higher ed

Changes in Higher Education

As a PhD student who already has a Master’s degree, it’s safe to say that I’ve been in school for a long time. One of the things in higher education that I started to dislike over the years are the ways professors assess students in the classroom. As a graduate student, more specifically, a PhD student, a lot of my time should be spent on research. However, when classes are structured the same way as they were in my undergraduate days, memorization is the primary form of assessment, then the point of why I need to take classes as a graduate student seem missed.

Preparing for the Summer

As the semester comes to an end, preparing for my lab’s Data Science for the Public Good Program begins. I’ve started a GitHub group to dump the various components we will be using during the summer. Aaron Schroeder and I will be the main trainers for the students this summer. It’s our job to teach the students the basic tools needed to be functional in the lab. We put our initial syllabus in the workshop repository.

NYC R Conference

Just got back from the 3rd annual NYC R Conference this past weekend. I have been honored to be one of the few speakers for the 3rd year in a row. This year’s talk, “So You Want to be a Data Scientist” gave a whirlwind tour of the tools and skills needed to be a Data Scientist. I conveyed all this information in 56 slides and did it in 20 minutes.

Working While Pursuing a PhD

My lab has extended me an opportunity to be a research scientist and helping out our current senior data scientist with the daily analytics and IT support the lab needs. It’s a very enticing opportunity, but I need to stop and think about my options I’d get paid more! What kind of graduate student would not want that? But I would really need to consider and clarify with my advisor and rest of my lab how this can fit in with my PhD.

Open Access

“Open” has played in important role in my life the last few years. It all began when I was an attendee at a Software-Carpentry workshop back in 2013. Before then, I only knew about Open Access and Open Source, but wasn’t active in any Open community. This week is Open Data Week at Virginia Tech, and it begins with an “Open Research/Open Data Forum [on] Transparency, Sharing, and Reproducibility in Scholarship”, which I was honored to be apart of.

Education in the United States

As people start sharing their educational experiences from around the world, I realized how lucky I am to have been educated in New York City, and how much less the United States focuses on education when compared to many other countries around the world.

The People that Keep Me Sane

Coming from CUNY Hunter College, I never really had the typical ‘college experience’. Going to college for me was almost no different than going to high school since so many people were commuters; there was no campus, especially when compared to Virginia Tech. I snowboard. After not going during the 2 years of my master’s, I decided the first thing I did when I started Tech was to find the ski/snowboarding club and go on a big winter trip.

Tech & Innovation in Higher Ed

How faculty (higher education) are using and/or reacting to social media, MOOCs, and/or other “disruptive” technologies. One of my favorite talks is the one given by Greg Wilson at Scipy 2014 about the lessons learned from Software-Carpentry. Software-Carpentry aims to teach the Best Practices for Scientific Computing. Scientific computing is a skill lacking in education, especially in higher education where research is being performed. What is lacking in scientific computing education is the lack of courses for the researcher, rather than the computer scientist.

Should You Attend Grad School?

I’ve been asked a few times about whether one should attend graduate school. I usually follow up by asking whether they are planning to do a Master’s or a Doctorate. If it’s a master’s, sure, why not. Master’s programs are typically no longer than 2 years and very well structured. You come in with a cohort of students, and everyone struggles together and becomes friends. PhD programs are much more variable and different.

Scientific Programming

Software-Carpentry played an integral part of who I am today. I am always trying to learn and follow best practices in the context of scientific programming, which I think is a neglected area in research. The fundamental problem is the incentive structure in academia, where productivity is measured by the number of papers published. The downside of tis pressure is that quality of analytics and code will suffer to get the results for the paper.

My Story

How did I get to where I am today. This is my story. Early I’ve always been surrounded by computers. My parents both studied Computer Science, and my dad holds a Master’s in Computer Science and works as a software developer. Growing up, all my computers were company hand-me-downs, but it allowed me to be lucky enough to always have a computer in the house. I liked to tinker, not as a programmer, or hacker, but more of a user.

From NYC to Blacksburg, VA

I’m from New York City. Born and raised in Queens, and went to school in Manhattan for high school, college, and masters. So, coming down to rural Blacksburg, VA has been a big change in scenery. Blacksburg is a beautiful town. There are many aspects of the area that I love: clean air, quiet, and plenty of outdoor activities. As someone pursuing a PhD, I am essentially a professional student, so the lack of distractions is much appreciated.

Research Ethics

The Office of Research Integrity (ORI) oversees and directs Public Health Service (PHS) research integrity activities on behalf of the Secretary of Health and Human Services with the exception of the regulatory research integrity activities of the Food and Drug Administration. There is a location on the ORI website on " Misconduct Case Summaries". There are currently 7 cases for 2016: Case Summary: Cullinane, Andrew R. Case Summary: D’Souza, Karen M.

Some Modest Advice for Graduate Students

Some Modest Advice for Graduate Students by Stephen C. Stearns tl;dr: Always Prepare for the Worst Nobody cares about you You Must Know Why Your Work is Important Psychological Problems are the Biggest Barrier Avoid Taking Lectures - They’re Usually Inefficient Write a Proposal and Get It Criticized Manage Your Advisors Types of Theses Start Publishing Early Don’t Look Down on a Master’s Thesis Publish Regularly, But Not Too Much This is a writeup that’s always worth a read every now and then.

How Learning Works

Susan Ambrose’s book “How Learning Works” is probably one of the best investments for people who teach. The next best (time) investment is reading Greg Wilson’s paper on “Software Carpentry: lessons learned”. I’ve watched Greg Wilson’s corresponding PyCon 2014 and SciPy 2014 talk numerous times, and is well worth the listen.

Teaching and Mentoring

Software-Carpentry 1 has made be a better teacher because of the way we collect feedback during our workshops. When teaching a technical class, we use low-tech sticky notes to signify whether individuals need help or not: Green for no help needed, Red for help needed. This is extremely effective while teaching. As an instructor all you need to look for is a red sticky note and you know someone has a question, or if everyone has a green sticky note, the class is following along.

Where Do I Fit in Academia?

It’s always a good idea to take a break and think about all that’s going on in life in perspective. As I approach the end of the coursework phase of my PhD program, I need to think about what’s next. My preliminary exam… but beyond that, I need to think about the (glorious) life after I graduate. Do I go to industry? or stay in Academia? Currently, my duties are closer aligned to that of a scientific research software engineer.

Communicating Science

The communication science workshop at class reminds me of the various acting warm-up exercise I did when I took an acting class in high school. The drills require individuals to coordinate and communicate with other people in the room, but also serves as an icebreaker by doing ‘silly’ things. One of the first exercise we did in class was to describe our current research. This is a skill that I have refined over the past few years as a PhD student.

Impostor Syndrome: Am I Qualified?

Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome) is a concept describing high-achieving individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. Wikipedia I really shouldn’t feel impostor syndrome. There are many things I can list that point to my accomplishments, yet, I still fall victim to impostor syndrome. It’s a phenomenon that is constantly talked about and written about.

Accessible Education in the United States

In the United States, higher education aims to be accessible to everyone. Although historically, college and university degrees were mainly for privileged, white males, throughout the years, in order to decrease the socioeconomic gap, more colleges aimed towards local regions and demographics were created. From Historically Black Colleges and Universities, to Land Grant Schools, to Community Colleges, each `type' of College/University was aimed to be more inclusive. This puts things into perspective and I’ve considered teaching at community colleges.

Mission Statements

Mission statements and reflections on higher education institutions (plus one high school) that I’ve attended. Reflection It’s not surprising that the institutions that have a more specific academic focus, will have a more specific mission statement. The Mailman school of public health’s mission is devoted in improving public health, and Stuyvesant High school, is focused on science, mathematics, and technology. For the other Colleges and Universities, the missions are much more general, and the ones located in New York City, mention the city, whereas Virginia Tech mentions the entire Commonwealth of Virginia.

Journal: Why am I Journaling?

I’m taking “Preparing the Future Professoriate” this semester at Virginia Tech, which is one of the core classes for the “Future Professoriate Certificate”. The class has us writing blog posts along with weekly journals. Since I’m now transitioning into the phase in my doctoral program where I need to transition into writing papers, just getting in to the habit of writing more can’t hurt. Let’s work on just writing more, then focus on tailoring my voice towards different audiences.