(by drugmonkey) Sep 01 2014

One of the more awesome and fun parts of running this blog for so long is watching you all progress in your lives and careers.

Many of you started commenting in stages far removed from your current places.

I've seen struggling grad students achieve the PhD, (dis)gruntled postdocs win a tenure track job...or go do something else that makes them very happy. I've seen some panicky junior faculty transition to tenure with major grant funding.

I also see you progressing in life, finding new relationships, spawning miniwaccaloons and involving yourselves in your communities for the betterment of all.

Really- you go on with your bad selves. You amaze me.

Thanks for continuing to play.

7 responses so far

Writing Process

(by drugmonkey) Aug 31 2014

I start a paper draft very early in the process.

Sometimes it is started before even a single bit of data has been collected.

It starts, often, with some literature that I am reading that starts to gel an idea. So I'll jot down the author/date and some words related to my thinking at the moment. Could be a full manuscript ready sentence, sometimes just a few words.

At this point I don't even insert "introduction" and "discussion" headings because I'm not sure where it is going. As time goes on there will be a tipping point where I take an hour to put in the structure.

Title page, headings, maybe some cut and paste methods that we'll be modifying later.

I didn't use to do this, but I have gotten better about writing up figures as they roll off the assembly line. Even before I know the end analysis, etc. So maybe I waste a little time if I have to redo analysis with more groups or something and reconfigure the graph.

I've found that it helps me later to know what we have and what we don't have.

So now I might actually start a draft around a key figure that I really like. Stare at that graph in the Word file and the ideas start coming.

The key for me is to trigger early on just getting some words down on the paper in approximation of what I am thinking. At the moment.

Thoughts often change. I write many times more words in the drafts than will ever appear anywhere in print.

This helps me to think. To see.

20 responses so far

Exposure IS training

(by drugmonkey) Aug 29 2014

from a Twitt:

Let me explain something to you trainees. You are not undergraduate students anymore. You are not given a syllabus, quizzes and office-hour responses to "Is this going to be on the test" or "What do I need to know".

When your PI gives you a draft of a grant or a manuscript for you to read and provide feedback, this is not ONLY about asking for your help. This is about training you in how this person accomplishes these tasks, what manuscripts look like in nascent form, how a grant should be structured and how you incrementally improve an academic work.

The PI can lead you to water but it is not her job to force you to drink. It is YOUR JOB to drink the water.

Exposure is training.

Another one of the twitts identified a problem I had in writing papers as a postdoc. It boils down to the fear of showing your PI something that is less than perfect lest she think that you are a fool, incompetent and nowhere near the scientist-prospect that you hoped was her impression of you. I used to delay and delay showing anything to my PI until it was looking really good.

Let me tell you a little something. PIs do not lose respect for trainees for sending them crappy drafts. At the worst, they shake their heads ruefully over the shitty training you received in your last stop. Mostly, they just saddle up to train you how to write a paper their way.

They lose respect over other things. A lack of any sign of a manuscript. You can say you are "working on it" but the PI has no concrete way to distinguish the fact you are in Draft XXVII of a master work from the scofflaw who hasn't done much more than write a title page into a Word doc. So show them something.

Another thing that PIs lose respect for trainees over is a failure to make changes in response to what the PI has said or shown them. This is key. You are being trained. If a PI tells you to do something, bloody well DO IT. Don't spend weeks bitching to your spouse, fellow trainees and the Internet about what a taskmaster the your PI is. Just write, edit, change, fix. DO IT.

There are ways to really get on the PI's good side. For example when the draft is on the PI's desk for editing/review? There is no reason you can't also be working on it. And updating your PI on your new drafts.

Write more. I think Comradde PhysioProffe had a blog post or extensive comment on this some time ago in a prior discussion of the topic. Trainees are often blocked from writing because they are thinking to themselves how to be as lazy efficient as possible. "I'm not sure what she wants here so I need clarification before I write a whole bunch of stuff". Or "Last time I wrote four pages and she didn't use any of it in the manuscript!". PP's point was that sometimes you have to write something out to see for yourselves that it is the wrong direction to go in. It is not wasted effort, it is part of the process. The science communicator types preach on about being willing to "kill your babies". I believe this is similar. Do note, however, that often enough some major passage that you decide to leave out of the present manuscript comes back as useful material for the next manuscript (or grant or review article). So writing is rarely a total waste in this business.

31 responses so far

Professor Isis on Trainees and Writing

(by drugmonkey) Aug 29 2014

At Isis the Scientist blog:

My perception is that graduate students and postdocs have a skewed view of what constitutes scientific productivity. It is very easy at that stage to feel “productive” by going to the lab and generating data because, typically, they feel confident in the experimental skills they’ve established by the time they’re ready to write a paper. Writing is a new skill that they are often less confident in. ... People are more likely to engage in behavior that provides them with immediate, positive feedback. It’s easier to start a new project than to write a paper about a finished one and sitting on a pile of data provides a (false) sense of productivity.

Go Read.

There is also a Twittscussion:

15 responses so far

"I'm sure we can put it on the Training Grant..."

(by drugmonkey) Aug 28 2014


18 responses so far

Thought of the Day

(by drugmonkey) Aug 27 2014

Cling fiercely to what you want to do with your life and what kind of person you want to be.

View it through your expectations of yourself and your view of what constitutes a good person.

Defend that against all comers.

12 responses so far

Your Grant in Review: When they aren't talking to you.

(by drugmonkey) Aug 22 2014

It is always good to remember that sometimes comments in the written critique are not directed at the applicant.

Technically, of course these comments are directed at Program Staff in an advisory capacity. Not to help the applicant in any way whatsoever- assistance in revising is a side effect.

Still a comment that opposes a Stock Criticism is particularly likely to be there for the consumption of either Program or the other reviewers.

It is meant to preempt the Stock Criticism when the person making the comment lies the grant.

12 responses so far

Your Grant in Review Reminder: Research Study Sections First

(by drugmonkey) Aug 22 2014

One key to determining the right study section to request is to look on RePORTER for funded grants reviewed in your study sections of interest.

Sometimes this is much more informative than the boilerplate description of the study section listed at CSR.

8 responses so far

New Projects for Donors Choose Drive for #Ferguson

(by drugmonkey) Aug 21 2014


Three Donors Choose projects I posted yesterday were completely funded in less than 15 hours. I am delighted so many of you found this opportunity to help the communities around Ferguson Missouri attractive. If you missed out on contributing, never fear, there are new opportunities to help. Please also pass this suggestion along to your friends, family and social media contacts.

At least three school districts appear to have been greatly affected by the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri.

The Jennings, Ferguson-Florissant and Riverview Gardens districts canceled classes Monday following another night of unrest in which at least three people were shot and more businesses were vandalized.
“Those districts in particular have very limited funds,” Osborn said, adding that Reinvest North County’s priority is to get kids into class.

That page lists several funds that are open to public donation, if that strikes your fancy.

I like the ability to fund small scale projects requested directly by teachers, made possible by DonorsChoose. I find that other people seem to like the immediacy of this support as well. So I have a few more projects for your consideration.

Ms. Catalino is requesting support for language and mathematics education in Kindergarten at Fairview Primary School in Jennings. The Children Are Our Future project indicates:

My students come from low income families and are very needy. They want to learn and enjoy learning when given the opportunity. A lot of the children become easily angered and can be hard to handle. I keep my children in my classroom actively engaged in learning, so I do not have many anger outbursts. I provide a safe, warm, and exciting environment in my classroom. They love to come into my classroom and are eager to learn. My children develop high self esteem due to the success they have in my classroom.

The project seeks funds for language and math teaching materials for Common Core as well as a classroom magazine.

The Math Common Core item I put in my project will enrich all the students by building a foundation for Math. It will provide centers and hands-on activities for each child. The activities will keep their interest and the children will want to do the activities over and over.

The Phonological Common Core item will prepare the children with a solid foundation for reading. The children will enjoy all the activities in the kit. The activities will be used in centers to provide enrichment and remedial help in a fun way for the students. The activities will keep the children engaged throughout our center time.

Would you care to help some kindergartners?

Next I see Mrs. Belger, also at Fairview Primary in Jennings, needs presentation equipment for teaching her first graders. In 1,2,3 Eyes on Me! she indicates:

We need a multi-purpose and portable teaching easel to use for general instruction. Picture if you will, 26 little eager eyes looking up at you, waiting to be engaged and learn something new. Whole group instruction takes place often during our school day. Students are gathered together in the meeting area, learning together. The teacher and her/his easel are the focus point of the lesson. There I can model how to write letters of the alphabet, show a big book, teach math strategies, how to write a sentence, and so much more.

Mrs. Belger has a second request, Making Leaps and Bounds Toward Success! as well.

Would you care to make Mrs. Belger's classroom a little more effective this year?

Finally, for today, I draw your attention to Mrs. Schumer's first graders at Halls Ferry Elementary School in Florissant, MO. In Rain and Cold Won't Ruin Our Day! she notes:

The school I teach at serves families with very low incomes. Many of my families are living with extended family and are struggling to provide for their child's basic needs. As a result, the children in my class do not have a lot of opportunity to use learning toys like those I am requesting. These "toys" would be an educational way for my students to spend indoor recess time this winter.

While my students are excited to come to school to learn each day, they also have a lot of fun getting exercise and playing with friends during recess. When winter rolls around (or rain falls) and they are unable to go out for recess, we have very few activities in our room for the children to use. I would love to have something fun for them to do that helps them gain valuable social skills, fine motor skills, and critical thinking skills. The building sets and doll play sets would make my children love indoor recess just as much as outdoor recess!

Would you like to make the rain days just a little bit more fun for the children?

I realize there are many demands on your donation dollars these days, folks. So if you are tapped, no biggie. Just consider passing the idea of helping the children affected by the Ferguson unrest along to your friends and families. I know many of them will be happy to know of the opportunity.

Many hands makes light work!

10 responses so far

Donors Choose Drive for #Ferguson

(by drugmonkey) Aug 20 2014

As you know, Dear Reader, I am a big fan of Donors Choose and the opportunity to help out classrooms in need around these here tax-phobic United States of America. A mention on Twitter triggered me to realize we could help out, slightly, with the current dismal situation in Ferguson Missouri by looking for some school projects to support.

Searching by Zip Code 63135 at Donors Choose I found a few hits.

First up, History is Our Story pt.3 in Ferguson Middle School.

I ask my students this on the first day and throughout the year.The U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights, voting and our legal system are a big part of the 8th grade curriculum so we spend a lot of time talking about citizens' rights and responsibilities

Well isn't this one just smack-dab on task?

My students are 8th graders in a diverse community. Unfortunately, families in this area are still recovering from the economic downturn. There are still a lot of underemployed or parents working several part time jobs to make ends meet. Over 90% of students receive free or reduced priced lunches. In the last 2 years, we have had to rebuild twice because of tornado damage and now we are facing a crisis of civil unrest.

Ok, I'm sold. Anyone else want to donate to Mrs. Simmonds's Technology project?

Next up... Better Equipped to Better Perform!

My students come into my classroom every day fired up to make music together. We are working towards becoming a competitive high school band program by participating in musical competitions, but it's hard for my students to compete on sub-par instruments and when we are unable to afford travel.

My students are an incredible mix and variety of characters and backgrounds. I have students in all grades 9-12, at various levels of musical competency. Many of them come from lower-income backgrounds, and therefore do not have access to many of the opportunities other band students their age have, such as private lessons, owning their own instruments, and so on. They are a tight-knit group, and we often refer to ourselves as the band family. Almost all of my students live in Ferguson, Missouri and have been affected by the events there of the past couple of weeks.

You know what, people? My parents provided the kids in my household with private music lessons for many years. My spouse and I are able to provide our kids with music lessons as well. It is a thing that is a default educational experience in my best of all possible worlds. Mr. Naylor at McCluer High School in Florissant, MO wants to upgrade their musical equipment by purchasing two euphoniums. Would you care to help them out?

Finally, for today, a Science project at Jennings Junior High School. Jennings school district appears to be affected by the situation in Ferguson.

The unrest in this St. Louis-area town straddles two school districts — Ferguson and Jennings. Jennings had already started school last week, but since some of the district's schools border parts of a hub for nightly street clashes, officials called off classes early Tuesday morning and notified parents with phone calls and text messages.

Mrs. Brown has posted Science Portfolios for Science Masters.

Help to organize minds! Sixth and Seventh grade students are typically all over the place. With this in mind it is very important to teach them organization skills while they are in school. A folder with papers flying everywhere and missing homework is an everyday occurrence.

The students I teach are in an urban school where supplies often few and far between. The students come with very few supplies, not because they don't want or need them, but simply they do not have the money to obtain the supplies necessary for school.

Binders and paper, folks. That is a need that they have because the schools are underfunded and people live in economic distress. Are your middle class sensibilities outraged yet? This is where we are as a country.

I thank you for your consideration.

p.s. As always, if you don't feel the pull of these projects go on over to DonorsChoose and search around for yourself. I recommend starting with the Zip Code search 63135 but really, find something that attracts you, even if it isn't in Missouri. Plenty of deserving projects all over the country in all sorts of schools.

12 responses so far

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