Less obvious signs of reaching a new career stage

Something I’ve been thinking about lately are the less obvious signs of reaching a new career stage. I don’t mean the obvious things like being accepted to grad school, or defending your PhD, or signing your first job contract. I mean things that aren’t generally listed as major milestones but that felt important or noteworthy to you (e.g., the first time you bought coffee for someone who was at an earlier career stage than you were).

I’ll give some more examples:

As a graduate student, I remember other students talking about the first time they did an experiment without running it by their advisor first. The two particular stories I can recall were both senior grad students (one may have been a postdoc) who had a hunch about an interesting thing that might be going on in their system. In one case, the person did the experiment, then went to talk to their advisor, proposing the idea. The advisor said it would never work, leading the advisee to get the extreme satisfaction of dropping a figure showing it did work on the table.

As another example, for me, the point that I felt solidified that I was no longer early career was when I was reviewing the application file of a graduate student applicant and saw that one of the letters of recommendation had come from someone who had been an undergrad in my lab (and who now has a faculty position).

To use some I’ve seen recently on twitter:

Having someone seek you out at a meeting to talk science:

(And, since Rachel was my first PhD student, her experience also felt kind of significant for me!)

Your first paper is perhaps an obvious academic milestone, but your first last author paper also feels big!:

(Related: I remember being extremely happy about the first paper that contained data collected entirely in my lab.)

Receiving your first review request is an academic milestone; a less obvious one is reaching the point where you receive too many review requests to handle:

And here’s one based on a recent Eco-Evo, Evo-Eco blog post: being able to stand in one spot for a day and a half and have non-stop conversations seems to be a sign of having reached a particular (well-known!) career stage. (ht for this one goes to Jeremy!)

So, I’m curious: what were some of the less obvious milestones for you? (Update: If you want to tweet them, use #lessobviousmilestones)

Who is ecology’s equivalent of Erdős?

Paul Erdős was a prolific Hungarian mathematician who spent much of the later part of his career traveling to visit collaborators around the world. According to his Wikipedia biography,

Erdős published around 1,500 mathematical papers during his lifetime, a figure that remains unsurpassed. He firmly believed mathematics to be a social activity, living an itinerant lifestyle with the sole purpose of writing mathematical papers with other mathematicians. Erdős’s prolific output with co-authors prompted the creation of the Erdős number, the number of steps in the shortest path between a mathematician and Erdős in terms of co-authorships.

Or, to quote from Stephen Heard’s recent post on Erdős:

Paul Erdős (1913-1996) was a Hungarian mathematician who published somewhere around 1,500 papers (in mostly pure-math fields including set theory and number theory) and had somewhere around 500 coauthors.  He was a fascinating figure, and his biography The Man Who Loved Only Numbers is a great read.  He was famous both for brilliance and for broad collaboration.  Those two things in combination inspired mathematicians to invent the Erdős number as a metric of their collaborative closeness to Erdős.  Here’s how it works: Erdős’s own Erdős number is E = 0; those who have coauthored research papers with Erdős have E = 1; those who have coauthored with an E = 1 scientist have, as a result, E=2, and so on.

Stephen’s Erdős number is a very impressive 3. And, since I’ve coauthored a paper with Stephen, that means mine is 4, which I think it pretty neat. (That’s the same as Stephen Hawking’s!)

Right after reading Stephen’s post (or, more accurately, Jeremy’s link to Stephen’s post), I visited the University of Florida to give a seminar, hosted by Bob Holt. When I got my schedule ahead of time from Bob, it included a couple of people who are not at the University of Florida, but who are/were there visiting Bob. That was sort of surprising, but not very, as Bob is someone who has collaborated with lots of people – as just one indicator, I remember as a grad student hearing that Bob Holt and Andy Dobson were the two people who were involved in by far the most NCEAS working groups. Given the breadth of topics Bob has worked on, as well as the strength of his contributions, it’s not surprising that lots of people visit him to work on things.

This combination of events got me wondering: is there anyone in ecology who compares to Erdős in terms of being prolific and exceptionally well-connected (in terms of collaborations)?

I think Bob Holt is a great candidate. According to Google Scholar, he has 446 papers. By my count, he has had 574 different coauthors! (You can check the list I assembled here.) Should we have the Holt number in ecology*, or can you come up with someone who is even more connected to other ecologists?

 

*Clearly this could be expanded to a Holt-Erdős number, a Holt-Erdős-Bacon number, etc. Thanks to Hao Ye, I know that Bob Holt has an Erdős number of 4, so my Holt-Erdős number is 6. (Updated to fix error — I originally said 8, but my Holt number is 2, so I don’t know why I wrote 8!)

What’s the thing you’ve read recently that you enjoyed the most?

I just spent a few days of my semester break devouring Philip Pullman’s newest book, The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage (Amazon link, but supporting your local bookseller is great, if possible!) It’s the first book in a new trilogy that is a prequel to Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. I listened to that trilogy while counting samples in grad school. Those books are among my all-time favorites*, so I was both excited and a little nervous about starting the new book. Could it possibly live up to my expectations?

It did. I loved it. I can’t wait for the next book in the new trilogy, and think I’ll reread the original trilogy and La Belle Sauvage as I wait for the new book. If you were a fan of His Dark Materials and haven’t gotten the new book yet, you should!

This made me wonder what books others have read recently that they loved, so I thought a quick post on the topic would be fun. I was originally thinking of non-work-related books, but, really whatever you read recently that you enjoyed the most (or found the most powerful, or whatever criterion you want to go with) works. And, if your favorite thing wasn’t a book, that’s fine, too.

I’m looking forward to what people say, even though I’m not exactly short on reading materials! My recent response to this tweet:

was:

 

*The audiobooks are really well done! They are definitely my favorite audiobooks of all time.

Ask us anything and we’ll answer! (UPDATED)

It’s an annual tradition: ask us anything! Got a question about ecology, academia, or anything else we blog about? Ask in the comments! We’ll compile the questions and answer them in future posts.

Past questions have ranged from how to be an ally, to what statistical methods ecologists need to know, to when to accept a “starter” job, to how we’d fix the entire US scientific funding system, to our worst moments in science. So ask away!

UPDATE: This AUA is now closed, we have all the questions we can handle. Thank you to everyone who asked a question, look for our answers in upcoming posts.

#ESA2017 bingo cards!

Here are your ESA bingo cards!

I love the ESA meeting, and for me part of loving the ESA meeting is having a chuckle about it. Hope these cards will give you a laugh too.

This year I had the online bingo card generator generate a whole bunch of different cards, so you can totally play ESA Bingo for real with your friends. And if you get bingo in the middle of my talk, you have my permission to yell out “Bingo!” 🙂 (please don’t do it during anyone else’s talk!)

 

Thanks readers! I’m working my way through the popular science and lab lit you recommended

A little while back I asked you for your favorite novels featuring scientists, and your favorite popular science books that a scientist would like, and you came through in spades. Just a quick post to say thanks again for all the recommendations; I added a bunch of them to my Goodreads list and my wife got my some of them for Christmas!

So far I’ve read The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage, which as loyal reader Jeff Ollerton guessed was right up my alley. And All The Birds In The Sky, which is hard to describe. Cautionary scifi-fantasy mashup? Interesting, I liked it, but the Big Idea was too obvious for my taste. The characters worked as characters, but they had to do double-duty as The Engineering Worldview and The Left-wing Environmentalist Radical Worldview. I dunno, maybe I’d have found it more compelling if I was less of an optimist and thought that the world really was at risk of being destroyed by a war between those two worldviews.

I just started The Invention of Nature (good so far), and then after that is How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming.

So, what science-y reading did you get for the holiday?