Category Archives: General

Tips from Ken for starting professors

A few days back, Kenneth Hanson shared his experiences of his first year as assistant professor (read it!). I asked him if he could give one, single advice for someone starting his or her professorship.

Here is his answer:

Hello Sven,

That is a tough question. I spent a few days thinking about it and could not come up with one definitive piece of advice. Here are several:

1) Be willing to let go of lab work. We spend most of grad school and our postdocs in complete control of our projects and day-to-day measurements. It is basically impossible to maintain that level of control when supervising several people/projects. The sooner you trust your students and let go of lab work, the sooner you can dedicate to writing papers/proposals.

2) Prioritize based on importance and rate-determining step. Prioritizing based on importance is easy. There are some things we want done first. However, in addition to importance you have to account for your reliance on other people that do not have the same priorities. Just assume that if you are relying on someone else for equipment/training/renovations that it is going to take longer than you think and longer than they say. Make the initiating steps and follow up on those projects a priority even if they are lower on the list. I won’t suggest that you hound people aggressively but friendly reminders will get you far.

3) Be a good coworker but be willing to say no to senior colleagues. Sometimes you just can’t take on another project.

4) Set up group meetings as soon as possible. It will likely start out as a regular literature review or you explaining an instrument/concept but at least it gets something on the calendar. This formalizes the schedule and gives you a venue to talk to prospective students even through your lab might not be up and running.

5) Partition your day, in formalized time blocks, i.e. 8-10 course content, 10-12 proposals, etc. You cannot wait for those two open days to write a proposal, those days will never come. Instead you should rely on a few hours per day. It adds up very quickly.

That is all I have for now.
Good luck.

Lets see 🙂

Peer-review ring at SAGE’s Journal of Vibration and Control

SAGE anounced the retraction of SIXTY papers from the Journal of Vibration and Control. These papers had been published by a peer–review and citation ring. How does such a ring work? Actually, it is very simple:

While investigating the JVC papers submitted and reviewed by Peter Chen, it was discovered that the author had created various aliases on SAGE Track, providing different email addresses to set up more than one account. Consequently, SAGE scrutinised further the co-authors of and reviewers selected for Peter Chen’s papers, these names appeared to form part of a peer review ring. The investigation also revealed that on at least one occasion, the author Peter Chen reviewed his own paper under one of the aliases he had created.

I really despise such a behaviour. You know, I myself am always thrilled to get every bit ‘right’ in my publications about doing intersting stuff. Preparing it for weeks, submitting it, being excited and nervous about the reviewers’ comments, and so on. And then someone has just spends all his time and resources on cheating. SIXTY papers!

Find the full press release here.

It’s natural.

Nice post of Derek on All Natural And Chemical Free. He has some very interesting points:

The "chemical free" view of the world has the virtue of simplicity (and indeed, sees simplicity as a virtue itself). Want to stay healthy? Simple. Don’t eat things with chemicals in them. Want to know if something is the right thing to eat, drink, wear, etc.? Simple: is it natural or not?


This is another thing that makes some people who argue for this view so vehement – it’s not hard, it’s right in front of you, and why can’t you see the right way of living when it’s so, so. . .simple? Arguing against that, from a scientific point of view, puts a person at several disadvantages. You necessarily have to come in with all these complications and qualifying statements, trying to show how things are actually different than they look.


So there are plenty of reasons why it’s hard to effectively argue against the all-natural chemical-free worldview. You’re asking your audience to accept a number of things that don’t make much sense to them, and what’s worse, many of these things look like rhetorical tricks at best and active (even actively evil) attempts to mislead them at worst. And all in the service of something that many of them are predisposed to regard as suspicious even from the start. It’s uphill all the way.

Mmh. Sadly, this is true. I had so many debates and arguments about these things with non–chemistry people (including relatives). After, I really feel exhausted because it feels like breaking through a brick–wall of ‘simplicity’.

I remember a talk I gave in a circle of physicists about my diploma thesis ‘Optical pH Sensors for Dermatology’. After the talk there was a short discussion. The very first question was ‘Will your stuff harm or kill you?’. Sigh.

Now, instead of arguing, I suggest eating amanita verna or the like. It is all natural and, therefore, chemical free, isn’t it?

The PHD Movie 2: Still in Grad School by Jorge Cham

Jorge Cham, the creator of the famous PHD comics and the PHD Movie, is looking for some money on kickstarter to produce a sequel. There are nice rewards, such as a signed manuscript, a poster with signature of the cast, and/or a personal comic of you.

If you have not watched (or bought) the first movie, you can watch it free this month on

Now, go on Kickstarter and support him!

PHD Comics