Category Archives: Career advice

The compensations of academic service

I blogged a while ago about being the reasons people go into academic service, in particular as departmental Chairs*. I suggested that the vast majority of academics don’t take on such a job because they’d always dreamed of doing it, or because it comes with prestige or pay or other perks. Instead, they take on the job because somebody has to do it, and because our whole system of collegial governance would grind to a halt if we all depend on Chairs but nobody is willing to do the job.

That argument might seem to confirm your preconceptions about being Chair. You might think it’s largely a thankless job (and you’d be right). You might think you’d have to deal with some very unpleasant problems (right again). Continue reading


Does an academic need an attention span?

I’m calling my new blog “Scientist Sees Squirrel” in anticipation.  You see, I’m not sure what I’ll be writing about tomorrow, much less next month or next year – but I’m pretty sure that it will resist nice tidy categorization.  I’m interested in insect host-race formation, of course (my research bread-and-butter these days).  But I’m also interested in phylogenetic tree shape, in the evolution of plant tolerance to herbivory, in aggregation and coexistence, and in the ecology of invasions and outbreaks.  More broadly, I’m interested in science as a way of learning (and its use by non-scientists), in the culture and sociology of science and of academia, in science outreach – and increasingly, in scientific writing, including the use of humour and beauty in technical writing.  At least, those are the things I can think of just now.

And that brings me to my topic: these aren’t the same things I would have listed two years ago, or five, or ten.  My career has hopped from research area to research area: Continue reading