Monthly Archives: August 2014

Why August is the cruelest month

If T.S. Eliot had become a tenured professor, he would never have insisted April was the cruelest month. As those of us in the liberal arts know, it is August. Not only must we stir ourselves to bolt together syllabi and prepare lectures—acts that ping-pong between the drearily practical and ludicrously utopian—but we often do […] … learn more→

Rosetta lander will seek a close encounter with comet’s ‘primordial soup’

There is much excitement about Rosetta at the moment. The European Space Agency’s spacecraft has already made a successful rendezvous with a comet and the images that are being transmitted back are simply awe-inspiring. There is much more to come – the spacecraft will ride alongside the comet for at least another year. Meanwhile, as […] … learn more→

Colleges could narrow the income gap on campuses

Growing inequality threatens our society. A few years ago, such a provocative claim might have had limited support beyond a public park in lower Manhattan. Today a rising tide of voices warns of the ill effects of the increasing concentration of wealth and income. The warnings come from academics like Thomas Piketty, politicians like Sen. […] … learn more→

Race matters

It happened again: the single most contentious and edifying day of the semester, which I look forward to year after year. It’s the session in my editing class where we discuss racial and gender bias in language. And it’s the one in which my undergraduates, mostly blacks and Latinos from the Bronx, do the educating. […] … learn more→

When you drop your Freshman off at College remember this

This is the time of year when it has happened to many parents already and is about to happen to many more. The act of “dropping off” your child at college. Do you remember when it happened to you and you were the freshman? It was the early ’80s for me, and my father was […] … learn more→

Global ‘roadmap’ shows where to put roads without costing the earth

“The best thing you could do for the Amazon is to blow up all the roads.” These might sound like the words of an eco-terrorist, but it’s actually a direct quote from Professor Eneas Salati, a forest climatologist and one of Brazil’s most respected scientists. Many scientists share Salati’s anxieties because we’re living in the […] … learn more→

Porn star explains College. Almost.

Certainly, there are students in college that are not very bright. They’re actually a minority, dwarfed by the number of loan scammers on campus. I’d like to think the majority of students are reasonably bright; it sure seems like it when I talk to the students that still come to class once the loan checks […] … learn more→

Today\’s lesson: Life in the classroom before cellphones

Although I had taught for more than 20 years, I didn’t realize that I had forgotten what it was like to teach in a classroom without cellphones until I came up with a plan to relive those halcyon days. It was near the end of the semester, and I offered one point of extra credit […] … learn more→

When good supervisors go bad…

There are a lot of bad PhD stories out there. Stories of never-ending PhDs, of unprofessional supervisors, of labs exploding. But I think I might top them all… or at least a good many of them. I had a great supervisor. The perfect combination of thesis-related support, professional development, collegial co-worker and friendly laughs. In […] … learn more→

Won’t you guess my name?

I didn’t know I was named for the devil until I studied on an exchange program in Belgium. There, I would be introduced as “Mademoiselle Luci Férriss,” and the people who had begun stretching out their hands would recoil. “Lucifer!” they exclaimed more than once. “Why would your parents have saddled you with such a […] … learn more→