Have an ‘effective’ summer!

With any luck, by now your exams are long since marked and your grades are all submitted.  My guess is that you’ve spent the last two weeks catching your breath after the eight months of insanity that typically accompanies the fall and winter teaching terms.  And no doubt as summer approaches, you’ll be hearing this question from all of your family and friends, “So, are you off for the summer now?”

Probably that question irks you as much as it does me – since summer typically means just dropping down to a 40 hour work week (and that actually feels like a rest!)  Here’s a much more relevant question about your summer – one you should be asking yourself actually, “How can I use the summer months most effectively?” Continue reading

Chasing the rabbit – how much is enough?

Treadmill_womanA question that frequently haunted me when I was a new professor was, “How much is enough?”  More specifically it was a series of questions,

“How much research money is enough?”

“How many graduate students are enough?”

How many evenings and weekends of work are enough?”

And the biggie…

“How many journal papers per year are enough?” Continue reading

Teaching Tips for the Absolute Beginner

Most PhD students get the opportunity to be a teaching assistant; some even get the opportunity to instruct labs, lead tutorials, or even give the occasional lecture.  However, it seems that few get the opportunity to be responsible for planning and delivering an entire course until they actually become a professor. In addition, many universities require no formalized educational training of their new professors.  Once you’ve got that PhD in molecular biology or in mechanical engineering, it seems you’ve got all the necessary qualifications for teaching students at the highest educational levels: in university undergraduate and graduate programs.

Many universities, including my own, offer a wide variety of training opportunities for new professors.  (Some of the older professors would benefit from these, as well! 🙂 )  If you’ve had no formal training on how to teach, I strongly encourage you to take advantage of these as soon as possible.  I know you’re busy, but I promise you that making time for some of these will really be worthwhile.  I’ll also try to help – in fact, teaching will be a recurring topic on this blog since ‘How to be an Effective Instructor’ is certainly not something I can cover in one post.  Not that I am necessarily an expert myself – but after 20+ years of doing it, I do have a few ideas that I hope you’ll find useful. Continue reading