Here is my latest running theory:
Grad school is a stressful place. Although a person can do things to manage their stress and counteract it, the nature of the beast isn’t going to change. Recently I have been thinking about what makes grad school so much worse than being in your undergrad and one of the things that I think has been largely ignored is the lack of endorphins that grad students get.
When doing an undergrad degree, students get feedback more often based on tests and assignments that is generally reflective of their performance. I could slave away at a paper or study for hours, and when I received that high grade it would act as justification for all my effort. Working hard in your undergrad is rewarded with high marks, and when you achieve this your brain releases those delicious ‘feel-good’ chemicals. Well grad school is different. Grades seem to be less reflective of your effort. A- is the new F. Your advisor suffers if they give you less than an A because you will no longer be competitive for scholarships and grants. So when you get that A it doesn’t feel good quite the way it did in your undergrad.
I think people live more balanced lives in their undergrad, or at least I did. Grad school is a lot of stress filled with numerous occasions where your self-confidence is shattered. And instead of counter-balancing these lows with moments of redemption, words of praise are few and far between. Of course you can turn to your peer group for support but the majority of time with them is spent commiserating about everyone’s shitty situation and it doesn’t make sense to rely on them to boost you when they are in the same situation.
Graduate school is a marathon, not a sprint. I understand that. I just wish there were more mechanisms in place that could balance out all of the lows that come from this ordeal. I will be honest- I’m desperate for a pat on the back. Also, I know if it ever does come, I am going to cherish it.
I recently saw this video on this guy’s blog and I agree with the guy that students just want to be told how good they are. I guess there is this idea circulating that children grow up with their parents constantly telling them how special they are and then when they reach adulthood they are deprived of that reinforcement. This is probably true but still…. Don’t wean me off too early! I guess one alternative is actually exercising to start attaining those spikes of endorphins, but who has time for that?
I agree with Sally that this blog post was particularly hard to write because it was difficult to think of an article that I have read that would qualify as being ‘bad’. At minimum all articles go through a screening process and must be good enough to pass that. I tried to recall articles that I had read but really disliked, but my distaste for them was always related to their methods and analysis and not their style of writing. Below I have written about two articles on Northwest Coast Archaeology that could not be more different. There is one that inspires the reader and is able to take information from one site and make it relevant to a broad audience. The other does the opposite, it is drones on about one region, is unappealing to the specialists and scares off the generalist with its unenthusiastic summary.
Cannon, Aubrey and Dongya Y Yang
2006 Early Storage and Sedentism on the Pacific Northwest Coast : Ancient DNA Analysis of Salmon Remains from Namu, British Columbia. American Antiquity 71(1): 123–140.
Finding an article that I thought was well written was quite easy and immediately I knew that I needed to write about this article by Cannon and Yang. I promise I am trying not to be biased because Dr. Cannon is my supervisor. This is the first article I ever read of his and since then I have read it multiple times, each time with a different reason for examining the content.
The reason that I think article is so great is because it is convincing to readers who may be approaching it from multiple perspectives. The first time I read this paper was for my ancient DNA course and at that time I was focused on the descriptions the authors gave for their methodology. Did they follow proper contamination protocols? Were their results verified at an independent lab? Reading it a few years later I was more focused on the interpretation of the results in relation to their implications for the site of Namu. Three years separated the time that I read this paper and my expectations were completely different, yet both times I was able to find the right kinds of information and explanations in the paper.
Cannon and Yang were able to reach an impressive balance between including technically specific jargon related to their scientific methodologies and include a thorough explanation of how their results contribute to archaeological interpretations of Northwest Coast prehistory. This demonstrates the authors’ ability to reach a broad audience, a necessary quality for their paper because the implications affect a wide range of people in the archaeological community. I have found that many papers in archaeology that deal with scientific analysis focus mostly on their methodology and results, with smaller sections dedicated to the context and interpretations. This often may be a result of the kind of journals they are published in. For Cannon and Yang this seems to be the opposite, where the heavy science content is sandwiched between thorough discussions of Northwest Coast archaeology. By publishing in American Antiquity the authors had more leeway to include longer interpretations than they would have if they had chosen to submit to a more narrowly science archaeology journal.
I believe that the subject matter of this paper made it essential for the authors to methodically structure their writing and make sure their arguments were represented well. This paper has significance implications for some of the long-held theories for the emergence of social complexity on the Northwest Coast. Although it is not the first paper to argue against this theory, its implications may not have been well received by many archaeologists working in the area. Furthermore, from my limited understanding of the ancient DNA community in archaeology, it seems researchers are both extremely competitive and critical of each other’s work. I believe that Cannon and Yang validated their methodology and fit their results into the context of Northwest Coast archaeology well enough to satisfy most critics.
Ames, Kenneth M
1998 Economic Prehistory of the Northern British Columbia Coast. Arctic Anthropology 35(1): 68–87.
I chose this paper by Ames not because I think it is bad, but because when compared to Ames’ other work this paper seems weak. Of all of the researchers on the Northwest Coast, Ames appears to have this uncanny ability to synthesize large amounts of work and present them to audiences in a clear concise matter. This ability is why Ames has a full-length book about Northwest Coast archaeology and why he was selected to write the Annual Review of Anthropology (1994) for the region. Compared to all of his other summary articles I found this one to be completely dry, almost written in a monotone voice.
The author presents no new information in this article, which is understandable because it is a synthesis of work done in the region. However, Ames rarely takes a new approach or spin to the work that would have provided another perspective. If his intentional reader were someone who knows little about the archaeology of northern British Columbia than this article would be a suitable place to start. But if someone who was more versed with this region than this article would be one that could be skipped without fear of missing anything new. In exactly the opposite way of Cannon and Yang (2006), Ames has written an article that speaks to a very narrow audience. There would be little reason for anyone to read it that wasn’t interested in this area because it’s implications are not wide reaching.
Instead of offering any original information, the article could have been impressive if it shed new light on older research and gave it a resurgence of life. Ames drones on, culture period after culture period, without getting excited about anything specific. Arguably the most energetic to author gets is in his inclusion of information about dogs and the shifts in their socioeconomic role. I think that when summarizing the research of an area, the author needs to find a balance of including the right amount of content but then also highlighting areas that are either particularly interesting or important.
My critic of Ames stated in the most colloquial way, was that it was boring and uninspiring. The details are not good enough to be targeted for anyone with enough experience in the area. If it is targeted for an audience without a background then the most they will get from it is a list of facts and not an improved understanding of the main points of contention of archaeology in the region. My disappointment in this lack-lustre article is heighten because Ames write about Haida Gwaii and Prince Rupert Harbour, two of the most beautiful places in British Columbia that are blessed to also have really exciting archaeology there. Perhaps this article is an example of how if an author lacks any excitement about his topic, it becomes difficult for the reader to also be enthusiastic.
Hey Internet/GIS Friends,
I need you help trying to calculate Topographic Exposure (TOPEX) on a DEM in ArcGIS. I am trying to figure out wind exposure on a DEM with 25m cells.
There is a great blog post where someone explains how to do it but he uses GRASS. http://jamiepopkin.blogspot.ca/2011/01/calculating-togographic-exposure-with.html I thought I would be able to put the same equation into ArcGIS Raster Calculator but it says the equation is invalid. I’ve tried playing with it as much as I can but I can’t seem to make it work.
Does anyone know how the equation should appear in Raster Calculator in either ArcGIS or QGIS?
Today the Department of Anthropology at McMaster held a workshop session on non-academic careers in anthropology. In my opinion it was the best graduate workshop they have held this year. A huge issue I have had with my education at McMaster has been the heavy focus on grooming their student for academic jobs but still warning us against the perils that face this career choice. I don’t blame them, I think it is pretty ingrained in the structure of the system. Apparently they are hoping to hold one of these sessions once per semester. I applaud their choice to do this as for a while it seemed that most of my career advice was coming from HBO’s Girls- or at least what not to do.
There was a panel of three alumni from McMaster who had careers related to anthropology. You can read their bio’s here. I was surprised by the amount of research they still engaged in and how directly related to anthropology their jobs were. The three people were:
Marcia Barron (PhD 1999, Cultural Anthropology/Applied Anthropology)
Andrew Galley (PhD 2012, Cultural Anthropology/Anthropology of Health)
Cadell Last (BA 2011, Biological Anthropology) – http://cadelllast.com/
Adhering to the lists that I appreciate most from blogs, here is a quick summary of some of the insightful points that were discussed:
- Cadell was a huge advocate for creating an online presence to establish yourself as an authority in your specialty
- Focus of the general research skills you acquire in graduate school (could have been more specific about this) – combing qualitative and quantitative data
- Articulate clearly why you as an anthropologists can help people
- Communicating why anthropology and your research matters to a broad range of audiences. Pay attention to popular science
- Avoid isolating yourself in academia- create a blog to go along with class assignments and research projects. Putting your work online will improve how you communicate with others.
- Have conversations with your supervisor about career planning and your goals. (We’ll see about this one. I still haven’t told me supervisor about my intentions of not continuing to my PhD because I am worried about his reaction)
- The difficult situation people in grad school are in where their closest friends are also their competitors- I haven’t really dealt with this yet except slightly through grants and scholarships. Still, I strongly believe that Your success shouldn’t be dependent on the failure of others
- Make it easy for people to contact you through your blog- whoops, I gotta do this. I’m sure people are dying to privately message me about my gif choices.
- They did have some good ideas about being online curators of science content and the possibility of summarizing academic papers into short clear recaps. I write annotated bibliographies all the time. I don’t think my supervisor even reads them so I might as well be putting them online. I would have appreciated reading other people’s annotated biblios while I was in my undergraduate.
- An excellent point was raised about how co-op degrees and internships are promoted in your undergraduate but we haven’t figured out how these fit into graduate education. I would love to do an internship but I think it would be too big of a sacrifice at this point.
- Props to Andy for bringing up what a supervisor’s role is in professional development of graduate students. I like to think that it could be a partnership rather than a solitary effort.
Anyhow, I am grateful this session was held and I was happy to see many people turned out. We were able to go to the bar for beers and snacks after. *I have a solid rant about this that I need to get out of my system- so ask me in person.
Last note: Simon Fraser University launched a new professional Master’s program in Big Data that is set to begin Fall 2014. Seems awesome and a great use of time that will prepare you for an emerging job sector. The website implies that a background in computer programming is recommended. I wonder if they will be able to accommodate for students without this computer science background? If so, I think this may be a good option once I finish my MA.
Shocker- archaeology doesn’t make the list.
Found this list on The Muse, a blog I wasted a solid hour on today because of it’s killer content. Check out their post on the 1-3-5 To Do List. I am really enjoying grad school but I am also really looking forward to being done and entering the job market. Ever since I came up with a new career plan during the Christmas break my anxiety level has dramatically dropped. For a long time I have known that I didn’t want to go on and do my PhD and finally having an idea of what I wanted to do after my MA has been a huge improvement and has reduced the stress of school.
It seems that lately things happening in the technology industry have been captivating my attention. Facebook purchased WhatsApp for $19 billion, an app that I personally find lacks a high quality or pleasant interface. Today I learnt about Google’s Project Tango, a revolutionary smartphone they are developing that has remarkable 3D capturing capabilities. Check out the two videos below:
‘Say Hello to Project Tango’
The second video shows a quick example of someone actually using one of the phones to capture a room in 3D in seconds. It even has the ability to give you measurements from its recordings. Google is sending out 200 prototype phones to professional developers to start working on apps. If only I had that skill set, further indication to me that I am in the wrong discipline. So what I am curious about is how long until we see archaeologists benefitting from a device like this? I am not sure if it requires an Internet connection to produce these recordings but if it doesn’t then it would be super easy to start implementing a device like this in the field. I feel like archaeologists lost their minds over being able to use iPads in the field. With the onset of new technology like this it makes research that used to take many painstaking hours to be done now able to be completed remarkably faster. I do think it is funny that many research labs spent thousands of dollars on ‘sophisticated’ machinery and then a few years later an app comes out that produces similar results. Sometimes I am reminded that archaeology is the discipline of old white men with their heads stuck in the past. Well, time for us to catch up again with the rest of the world.
I am pretty set on buying the new iPhone 5s and it doesn’t seem like this Google phone will be available any time soon. The fact that I am even considering not buying a Mac product is insane because I have been Mac devoted for the last decade.