lowest year-to-year increase recorded by the association in the 50-year history of its salary survey. To make matters worse, an inflation rate of 2.7 percent meant that many professors actually had less buying power than the year before. In fact, two-thirds of the 1,141 institutions surveyed over two years gave their faculty members either a pay cut, no raise, or an increase of less than 2 percent, on average."

Adjunct association organizing for unemployment benefits

Many of us are working as adjuncts, a position that can leave us open to a great deal of employment insecurity. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on the New Faculty Majority, an adjunct faculty advocacy group that is encouraging "more out-of-work adjuncts to file for unemployment insurance between academic terms and during summer breaks. The organization's goal, ultimately, is to change a federal law that some colleges routinely invoke to keep adjuncts from receiving unemployment benefits during those interims."

Check out the comments to read (mostly) thought-provoking discussion on the current state of adjuncting.

Friday, May 21, 2010

BANDITs in American Anthropologist!

This month's issue of American Anthropologist features articles by two BANDIT members. Starting in 2008, American Anthropologist started to devote part of its June issue to the Year in Review in Anthropology, with essays representing five subdisciplines: biological, sociocultural, linguistic, archaeological, and public anthropology. This year, I wrote the annual review of biological anthropology. Many of you might remember my Facebook poll - thanks for your participation and check out my article for the results.

In the same issue, Robin Nelson, first-year assistant professor of anthropology at University of California Riverside, offers a review and critique of John Hawks' very popular anthropology blog.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Preparing for tenure reviews

With the school year wrapping up, folks on the tenure track are getting their reviews - 1st year, 2nd year, mid-tenure. I haven't been through it yet (it's set for June or July) but I have been keeping a "tenure journal" wherein I document everything I've done since I started at my school. Pubs, abstracts submitted for conferences, grants and $ amounts applied for (even if I don't get them it shows I tried and if I write down all the details now I won't have to scramble later), nice emails from students, etc. From that I've abstracted a year-in-review document that I can give my chair once he starts the process. It all helps me feel like I have a little bit of control over a process that is largely external.

Another thing that I've found to be helpful is to check the Chronicle of Higher Ed fora for firsthand experiences and advice:

Advice/reassurance needed for tt prof after second year review

Things not to do pre-tenure

Criticism of teaching in annual review

3rd yr review

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

It's the time for the season of writing...

For most of us, the official school year is over giving way to that holy grail of the academic life, SUMMERS OFF!!(HAHAHAhahahahahahaha...hahahahaha...*gasp*....hahahahahaha..), perhaps better known as "damn, I better write about 50 pages a day or I am screwed." The writing could be finishing up those manuscripts that have been languishing under a pile of exams, grant proposals for summer deadlines, book prospectuses, or even dissertations. For those ABD's starting new positions this fall, the summer can be the final brutal stretch of non-stop writing before having to load up a moving truck. If all of this is overwhelming (and dammit, if it's not, then you are so much of a rock star that I don't think I can be friends with you) please check out Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day: A Guide to Starting, Revising, and Finishing Your Doctoral Thesis, the classic tome by Joan Bolker. There are of course many other excellent guides on this topic as well as productivity more generally, but this is the one I find most helpful, and it extends to writing projects other than dissertations. While geared a little more toward the humanities and the more social of the social sciences (e.g. we really need to incorporate time for labwork and data analysis into our writing process - they go hand in hand), the overall tone is approachable and reasonable.

An important tip for creating time to write that Bolker ignores but that worked wonders for me while writing my dissertation: don't shower, change your clothes, or leave the house for days at a time. Also, Doritos and Diet Coke help. (You're welcome!)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Field assistant in the DR Congo needed: wimps need not apply

Teague O'Mara of Arizona State University sends this message to the BANDIT community:

Hi everybody!

I'm helping out a friend who is DR Congo now setting up a new bonobo
site (well, old site, new work) at Iyemba. Her name is Amy Cobden
(she's one of Pat Whitten's students) and she's working with African
Wildlife Foundation to get Iyemba up and running again and to collect
data for her dissertation project.

Amy needs a new field assistant. The guy who has been helping her is
leaving in July and she needs someone to help out.

She's going to put this up on the job sites, but she'll pay for food
and camp fees. The volunteer will need to pay for their own airfare
($2500-3000 return to Congo from the US, international flight of
Kinshasa to Basankusu $850 return) and visa fees ($80/mo). A six month
commitment is needed since the site is pretty remote.

She needs someone who is emotionally mature and has some field
experience. This isn't a place for a new person to go to see if they
like field work. Spoken French is a big, big plus.
This site would be
a good experience with working at a difficult to access site.
Difficult logistically, physically, and on the upside financially and
bureaucratically as well (you're sold, right?).

Amy's email address is: She's also CC'd on the
email. If you can pass this along to anyone who would be interested,
we'd both really appreciate it.



Slicing, dicing, reviewing?

I like to peruse the Chronicle of Higher Education fora. You'll find a vibrant, clever, helpful, and often volatile community there, comprising academics at all stages and venues. Today I thought I'd post a topic of interest to new investigators - what's your duty as a manuscript reviewer? The particular issue at hand is how to handle what you suspect to be an LPU, or "Least Publishable Unit", the smallest portion of a study that could conceivably stand alone as a publication, but the discussion that follows is more generally applicable. As both a reviewer and a reviewee, it's good to know the different ways people judge the work of others.

Placing male-child interaction in evolutionary context

Lee Gettler, a 3rd year PhD student at Northwestern University, published Direct Male Care and Hominin Evolution: Why Male–Child Interaction Is More Than a Nice Social Idea
in the March 2010 issue of American Anthropologist. Lee combed comparative, ethnographic, and energetic data to upend typical evolutionary models that cast male hominins primarily as provisioners of females with whom they want to mate (cf. Lovejoy 1981, 2009).

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I am also kind of awesome (a preview)

Since this is my blog, I thought I'd share a fabulous little something about myself. I just got an email today that the book in which I have a chapter will be coming September!! The chapter, Reproductive Cycles in Primates, is co-authored with Wendy Saltzmann and Suzette Tardif, and will appear in Hormones and Reproduction in Vertebrates, Volume 5: Mammals. There are four other volumes: Fish, Amphibians, Reptiles, and Birds. This will be an exciting and impressive collection, and I am kinda geeked out to be part of it. Many thanks to Wendy and Suzette for their kind invitation to participate. I will keep you posted on the actual release date.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Dispatches from the Field

As the school year is winding down, the summer field season is gearing up. The BANDIT blog would love to post your stories, quandaries, successes (and failures), and photos from the field. This includes folks teaching at field schools this summer. If you'd like to share your experience, please email* me with the following information:
Name, title, institution
Field Country & Site
Study species
Primary research questions or pedagogical goals
How long you've been working at that site

I may contact you with some further questions, and then will post your dispatch on the blog. Please update us throughout the summer on your progress!

*ruther4d at uic dot edu

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

AAPA comment on NAGPRA change

From an email circulated today by AAPA president Dennis O'Rourke:

Dear AAPA Member,

Recently, changes have been proposed to NAGPRA that affect the dispensation of culturally unaffiliated human remains curated in museums. On behalf of the Association, the repatriation committee, with the approval of the AAPA Executive Committee, has filed a comment strongly opposing the proposed changes. The full text of the Association’s comment can be found on the AAPA website (

You can also have a more direct and personal impact by contacting your representative and/or senator and making your opinion on this proposed change to federal law known. The time period for public comment, however, is short, as the comment period ends May 14, 2010.


Dennis H. O’Rourke, President
American Association of Physical Anthropologists

Kimberly Williams is awesome

BANDIT member Dr. Kimberly Williams of Temple University was recently awarded two intramural grants for her research:

1) Fall 2010 Rotberg Award through Temple University's CHAT program (Center for Humanties at Temple University) for the project titled: “The Jiri Growth and Bone Strength Study.” The award provides a stipend to fund an undergraduate research assistant and additional funds for Kim's research expenses.

2) Temple University Faculty Senate Seed Money Grant for the project: "Bioarchaeology of 3rd Millennium B.C. Tombs in Dhofar, Oman" for the 2010-2011 academic year; field season planned, winter 2010/11.

Congratulations, Kim! You've come a long way!

The waiting is the hardest part

The once-a-year nature of the academic job search is painful enough, but the pain is compounded by the seemingly interminable waiting period. Did they get my application? Did they ask for my references? Are they going to ask for a phone interview? Did the entire search committee vanish like Brigadoon, taking my CV and writing samples with them? I made it to a campus interview in a highly respected department that had been remarkably transparent and congenial about the process at each stage. Unfortunately, that transparency fell apart after I returned home from the interview - the interview was two years ago and I've yet to receive official notification that I didn't get the job. I still feel a bit wounded - not that I didn't get the job, but that my candidacy was so disposable as to not warrant a letter on official letterhead. I know that stuff is expensive, but come on.

David Perlmutter in today's Chronicle of Higher Education attempts to offer some advice in Asking About the Status of the Search, but ends up with some fairly vague tips about checking the job wikis or social media, but beware: "Blogs, forums, and wikis, however, have several drawbacks as tools for monitoring a particular search. First, the information may be wrong. A rumor posted on the Web is no more or less reliable than one passed on by phone, although the former does allow people with contradictory postings to add their information, too." Wait, the internets can lie? Why didn't somebody tell me this before I sent all my money to that Nigerian prince?

Perlmutter's ultimate point is that SOME committees might welcome your email asking about the status of the search, while others will be irritated with you, and you can't necessarily know which one is which! That is some helpful advice, right? I think it's perfectly reasonable to confirm that your materials have been received - particularly if you have to use a university-wide online application system. Once you get that confirmation, it's probably best to leave the committee alone. And then if you're like me, obsessively check the anthro job wiki.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The pot of gold at the end of a loooooooong rainbow...

Some of the best content in the Chronicle of Higher Education are the first-person stories about life in academe. Considering how tough the job market has been in biological anthropology the last few seasons, I thought this story, about a humanities PhD who recently landed a tenure track job after 4 years and 10 campus visits, might foster a little optimism, or at least make you crack a smile.

10th Time's the Charm

Friday, May 7, 2010

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

Dan Eisenberg, third-year PhD student at Northwestern University, and colleagues have a new paper in Early View in AJPA. They explore worldwide distribution of the apolipoprotein E 3 alelle (which is implicated in cardiovascular disease and elevated cholesterol), and its association with climate data to evaluate the hypothesis that population variation in ApoE3 is due to metabolic constraints of varying environments.

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

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Young, inexperienced, female educators are classroom targets

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on a recent study that found the most common targets of student incivility are young, inexperienced, and/or female professors:

"Only about 16 percent of the faculty members surveyed reported not having experienced student incivility at all, but that aggregate figure masked a wide gulf between men and women in terms of the likelihood of their recalling such incidents. When the researchers broke their data down by gender, they found that 24 percent of men, and just 9 percent of women, could not recall incidents of uncivil student behavior, Women were also much more likely to report that the uncivil behavior they experienced was severe, or to say that they had been upset by it."

Considering that the majority of recent PhD's in biological anthropology are female, and that by definition most recent PhD's are inexperienced (the youth part is relative), this has likely been a common experience among our community. Please let us know here at BANDIT if you've encountered this situation and what you've done to handle it.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

How to Get an Article Accepted at American Anthropologist (or Anywhere)

In 2008, Tom Boellstorff (editor-in-chief of American Anthropologist) offered some guidelines to keep in mind when crafting a manuscript for publication. Many of these seem crazy obvious (be sure to accept all changes and check for typos!) but as an editor he's seen all kinds of stupid. Don't let your paper be stupid.

How to Get an Article Accepted at American Anthropologist (or Anywhere)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Journals for biological anthropology papers?

One of the challenges of publishing is deciding where to submit. At lunch today with several other biologically- and medically-minded anthropologists from a range of different departments in the Midwest, we discussed where to send our papers for publication. What audience do we hope to target with which piece of research or theoretical exploration? How will the particular venue in which we seek to publish affect our department's and college's assessment of our scholarly activity (i.e. renewal/promotion/tenureability)? Some colleagues shared that their departments seemed to value publications in the broader anthropology journals more than those in "specialist" journals like AJPA, AJHB, etc. even though the impact factors for some of the bioanthro journals are higher than those for Current Anthropology, for example. These are things that are important for junior faculty to find out, and it will likely vary according to your local climate.

Thought I'd share the list we came up with and add some suggestions of my own, and solicit other suggestions from fellow BANDITs. The list I present is biased toward my interests and those of my lunch dates (primatology, anatomy, developmental biology, reproduction, nutrition) so please help add to it!

Broader (4-fields?) anthropological journals:
American Anthropologist
Current Anthropology
Annual Reviews of Anthropology

"Specialist" journals:
American Journal of Physical Anthropology
Yearbook of Physical Anthropology
American Journal of Human Biology
American Journal of Primatology
International Journal of Primatology
Journal of Medical Primatology
Journal of Human Evolution
Evolutionary Anthropology
Journal of Bone and Mineral Research
Journal of Osteoarchaeology
Annals of Human Biology
Human Biology
Anatomical Record
Journal of Morphology
Developmental Dynamics
Developmental Biology
Journal of Evolutionary Biology
Current Biology
Human Reproduction
Fertility and Sterility
Biology of Reproduction
Journal of Reproductive Immunology
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Journal of Nutrition
American Journal of Epidemiology
International Journal of Epidemiology
Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health
Hormones and Behavior