I have been thinking of the many mentoring opportunities that conferences offer. It is usually not the typical long-term mentoring that students look for from their advisors, but it is very important for many reasons.
The SACNAS conference took place about six weeks ago and I was reminded of how quickly students and faculty can connect with one another in the right environment. As they arrive, students know that this conference is a friendly place where pretty much all the events are tailored for their benefit: faculty are there to talk to students, the scientific symposia are designed to be understandable by students, and there are tons of professional development sessions for students, postdocs and professionals.
One of the first sessions of the conference is called “conversations with scientists” and the room is set up with round tables full of math students and math faculty meeting one another. The idea is for math conference participants to meet right at the beginning of the conference so that they recognize each other as they run into one another later on.
Faculty prompt students for their current academic status, their future plans and their professional dreams. “Have you considered going to graduate school?” “Have you participated in an REU?” And so the conversation starts. Most important is the fact that the atmosphere is such that students feel very comfortable approaching faculty and asking for advice and talking about their background. This session sets the stage for later lunches and random meetings.
Nowadays, many mathematics conferences include undergraduate poster sessions and other student events. For those of you who are involved in organizing conference sessions for any organization, you might consider the “conversations with scientists” model of bringing people together early on and creating a good environment for mentoring students throughout the conference.
There are lots of things that undergraduate students can do to be successful. I have written a few here that I find very important and often neglected. See what you think.
At many schools across the country, the Fall Semester is underway. (My university’s first day of classes was exactly three weeks ago.) That means many students are beginning their final year of college and wondering what the future holds. Well, if you’re thinking about graduate school in the mathematical sciences, you should remember this maxim: you should never have to pay to get a doctoral degree.
Perhaps you’re not sure if you want a doctorate degree, a master’s degree, or any degree other than a bachelor’s. Even so, many of the applications to receive funding for a postbaccaloreate degree will be due soon — within the next three months — so it’s best to start thinking now about how you’d pay for such a program. I’d like to offer some advice on how to receive funding.
If you are on a tenure-track faculty position, you will have to go through performance reviews. Most universities implement a third-year review for Assistant Professors, a review for tenure and promotion to Associate Professor during year 6, and later a review to Full Professor. The reviews are based on a great deal of documentation and information about the candidate’s performance in areas of teaching, research and service. Most of the documents have to be provided by the candidate to the appropriate department committee and ultimately to a college Promotions and Tenure committee. Most universities provide some mentoring for new tenure-track faculty, but there is inconsistency across the universities in the amount of mentoring toward preparing your dossier. This post is to alert those of you in tenure-track positions that the process of gathering all the information that your committees request is substantial and requires organization. I will concentrate on reviews for Assistant Professors. Continue reading
Now that the new academic year is about to start, I thought it would be a good idea to mention a good way to keep track of research ideas in graduate school and beyond. Whether you are a graduate student searching for a dissertation problem, a postdoc or a faculty member engaged in research, you must be ready when an idea strikes you. Research questions and ideas do not usually just fall on our lap; you have to look for them, remember them and look for connections among them. A good way to organize these research ideas is to keep a journal (a paper or electronic notebook) where you write them down. Here are some suggestions. Continue reading
Most of us who have teaching, advising, and service commitments are guilty of using time we had set aside for research for something else. We block out some time in our schedule and even post it on the door but then, something comes up. A student needs to see us or we need to set up a time for a meeting and, somehow, we use research time to fit in those appointments. At the end of the week we realize that only a small fraction of the time set aside for research was actually used to do research. We try to justify it saying that we’ll make up the time later in the day or at home. I am writing this post to suggest that one of the most important habits for success is to respect your research time.
Many of us are passionate about issues that affect our communities. For example, some of us care deeply about increasing the representation of minority groups in research mathematics. Others have similar interest in increasing the representation of women in academia. Still others are passionate about improving K-12 mathematics education. Often, we are eager to get involved in these activities as soon as we can. This post represents the advice I give students and postdocs about when to get involved and how to be patient. Continue reading
Academic fairness is crucial in our struggle to broaden participation in mathematics. We will be well served to learn from adjacent disciplines, such as critical theory, as we think carefully about who does mathematics and why. Who is a “minority” mathematician? How does this relate to Linear Algebra, and to pedagogical considerations?
Everyone talks about how stressful the tenure process can be but no one talks about how emotionally loaded this experience can be. Not so much because you fear or worry about a negative outcome — this is just the outer layer of multilayer set of emotions you will experience as you prepare your tenure packet — but rather because you are forced to think critically of
- what you have done so far,
- why this matters,
- how this defines who you are, and
- how this sets the foundation of what you are about to become. Continue reading
This is a post that requests comments and advice from the readers. The issue is the following: Student X finished her PhD in mathematics at a highly-ranked university. Upon graduating, she was able to get a three-year postdoc position in a math department that emphasizes research, so that everything seemed to go well so far. As she was finishing her postdoc and searching for jobs, she had a couple of interviews but nothing very promising and then it was March and X had no tenure-track job offers. However, she had an offer to do a second postdoc at a different university for 2 more years. Question #1: Is it a good idea to do a second postdoc if her plan is to get a tenure-track faculty position? Continue reading