An Academic Christmas Carol: Part 1

By Emily Dolson on December 23, 2014 in Humor, Work/Life Balance / 15 Comments

Recently, I saw a friend’s production of A Christmas Carol. It’s been many years since I last saw the play (and then only the Muppet version!), and a theme jumped out at me that I hadn’t noticed as a child: It’s about work/life balance! Don’t you see it??? No? My boyfriend didn’t either, so I guess I need to prove it. Below, I present “An Academic Christmas Carol.” The original dialog was often so appropriate that I’ve left a lot of it the way it originally appeared (in the now-standard Ferrians and Chapman adaptation), instead changing the context around it to be about academia and open science. Note: This post is broken into seven parts that will appear throughout this week. Enjoy!

Parasites, Complexity, and Evolvability (Oh my!)

By Charles Ofria on December 20, 2014 in News, Research / 1 Comment

My research has long focused on understanding how simple processes can produce the amazing levels of complexity and diversity we see in nature.  This past week, we had a paper appear in PLoS Biology that I am particularly pleased with. In it, we use digital organisms to explore how the interactions between hosts and parasites can promote the evolution of new complex traits, even when those traits would otherwise be costly. Zaman L, Meyer JR, Devangam S, Bryson DM, Lenski RE, and Ofria C (2014) Coevolution Drives the Emergence of Complex Traits and Promotes Evolvability. PLoS Biology 12(12): e1002023. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1002023. Researchers have long understood that coevolution produces rapid evolutionary changes: parasites race to find new mechanisms to infect hosts and in turn those hosts are pressed to keep evolving new defenses, just to survive.  This effect […]

Building an Inclusive Departmental Community {Paper Summary}

By Emily Dolson on December 16, 2014 in Review / 0 Comments

I recently came across a cool paper by Newhall et al (2014) summarizing the (highly successful) efforts of the Swarthmore College Computer Science department to build an inclusive departmental community. Full disclosure: I attended Swarthmore for undergrad, majored in CS, took classes from all of the authors on this paper, worked as a student mentor, and was pulled into the field of computer science as a direct result of the efforts described in this paper. I am not remotely objective. But that’s what the data in the paper are for. At the crux of the Swarthmore CS department’s plan was the student mentor program. Student mentors (colloquially referred to as ninjas) are students selected to provide academic support to students in introductory CS classes. They run multiple evening help sessions each week for their assigned class, ensuring […]

10 Tips to Better Manage Your Time in Academia

By Charles Ofria on December 9, 2014 in Productivity / 3 Comments

As an academic, work comes from many different sources and it’s up to you to keep it all under control. As a grad student, you have your research projects, your classes, obligations to your lab, and the need to balance a personal life. By the time you are a faculty member, you still have research (now guiding numerous projects), classes (now teaching), a research lab (that you’re leading), and a life outside of work (hopefully), but you’re also expected to write grants, serve on a myriad of committees, advise students, write reference letters, and review the work of others (manuscripts, proposals, tenure cases, etc.) Each of these can easily become a full-time job unto itself if you’re not careful. Here are some tricks that work well for me (when I manage to do them):

Finding Your Perfect Interdisciplinary Graduate Program

By Emily Dolson on December 2, 2014 in Graduate School / 0 Comments

Finding the right graduate program is normally a bit of a challenge. However, this challenge can be magnified if you’re looking to go into a field outside of clearly defined disciplinary lines. You may be sure that there are people studying what you’re interested in, but figuring out who they are and what words they’re using to describe their research is often difficult. During the beginning of my senior year of college, I almost gave up on trying to find a place where I could study the combination of things that I wanted to. It felt like I was just pouring in more and more effort without getting any results. Obviously, I ultimately succeeded – the Ofria Lab is a pretty darn good fit for my interests – but only via a combination of brute force […]