Tag Archives: academia

My weirdest job interview – and assumptions from familiarity

Image: Still from “Silly Job Interview”, Monty Pythons’ Flying Circus, Season 1 Episode 5.

Years ago, I went on a really, really weird job interview.  I’ve told the story many times since, but I’ve realized that the way I tell it has shifted.  There’s a moral there, only part of which is that I was dumb.  (Readers of Scientist Sees Squirrel really like stories about how I was dumb, and fortunately, it’s a deep well.)

As a postdoc, back in the mid-1990s, I applied for a lot of jobs (all of them in the university professoriate, at universities with at least some research emphasis).  Most of them, of course, I didn’t getContinue reading


Universities that did not hire me (a chronicle of absolutely normal rejection)

Rejection is normal in academia.

One could take that as depressing, I suppose, but one shouldn’t.  Rejection is normal in most everything; if you go through life without being rejected, you’re definitely not trying hard enough.  But this can be hard to remember, especially when the stakes are high – when you’ve submitted your first paper, or applied for your first job at a university you’d love to join. It’s only human to find such rejections weighing you down (and perhaps confirming your imposter syndrome).  One way to lessen the impact is surely to see your own rejections in the context of other peoples’ – and that’s the idea behind the “shadow CV” or “anti-CV”.  (Here’s Jacquelyn Gill explaining the same idea, but better.)*

I don’t have a complete shadow CV, because I haven’t kept track of every time I’d had a paper or a grant rejected.  But I was sifting through a filing cabinet and discovered that I do have a pretty-much complete list of the (academic) jobs I’ve been rejected from.  Continue reading

Out-of-touch administrators – and their mirror images

I just finished serving on a Vice Presidential search committee. I think we made a great choice (time will tell, of course).  It was obvious, though, that many of my colleagues could never be satisfied because they’re deeply and irredeemably suspicious of anyone willing to take on an administrative job.

One of the most frequent complaints I hear is that administrators are “out of touch” with the faculty and with their roots in academia. Continue reading

Two ways I flubbed my first job interview

Academic jobs are hard to get (there’s an understatement), and as a result, nearly everyone has a tale to tell of failure on the academic job market. I have plenty of those tales – but today, I’ll tell just one. It’s the story of the first (academic) job interview I ever had, and how I found two different ways not to get the job. Continue reading

Why do senior academics ramble on?

Last month I was at the annual conference of the Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution. It was a great meeting, as usual, and contributing to that were a whole lot of great talks.

I’ve seen a lot of conference talks over the years, and I’ve noticed a pattern: surprisingly often, grad students finish early, while senior scientists run long*. What I realized this year is that I’ve become part of that pattern: this year, like the last couple, my talks have run longer than planned (see the nifty little figure above). Nobody had to haul me away from the podium; but my talk, which ran a nice tidy 12 minutes in practice, was 14 minutes delivered (using up most of my 3 minutes for questions). As a grad student, I often had a couple of extra minutes to spare. So why is this? Continue reading

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

Why grant funding should be spread thinly: some followup

Last month I posted “Why grant funding should be spread thinly”.  In a nutshell, I provided a simple mathematical model that I think supports the argument for an agency’s awarding many smaller grants rather than just a few very large ones. The discussion in the Comments section of that post was lively, no doubt because as scientist we’re heavily invested in the way society supports, or doesn’t support, our work. Our grants give us the tools we need to do the science we’re passionate about, and that passion comes out when we talk about granting policy.

My earlier post left some loose ends. Continue reading