Friday, June 30, 2017

Academic Year Inventory 2016-2017

Every year at this time I do an inventory of my professional and personal highlights (and lowpoints).

Here are some reasons:
1.  The inventory pulls all of the year's accomplishments in one place, so I can see progress.
2.  The inventory shows where (and where not) my investment has resulted in tangible outcomes.
3.  I like the one-page format for comparing year-to-year inventories.
4.  The combination of professional and personal highlights enriches the context for both. I can spot long-term trends.

Feel free to borrow and improve on my template.

Here are some of my inventories from past years:

Here is this year's inventory.
(Note that some of the highlights/lowpoints have been tempered for public post.)

Annual Inventory of Accomplishments AY 2016-2017

I have been in this job for exactly 15 years.
There was a step advancement this year, with a raise that demonstrated my institution's appreciation for my continued work.
The (academic) year started off great with a wonderful summer conference/workshop with many colleagues and friends, but after the elections I limped through the rest of the year with a broken heart.

Still, I woke most mornings before the sunrise, sat at my desk, and did math before breakfast. I may have logged 1000 hours this year on my research problem. Another year of intellectual investment with no direct tangible product yet.

5 papers published
5 papers submitted
4 papers accepted
many works-in-progress

2 active grants
1 proposal submitted
1 non-renewal

Other product
First dividend check from a patent                                                                  

Synchrotron Beamtime Experiments
ALS beamtime July, November—good to have that in wake of election
Group beamtime (I didn’t go) February, Spring

I travelled less than usual this year. I cancelled a few planned trips also.
CIDER Santa Barbara six weeks summer—organizer
COMPRES trip to NSF July
COMPRES Panel review, November, Berkeley
AGU conference (2 group abstracts)
NSF panels

External Recognition/Awards

Group successes
Two grad students (one advanced to candidacy)
Two undergraduates
Three productive collaborations (1 paper submitted; one about to be submitted; 3 published)

Grad student exam committees
about ~6 total

Fall: Mineralogy
Winter: Graduate Geophysics/Equations of State
Spring: Plate Tectonics
Attended teaching-training seminars

Service highlights
COMPRES- Chair of Executive Committee (2nd year)
COMPRES NSF renewal proposal funded
UCLA Undergraduate Council
Department Search committee
Mineralogical Society of America Councilor
NSF panel
Board of Reviewing Editors, Science
Other manuscript reviews~ about 6.

Outreach Highlights
 I did a science outreach event for 20th Century Fox. Earned a donation for our department.
Participated in UCLA science outreach events

Marches/Political Activity
This is a new category this year!

Women's March, Los Angeles Jan 2017
Science March, Los Angeles April 2017
Climate March, Washington DC, April 2017

Family/personal things
I turned 50
Son graduates high school; had a wonderful year; left for summer job and then to college.
Still married, and newly empty nest.
Good health except for the 3-am-wakies-and-can't-get-back-to-sleepies.
Struggled with a few perennial bad habits
Halfway to gaining the "Trump 10"
Exercised at least a little bit most days
Meditated very occasionally
Took bus to work more

Other items
Studying Spanish  
Read many books. 
Watched a few movies and TV shows. 
Approximately monthly theater/music.
Dutiful Daughter Roadtrip 1: Father-Daughter Roadtrip Nova Scotia, September
Dutiful Daughter Roadtrip 2: Mother-Daughter Roadtrip California/Arizona/Grand Canyon, February
Thanksgiving in Carmel.
August in NY/VT with family and new and old friends.
An array of new friendships. 
Cooked a lot of food--probably ~150 dinners. Shared them with family and neighbors and friends. 
Time with friends. But not enough.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Congratulations! You have an all-male list of keynote speakers

 Like an occasional cold virus infection, every once in a while I come across an invitation to a meeting in my field that attempts to entice me to register with a list of all-male keynote speakers.

At this point I need a form letter to call on so that I can adjust it to fit the circumstances (all white? all-male? all _fill-in-the-absence-of-diversity_ ?)

And you, my blog reader, might find it helpful too.

Luckily others have helped clear the brush before me. Here are some resources to help.

Attached is a letter I wrote to a colleague today.
(a good colleague, too! someone I like both personally and scientifically.
I admit I find myself hoping I do not lose a friend with this letter.)

[PostScript--as I am writing this post I received a warm acknowledgement, response, and statement of intention to take action from Colleague. So balance has been restored.]

Please feel free to use the letter as a template. Also, please share more educational links & resources about the importance of diversity for keynotes, invited speakers, on panels, etc. I'll collect them here.

Hi Colleague,

You should know that an all-male keynote list at a conference sends a series of unfortunate messages—messages that might not be noticed by a man, but are heard loud and clear by many women.

Here are some examples of what I thought when I saw this list:

Science done by women is not viewed by the organizers as prestigious
The organizers did not put a great deal of thought into choosing their list of keynote speakers
The organizers do not value diversity in their conference
Women are not welcome

Here is an article in Science magazine that takes a look at this issue:

I hope you understand that I intend this email message not as a personal attack on you (by all means no!! I consider us friends and I don’t want that to change!) but that I think that if you are not aware of these issues, you should be.  You are in a position to help our mineral physics community be more inclusive—and therefore better.


Here is the heavily redacted version of the conference registration. reminder

Dear all,

This is a reminder that the Nth Annual Meeting of the Extreme Science Conference will be held soon.

Confirmed keynote speakers include
- Colleague who got a PhD the same year I did
- My Postdoctoral Advisor
- Senior Faculty Member at Institution Where I got my PhD
- Fellow Editor of Professional Journal
- Faculty Member from Country that is investing a lot of $ in Extreme Science
- Extreme Science Textbook Author (Book published in 1991)

with a number of other prestigious invited speakers. [sic]

Please register,


Friday, June 9, 2017

Letter to my students on the last day of class

Dear Students,

    Thank you for your time and participation in this class. It has been a special year with changes at all scales—in many ways fascinating and wonderful, and in other ways difficult and heartbreaking. It has been a privilege to share even a small part of the story of this year together with you.

    I hope you have learned something of value—some of our collective science stories describing how the Earth works, and also the parts of the story that tell *how* it is what it is that we know. I hope you while you have been here and in the future you listen to some of the stories about the process of how science is done—often two steps forward, and one step backwards, and always conflated with the strengths and weaknesses of the human beings who are trying to uncover truth. I think there is great richness in these stories where science and human creativity work together and occasionally collide. One of my goals is to keep my eyes out for these stories and practice telling them.

    Thank you for your patience with my tinkering with this class. I am still trying to optimize how to simultaneously encourage our best work while minimizing anxiety. I think our best, most creative learning is done when we are not anxious. This year—more so than previously— I occasionally found my energy and enthusiasm waning. Thank you for giving me reasons every day to not disengage. You helped remind me to prioritize taking care of myself so that I have plenty of room for the people and ideas that energize me.

    This university's students energize me. I am in awe of your hard work, ever expanding talent, your engagement with each other, and occasionally with me. You are skilled and capable and I have never met an exception to that during my 15 years here.

    Here are my wishes for you and us as people and as scientists as you continue your studies and after you graduate, and as you build up, carve out, and share and rework your own stories.

In seeking the truth about how the world works, when you collect your data and make your observations, suspend belief and disbelief, judgment and desire. Be dispassionate with the data, and simultaneously gentle on yourself, the scientist.

Then tell your stories. The entire story that you want to share.  Be passionate as you develop  your stories, but discipline yourself to align the stories as closely as possible to the observations and data.

    Listen well to others’ stories. Be critical of the stories. Be gentle on the storytellers. Be gentle on yourself. Try to be dispassionately aware of the stories that you tell yourself in your head. Try to align these stories as close as possible with reality. Cultivate the stories that help you keep you to the path that you want to be on, and also the path of truth and connection.

Please stay in touch.

All my love,

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Farmers' Market Report

I admit that Mr Mango Farmer and I have been flirting for a year or two. We bond over The Big Bang Theory, which we both love. He thinks I am a character on that show. He calls me an arrogant scientist.  I laugh with him and buy his mangos. that’s the banter. Did you listen to our president last night? I ask. I don’t listen to him, he says. How about our new president? I ask. He answers: Oh yes—he’s a great guy. Totally misrepresented by the media. It’s such a shame. He’s a really great guy. Oh. I say. I try to stay warm. I can see co-mango-farmer looking at my face; I meet his eyes. I don’t know if he is seeking connection because he feels differently about trump than his co-worker, or if he is just curious about how I will react. I pay for the mangos (get my usual big bang discount) and trundle over to the fresh fish booth.

There, the very cute fishmongers say what a wonderful day it is, and isn’t it a wonderful day!? Not sure, I tell them. Fishmonger looks at me and asks if I need a hug? Of course I do. We share a friendly side-hug. Thank you for the kindness. Pass it on, he says. I buy a tub of smoked fish spread. How could I not?

I call my mom to tell her NO MORE MANGOS!!  It’s the WRONG response, she says. You must engage. We must all talk with each other. It’s by not engaging that this whole mess is allowed to continue.

I run into the Farmers’ Market Fairy. She is very practical about produce, and knows the political leanings of the vendors. I share about the mangos. She rattles the list of those she discusses politics with, and those she doesn’t discuss politics with. CONNECT—ALWAYS AND ONLY CONNECT!! I say. OUR JOB HERE IS TO ENGAGE (while we’re shopping for produce.)   Our conversation has pulled in another farmers’ market denizen. She has given up all news in favor of music. “I just can’t….” she says, while filling her bag with sprouted broccoli. Can you imagine being a journalist? I said. They don’t have the option of taking a break—they have to continually engage and dig in as far as possible. The Fairy thinks maybe I am a good person for believing in engagement, but she might not be such a good fairy in that way. Fairy says the bubbles are fundamentally different—people in different bubbles think differently, and some bubbles—our bubbles—think better. I disagree about the bubbles. If those in other bubbles think the same of me in my bubble, then who am I to claim that my bubble is better? We all share the same raw material of human brains —and some of us might know more, groups of us have been trained in different ways, sometimes on purpose and sometimes by accident, but I think that the idea of “us” vs. “them” bubbles is a complete fallacy, and a dangerous one too.

We hug our goodbyes until next week's episode, and I walk away thinking about how even the smallest slice of the farmers’ market is a microcosm that contains the entirety of the world. Communities, friends, families, the two of us, one person and her brain.

 And then I find myself wondering: what does statistical mechanics look like from the point of view of the particle?

Every particle must think she is goddamn awesome, oscillating in her multiple degrees of freedom, with an array of interacting forces acting on her, and maybe even contributing her own forcings to the mix. Three dimensions plus time—so much freedom and individuality for each of us particles—mornings to prepare our thermodynamics lectures and evenings eating our mangos. 

Together, we several billion humans make up just a single humanity. A tiny, transient, assemblage that has been hungrily eating away at the system that surrounds us. The system is changing, and we the particles are responding.