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Cosmic Variance

How Not to Mentor Your Students

11 Oct 2012, 06:42 UTC
How Not to Mentor Your Students
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

As a vigorous defender of “work-life” balance, I am compelled to weigh in on the recent circulation of a letter sent to the graduate students in a “well regarded astronomy program”. The lengthy (10-point) letter was a summary of the department’s internal review of grad student performance, along with additional information and guidance. Such a review is not an unusual occurrence, nor is there typically any interest in publicizing routine intradepartmental correspondence.
However, what made the letter notable was that put in writing clear confirmation of pretty much every fear that students have about how they’re viewed and what they’re expected to sacrifice for “success”. On one level, it’s perhaps good to have this all out in the open, rather than having a secret set of criteria that students are never told about. However, the criteria listed are, frankly, kind of nuts. Kelle Cruz at AstroBetter and Ethan Siegal have gone through some of the highlights, with most of the outrage coming in response to the implication that failure to work 80-100 hours a week (or simply to not want to work 80-100 hours a week) was a sign that scientific research might not be for you.
Putting aside the ...

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