Sunday, June 21, 2009

All three

I was talking with an older professor the other day about I'm concerned for my student's lack of data. Not entirely true - lack of extremely compelling/exciting/novel data. But I'm getting off track.

Anyway, he said that it is very rare to have all three: students, money and data. He said that usually it took two out of the three to get the third, and by the time you were close to getting the third, one of the other two was vanishing (ie, in my case, the student was graduating or the money was running out). He mentioned this was the most common reason that profs ended up keeping students longer than necessary or paid them far to low...

This made me start thinking back over my graduate career - evaluate a couple cases, and I realized he was completely correct.

However, this didn't really make me feel any better about my current situation. Basically, my only option to get data is to hire more students than I have funding for, essentially unbalance the students/money/data ratio.

I'm not very happy about this. It seems very irresponsible.

I'm going to try an experiment - supplement with undergrads. This may work or be an utter and complete failure. Undergrads do distract the graduate students from performing at 100%. But, managed properly, an undergrad can produce quality results. It really depends on the graduate student (and the undergraduate).

Thursday, June 4, 2009

3rd year review

The third year review. Whose crappy idea was this. It seems like a good concept. The asst prof gets feedback in an official sort of way - a mock 6th yr review. Like a practice thesis defense.

Except it really isn't.

I have to prepare my "packet" for my third yr review at the end of my second yr. If I was a theorist or someone who did simulations, maybe this would be okay - maybe I would have a paper in review right now. Maybe my students would have produced something novel worth submitting to a decent journal.

I'm an experimentalist. I work with theorists AFTER I (or my grad students) have data. Which means I (my grad students) have to have a working experiment or at least have preliminary data before we could even consider doing some kind of "quick and dirty" theory thing. This means that I have to have grad students who are completely functional. And experiments take time. Some never work.

I could be one of those asst profs who just shoves the grad students out of the way, takes the data, writes the paper, and leaves the students completely clueless about a paper that has their name as the first author. I refuse to take this tactic.

My students will understand every aspect of their PhD research. However, this takes time. There is a ramp-up period. I understand this. I will not be a bad advisor and inflict permanent mental trauma on my students simply to appease some completely asinine rule.

I spoke with my mentor about this. His response was that he got tenure with no published papers or awarded grants. That would not happen now, so it really was a pointless conversation.

Maybe, someday, this will change to a 4th or 5th year review which would really be better for everyone involved. I mean, I didn't practice my thesis defense or my job talk in my first year of grad school...