Oh, that’s right! I have a blog! August 29, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in family, grad school, older son, personal, work, younger son.
Tags: dissertation, older son, school, work, younger son
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Summer, at least the social construct of summer, officially comes to a close this weekend for most people. The younger son has been in school for a week, and I’m scratching my head, wondering where the time went. It was the summer of “the best laid plans of mice and men,” if you get my drift.
I did accomplish a lot at work. However, shifting deadlines there required I push off other stuff. In response to that, I decided to take some time off and get caught up on some of those other things, which will be easier now that the younger offspring is busy plodding through the halls of a reputable educational institution rather than ones created in Minecraft. I have a couple weeks of crunching numbers at home before going back to work to do it.
The other thing that will help is that the older offspring has decided that his odd work schedule really isn’t doable, despite a serious effort on his part. I am relieved because I seem to be getting more sleep again, which has made me a saner, kinder, and more productive human being. Also, I appreciate being able to form a coherent sentence…
I hate to say it, but I’m glad school has started again. I usually love summer, but I’m very glad to have a routine and time to work on my own stuff back.
How was your summer?
Rapid reviewing August 12, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, papers, research, work.
Tags: papers, peer review, reviewer comments, sleep
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I was on a trip this weekend and forgot that I had agreed to review a conference paper. Not a problem, though, because once I got the reminder, I figured I’d still have plenty of time. Except there was a problem: when I got home from my trip, I realized that the review was due at 1 a.m. that morning and not midnight of the next night: it was due 23 hours sooner than I had expected. I realized this about 2 hours before the review was due.
I am a slow reader, so this immediately put me into panic mode, but rather than wait until morning and send it in late, I decided to see if I could at least get something in before the deadline.
Despite it being a bit stressful, I actually managed to read through the whole thing and get a decent review written up. In fact, when I looked at it the next morning, I was rather shocked at how long the review was. I did realize later that there is one minor point I missed, but I think that, overall, I caught some important errors and that my assessment overall wouldn’t have changed.
I have to admit that this was also made easier by the fact that the paper was reasonably well-written. Reviewing papers and grading have one thing in common: the worse the submission, the longer it takes to review.
Not that I plan to leave all my reviews for the last minute, but it’s a good thing I realized I can do this in less time: two more review requests showed up this morning.
“I’m busy” is a euphemism July 22, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in education, family, grad school, personal, work.
Tags: children, dissertation, family, part-time, schedule, work, work-life balance
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I’ve read a couple articles about how we all get caught up in being so busy. A lot of them talk about how we need to escape the busyness spiral. Xykademiqz expressed frustration with people who are always busy.
I guess I’m coming at it from a different angle.
I’ve come to realize that the phrase “I’m busy” is just a polite way of saying, “My priorities are different from yours.” That is, the requested action is more important to the person asking than the person who is supposed to perform the action. Particularly relevant to my personal situation, it’s also a way to avoid saying, “I need time to work on my thesis.”
Because I’m starting to find that pretty much nobody cares if you need time to work on that.
“Aren’t you done with that yet?”
“You sure have a lot of time off.”
“I’m sure you can do that some other time.”
“Can’t you put it off for just one day?”
Except I’ve been asked to put it off more days than I even have available to push it off from. As much as I hate telling people I’m busy, I hate even more that people won’t respect my schedule. Part of the issue is that I am technically only part time at my job. If you’ve ever had to work part time at a job without a very explicit schedule, you can forget that. People want things done on their schedule, and when you’re gone you’re taking “time off.” Apparently raising two kids and a PhD is “time off.” I’m jealous of those people who actually get to take vacations on their time off.
A lot of times the outright rejection of working on a dissertation isn’t verbalized. Kids, in particular, really don’t get that you have other things to do besides take care of their needs night and day. Not that I can blame them as I sure wouldn’t mind if my mom showed up to clean my house once in a while. (I know, Mom…you’re busy, too.)
Admittedly, doing all of this is a choice. It’s just unfortunate that a lot of people don’t respect that choice. It’s particularly frustrating when people want you to do things that they’re capable of doing but are “too busy” to do themselves. It seems that rather than get into a verbal sparring match with them about how they disagree with my priorities, it’s just easier to say, “I’m busy.”
Doing the victory dance…on my own July 14, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, research, work.
Tags: introvert, stress, success, widget, work
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Over the past couple months, I’ve been putting insane amounts of time into a project in preparation for some field testing. Once the widget was deployed, I was fully expecting to feel this great sense of accomplishment. In particular, this was something that some people were skeptical would work, so getting working widgets out for use is a big deal. Even some people who advocated for the widget were probably not expecting I’d be able to get it to work as they seemed surprised when I informed them I had finished.
One would think I’d be overjoyed. I should be waiting for people to pat me on the back. I should be intensely satisfied that I can tell the doubters, “Told you so!” I should feel vindicated and totally kick-ass.
Except, I don’t really feel that way. I just feel a huge sense of relief that the crunch in over and maybe I can actually sit and focus on finishing the never-ending dissertation (aren’t they all?) for a while. I can disappear for a few days and not have constant distraction. I don’t have to field questions and phone calls and emails even in my off time.
It’s not that I even want to go on a vacation or do something like that. I’m okay with working…I just don’t want it to be around other people.
This, friends, is success for an introvert: being left alone for a while. But I’m dancing on the inside.
I smell a (lab) rat June 25, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, research, work.
Tags: engineering, hardware, lab coats, lab work, simulations, troubleshooting
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There are times in one’s life when we have to reinvent ourselves. This has been one of those times for me.
I’m turning into a lab rat.
I’m much more comfortable in front of a computer, designing simulations. I vastly prefer debugging programs to troubleshooting hardware.
ESD jackets look fugly on me. (Okay…I know they aren’t flattering on anyone, but it’s yet one more annoyance with the whole ‘working in the lab’ thing.)
I hate taking data.
However, whether I like it or not, I’ve been stuck in the lab for the better part of a month. My student left a month ago, and that leaves me to do a lot of the testing and troubleshooting on the latest project. I had hoped she’d be here through the end of the month, but she decided a post-graduation job was more important. (I can’t say I blame her.)
I really miss running simulations.
It’s not a lab coat June 16, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, research, work.
Tags: Bobbsey Twins, clothes, ESD, pauli effect, smock, work, zap
I’ve been doing some work in the lab, and after I fried something, decided I needed to be a bit more careful. So out come the blue smocks.
Of course, some people prefer to call them ESD jackets. I’m one of them, but I absent-mindedly revert to ‘smock’ when I’m not thinking. I prefer to call them jackets because ‘smock’ evokes images of an granny in a ruffly apron who speaks in a high, squeaky voice (almost as annoying as Karen from Will and Grace).
Come to think of it, they’re about as flattering…
My coworker had a pretty good description: he said we looked like the Bobbsey Twins. I’d never heard of them, but after seeing this, I think he’s right:
That’s approximately the correct shade of blue for an ESD smock. However, I wish my ESD jacket had a ruffled collar. Or that it was actually purple.
Reviewers say the darndest things June 11, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in career, engineering, research, work.
Tags: proposals, reviewer comments
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I’m not sure what happened this year, but as the feedback from this past fall’s proposals have come in, I’ve been a bit flabbergasted. It seemed like last year, the feedback was a lot better. There were a lot of suggestions for improvement.
This year’s comments were…stupid. There was nothing constructive about it. There was nothing that could be used as suggestions for improvement.
Aside from the commentary I mentioned yesterday about my marital status, there were lots of other fun oddities to pick on.
I think the first thing that was frustrating were the contradictory comments. Reviews like “excellent detail” coming alongside “too technical.” Some of that is to be expected.
What I wasn’t expecting was a resubmission from the previous year having stellar reviews in comparison with the first year (totally nailed the broader outcomes, which were cited as rather weak the previous year)…yet the ratings didn’t change at all. Huh?
Next there was the reviewer who obviously pasted some of his/her review from another proposal into our review. Ironically, I think this reviewer also commented on formatting issues in the proposal. (I apparently didn’t notice that Word puked on a reference.)
Then there was the reviewer who cited some ‘scientifically based’ concerns about a chemical that we were using. There were supposedly health issues associated with use of this chemical…which had nothing to do with what we were doing. Worse yet, he was completely wrong. One only need to look at the CDC website to find toxicity info saying that the claims the reviewer were saying had been “well established for a decade” had never been proven and were probably related to something else.
Finally, I’m really beginning to wonder how many reviewers actually read the proposal at all. When you’re inundated with questions that were clearly addressed in the proposal (including the above mentioned toxicity issue), you gotta wonder how effective the skimming really is.
Maybe divorce is the answer… June 10, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in career, engineering, family, feminism, research, science, societal commentary, work.
Tags: feminism, hyphenated names, marriage, names, proposals, reviewer comments, sexism, stupid
I think I am going to change my name. It’s very annoying.
My last name, anyway.
If I had it to do over again, the one thing I would’ve done when getting married is to keep my maiden name. Hyphenation was not the best idea by a long shot.
This has been an issue (a lot) because I worked with my husband for so long. I suspect it will die off as we are no longer coworkers. However, one of the most bizarre things that has come up is that I recently received some reviews of a proposal that we wrote before he changed jobs. One of the reviewers noted that as a co-PI, I had the same last name as the PI and so a conflict of interest was a possibility.
My university has a clear and very detailed conflict of interest policy, and I’m not clear how this applies. As far as I can tell, this has nothing to do with conflict of interest as these policies are almost exclusively focused on outside financial obligations. I checked with the funding agency, and that was all they had listed for conflict of interest, as well.
If he were supervising me or vice-versa (that is, one of us was a subordinate), such a scenario would violate internal policies to the university. However, even if he is PI and I’m a co-PI, we both reported to someone else. Further, a PI isn’t necessarily a supervisory role. Do faculty members who collaborate on research supervise each other or collaborate? (My experience says there are very few faculty who view their role as co-PI is that of being supervised by the PI.)
In any case, it’s a completely ridiculous comment to make on a proposal review because we could have been two completely unrelated colleagues who happen to have the same last name. I can think about some of the areas of research I do, and I know of several groups of researchers, particularly in Asia, where many members of the team do have the same last name. I never once jumped to the conclusion that there was a problem with this.
Of course, it’s obviously my fault for the name, so I should probably fix it. Do you suppose it’s cheaper to go through the legal name-change process or to just divorce and quickly get remarried?
When is it plagiarism? June 6, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, papers, research, work.
Tags: engineering, IEEE, journals, papers, peer review, plagiarism, reviewer comments
When I sit down to write a paper, I usually try to start from scratch. I type up an outline and try to fill it in, and then I begin work on all the different parts of the paper. While it has been tempting to reuse sections of previous papers, particularly the introductory material, I try not to do that. If you work in a specialized field, people are going to notice that they’re reading the same thing over. My writing may be fine, but after the 3rd or 4th time, it’s going to bore even me.
The issue came to the fore as I’ve been reviewing papers for a conference. While it’s not one I think I will be able to go to (it’s usually in Asia), I have reviewed for this conference the past couple years and really get some interesting things to examine. However, this year, all of the papers I reviewed has issues with self-plagiarism: that is, they copied verbatim materials from their own previous papers. Many of the papers I review are now being checked automatically for similarity to other papers, and while the process is supposed to be double-blind (that is, they don’t know I’m reviewing their paper, and I’m not supposed to know that I reviewed theirs), it makes it very easy to figure out who wrote the paper I’m reviewing: it’s the one with huge tracts of text that are identical but never referenced.
As I mentioned, I try to write papers from scratch, but I started to wonder if this was an ethical issue. After all, if I wrote a paper, shouldn’t I be allowed to copy it? It turns out that it’s not a good idea. In particular, most of the papers I’m dealing with will fall under IEEE copyright rules (that is, the authors transfer over copyright of their written materials should the IEEE publish those materials). Therefore, if you wrote the paper and it was published by IEEE, it’s simply not a matter of copying your own writing but plagiarism of IEEE materials. In fact, the IEEE communications society has an explicit policy that says,
IEEE Publications has long maintained the policy that verbatim copying of another’s work (plagiarism) is unacceptable author conduct.
The Communications Society values the intellectual contributions of its authors, and vigorously enforces the IEEE policy on plagiarism. As IEEE modifies its publication policies, it is important that authors who submit their work to ComSoc journals and magazines are informed of these changes.
In November 2002, the IEEE Board of Directors approved a new policy on Duplicate Publication and Self-Plagiarism. This policy is found in the IEEE Policies document, Sections 6.4.1B(f) and 6.4.1B(h). These two sections are given below.
(f) Plagiarism is unacceptable. The verbatim copying or reuse of one’s own research (as indicated in paragraph “h” below) is considered another form of plagiarism or self-plagiarism; it is unacceptable.
(h) Except as indicated in Section 6.3.4 (Multiple Publication of Original Technical Material in IEEE Periodicals), authors should only submit original work that has neither appeared elsewhere for publication, nor which is under review for another referred publication. If authors have used their own previously published work(s) as a basis for a new submission, they are required to cite the previous work(s) and very briefly indicate how the new submission offers substantial novel contributions beyond those of the previously published work(s).
I know people who do this regularly. All you have to do is read enough of their papers, and it becomes obvious that the intro section is commonly recycled by several authors. I really don’t like the practice because it also drives up index values for papers that are simply examples of related work while not being foundational. On the other hand, it is a pain to rewrite those sections every time.
I’m very glad the Com Soc is being very explicit about their policy. However, other places are not as explicit, and this is honestly something that no one has ever mentioned to me. It’s something I would like to see delineated more clearly by all publications as I think it would draw more attention to using ethical practices in paper writing and submission.
When reviewing, I can’t be certain that the person writing the paper is aware of the policies on self-citation, if there even is one for a given organization or venue, so I generally mention that it’s a good idea to change the text. I’m always curious what the editors/session chairs do with this feedback, though. Do they take it seriously? Finally, it reinforces to me that it’s never a good idea to reuse previous writing unless it’s properly attributed, even if it is my own.
Check, please! May 6, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in work.
Tags: advising, students, ticks, work
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Today I had one of the more bizarre experiences that I’ve had at work. It’s not that the experience is bizarre, but having it at work is.
I was chatting with my student when she off-handedly mentioned to me that she’d felt a tickling on her skin and found a spider crawling on her. In fact, she said, it’s still there on the ground.
I looked…very closely. It wasn’t a spider. It was worse.
It was a very sizable wood tick.
My student is from Malaysia and, in her four years here, had apparently never encountered a tick. I, on the other hand, have had more experience with ticks than I really care to have had. Of course, any experience with a tick is more than I really care to have.
I grabbed a piece of scotch tape, grabbed the tick, wrapped it up and threw it in the garbage. Tape is awesome for immobilizing ticks. Then I proceeded to explain that ticks are blood-sucking parasites that burrow into your skin. She mentioned that she keeps her apartment very clean, so I had to explain that it likely was a hitchhiker who grabbed onto her as she was walking past a bush or tall grass. After recalling several other horrible facts about them and explaining the proper way to remove them, I suggested that she have a roommate check her over, especially her hair.
I think I must’ve made her really panicked.
“Would you check my hair?”
You really can’t say no in a situation like this. You certainly can’t say something like, “I’m sorry, but professional etiquette makes it impossible for me to make you feel better now that I’ve scared the crap out of you.” I was amused, though, because the previous students I’ve worked with were all male. I could easily see them saying something like, “That’s okay. I’ll go home and die from lyme disease,” before they’d ask me to do a hair check on them. Unless, of course, we’d been on a geology field trip together.
I spent the next twenty minutes sifting through her hair, which was incredibly thick and ebony in color. It occurred to me at this point that blonde Scandinavians have a distinct survival advantage in this type of situation given a dark tick will stick out like a sore thumb. On this particular student, you could’ve hidden a whole nest of them and it would be hard to find a single one because they would’ve blended in so well.
The good news is that she didn’t appear to have any other unwelcome friends. And the good news for me is that no one walked in and made me explain something that I’m sure would’ve looked very odd in an electronics lab.