Friday links: how to make the most of grad student recruiting visits, Darwin doodles, and more

From Meg:

Darwin’s kids drew on the Origin of Species! The pictures are actually quite well done. My daughter contributes to my work sometimes, as tweeted here:

but she has a ways to go before she’s at Darwin’s kids’ level. (It’s okay for me to say that, because she could point out that I have a ways to go before I’m at Darwin’s level.😉 ) ht: Ed Yong

This article in the ASLO bulletin by Hansen et al. (subscription/membership required) actually has data on the proportion ecology PhDs that obtain tenure-track academic positions, as well as on how long it took from obtaining the PhD to obtaining a tenure-track position. As I wrote in my post on training students for non-academic careers, I wasn’t aware of ecology-specific data, so I was very interested when I saw this article. Some of the quick stats are: 1) a 77% increase in ecology PhDs awarded from 2003 to 2010, 2) the median time elapsed between earning a PhD and getting a TT position has actually decreased since the 1980s (when it was 4-7 years); with it taking about 3 years now (as it has more-or-less since the 90s).

This post from Tenure, She Wrote talks about the importance of daycare to remaining productive in academia after having kids. In some ways this sounds obvious, especially if you have attempted to work on a manuscript while watching a fussy baby. But the most interesting point to me was this one: “From what I observed in Germany and Switzerland, it seemed that access to luxuriously long paid family leave was not unequivocally good.” The problem is that, with “luxuriously long” maternity leave, women can be judged harshly for returning to work before they were required to. (Indeed, a friend of mine reported sneaking into the lab at odd hours to get some work done while her child was still an infant.) But, if you take the full leave, it is a long time to be away from academia, and can make restarting hard. Overall, I agree that the leave in the US is often incredibly short, but, at the same time, simply having a long leave is not necessarily going to make things better for women in science. And, unquestionably, having quality, affordable childcare available will make life better for women in science.

From Jeremy:

Good advice for prospective grad students about to attend on-campus recruiting weekends with other prospective students. I’d chime in with additional advice if I could, but I never attended one of these recruitment weekends. Does that make me unusual? All of my visits to prospective supervisors were just me on my lonesome. I did my homework, researched potential supervisors, contacted them early in the fall, and later in the fall or the winter they brought me out to visit their labs. I’ve always thought that that was mostly how things worked in the US and Canada, and that places with recruiting weekends were the exception rather than the rule in ecology and evolution. Am I wrong about that (or was I right back in the Dark Ages when I was a prospective grad student, but now things have changed?) I do think there are advantages to individual visits to specific labs. Ecology and evolution programs mostly don’t do lab rotations, so it’s incumbent on you as a prospective student to figure out who you want to work with before you even apply, much less before you do a site visit. Honest question: do recruitment weekends encourage prospective ecology and evolution students to see themselves as applying to a department or program, much as they previously applied to an undergraduate college? When in fact they should be seeing themselves as applying to work with a specific supervisor, with the rest of the program being an important but secondary consideration?

Good advice on how to get it in gear and write your dissertation.

We missed R. A. Fisher’s birthday on Monday. To make up for it, here’s a potted history of how Fisher revolutionized statistics as an outsider, and overcame active resistance from the statistical establishment at the time.

Ecology is infamous for having lots of jargon, often defined at least somewhat differently by different people. Nathan Lemoine and some other ecology graduate students are conducting a survey of how ecologists define key terms. I don’t know if “type I functional response” is among the terms included in the survey, but maybe it should be.

Rutgers University has suspended famed evolutionary theorist Robert Trivers with pay, apparently for an issue to do with Trivers’ teaching assignment. I have no more details beyond what’s in the article. (ht Retraction Watch)

The rise and fall of cap and trade.

Hoisted from the comments:

See the comments on this post for lots of great recommendations for scientific history and biography books, many of them to do with the founding of particular fields of ecology and related disciplines.

12 thoughts on “Friday links: how to make the most of grad student recruiting visits, Darwin doodles, and more

  1. I’m with Jeremy on the recruitment weekend — never participated in one either. I also think they’re a little odd for E&E folks. The university where I’m an Ass Pro has them, although I’m not a big fan.

    • I also never took part in them, since they are generally in winter/spring and I was in Antarctica then. But my impression has always been that most people go on them, so this is interesting to read. I think most E&E programs have them, but maybe I’m wrong?

      • Ok, now I’m really curious about this. What fraction of ecology & evolution grad programs have recruitment weekends?

        Going by memory, I know I visited Oregon State, UConn, Dartmouth, and Rutgers. Rutgers definitely didn’t have a recruitment weekend and still doesn’t as far as I know. Don’t know if OSU, Dartmouth, and UConn did, I just assumed they didn’t as it was never mentioned to me. I take it Michigan, Cornell, GaTech, and wherever else you visited/went/worked have them?

        I was also invited to Duke’s recruitment weekend, but Duke was unusual in that I think they were one of the few ecology & evolution programs with lab rotations. I hadn’t been in contact with any prospective supervisors at Duke (I’d applied kind of on a whim, I wasn’t really that serious about the application), and so was surprised to be invited at all.

      • Places that I know have recruitment weekends: Michigan, Georgia Tech, Michigan State, Emory, Indiana, Illinois. I don’t recall for other places I’ve been (Cornell, Wisconsin). But I don’t know of any places that don’t have a recruitment weekend, other than what you listed.

  2. I assume the median time from PhD to TT is for people who do eventually obtain a TT position? And I’m guessing the reason why it’s declined is that increasing numbers of PhDs are never obtaining a TT position? So that these days, there’s a small fraction of PhDs who obtain a TT position relatively quickly (often after 1 postdoc), and most other PhDs never obtain one at all?

  3. University of Wyoming’s Program in Ecology and Department of Ecosystem Science and Management have a recruiting event. They put it on at the same time since there is a lot of overlap. People are still applying to individual labs, but they scheduled this recruitment during the Program in Ecology Student Research Symposium and so it showcases the research going on, at least within that program. And the recruits get to meet other students and go on tours of facilities on campus if it might be relevant to their interests. I have to admit that I have never participated in this type of event, but I think it is super useful. While you are applying to a lab and a particular adviser it is really nice to get a sense for how the students and faculty get along across related departments. I know one thing I particularly like about Wyoming is how collaborative the departments and faculty are, which I don’t think is the case everywhere. Plus I think it show cases one of our great student events. The money to sponsor the recruitment event is applied for and so it is also ‘extra’ money that faculty have access to to bring students in. So, I really think it is useful. And honestly, it has been really successful.

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