Tuesday, September 19, 2017

I have a meeting with furniture man !

My grad student barges in my office without an appointment.

Student: "I have some research stuff to discuss with you"
Me: "I have a class in 10 minutes."
Student: "Can I come after that?"
Me: "I am chairing a panel for blah blah at the other side of the campus. I will be done by 230ish"
Student: "But I have a appointment with furniture sales dealer at that time"

Me: "Cant help you much there. Lets try tomorrow then?"

Me (in my head): "So you want me to cancel the panel then that I have been preperaring for the past two weeks and meet with you instead? ;~"

I dont remember being this obnoxious when I was a grad student. Being an undergrad was a different story.

Life is amusing. I am in a good mood today.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Conference and Travels

I am travelling right now for a large conferences in my field. This is one of the big ones and we have 2 paper accepted in this conference. Both of them have associated talks with them so I am really excited about this.

I also get to see the large urban city and I am loving it. Both me and my wife are large urban people and we absolutely love it when we are in big cities.

Conferences are good. I get to see a lot of science and a lot of people that I may recognize. What I do not like is how I may know some one (and naive enough to tell them that I know them; I am good with faces and can recall people well) but they give me a blank stare. I then have to tell them the context where we have met, interacted with AND worked on. I am not sure if this is normal? or am I just good at faces/names and perhaps not all the people are that good at it.

I am just loving the energy of this place which is definitely missing from my small city where I am employed. I am grateful and would love to get tenure at that place. But my gut tells me that one day I will make the move from that small city to a larger urban city with millions of people. I just suck energy from large urban centers (both for my personal and professional life) and just love it.

Gotta go now. My battery is dying.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Insults to a Young Professor

Over the past few weeks I have been working vigorously with my students. These are most MS and PhD students and I have guiding them through various levels of academic research and publishing according to their stage of education.

But for some reason I keep on getting insulted. Few are the experts from some of the "insults" that I have had in the past few weeks.

I know youngling can be clueless - and they might do it in ignorance - and they might not mean it.

That does not mean that it is not an insults - or that it is not hurtful - especially since I care about my students a lot.

Observation 1

PhD student 1 is doing a summer research at a prestigious national lab. The lab does the same kind of work in the same subfield. I know the PI's work and have criticized it in the grant proposals. I have a prestigious career award in that subfield now (aka I am known in the sub field and have recived multiple grants in this sub field).

 -- student: I am sure that the PI in that national lab does not know about you or your work but I think we should collaborate with them (which is fine with me but I am sure you got into the national lab summer program just because of my name. Coz you are a PhD student with 1 year of experience and no one knows you).

-- The same student now postponed a tele conference meeting two times telling me that he is busy traveling. Today I got his email saying that I can call him today since he has time today (without actually thinking or acknowledging that I might be tensy bit busy?)

Observation 2

When a new PhD student come in I generally introduce the student to a new subfield; show them the ropes and then give them 1 or 2 problems that they can work on and publish. This helps get the things running for them and keeps them motivated.

After they have worked on 2 or so sub-problems I ask them to come up with a 3rd problem (on their own) and then come up with a solution to such a problem. Meanwhile, I am their sounding board.

Today one of them came and told me she wants to work on a 3rd problem and want me to tell it to her. I told her that I gave you 2 problems (that she has not made any progress on and have not published anything) and you need to show progress. After that you will come up with the 3rd problem and I will help you.

Next thing she tells me is as follows "But I came up with the 2 problems and will come up with their solutions as well that you are referring to...".

She didn't knew...when she started with me that the particular sub-field existed. And ofcourse I had thought about the 2 problems that I "gave" her for a long time before I decided to put in MY "time", MY "resources", MY "money" and MY "energy" in to this.

Observation 3

This PhD students is about to graduate. He just told me: "that your name does not carry any weight when it comes to getting a paper published. You are young and not like other senior people ..."
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Yes, I am young and I know that. But I am well accomplished in my field and have at least 10 years of research experience more than any of these PhD students. I have worked very very hard to reach this place.

Yes, I am young but I do deserve respect.

Yes, I am young and I demand respect.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Making a difference

I have been thinking lately of how to make a difference. You know in terms of research and its applications. I have been thinking how do people make a difference. For example in my field there is a professor who has over 22000 citations (yes you read it right) for a single paper. The tool described in the paper is novel and seems to work fine.

However,...

I also know that there are other tools in the same field that were novel (in their own time) and are conceptually sound and seems to work. So what gives?

I think some people can make such a difference which is also noticeable due to the following combination of circumstances. Some in their control and some not so much

1) Choice of a problem and how you approach it: Probably one of the most important factors. You can give two different people two different problems and they will come up with two different solutions. One solution could be more elegant than the other giving it an edge. Although the second solution by a second person would probably give a similar result.

2) Timing: The timing of a particular produce, algorithm or mathematical model is very important. If you are too early; people wont recognize the importance. If you are too late; people will complain that it is not novel anymore.

3) Marketability. How well you can market the product or your paper or your approach. Traditionally it has been through giving talks. Now it seems to be through (social media?) videos etc. (more on this later)

4) Venue of your publication: I think this used to be more relevant in the past. Now with access to internet  and all the publications having all  paper on line it might not matter much. Although I know people who map the credibility of the paper to the venue of the publication (may be partially true but not always).

5) what else. I am not sure but I am curious.

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Social media. I am trying come up with strategies to ramp up my marketing of my approaches. Social media (twitter), videos (you tube) and other? tricks are being thought about. I am not sure which but I am going to do some of them. I think it is a good idea (apart from giving talks that I have not given for quite some time now). All the people that I know in my field are recognizable to me because of their online presence and not because I saw them giving a talk some where. I think this gives a good indication of how to market your "stuff" in the future :P

Thursday, December 8, 2016

When you get a grant?

What do you do when you get a grant. I know the department and college will probably put your grant news in their news section and probably would also give you some publicity.

But do you let your group know that you have gotten a grant? If yes, how do you communicate this?

If you do not convey this directly to your group, why not?

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

What makes your grant fundable - Part 1

I had a grant submission deadline today which I successfully submitted.

But after the submission my caffeine induced brain kept on working and I have been thinking: What makes a grant successful? I am sure this question has been asked many times and would have been answered many times but I would try to give it a shot from my eyes. To be fair, I am no expert in grantsmanship what so ever. The grant applications that I think would have kicked ass failed miserable at NSF. And the applications that I thought have no chance of getting funding got funded !

Factors that makes an application from being mediocre to top of the stack.

1) Innovative: May be who knows. Very innovative gets shot down because the reviewer can say: "We don't know if this will work". Not very innovative and the reviewer might say "Well, we already know that and this is common knowledge/tool and is doable by an undergrad (and hence no funding).

2) Good Idea: Here by good I mean an idea that the reviewer is interested in and/or is excited about. Provided that there are at least 3 reviewers for the NSF/NIH grants. The probablity of having an idea that is exciting to all 3 at the same degree is rather pretty slim ( there is a sentense I though I will never use)

3) Good writing: Good writing is good as long as the reviewer is excited about the idea (see part 2 above). Good writing (Shakespeare style) and luke warm reception of the idea is not going to land you on the federal monies.

4) Connections: Well we all know people and we all know people who know people who are going to be on a panel. But we also know that people are self-serving. I personally know panelist who have shot down the application just because they were in competition with the proposer.

5) Relationship with the PO: Good relations with the PO is a pre-requistie. But this will NOT land you monies. PO generally dont do anything unless the reviewers dont give a nod. But a good relation with the PO can land your "grey area" grant into the funded one (if the stars and all the gods are on your side and you have a pony that can be classified as a unicorn and a flying saucer).

So here I have listed all the things that you THINK would land you into the funded pool of applicants. But you would be wrong !

Next time I will list the things that you have not even thought about these are factors that will get you in the funded list of super stars (may be you did think about those stuff and I didn't and now I am so I am going to assume that you didn't either; who can you go and complain to; It is my blog I can write whatever the hell I want ha ha)

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Competitive and insecure

I was very recently told by a colleague that there are some students and even faculty who have talked about me and have told them that I am very competitive and insecure. I am going to eloborate a bit on both of these characteritsitcs. I am not sure how I feel about them and hence the blog post.

1) Competitive: I am very competitve and strive to the best in what ever circumstance. Be it edcuation, research or sports. I am like this because I came from a third world country and from a middle class family (not US kind of middle class but 3rd world kind of middle class). I learnt early in life that in order to excel I need to be super eaons ahead of my peers (who may have a social and/or resource advantage over me). My rationlae was that if I am the best in what I do then there is little else that would matter.

Although world is unfair the gamble worked. There wasn't much could be done and I did excel. I did come to US and had the same odds in terms of being an immigrant and a student. The gamble again paid off. Now I am a faculty in a research university in the US. I am in the world of cut throat research, grants, publications and politics. So hell yes ! I am very competitive and I think I would like to remain this way if I am to keep my edge.

I understand that this may rub off some students as well and they may not take this lightly. But I am not competing against these students. I am competing against the research giants and federal agencies and I cannot switch myself off when talking and/or training these students. I want them to be competitive as well.

2) Insecure: When you are constantly running to get ahead; and there are always people who are going to be smarter/with more federal monies/more and better publications etc. than I am; you are going to be a bit insecure as well. May be this is where my imposter syndrome comes as well. I am not sure how I feel about this but time will tell.