Thursday, February 17, 2011

To Honor and Obey

Sadly, my post-doc is abruptly leaving my group. She has been with me over a year, moved with me from Ivy League U to Big State School, and persevered through a challenging project. She came to me yesterday for our weekly meeting, and told me that her husband set a deadline for her to leave her post-doc and move back to be with him. They are married, but living separately as they each tried to develop their careers. The husband just landed a job, dropped the deadline, and so my post-doc decided to obey and leave. There is nothing I can say or do because family is stronger than anything (to any sane person). My post-doc was clearly upset about leaving, she said that she really wanted to stay but she had no choice.

We set up a timeline for experiments until her departure. She can finish up two papers from elsewhere, and I've agreed to pay her an extra month to cover her time writing. I genuinely hope she can find the career she's always wanted.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Three Little Piggies Cheated

I recently gave my first mid-term exam at the new Big State School University. I caught three students cheating. I already know how I am going to handle it, but I'm inviting comments on what others would do.

The test is in a core class, and I allowed open book, calculators, and notes from the class. Everything else was disallowed. This was mentioned on three separate occasions in class. This is in the syllabus. But even then, three students brought in homework sets and hid them in their notes during the exam. My TA and I discovered these three separate incidences while quietly patrolling the classroom from back to front. We caught the students right at the beginning of the exam, so no damage had been done. We told the each student, "Those materials are not allowed." Each students put the materials away and continued with the exam. Each student was pretty frustrated with me. (I feel no guilt over their frustration, since they were, um, cheating). The official policy is to give the students a zero, but I let the students continue on since I caught them at the beginning.

I've been grading and it's clear that these student will fail themselves out anyway. Catching them cheating just makes me sad, and it makes me embarrassed that I'm at the same school as them!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Can I call you Ms?

I'm teaching a sophomore class of 50+ students. At first, they seemed baffled at how to address me. I was addressed as Professor X, Dr. X, Ms. X., and Dr. "First Initial". All of these are cool with me except calling me Ms. It drives me nuts! If the students can address male professors as Dr., then why not the same for female professors? An informal survey around my department indicated that no male professors were called "Mr" and that female professors were sometimes called "Ms".

So now we've identified the problem here: students call female professors "Ms" at my particular university. I've cleared the problem up mostly for my course by the following actions. First, I sign every email as "Dr. X". Second, in class, I refer to myself in the third person as "Dr. X". Third, I tell the students "My last name is hard to pronounce, so you can pronounce my name as 'Dr.X'". I cleared up the problem in about a week without calling out a student for their misguiding addressing. Unfortunately, this problem will come up every semester that I teach, so I've got to cringe through the "Ms".

Other than that, I'm happy with teaching. It's fun and rewarding!