Your daily dose of news, notes and links from around Kansas University.
• Here’s an article from the Chronicle of Higher Education that touches on a topic that’s generated a fair amount of discussion on this blog: faculty productivity.
It uses the job of Carlos L. Aiken, a geosciences professor at the University of Texas at Dallas, as an example.
“Some people might consider Carlos L. Aiken's job pretty cushy,” the article said. “At a glance, anyone can see that he taught a total of 45 students at the University of Texas at Dallas in a recent academic year, while earning a six-figure salary.”
But he’s really done a lot more than just teach.
“He supervises graduate students, writes grants to keep his research afloat, and recently he gave a presentation on "3D virtual geology" to a local chapter of the Society of Independent Professional Earth Scientists. He's working on and off throughout the summer, even though the time he puts in is not factored into his pay,” the article said.
The Chronicle looked at a professor in Texas because the University of Texas system is looking at his output as a series of data points — number of classes and students taught, grant money awarded and average student evaluation scores.
There’s other stuff, too, that doesn’t get measured a lot beyond teaching and research, the article says, like directing doctoral dissertations, advising students, serving on committees, writing grants and mentoring students and junior faculty.
I mention all of this not to suggest that universities (yes, even including KU) don’t have a few “deadwood” faculty members, as the article calls them, but more that it’s difficult to communicate what exactly occupies a professor’s time during the week, even the ones who are doing a good job.
• KU’s Chip Taylor, director of KU’s Monarch Watch, got a mention in the New York Times this week.
The paper wrote about the ongoing issue of dwindling monarch butterfly populations in the Midwest.
Taylor, an insect ecologist who has frequently discussed the issue before, pointed out that genetically modified crops may be having an effect on milkweed populations.
Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed, and their larvae eat the plant for food.
“This milkweed has disappeared from at least 100 million acres of these row crops,” Taylor told the newspaper. “Your milkweed is virtually gone.”
• KU graduate student Evan Austin of Shawnee, has earned a pretty sweet award from the Department of Defense.
He will get a $38,000 annual stipend, full tuition and fees, book allowance and health insurances through the Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation Scholarship for Service Program.
He also will receive paid summer internships and postgraduate employment at the Department of Defense. He conducts research at KU's Information and Telecommunication Technology Center.
He earned an undergraduate degree in the department of electrical engineering and computer science, and will earn a master’s degree in computer science in August, and will begin his doctoral studies this fall.
• I wonder if some nice KU donor would set up a scholarship for the best tip for Heard on the Hill. We don’t have one set up yet, but you’d better submit one at firstname.lastname@example.org just in case.