Random Thursday Thoughts

-The United NYC Half Marathon course has been updated. No annoying hills in the northern part of Central Park. 

ekemlyxkq4ym6254gjvya5q_thumb_2223

-Did you know that Times Square is closed to normal traffic only two times a year? One for the ball drop. The second for the NYC Half-Marathon. 

-Is it me or are students more aloof and delusional these days?

-Since this polar vortex or whatever it’s called is hitting 2/3rds of the U.S., I was wondering how cold is too cold for running.

-I do not understand when standing in a line with 5+ people why people never have their money, debit, or credit cards ready once they arrive at the cashier. You’ve been in this line for over 15 minutes and the thought of paying never occurred to you?

-iTunes should offer refunds. I purchased Thalia’s latest album. I bought it mainlyyjprvpeyr9k12bgttvgv2bng_thumb_2215 because I follow her on Instagram and constantly hear parts of the first three songs that were released. I purchased the album and was very disappointed. Those are the only good three songs. C’mon, girl. . . do better. 

-Continuing with that story. The BF wanted to rent a movie from iTunes. I straight up told him “Since I wasted money on this damn Thalia album, I am not giving iTunes another red cent over the next 24 hours!!!”

-Yum. The BF made an empanada gallega.

unadjustednonraw_thumb_2230-Fyre Fraud: This meme made my day. 

unadjustednonraw_thumb_2211 

Enough randomness, I gotta put on 80 million layers so I can go to the gym. Right now, my weather app says that it’s 4 fuckin’ degrees . . . Fahrenheit. 

Advertisements

Man, the Entitlement of Some Students

As of Saturday, I have put another semester in the books for my adjunct position, and a few of the students kind of upset me. I do not know about some of the millennials. Actually, you know what? I’m not going to put all of these “kids” into a single, struggling box, because I hate when people use generalizations for me.

For the lab course that I teach, I try to have everything graded by the end of the last class, so the students will know their final grades by the time they leave. Of course many of the students are like “how can I improve my grade?”. Do you give any extra credit?

when-students-ask-for-a-better-grade.png

extra credit

Student A earned a very “strong” grade of 23%. However she had the NERVE to catch an attitude with me, by asking “Well HOW did I get a 23%?” Umm, the student did not turn in 9 out of the 13 assignments and she failed ALL four exams. Also, after each exam, I put both the exam grade and the student’s current grade, just to avoid last day questions about their grade. It’s not like she went from an 80% to a 20%; she has been riding on a low F for a HOT minute.

myhc_10872

Here comes the excuses:

  1. To be perfectly honest, I thought she was absent for those 9 classes, buttumblr_m32a9cr8aq1ql5yr7o1_r1_400 she said that she arrived late. Actually that was some B.S. If a student knows that I call roll at the beginning of every class, then most tardy students would let the professor know that he/she arrived late. Another reason that was B.S., I think that I would have noticed someone wearing a burka.
  2. She had “issues” printing out the assignments. How did she manage to turn in the 4 assignments?
  3. She has “allergies” that prevented her from arriving to class on time. Ok, that still does not explain why the assignment were not turned in. Also, the Spring semester is from January to May. Do people have allergies in cold ass NYC?

The parts that annoyed me. 

professor_wrath.gif

  1. She asked me what she could do to “fix” her grade. Do these students think that I make up their grades? It’s simple arithmetic folks.
  2. (A low key annoyance) All of this going back and forth with her was making me late for a late brunch meeting with my friends.

Just a little background about my class. It’s a section of General Biology 1101. Since many of  our students come academically weak high schools and are not science majors, the class is pretty much taught at a high school level. The class has to turn in 13 homework assignments (worth 5-6 points), take 4 exams (20 points), complete in two lab reports. The homework assignments and exams are 80% of the grade, while the two lab reports make up 20% of it. The homework assignments are based off of the prelab readings, so one could find all of the answers in either the lab manual or from my slides.

Long story long, the only way to fail my course is if you do not do the assignments. Think about it, if one does four assignments perfectly, then that is pretty much equivalent to earning a 100% on a test (four assignments more or less equals one exam).

Ah, the joys of being an educator (BTW, I sill miss the show “Happy Endings”).

4SYc.gif

 

 

 

Life Post: Educational Privilege in and STEM

diversityinstem-leakypipeline credit Fuentek

Credit: Fuentek,com

This will be a random post, because I need a bit of a mental break. Currently, I am scoring folks who are applying to the post-bac program that I direct. In an earlier post (***), I mentioned how tough it is going to be narrowing down the 90+ applications for ~15 interview slots, then for ~6-7 spots in the program.

However, I’m taking a different path for this post. Long story short, I have had it pretty easy in “achieving” my educational and professional goals.

Diversity and access to higher education are common themes that are associated STEM fields (and obviously in other fields/industries). As a minority who has earned his  doctorate, we think that we have broken though all of the barriers to acquire this high terminal degree, once we have “made it”. Maybe that is my ego talking. Often times we think, if I can do it then anyone can. Or, administrators think if this underprivileged minority can do it then anyone from that racial/ethnic background can do the same. After reading these applications, I have been thinking to myself – Holy sh*t, I have had an easy life. To qualify my statement, I have not had to endure half as much sh*t in my life that many of my applicants have had to. Although I did not grow up in the lap of luxury, I never had to worry about when or where my next meal was going to come from. I never had to drop out of school to work in order to support my family. Nor, did I have to juggle 1-2 jobs while maintaining a full load of college courses. I mean, I worked during college, but it was more of a choice. Meaning, if I wanted anything outside of my scholarships or financial aid, I would have to provide it for myself. That said, even if I came across some trouble (or needed some extra financial assistance), I knew that I always could call home for some help (although I was extremely embarrassed to do so). Although there was some physical violence from the hands of my father, my mother and I did not have to bolt in the middle of night to a foreign country not knowing the language or where we were going to sleep.

Reading through the struggles that many of my applicants had to endure, I do not know if I would have had to strength or fortitude to complete an arduous journey of obtaining a Ph.D (or even a bachelor’s degree). However, it is hard to say this, because you never know how you will handle life until you are faced with a particular situation.

In the beginning of graduate school, I kind of felt cheated in a way. Here, I am comingimposter.jpg into a graduate program from a small Historically Black College/University (HBCU) to a place where many of my classmates had extensive educational and research pedigrees. I felt that I still had to work twice as hard to get the same level of respect or acknowledgment as some of my White and Asian classmates – a common theme  associated with “the impostor syndrome.” This was nothing, compared to the amount of hurdles that many of my applicants had to complete.

When we hear about issues surrounding diversity in STEM as well as in other fields, opponents typically will say that the applicants are not fully prepared to pursue degrees in higher education. And to some extent, they are correct. However, it is not an issue of intellect that is holding them back . . . its the issue of opportunity. Although I came from a strictly middle class background, there were a few chances where my life could have taken a hard left.

Luckily for me, I had a strong family system that supported in most of my random endeavors. For example, my mom valued the importance of education, so every summer (for as long as I could remember) she made me do some sort of summer enrichment. There was no sitting around during summer break, eating chips,  and hanging out on the streets. Actually, I was not a hang out on the streets kind of guy during middle and high school. I probably would have been watching TV and playing video games. I was very lucky to have been born into a situation where had the opportunity to participate in enrichment programs; rather than having to get a minimum wage job to help out with my family resources.

Although I have had it easy . . . relative to many of my applicants, I always have involved myself in community outreach for greater access to education inside and outside of STEM. During my tenure as an undergraduate student, a graduate student, and a postdoctoral fellow, I made it a point to participate in volunteer activities that would serve underrepresented populations. Well . . . underrepresentative populations at the high school and collegiate level, I’m not a big fan of the little kiddies 😉 In these experiences, I would see myself as a role model for children and young adults who look like me. But many times, I would see myself as a bit of a hypocrite. I’m trying to promote the need to stay in school, take on extracurricular activities, yadda yadda yadda; meanwhile, I did not have do deal with half of the things that these young adults deal with on a daily basis.

Although we used five different matrices to score the applicants for my program, I am so glad that we do not based our interview invites solely on grade and previous research experiences (although they are important). I happy that we are cognizant of the promise or potential that an applicant may have. Random, it is interesting how we as professionals are beginning to lose the art of writing cover letters. I believe some doctoral programs rank their applicants on their potential, but I know that it is not a major factor. At least in my and other postbac programs, using an applicant’s promise or potentials is a great way for them to get his/her foot in a door to be granted much needed opportunities. A door that may otherwise be inaccessible, shut, or locked when applying to a doctoral program directly from an undergraduate program.

From a scientist to an administrator.

What an interesting road that I have taken from graduate school to now. This entry will be a few of my thoughts (most of them pretty random) about my career path, since I have completed my first month as the director of a post bac program.

Quick summary, if you do not want to read any further. So far, I am loving my job for the following reasons:

  • I think that I am making a direct impact in my “students” lives.
  • It is great learning about vastly different STEM fields; I’m going to have to bone up on my Astrophysics.
  • At the end of the day, I know that I have done something (hopefully positive) that will be recognized in the near future.
  • I always had a feeling that I would end up back in an academic setting.
  • The hours are great. I’ve never had a 9-5/6 job before. In the past, I have posted about working 70-80 hours/week and 6-7 days for crap pay. I would not mind working those hours IF I made a decent chunk of change.
  • I can be home and in my PJs by 7pm.

The alternative career path:

As a graduate student living in a fantasy world, I always thought I would be the principal investigator (PI) in a laboratory that was conducting cutting edge research in oncology. We know that I have deviated from that path … drastically. One “easy” thing about my life was the idea the all of my next steps were planned out, until I finished graduate school. Towards the end of graduate school, I became really unsatisfied with the day-to-day challenges/annoyances of biomedical research. For example, you work on an experiment for 7 days, only to have it fail. However, I continued down this path (because it was the thing to do) and went on to do a five-year postdoctoral fellowship, followed by a brief stint in “Industry”.

I always have been so-so about the research, but I really found a passion for teaching. Even in graduate school, I did not have the INTENSITY for research that so many of my classmates had. So the logical step for me was to find a faculty position that focused more on teaching than on research. Omg, it was damn pretty impossible to find a faculty position, even at the smallest of colleges.  I mean I thought that I was top sh*t:

  • I had a decent publication record from my postdoctoral fellowship. For every year that I was in my fellowship, I published a first-author manuscript, which is no easy feat. Hell, one of my manuscripts was one of the top ten most downloaded manuscripts for the journal, Stem Cells.
  • As an adjunct assistant professor, I had plenty of collegiate teaching experiences.
  • Proofreaders of my application packets said that I had well thought-out teaching and research statements.

All of that and I did not receive any invitations to interview. NOT . . . ONE . . . SINGLE . . . INVITE!!!! It was annoying, because I think about all of the time wasted, which could have been allocated for something more productive, like drinking gin.  At least when you drink booze, you know that you will be drunk (and randomly sing karaoke) eventually.

With those defeats, I regrouped and landed a job (my most recent one) in “Industry”. I honestly did not gain anything from this job, except developing this blog and extra hits on my LinkedIn profile. Intellectually, I was drained. Constant learning was one of the main reasons why I went into biomedical research. In Academia, I  loved being able to attend seminars given by prominent scientists and applying novel findings to my line of work. In my Industry role, I basically did the EXACT experiment everyday. I would go weeks without reading anything in the literature, because I simply did not care. Why think of potential experiments, when you will be told no or the company can afford simple reagents? My previous boss told me that it would be difficult for me in Industry, because it is really hard to have intellectual freedom. I guess this is something that many scientist have to learn from experience.

Also, I worked my butt off at this company and did not receive really much of anything. I did not really learn any new techniques or technologies in this role; however, I did learn how to deal with BS and daily annoyances. *I wonder if dealing with BS and daily annoyances fall under “transferable skills”?* Even upon requesting my vacation payout, it was implied that I was committing wage fraud to accrue extra vacation days. I worked like a slave only to be treated like a thief. As of yesterday, my old boss is going to pay me for my unused vacation days. I guess my time sheets matched the security reports regarding entering and leaving the building

At this company, I became somewhat depressed, which resulted in some weight gain (about 10 or so pounds). It was at this point, when I finally realized that I did not want to do science any longer. I had it! Aside from my postdoctoral fellowship, essentially 1/3rd of my scientific career, I had not gained anything professionally from science. Yes, I earned a doctorate from a decent graduate program, but it seemed like having a Ph.D. was a bit of a detriment for many of the jobs to which I was applying (outside of science). Ok maybe it was not a complete detriment but it may have hurt me a little bit. *I used the word “detriment”, because the time spent in graduate school could have been used transitioning into another field and working my way up. Quite a few of my classmates and friends dropped out of graduate school BEFORE receiving their master’s degree. These friends worked their way up and are doing WAY better and I am, even though I have a damn Ph.D.*

I hated doing science but I loved talking about it (I have a talent for breaking down difficult scientific topics for  general audiences).  It was at this point, that I wanted to be involved in project management – a jump that I knew was going to be tricky. Yes, on paper, I qualified for many jobs but getting your foot in the door is a whole other story.  What did I do? I randomly started to make connections and reaching out to people in similar roles on LinkedIn. Many of the informational interviews were a waste of time. “Waste of time” may be too strong of a sentiment. I am grateful that people took time out of their busy schedules to chat or email with me. It was frustrating that people who were hired with less experience than myself had jobs that I wanted. After contacting a colleague of a colleague (and agreeing to facilitate a workshop for her students), she sent me a random job posting for what would be my current job. The deadline for the job was in three days, and I kind of thought it would be a waste of time because I had been rejected so many times previously.

It worked out (I don’t know how), so I have transitioned from a scientist to an administrator. Oh the funny thing. Within a week of accepting this position, I got invited to THREE interviews for medical writing positions.

Now, a few questions:

  • Will I miss “doing” science?
  • What is the career path for an administrator? One thing that I have learned over the past year is that one always has to think about the next steps. For far too long, I have be too laid back about my professional/career trajectory.
  • Am I good enough for this position?

With all of that said (or written), it does feel a little weird to say “program director” rather than “scientist” or “biomedical researcher” whenever someone asks me about my job. However, it is easier to explain my current job than my various biomedical research endeavors/fiascoes.

Rants and Raves

Rants: Why do people congregate the front of the bus instead of walking toward the back? It gives the impression that there are no seats at the back of the bus.

Another public transportation rant: Why do people try to sneak on the bus without paying the fare and get pissy when the bus driver kick them off?

Rave: I’m so excited for the start of fall TV – Empire, Law and Order SVU, Blackish, (maybe) Star, This is Us, and The Middle. 

Rant: Speaking of fall line ups, what is with the cast of “Dancing with the Stars” (one of my not so secret guilty pleasures? Did ABC use too much money for last year’s cast? From this season, I only recognize the actor from Malcolm in the Middle, Nick Lachey, and Deborah Gibson (or does she go by Debbie, now?). 

I am still a little annoyed that the blonde girl from Glee, who used to be a backup dancer for Beyonce, was on last season’s cast. 

Rave: I’m really enjoying the Ken Burns documentary about the Vietnam War. Actually, “enjoying” may be the wrong word for it. Watching this documentary and witnessing some of the events that are going on in the world today make me think that we really have not learn from our past mistakes. 

Rants: If you are against players in the NFL kneeling, then stop watching the games and more importantly stop bitching about it. Everyone has different ways and reasons for both protesting and showing patriotism to his/her country. I’m just going to leave it at that. 

Rave/Rant: Recently, Gov. Andrew Cuomo introduced a tuition-free college program that should benefit the middle and lower classes in New York. I thought this was a great idea when I read about it back in January. Actually, I think that still is a good idea. One, education is a good thing. Two, college enrollment is up, which means I will get assigned more classes and more classes means more cash for me. However, I have noticed thatITmeme there are a lot more students academically, compared to those from last semester. Last week, I administered my first exam and the scores were very low for both of my sections. The scores were so low that I am going to administer a make-up exam and take the average of the two exams (I rarely do this). I think the average was around a 52 for this exam; whereas, the average was around 69% last semester. I model my exams from the previous semester’s exams, so last week’s exam was not super difficult. Also, I provide a sample exam, which is the exam from the previous semester. I do think that some adjustments may need to be made for this college program. Now, it seems students are going to 2- or 4-year colleges just because they can. My City of New York (CUNY) school is more of a community college type of school, so many of my students are coming from high schools with lower standards for academic achievement. This may lead to even more unprepared students coming into the college, not doing well in their coursework, and then dropping out. The point is to get students into AND have them complete college with a degree. Another thing that may happen is something similar to what is going on in various public school. Administration may start asking educators to skew or inflate grades to keep enrollment up, so schools will receive money from the city and the state. 

Here are a few questions that were missed by many students. Keep in mind that I’m teaching a Biology 101 laboratory course. Honestly, these would be questions asked on a test for students in a 6th grade biology class. 

In the metric system, the _ is the correct unit for volume. 

A) ounce, B) meter, C) liter, D) pint

The _ of a microscope  is used to carry the instrument from point A to point B. 

A) arm, B) diaphragm, C) nosepiece, D) stage

From the acids and bases laboratory exercise, acetic acid [CH3COOH] can best be described as a _. 

A) strong acid, B) weak acid, C) strong base, D) weak base

C’mon! For the last question, two of the answer choices had the word “acid” in the question. 

Rave: Two of my favorite holidays are around the corner. That would be Halloween and Thanksgiving. I like Christmas, but there is too much to do and I do not even have kids. Although I do love watching Christmas movies from my childhood.

282158-Just-Here-Chillin-...waiting-For-Halloween1479341876-q7qdqkg

Rave: Two fun reunions. In October, I will meet some old friends from high school in Philly. They will be going to the Enrique Iglesias and Pitbull concert. I’m still on the fence if I will pay money to see him in concert (I’ll see how much tickets are on Stubhub, closer to the date). It will be nice to hangout because I have not been to Virginia since Thanksgiving. Reunion 2: Three of my classmates from my comparative ecology study abroad program will be visiting New York. It may be nice to hang out . . . IF they keep the kid talk to a minimum.

Balancing Act

A quick freak-out post

As we are approaching the end of August, many fall marathoners (I use that term loosely for myself) are freaking out because our marathons are just around the corner. Since the TCS NYC Marathon is a little over 2 months away, my weekly distance is significantly increasing.

So why the freak-out for me?

The start of the new semester

In addition to being an awesome senior scientist, I also am an adjunct professor of biology at a CUNY school. This semester, I am teaching classes on Saturdays and Sundays, 12-3:00. In previous semesters, I only taught Sunday classes, so I had Saturdays free for long-distance runs. I am not complaining about the extra class, because an extra class means an extra check. For me, it will be tough waking up super early to get these runs out of the way.

Since I am a procrastinator, I have kind of waited until the last moment to start completing my 9+1 races for guaranteed entry into next year’s TCS NYC Marathon. As of now, I have logged in only three out of nine races. Going forward, I will have to balance early morning long runs, races, and teaching on certain weekends. ACK. For example, this weekend, I have the Percy Sutton race in Harlem at 8:30 am. That means:

  • A 5:45-6:00AM wake up call to be on the Subway by 6:45-7:00, at the latest (and hope for no major train delays).
  • Make it to Harlem around 8AM and run the race.
  • Find a Crunch gym to shower and change.
  • Drag my butt to downtown Brooklyn to teach.

I guess it will not be too bad, since I will be out of Harlem by 9 (9:30 tops), because the race is only three miles. However, I am more corned with managing this schedule when I have to run 18+ miles. I guess that I will have do my long runs in Prospect Park and clean up at Crunch gym in Park Slope, since it’s somewhat close to Downtown Brooklyn. One option would be to do my long runs after class, but I highly doubt that I will have the mental fortitude to do a long run in the late afternoon and evening.

One saving grace

I have taught these courses for a few semesters, so I can recycle pretty much all of the previous semesters’ lectures, sample exams, and homework questions. I think that I would have to do some slight updates with the lecture slides. I like to incorporate how certain topics in biology can be applied in everyday life with recent examples, since many of my students are not biology majors (and do not really care about science). Actually, I think that I will make infograph/piktocharts for the lectures. A great example of a biology one, courtesy of the New York Academy of Sciences.

unnamed

Also, I am teaching laboratory courses this semester, so I will not have to be “ON” for a three-hour lecture. I just have to explain the lab setup for 30-40 minutes and make sure that the students will not burn down the building or eat any of the M&M’s for the Chromatography exercise. Before you ask. Yes, I teach grown ups, but some of them act like 6 year-olds.

Here’s to the fall training season and semester. Just, gotta make it to November 5th.