Saturday, April 23, 2016


So this week I received a letter in my mailbox at work from the Provost's office. The letter states that the Provost is recommending to the board of trustees that I be promoted to associate professor with tenure. Can I start calling myself a tenured professor or do I need to wait until the new school year starts? When do I throw myself a party? My schools leadership doesn't bother making any announcement or acknowledging this accomplishment.

My department is already treating me as a tenured professor. I really feel like they are setting me up for an administrative path, maybe to be the next department chair. I've had a bunch of new admin tasks hoist upon me this spring, could partly be because of me raising questions and commenting on inefficiencies of how the department is being run. I don't mind doing these things if they actually become enacted, which since I'm not chair, it's not obvious that they will be. I also seem to be pretty good at them. The question is, is this me? I've never seen myself as going the admin route. I'm not good at fundraising, which seems to be the most important part of my chair's job (also the only thing they seem to be good at).

I love science and engineering, but my funding levels suggest that I'm mediocre at these endeavors. What is the best metric for evaluating science/engineering accomplishment in academia? All of my graduated students have gotten great jobs in industry or gone on to top graduate programs. I publish regularly, but only in mid-level journals.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Idea for passive agressive submission

I recently had a paper torn apart by reviewers at a society level journal. This was a paper I was actually quite proud of, and even the editor sent me a separate note apologizing. If they were really sorry, they would have sent it to a second set of reviewers. The reason I thought my paper was appropriate for the sort've fancy journal is because they recently had published one on a very similar topic, using a very different approach that had far fewer results and far less value than what I had submitted. So my idea is to resubmit my paper and to ask the editor to send the paper to the reviewers that accepted for publication the other paper. I don't know who those reviewers are, so is there any reason for the editor not to honor my request? This also subtly points to the lottery of reviewing luck that seams to be occurring at this journal. I used to publish there a lot when I was a graduate student, back when it's publisher wasn't obsessed with impact factors. I want to employ this for glam mag submissions as well. Refer the editors to a paper in their journal that is similar and you know yours is clearly better than the crap they let in.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Seriously pissed

There's a journal out there that used to be my go to journal for reading and publication when I was a grad student. I liked the journal and the community. Then at some point a few years ago, the journal decided it needed to keep moving up its impact factor. They started becoming more selective and started changing the focus of what they published. They are going from engineering to more bio that happens to use engineering. Now most of the manuscripts I send to that journal get rejected without review. Ironically, they get published in lower impact journals and get more citations than the impact factor of this journal. While annoyed, I didn't mind too much, but my students care about the impact factor of the journal they publish in, and this one of the top journals in the general field of my research. I try to convince them that paper citations are more important than journal impact factor, but everyone knows that's not totally true.
I was pleasantly surprised when I was invited to submit an article for a special issue that this journal was putting together. I put together a manuscript that fits into what they are interested in and submitted. It was rejected. Now I'm really pissed. My students are going to be depressed. Who rejects invited contributions?

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Near Tenure Reflection/Update

When to celebrate tenure and start calling yourself associate professor? My school allows faculty to see the voting results and summary at every stage, so I know how things are going, and I have to say, it has gone great so far. There are a few more approvals in the process, and the title won't go into effect until next school year.

No one complained about too little funding from the material I am allowed to see, which was my main worry. I really wish I could read the external letters to find out what my peers in the field think about me. Where do I stand in the eyes of full professors at other institutions? Am I in a position to move in the future? I'm not unhappy at my current place, but I'm by no means thrilled. The issues at my place primarily affect my research productivity, and I would be potentially willing to trade that for a different set of issues at another place.

Looking back, I don't think I would have done anything differently. I worried too much about teaching my first year, but going back and saying don't worry so much would not have changed my behavior. Some of my summers weren't as productive as I would have liked, but I'm sure everyone in academia wants to be more productive than they are. If I manage to get tenure with the level I worked at, then at least from a rational perspective, I didn't really need to do more work.

Anyway, back to the grind: writing, writing, meetings, writing, meetings--nothing really changes.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Update: Christmas edition

It's been a while since my last post. Life has been crazy busy. Things are going mostly well though. Learning more about start-up culture, and it is definitely a culture, almost a cult. I like the general high level of energy and excitement of people starting and working for start-ups. Mine is having its ups and downs, but continuing to build moment. A word of advice though to faculty out there: you have to keep a discerning eye regarding what should be commercialized. I've encountered a few loud-mouth professors that think every project they have is a start-up that is ready to go. This is definitely not the case, people! One was sharing how the industrial mentor he was working with was an idiot. According to this professor, the industrial mentor, who had started several successful companies, was the one that didn't know the market or the value of the technology versus the professor who has never held a job in industry. Hilarious!
In other news, my tenure package is moving along smoothly so far. 2015 was productive on the student and publishing side, but not so much on the funding side. I'm looking forward to 2016 and balancing my priorities some more. I've been handed my first real college and university level service commitments. I'm learning to hate administrators and figuring out how to undermine their ridiculous initiatives.
Finals week was insane, but now my grades are in, and I'm drinking away those memories while small children scream and run around me as I visit family. I have a nagging feeling of how I should be doing work, but the start of the spring semester is still a few weeks away and I need to purge before I dive back in.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

We need revolution in the sensor community

A pet peeve of mine is engineers in academia developing technology that has zero practical application. I'm fine when scientists do it and I encourage them to keep doing it, but engineers need to stop. This is particularly a problem among people that develop sensors. THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO NEED TO MAKE MORE SENSIVITE SENSORS THAT HAVE NO SELECTIVITY. After tenure I'm going to start writing perspective articles trashing all of the sensor papers that only measure control samples under ideal conditions. Electrical engineers are the worst offenders. They get their crap published in Science because their technology is filled with buzzwords like graphene, plasmonics, and single-molecule. This type of research is getting more and more expensive and yet provides no return on investment. I have several EE colleagues that are well-funded through the NSF and especially through the DoD to make this crap and then they go around campus asking faculty in other departments if they might have a use for this technology. NO, THERE IS NO PRACTICAL USE FOR YOUR SENSOR THAT MEASURES A 0.0000001% CHANGE OF A PHYSICAL PROPERTY. Sure it can measure the wind generated by a fart three blocks away, but it will only work in outer space. Studying the mating habits of calling ducks is 100000X more practical than what you folks are doing.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

2 months later

For those two or three of you that follow my blog, you might have noticed that I tend to blog less when things are going well. Well this isn't the case necessarily this time, I've really just been busy.

I tell people that I've been working on my tenure package, but in reality, that accounts for only 4-5 days. It wasn't a hard task because I've been updating my dossier regularly during the last 5 years. Most of my time went into formatting and complaining about how much crap my university requires in the package. I have over 700 pages in the appendices documenting all the stuff I've done. My colleagues say I'm in good shape and shouldn't worry about tenure. I'm not worried, I've done everything that's expected of a TT professor, although I do feel some inferiority compared to some folks in other departments and schools that raised more money than me, published in more prestigious journals, won more honors and awards. I would say my package is average, not outstanding by any means, which drives me nuts as a competitive person, but I'm not at a top 20 program, so in my mind you can't really expect me to do much more than I did.

The real time sinks were moving into a new house and vacation travel (not really a vacation since I was mostly visiting family that I haven't seen for a long time). It's hard to get anything done while doing things like that. That's normal and part of life, but as a professor I feel this guilt for having a life. I really need to get over that, it's not like I was even getting paid during those 2 months.

Now the semester is back in full swing and all the stuff I've been putting off for the last few months feels like an overwhelming insurmountable task. Everything is due or overdue, which freezes me up like a deer in headlights. I really need to just start churning through things again and it will all be fine. I've always had this problem though, and that is why I'm writing this post instead of working :P