Friday, February 22, 2013

12 STEM grad ed improvement ideas rejected by NSF

1. Grad school thunderdome
2. Random full professors are promoted to emeritus
3. Alcohol prohibition
4. Stoning for plagiarists, fabulists
5. K-101 grants for in-laboratory kegerator
6. Ask 10 good questions at seminar? 1 chapter shaved off thesis.
7. Employment outcome tracking of alumni for 10-15 years
8. Random associate professors become postdocs
9. Mandatory tequila shots for committee before candidacy exams
10. Issue every new grad student helmet/face shield for lab safety, head-mounted camera for ethics monitoring
11. Mandatory tap-dancing/jazz hands training for job talks
12. The Oprah solution: "You get tenure! And you get tenure!"

BTW, it's a real request for proposals. Seriously, you should do it. 


  1. Thanks to your post I made myself watch that godforsaken Oprah video and just lost the will to live. And no, it's not because I didn't get a car.

  2. Two chemists enter One chemist leaves. . . two chemists enter one chemist leaves . . .

  3. I'm not sure what they are going for here, this challenge seems exceptionally vague. Also, I can't imagine a worse pool for suggestions for how to help grad students prepare for their future than grad students themselves. Those suckers don't know nothing.

    1. As evidenced by our decision to go to grad school? Better us than professors with tenure who have every motivation to over-recruit. I know things aren't good for them either, but that really doesn't change the fact that they have more to fear from changing the present system than we do.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. I was actually thinking that suggestions should come from people who have been through grad school and understand where improvements need to be made. You could even exclude professional academics from the conversation (since they have such a high conflict of interest) and ask those with masters and PhDs from other walks of life.

    Most chemists I know look back at grad school with "if only I knew then" eyes, but then completely remove themselves from the conversation of how to change grad school, because they're done with that part of life and it doesn't matter for them anymore. People who have been through the job searches and the transition into industry have a knowledge of what is needed that many students simply lack from inexperience.

    And grad students should have a voice as well (I was kidding about the suckers comment), but I think if you want change that will do the most good, you should look beyond students to the former students.

    [the previous post I deleted said basically all of the above, but with more typos and random sentences that I blame from losing (badly) an Oscars drinking game last night]

    1. I think this is the right answer. When I was a graduate student, I was going to be a hotshot professor going in. Coming out, I just wanted to do something completely non-academic, I even went as far as wanting to kick in doors for a federal agency. I think I'm happier doing what I'm doing now (though some days I still want to kick in some doors). Sometimes when you are in deep, it's hard to see the forest from the trees. It is only in retrospect that you can really appreciate the positive and negative experiences that formed you into the person you are today.

      Now that I've gone completely sappy, I think I should end this before I declare us all winners, and force a group hug.


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20