Random Thursday Rant

Ok, I do not know if this is a millennial thing or an “I’m getting old thing.” Well . . . technically, I am a millennial, but I think folks of my age are Xenials (analog childhood; digital adulthood) or some crap like that. Speaking of age. I’m gonna be 40 in 13 months. EEKK!

As some may know, I direct an academic STEM program at a major university. Like most scholastic programs, we get more applicants than available slots. Btw, I hate sending rejection letters to candidates. Honestly, I wish that I could accept all of them. After sending a few rounds of rejection letters, I received very intense emails from applicants who were not accepted into the program. Here is a summary of some of the things people wrote in response to their “rejection” letters. Btw, I hate using the word “rejection” for these types of things. 

  • I need to discuss my application with you ASAP. I’m busy. 
  • I would like to know your appeal process. I don’t think there is one.
  • Is there someone above you to whom I can speak regarding my application? Zeus
  • I will do any and everything to get accepted into your program. I don’t know if that is possible at this point in time. 

First of all, don’t be giving me any damn commands. That’s NOT what we’re going to do. 

Hank Hill

In all seriousness, I know that we try to instill confidence in the youth by telling them not to take no for answer, but that should be to a certain point. Do not get me wrong, many rejected applicants responded with very professional emails asking how they could improve their applications or what else can they do to prepare for graduate school. If the rejected applicants choose to, I typically schedule 15-min video calls to provide feedback about their applications. I do not have to do this, but I know what it’s like to apply for something, not get it, and wonder why.

Another thing that I have noticed is just general laziness. Before our application season officially opens, many potential applicants want to meet or talk over the phone to discuss the program and how to submit a good application, which is totally fine. However, I think some folks do it just to get some facetime as a means get a favorable review (as they probably were told to do). Ok, that is fine. But, so many of the potential applicants set up meetings to ask me questions that are answered on the program’s website. Honestly, one potential candidate asked me what STEM means. FYI, STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. How does one apply to a STEM program and not know what STEM means? Maybe the applicant was nervous. 

That’s my quick long rant for the day. 

 

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Random Thursday

  • San Antonio is a lovely city.
  • The Alamo at night
    • I really enjoy the face-to-face experience involved with recruitment and mentoring young scientists.
    • I kinda want a martini.
    • I also kinda want a nap. I guess hanging till 2:00 am after a cross country airplane trip and having to wake up at 6:30 am wasn’t a good idea.
    • I can’t believe that I went to a bar called Cowabunga.
    • You know that you are in Texas when your uber driver picks you up in a pickup truck.
    • Doesn’t this cake look nasty ass hell. Also, it did not help that there were at least six flies in the display. img_2915
  • I guess Iberia Air thinks that I’m German.
  • 38 for 38 (Part 1 of 4)

    I meant to post this a fee weeks ago, for my bday (June 25th, in case you were wondering).

    Since I have a little less than week left as a 37 year old, I want to make a bday resolution. Actually, I want to make 38 bday resolutions. Random fact did you know that I share a birthday with George Micheal (RIP) and Anthony Bourdain (RIP)? Damn, that’s a macabre way to begin a post.

    I realize that I would have to break this up into a few parts, since I have some many years under my belt.

    Here we go in no particular order.

    1. Go on a day hiking trip or two.
    2. Quit smoking. Depending where I buy my smokes I spend somewhere between $2,500 and $4,700 a year on cigarettes. In NYC cigarettes range from $8 to $15 a back, depending on which bodega sells illegal cigs. However, I’m going to say most places sell them around the 13 dollar range. I wonder if the folks at coke a cola can produce a tobacco-flavored diet coke?
    3. Network, network, network. Whenever I get a job, I become complacent and forget to network with other professionals in the industry. At a career talk, a presenter once said if you were to be laid off tomorrow, you should know at least four people who could get you an interview within a week’s time.
    4. Try a new sport.
    5. Really get on top of my finances, and pay off my debt. Hopefully, I will be able to pay off my mother’s mortgage in a few months and that should free up $1200 a month.
    6. Learn (and actively use) a new computing software.
    7. Read more scientific articles and attend more scientific lectures. Although I’m an administrator, I kinda miss reading about the latest finding in immuno-oncology. I cannot waste all those years obtaining a Ph.D.
    8. Volunteer more. Since high school up until my last job, I’ve always had been a part of some volunteer organization. I really would like to give back more.
    9. Visit more museums, because sometimes I really take for granted living in NYC.
    10. Explore more of Harlem’s culture and history (you know, pre gentrification).
    11. Get more involved with local politics.
    12. Buy a new damn tooth.

    Slight Summer Depression

    In lieu of a training update, I guess that I will write a bit about my slight depression in a couple of paragraphs.

    I really do not know if it is the slight summer heat wave that NYC is experiencing or my dumb allergies, but I have been in a lull for the past couple of weeks. Usually, I experience a post-vacation lull, but that usually lasts a couple of days, once I reacclimate to my normal life. For example, besides doing the bare minimum (which is a lot) in life, I really have not been involved with anything outside of going to work and watching TV/viewing Youtube clips/paying dumb games on my phone at home. Last week, I did not do any physical activity, which means that I have pushed back my marathon training an entire week. *I plan to start again today*.

    Perhaps, I can do some of these remedies from I fucking love science‘s Facebook page.

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    The annoying thing, regarding this lull, is I do not think that it is just running. I think that it is a combination pretty much everything:

    • Personal/family issues – Nothing super serious, but a few annoyances.
    • Professional life – Since I left the academic biomedical research world, I never feel that I’m performing the to the best of my ability. Like I do not feel there is a true metric to measure success. Maybe there is one, but I’m super oblivious too it. For example in biomedical research, you knew that you were progressing (for the most part) when you experiments worked and when you are publishing manuscripts and writing grants.
    • Health/fitness – I am not a huge (no pun intended) of how I look. I’m kind of over this chubby/muscular look (although I’m leaning more on the chubby side). At least this issue is easier to modify than the other two.
    • This heat wave – Nothing I can do about this, but complain about the heat. And, maybe buy an air conditioning unit.
    • General progress – I know that I should not do this life comparison thing and I tell my students the same thing. Lately, I have been feeling that everyone around me is progressing (job promotions, buying houses, crapping out kids, adopting dogs, etc.) at a faster rate that I am. Most of this feeling is based on what I read and see on Facebook. I know that this is a bad scale to measure anything, because people rarely post bad things that happen to them on Facebook (except for me, I guess). I think that it always seems easier when other folks accomplish things. You know, it’s similar to the Iceberg Illusion.

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    Ok,  enough rambling, because that does not accomplish anything. In my scientific past life, I have really promoted following an Individual Development Plan (IDP), but I think that I need to apply an IDP to some of the things that I mentioned above.

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    Courtesy of Learning Tree International

    Starting this week, I’m really going to start assessing myself and developing a 3-, 6-, 12-, 24-month plan.

    Well, Mondays are supposed to be training updates/goals.

    Goal of the week:

    Jump back on the marathon training bandwagon. Of course, I will have to modify my plan a bit since I have not done crap for the past two weeks.

    • Monday: 3 mi easy
    • Tuesday 6 mi pace run (I think that I still can run a 9:00 min/mi pace.
    • Wednesday: Rest or X-train . . . I’ll probably rest
    • Thursday: Intervals; I probably will do 3-4 miles of Yasso 800 meter intervals.
    • Friday: X-train or rest
    • Saturday: 6 mile “long” run, if I have the power/energy, I may up it to 9 miles. I did a  6 mile “long” run during the first week of training and I felt like I could have added another 2 miles to the run.

    How do you get over the feeling that everyone in your age group is surpassing you personally or professionally?

    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?

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    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.

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    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. 

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    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”).

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    Random Thoughts Thursdays

    -How does one get into voice-over work. For as long as I can remember, many people (upon first meeting  me) have asked me if I’m a singer or if I do voice-over work. I do not know if it is because of my nerdy, deep, baritone voice. At a party two days ago someone asked me about it. Anywho, one of my side projects will be researching this type of work. Hey, this could be a future side hustle.

    -Now that I have binged watched all four season of “How to get away with murder” in week, I need a new show to watch.

    tumblr_njdq4lchIY1u0zx0ho1_400

    Is there an acronym, similar to FOMO, for the sad, depressed feeling that you have when you have to wait for the next season of a show?

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    -I kind of miss doing science . . . just a little.

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    -I’m so excited for our upcoming vacation to Cancun; however, I’m not too happy that my body is nowhere near beach ready. Although, I only have myself to blame. Maybe I can get some quick liposuction before June 18th.

    -Could someone let me borrow his/her HBO Go login credentials? 😉 Fahrenheit 451 was one of my favorite books in high school..

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    -Speaking of the party earlier this week, this is the best hangover remedy.

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    -My first race since Dec.31st (well, technically Jan. 1st) is this Sunday. I have missed racing; perhaps, this will give me the kick in the pants to start committing to a decent running plan.

    What random thoughts are running through your head today?

    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.