Thursday, 31 January 2013

so long, 3.091x

Hooray, I just downloaded a pdf file certifying that I

successfully completed 3.091x: Introduction to Solid State Chemistry, a course of study offered by MITx, an online learning initiative of The Massachusetts Institute of Technology through edX”.
Frankly I don’t understand why it took 17 days to generate the certificate but hey, it was a free course and I wasn’t in a hurry.

I took this course hoping to refresh or possibly fill some gaps in my university chemistry, and also because it was one of the inaugural courses offered by edX. I expected it to be both challenging and fun. It was challenging all right. But it could do with a little bit more fun.

For the benefit of future students, here are my personal impressions of the course.

Friday, 4 January 2013

forever foreign

In the preface to his novel NO, Carl Djerassi wrote:
A striking phenomenon of the contemporary science scene is the remarkable Asianization of the American research laboratory: Asians now represent in certain disciplines, such as chemistry or engineering, the majority of graduate students in many American universities. In many of these institutions, more than half the postdoctoral fellows (the most exploited but also most productive sector of the research establishment) have received the bulk of their college or university education in Asia.
NO was published in 1998. You’d think that since then the said postdocs moved up to professorial positions across American academia and have taken, well, most of them. Wrong! As Lilian Gomory Wu and Wei Jing write in their recent Nature article:
Across all sectors, Asians in US STEM [science, technology, engineering and maths] careers are not reaching leadership positions at the same rate as white people, or even as members of other underrepresented groups. In academia, just 42% of Asian men are tenured, compared with 58% of white men, 49% of black men and 50% of Hispanic men. Just 21% of Asian women in academia are tenured, the lowest proportion for any ethnicity or gender. They are also least likely to be promoted to full professor.
But why? The authors argue that
east Asians’ humble demeanour could cause them to describe the implications of their research in modest terms, which might bring them lower ratings from reviewers.
On the other hand,
a work group of the US government’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports that Asians are often perceived as ‘forever foreign’, which can affect how others assess their ability to communicate, their competence and, more importantly, their trustworthiness.
It’s all good to be hardworking, patient, family oriented and so on, but if you don’t sex up your research, you don’t get promoted. And don’t get trusted either.