Friday, November 17, 2017

A random day in the life of a faculty

As a PhD student, research seemed hard. Protocols did not work, data did not make sense, and I often found myself stuck between false positives and false negatives. We have all been there.

As a faculty, research seems the most cherished part of my day. And that is because I actually get so little time to do research. Here is what a random workday of my life looks like:

1. 6:30 am: Woke up. Stayed in bed for the next 45 minutes, wondering if the "revise and resubmit" comments I wrote last night would work. Then hurriedly scampered to work.

2. Made a mental note not to miss the Skype call tonight. The last time, I thought that it was at 9pm while the meeting was at 8pm and I missed it.

3. Made a note to reply to the fifty-seven emails that have been pending a response for the past five days since I was traveling.

4. Chatted with a colleague who hates the words "seminal work" and "dissemination" because of their roots in the word "semen" (hence, male; hence, power). I added my bit by saying that I hate the morbid terms in academia such as "deadlines," "terminal degree," and "publish or perish."

5. Almost slept through a committee meeting that lasted ninety minutes. I have no idea what they said. I was more surprised by how much people talk, make printouts, and waste paper at these meetings. I am pretty sure everything they said could be summarized in ten minutes.

6. Checked my Google Scholar citation for the umpteenth time. The numbers haven't changed since the past month. It is a strange addiction of seeking external validation I have developed of late, similar to counting Facebook Likes. This is only more consequential and more harmful.

7. Kept thinking about the annual review that I will be writing in January. Have I made enough progress this year? The process is so rigorous, it makes the PhD defense look like child's play. How can I hit a couple of sixes in the last six weeks of the year and look great on my annual review?

8. Read a bunch of student assignments. One, most students have horrible handwriting. I wonder if they ever had compulsory, daily, cursive writing lessons in schools. Two, many have bad grammar too, which is surprising since most people here can get away knowing just one language- English. I was also amazed by the number of times they used the word "cool” -- The book was cool. The program was cool. The class was cool. The professor was cool. Such informal language in academia- not so cool!

9. Registered for an upcoming conference in Boston. This is the first time I paid more than a thousand dollars for registration alone. So I sat at my desk and whined for a while.

10. Filled out a bunch of paperwork to get my student enrolled in the system.

11. Filled out a bunch of doodles indicating my availability for future meetings. Created a Doodle myself and sent a reminder email to those who need to fill it out on time.

12. Conducted an interview to collect data, which also meant inputting mundane information into an excel spreadsheet that my hypothetical undergraduate student should have been doing. Hypothetical, because I do not have one.

13. Prepared a bunch of expense bills from a previous conference travel. This involved painstakingly putting together every receipt with comments and scanning all of them.

14. Called our communication manager to chat about how I would like my new business card designed.

15. Thought of new research ideas. It means mostly sitting at my desk, staring blankly into the ceiling until a new email pops up or someone knocks on the door, and repeating the process till it is time to go home.

These are not necessarily research. Just a bunch of mundane things that may lead to research in the future.