Posts about professors

CMU Professor Gives His Last Lesson on Life

photo of Randy Pausch

CMU professor gives his last lesson on life by Mark Roth:

“If I don’t seem as depressed or morose as I should be, sorry to disappoint you,” said Dr. Pausch, a 46-year-old computer science professor who has incurable pancreatic cancer. It’s not that he’s in denial about the fact that he only has months to live, he told the 400 listeners packed into McConomy Auditorium on the campus, and the hundreds more listening to a live Web cast.

In his 10 years at Carnegie Mellon, Dr. Pausch helped found the Entertainment Technology Center, which one video game executive yesterday called the premier institution in the world for training students in video game and other interactive technology. He also established an annual virtual reality contest that has become a campuswide sensation, and helped start the Alice program, an animation-based curriculum for teaching high school and college students how to have fun while learning computer programming.

It was the virtual reality work, in which participants wear a headset that puts them in an artificial digital environment, that earned him and his Carnegie Mellon students a chance to go on the U.S. Air Force plane known as the “vomit comet,” which creates moments of weightlessness, and which the students promised to model with VR technology.

“A recent CT scan showed that there are 10 tumors in my liver, and my spleen is also peppered with small tumors. The doctors say that it is one of the most aggressive recurrences they have ever seen.”

“I find that I am completely positive,” he wrote. “The only times I cry are when I think about the kids — and it’s not so much the ‘Gee, I’ll miss seeing their first bicycle ride’ type of stuff as it is a sense of unfulfilled duty — that I will not be there to help raise them, and that I have left a very heavy burden for my wife.”

An inspirational story. For me personally, it reminds me of my father: Bill Hunter who honestly believed, as he was stricken with cancer, he was luckier than most people that have ever lived. He was able to do many things that no-one, not even Kings, could have dreamed of even a hundred years before. I can’t manage such an outlook most of the time, but I do try and keep that spirit alive in me at times. William G. Hunter: An Innovator and Catalyst for Quality Improvement by George Box.

Related: Video of the lectureRandy PauschHelping people have better livesThe Importance of Management Improvement

Second Life for Scientist

A farewell to academia and hello to Second Life – a professor of Physics and Astronomy moves on the the second act of his professional career.

Loved the teaching. Loved the science. Couldn’t take the politics. Couldn’t take the tenure stress. That about sums it up.

It is a very good post that spells out several important points that should be addressed including:

Many people have noted that it’s getting harder to get null results published, and that it’s very difficult to get “credit’ for having done good science if you produce a null result… even though such things really should be the bread and butter of what scientists do, if we really believe all the things we say all the time about how science works, and about how the process of science is an honest, open, and objective process.

Related: Research Career in Industry or AcademiaThe World’s Best Research UniversitiesSo, You Want to be an Astrophysicist?

Sarah, aged 3, Learns About Soap

A Dialogue with Sarah, aged 3: in which it is shown that if your dad is a chemistry professor, asking “why” can be dangerous [the broken link was removed] by Stephen McNeil.

DAD: Why does the soap grab the dirt?
SARAH: Yes.
DAD: Because soap is a surfactant.
SARAH: Why?
DAD: Why is soap a surfactant?
SARAH: Yes.
DAD: That is an EXCELLENT question. Soap is a surfactant because it forms water-soluble micelles that trap the otherwise insoluble dirt and oil particles.

Great. I remember such discussions with Dad (Chemical Engineering professor). The only danger I saw was him getting tied of -why? (when I was older). And sometimes giving me answers the teacher didn’t like (a way of doing math problems that wasn’t the way my teacher was teaching).

Related: Illusion of Explanatory DepthExcellence in K-12 Mathematics and Science TeachingWhat Kids can LearnScience for Kids
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Research Career in Industry or Academia

In, Working in Industry vs Working in Academia, a computer scientist (software engineering) shares their experience and opinion on research career options. He discusses 4 areas: freedom (to pursue your research), funding, time and scale, products (papers, patents, products).

In academia, you’re under a huge amount of pressure to publish publish publish!

In industry, the common saying is that research can produce three things: products, patents, and papers (in that order). To be successful you need to produce at least two of those three; and the first two are preferred to the last one. Publishing papers is nice, and you definitely get credit for it, but it just doesn’t compare to the value of products and patents.

Related: post on science and engineering careersGoogle: engineers given 20% time to pursue their ideas