Summer session accountability

A song sparrow with a snack, on Santa Cruz Island this May (Flickr, jby)

Summer, as an astronomical season, doesn’t end for a few weeks yet, but academic summer is well and truly over. Today is already the end of the first week of classes on my campus, and both the courses I’m teaching this semester have had their first two meetings. It’s past time, really, to check in with my summer session resolutions, and see how well I did with the hopeful list of things I’d do with my time while I didn’t have four lectures and two lab sessions a week to prepare and deliver.

This won’t, I hope, read as anything like bragging — though I am proud of what I got done since May — but accountability for what I wanted to do with the time I had. It’ll be less than I might manage with a fully staffed lab, since it was just me and a postdoc working through various projects this season, but multiple of the boxes I can check mark the fulfillment of efforts that started well before this summer.

Here’s what I had lined up for summer 2023, and how it went:

  • Publishing: (1) Submit for publication a Big New Paper on which I’m the lead author; (2) finalize and submit a student thesis project on which I’m senior author; and (3) make contributions to advance another Big New Paper on which I’m a middle-of-the-list author. Maybe, in between, finish a good solid draft of (4) an opinionated review/polemic I’ve had percolating for a bit and (5) nudge another student toward submission of their thesis project. — Total of 2, maybe 2.5, out of 5. The Big New Paper for (1) went out to a journal last Friday, as literally my final task of summer; the Big New Paper for (2), which wasn’t my direct responsibility, went out a few weeks earlier. I’ve made at best conceptual progress on the one student thesis paper (3) and the other is awaiting some critical data (5). I did make some headway reading and writing for the opinion piece (4), but it’s not where I’d wanted it to be by now. (For that, however, keep an eye on this very blog!)
  • Grant writing: (1) Help finalize a collaborative proposal that’s been in the pipeline since (oops) last fall and (2) substantially draft a brand new proposal for an opportunity that comes due next fall. Also (3) guide the postdoc in the lab towards submission for at least one good fellowship opportunity. — 3 out of 3, I’ll call this. The collaborative proposal is out the door, the brand new proposal is “substantially drafted” if not done, and the postdoc is on track with her fellowship proposal, which comes due in two weeks.
  • Project management and mentoring: (1) Get two incoming grad students settled and sorted out before classes start; (2) see the postdoc towards publication of a year’s worth of population genomics and also that fellowship application. — 1.5 of 2, I guess? One grad student made a last-minute call to go to a different (more geographically convenient) program, but the other is settled in and getting down to business; the postdoc is, as stated, on track for the fellowship application but not quite ready to start writing up results.
  • Academic community: (1) Join a symposium on LGBTQ folks in STEM in Washington, DC; (2) attend Evolution 2023 in person in Albuquerque; and (3) try to actually post more on this very blog (I have a distressing number of half-written posts in the drafts folder). 3 out of 3! I did not do as much blogging as I wanted, but I think I’m getting back in the groove; and the symposium and conference went on as planned.

And, because it’s not all about academic productivity, after all:

  • Personal stuff: (1) Run a marathon (this will happen two days after commencement but it’s in the summer window so it counts); (2) see a new National Park (Santa Cruz Island in the Channel Islands, booked for uh immediately after the marathon); (3) survive a family reunion in rural Central Pennsylvania; and (4) tour the Olympic Peninsula, maybe even before fire season gets serious. — 3 out of 4. I ran the marathon in a personal-record, and Boston-qualifying, time; I had a wonderful time on Santa Cruz Island and driving the perimeter of Olympic National Park. I did not, however, make it to that family reunion … on account of a COVID infection I picked up somewhere between Evolution in Albuquerque and an extended layover in Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. (I’ll be getting my next booster as soon as it’s available, ideally with a flu shot, and I’m back to masking in places full of people from all over like airports.)

All in all, I’m pretty happy with much of this. Not missing the family reunion, which had been delayed two years for concerns about COVID, on account of … me catching COVID. I’d like to have more work in the publication pipeline, too — wouldn’t we all? — but maybe I’ll squeeze in time for some of it as my teaching schedule settles into a routine. Hope springs eternal, or at least flickers fitfully, in the professorial breast.

About Jeremy Yoder

Jeremy B. Yoder is an Associate Professor of Biology at California State University Northridge, studying the evolution and coevolution of interacting species, especially mutualists. He is a collaborator with the Joshua Tree Genome Project and the Queer in STEM study of LGBTQ experiences in scientific careers. He has written for the website of Scientific American, the LA Review of Books, the Chronicle of Higher Education, The Awl, and Slate.
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