An Academic Christmas Carol: Part 7

Posted December 29, 2014 by Emily Dolson in Humor, Work/Life Balance / 1 Comment

Missed the beginning? Parts 1, 23, 4, 5, and 6.

Part 7

Scrooge awoke with a start. He was in his own bed. And seemingly alive! What a relief! He bounced out of bed and ran to his window. Looking down, he saw a student walking by on the street outside and called down to her “You there! What day is it?”

“It’s Christmas day, sir!” the student called back, looking a bit perplexed.

“Excellent! And a very merry Christmas to you!” Scrooge shouted in reply. The spirits had done it all in one night! It wasn’t too late! Dressing quickly, Scrooge raced downstairs and out into the main town. His first stop was the bakery. He ordered an enormous chocolate fudge cake to be delivered to the Cratchit house.

As he was leaving the bakery, Scrooge happened to run into none other than Professors Howell and Jeeves, who had been asking him about helping with outreach just the day before. “My dear colleagues! I hope you had good luck, yesterday, finding people to help with your outreach event?” Howell and Jeeves exchanged raised eyebrows. Scrooge went on, “I owe you an apology for my behavior then, and on many occasions before. I hope you will still allow me to help?”

“Of course!” said Professor Jeeves.

“Good! Come and see me sometime. I am much obliged to you both. I thank you 50 times! Merry Christmas!” Scrooge was overflowing with excitement. He bounded along the street to Fred Hollowell’s house and knocked on the door. Fred and Janus opened it, staring in bewilderment when they saw Scrooge on the other side. “I recall an invitation you made to me yesterday, to come and dine with you. If that invitation is still in force, I should like to accept.”

Fred looked uncertainly at Janet and then back at Scrooge. “Why, I don’t know what to say….”

“Well,” said Scrooge, “you could say bah-humbug—a retort I heartily repent of and shall never use again—or, you could say, Come in!”

“Of course!” cried Fred, “Come in! This is my wife, Janet. We’re ever so happy that you’re finally joining us!”

“So am I, Fred,” said Scrooge, exchanging hugs with Fred and Janet, “So am I.”

The next day, Cratchit arrived at the lab slightly after 8 AM. “What do you mean by coming here at this time of day?” bellowed Scrooge?

Cratchit looked terrified. “I am very sorry, sir. I am behind my time…”

“Surely your children have the rest of the week of from school… you should be spending the morning with them! And you know what else is entirely unreasonable? Your stipend. How do you support your whole family off of it? I’m going to talk to my department chair about getting you better pay. Or at least better health-care coverage, particularly for dependents – I will see that you have the means to make Tiny Tim walk again!” As Scrooge was saying all of this, Cratchit’s face transitioned from concern to suspicion, to unfettered joy.

“But that’s still not enough,” Scrooge continued, “I know that a big part of the reason you got into this field of research in the first place was that it might help Tiny Tim. So we’re going to do everything in our power to have a tangible impact on the state of the art. Starting with uploading that paper to arXiv like you’ve been pestering me to – goodness knows it has more chance of doing good there than while it’s sitting in review for months.” And so they did.

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more. His lab became a place where people gathered to discuss interesting things. It was the fulcrum of collaboration on Tiny Tim’s condition. People freely shared data and ideas until, one day, they indeed found a cure and published a highly cited paper in PLoS Biology. And to Tiny Tim, who did NOT die, Scrooge was a second father. He became as good a colleague, as good an advisor, and as good a person, as the good old university knew. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed…

Happy holidays, everyone!

The End

Emily Dolson

I’m a doctoral student in the Ofria Lab at Michigan State University, the BEACON Center for Evolution in Action, and the departments of Computer Science and Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, & Behavior. My interests include studying eco-evolutionary dynamics via digital evolution and using evolutionary computation techniques to interpret time series data. I also have a cross-cutting interest in diversity in both biological and computational systems. In my spare time, I enjoy playing board games and the tin whistle.

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