Thursday, October 30, 2014

How to design your academic job talk

These are the days when most of the faculty candidates who are fortunate to get invited are designing, and giving talks. I thought it might be a good idea to offer advice to those candidates since I am not sitting on the other side of the aisle. Mind that I used the same techniques to give talks.

1) Designing a talk for a broad audience is different from giving a talk in your department. The department that you are giving your talk in probably does not have any one who works in your sub-field (hence they are looking for a  candidate who could do what you are doing). Therefore, you must assume that the audience knows very little about your sub field, the jargon that you use, and how good you are in your sub field. Therefore assume that the audience knows nothing !

2) Following from argument 1; You do not, and should not cover everything that you have done till now. If you are invited for a faculty interview there are at least couple of large projects that you have worked on. Pick the one that is most awesome (in terms of results) and is most likely to be fundable in the future as well.

3) Following from argument 2; After picking up the awesome-st project give a high-level outline of the research. That means a lot of cartoons and diagrams. Yes, people are sleeping and they are lazy. It is your job to make them understand what you have done. The best way to make them understand is using diagrams (fancy diagrams) and animations !. The audience will keep engaged and will likely to understand something from your talk. They will feel smart and hence will like you.

4) Show them some results. Then tell them what the results mean in the larger context. Telling me that you imroved the time of the algorithm or the purity of your sample does not means anything to me. Tell me that your improvement of time results in blah blah blah. Otherwise the results are meaningless.

5) You have published your papers; that means that you have proposed and did something useful that other people have not. Tell me by comparing your results with that of the competitors and show why yours are better.

6) Have multiple slides on your future work. I want to know that you have a solid plan to take your research ahead and that you know where to target for your funding.

7) Do not have text after text in your slides and then to explain to me what is written. The audience can read the text; they are here to listen to you.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Inviting a guest speaker

I have invited a guest speaker for a seminar in the department. This is my first independent invitation to a guest researcher at our institute ( actually this is my first ever independent invitation at any institute). Anyway the speaker has to drive 2 hours and I have been thinking about all the ways the visit can go.

For instance, I can have the seminar in the morning (10ish) and then make him meet my group, meet me, meet other faculty members and then take him to lunch and let him go.


I could make him meet my group, meet other faculty members, then let him give the seminar and then take him to lunch and let him go.

Scenario 1 allow me to take a closer look at his work; will have a lot to talk about after the seminar (we have an overlap). But in this case I have a feeling that the speaker might want to just leave (he wont coz of the visit schedule).

In scenario 2, I wont know his work deeper but he would want to stay till noon-ish to give his talk and then lunch.

Which strategy do you use? and why?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

My students

I want my students to be: 
  1. I want my students to be restless.
  2. I want them to not be content on what they have.
  3. I want them to have a desire to achieve more/bigger/better/sooner/now/grand/
  4. I want them to bug me for more time, for more resources, for more (research) problems
  5. I want them to email me or call me at odd hours when they get to a solution and have a Eureka! moment. 
  6. I want them to be self-driven and motivated so that they can come up with their own (research)problems to solve and solutions to those problems that no one has ever thought about.
  7. I want them to write more papers, give more presentations, give more talks, go to more conferences, write and distribute more code, be better, hungrier, faster, stronger than any one else
  8.  I want them to be organized and neurotic with scheduling their work in most optimized form possible with their circumstances
  9. I want them to dream big and I want them to pursue that dream despite all odds. (It is no fun to pursue a dream if the odds are not against you)
  10. I just want the list to have ten elements so that I can say that these are the ten commandments that I want in my students.
Yes, I want them to be like me and I want them to work all the time (at least in their head), be restless all the time, be hungrier all the time, dreaming all the time.

I know I am not realistic.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

vibrating office

I have a nice office. Atleast I think it is nice because it is big and has good light. However, it vibrates !. Yes, you have heard it vibrates from the HVAC that is installed on the top of the room.

I have requested to change my office but that might take time. The room that they showed me is much smaller than my current room. So I have a tradeoff between big room that vibrates and a small room that is quite. I will opt for the latter since a vibrating room is too annoying.

In other news I am working on a grant, a paper, home works for my undergrad class and of course lectures. I like it when I am busy.