Day: April 10, 2020

Bits of Advising, With a Quick Navel Dip

Just edited a student’s draft. Made over 300 comments in the pdf. Stu will not be happy. Stu is new and seemed quite perturbed when I returned a marked-up two-pager for a fellowship. Apparently, Stu thought my mind would be blown by the quality of their writing. I’m not kidding, Stu pretty much said so. I mean, Stu’s a native speaker, but has got a lot to learn about technical writing (and, near as I can judge, writing in general). We’re not in the Little League anymore. We’re writing as professional scientists.

Stu’s idiosyncrasy: Writing a paper like it is a murder mystery, with these vague hints on  what is to be shown later. You think you, as advisor, have seen it all. Nope.


I, personally, am doing quite well right now, enjoying the lack of buzzing around, delighted that all my trips from this spring and summer are cancelled (I know I should be making those trips, I am on sabbatical, that’s what the sabbatical is for, but I just hate hate hate airline travel), catching up on work, cooking every day, exercising, writing, having enough time with the sprogs, and still some left for reading and/or Netflix. It’s all very low-key and enjoyable. I’m never bored because I have lots of interests. It seems most introverts are doing well while sheltering in place.

The issue of one-track-mindedness came up several times with my students during the pandemic. Some really miss seeing people; some miss certain activities. One student, in particular, Stu 2, is a big-time athlete who has been cut off from training and is  devastated. The sport to which Stu 2 devotes hours each day is the one and only thing in Stu 2’s life besides the PhD. With the sport gone, as it’s not really something Stu 2 can practice within the confines of their apartment, Stu 2 is not doing well at all. All their other hobbies have fallen by the wayside. Apparently, Stu 2 tends to hyper-focus on one thing, which I suppose yields great dividends, but is suboptimal when the conditions are suboptimal themselves.

I’ve had to have this conversation several times over my career: telling the students to remember what they liked as kids, to focus on an art they liked to create or consume, to get back to that. Movies, books, playing an instrument, painting, dancing… There has to be something that can take the edge off.

I only started really, truly appreciating the arts and humanities when I stood on top of that hill of professional and personal milestones and said, “All right. Now what?” I honestly don’t understand how I’d never before then seen the vast importance of art for one’s soul, of the importance of examining the human condition. Actually, I probably do know: I had my nose to the grindstone for decades. There was no time to look up and see the world around me.

I wish I could instill in my kids and my students the importance of arts and humanities. I was an arty and crafty kid, I drew and wrote and sewed, but then it all went away as I focused on STEM. I wish I had awoken from my slumber sooner, I wish that someone had nudged me and said, hey, there’s more to life than work and guys. I think I would’ve been happier in my youth, much less prone to peer pressure and boy-related drama if I hadn’t allowed my early interests to get completely lost.

Blogosphere, how are you doing these days? Are you exploring new or forgotten interests? Enjoying and/or creating art?