Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Shiny Happy Professors

News flash:

Physical science professors are happier than professors in other disciplines.

This professorial happiness index was calculated by considering "teaching hours, university expectations for tenure, ability to balance work and home responsibilities and time for one's own research."

The slide show is awesomely strange.

The #1 happiest physical science professor is shown standing in front of a chalkboard covered with drawings and equations that will be familiar to many of you. He is doing an experiment at the front of a large lecture hall and appears to be explaining what he is doing. One student may be raising his hand to ask a question. Alternatively, he is pulling out his eyebrows; our view is blocked and we can only surmise.

#2. In the next slide, a "humanities" professor is standing in front of a desk covered with papers. He is holding a book, and appears deep in thought, eyes narrowed. The chalkboard has only one word on it: Madness. Say no more.

#3. The environmental science professor is standing in a marsh.

#4. The business professor is wearing a tie, speaking in the atrium of a building filled with well-dressed people. He seems to be making a speech.

#5. Representing the only-medium-happy social sciences is a woman holding a book titled "Inside Organized Racism: Women in the Hate Movement". This is the only female professor in the slide show. Are we to surmise that her research interests focus on women?

#6. The medical people are wearing lab coats! Does anyone know what the Professor of Medicine is pointing to? What are those greenish blobs on sticks? Please tell me they are not organs.

#7. You may be thinking that the Physical Sciences Professor photo is my favorite, but you are wrong if you are thinking this. The Biological Sciences professor (also wearing a white lab coat!) is way more awesome. There are dead things floating in jars in the background, there is a very large dead thing in the arms of the professor, and the expression on the professor's face is.. inscrutable, but somehow.. wise. Perhaps he is mad?

#8. It is too bad that Math & Engineering are at #8 and not higher because these guys are clearly having a lot more fun than some of the bio/med people even though they don't get to hold large dead things. They aren't wearing lab coats, but in their own way, they are very geeky-cool. (Why are Math & Engineering lumped together? Was it a tie? I guess if you can lump all of "Humanities" together, you can combine Math and Engineering?)

#9. The Education Professor is only a small part of his photo, which mostly shows a highly engaged classroom of hand-raising and smiling students, who don't actually look like traditional students; some guys are in ties. Are they grad students? Robots? Why are so many of the women wearing pink? The students have name cards in front of them; clearly the professor cares about them as people (although, unless it's the first class, he doesn't have a good memory; it's not a large class, so why doesn't he know their names?).

#10. What exactly are the "Health and Human Ecological Sciences"? Anthropology, apparently, but why would that include Health Sciences? I don't know, but the guys in the photo are clearly scientists because there is a copy of Nature on the table. There are some impressive tomes on the shelves behind them. These guys seem to be part of a panel of experts debating or explaining the timing of migration of humans into northern Europe. They appear to be very unhappy, or mad. Perhaps that is why they are at #10 in the list.

#11. Visual & Performing Arts. Why so sad? The people I know who are in the V & PA all seem like happy people who enjoy their jobs, but maybe they hide their pain when they are around me, a happy physical scientist with the best professorial job in academe?

So now I need to do my own scientific study of the happiness index of FSP readers. When you vote, I want you to search your heart for the best answer and not be competitive and try to get your field to be at the top (or bottom) of the list.

The question is simple, and the factors on which your answer is based need not be limited to the professorial components of the Harvard Graduate School of Education study (the results of which are listed above). In the comments, to provide more background, you could give more information, such as: humanities professor, 1; environmental science postdoc, 7; or math graduate student, 3 (with the number corresponding to your answer to the poll). The results will be completely uninterpretable, but might provide some entertaining diversion on a summer day.

On a scale of 1 to 11, how happy are you?
1 : happy happy happy
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11 : not happy at all
pollcode.com free polls

54 comments:

Noah said...

It is baffling why they'd put math/CS/stat in with engineering rather than own their own, or at least with the physical sciences. Engineering is primarily a professional degree not an academic one, and thus one should expect the experience of being an engineering professor to be rather different. Furthermore the number of engineering professors will overwhelm any data coming from math/CS/stat, so they'd have been better off just not including that data at all.

An obvious error like this really makes me doubt the general competence of the people running the study and thus doubt their results.

Dr Becca, PhD said...

Those photos are hilarious!

I'm pretty sure the business professor is actually in the Apple Store on 5th ave in Manhattan. Here's another photo where you can see the whole glass stairwell thing better.

Also, what is the animal in the Bio prof's arms? A neonatal horse? That's just gross.

I'm not a professor yet, but when I am I hope to be at least a 4.

Female Science Professor said...

I, too, thought the dead thing might be fetal, but I'm not a biology professor. Does anyone recognize it? What about the things in jars on the shelf?

Estraven said...

What Noah said. Verbatim.

Estraven said...

On second thoughts, the blackboards in the Math/Engineering picture are definitely maths. Both because of what's written there, and because only mathematicians need so large blackboards everywhere.
The two men, however, are way overdressed to be mathematicians.

Jeff said...

Surely that "business professor" is actually David Cameron, British PM?

Moose said...

Wait, what? The business 'professor' is the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron! Do Americans really not recognise him?

Anonymous said...

The Business Prof looks suspiciously like the Prime Minister of the UK - David Cameron. http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/davidcameron

Klaas said...

The "business professor" is David Cameron the PM of the UK. The madness picture is great!

FleaTamer said...

re Dr Becca's comment on the Business Prof.

If I am very much mistaken, this is a picture of David Cameron (British PM in case you guys over there still think we still have Blair (or Brown)). The photo is from a slightly unusual angle, but the tie, the white shirt and the mike clip, was so typical of the daily election campaign repots on the news - I'm 99% sure.

So this says all about tis study....shoddy at the least.

puck said...

physical sciences postdoc, 2

(disclaimer: the ink is not yet dry on my PhD and I'm heading to a fantastic fellowship in the precise part of the country and at the precise institution where I've always hoped to live and work - close friends, solving of the two-body problem with significant other, utopia-esque community, beautiful, affordable, the works. Odds-wise I hit the one-in-a-million jackpot with academic jobs and I realize it, so yeah, 2. From another perspective, it's a 2 now so it can pretty much only go downhill from here! :P But yep, figured I'd pipe in as one of the rare happy postdoc data points!)

David Stern said...

The business guy looks like David Cameron, UK prime minister.

Kris said...

Um, isn't the "business professor" the prime minister of britain?

Image of David Cameron from the independent

Anonymous said...

The "business professor" is David Cameron, prime minister of the UK

Anonymous said...

The "Health and Human Ecological Sciences" are things like nutition, kinesiology, community recreation, etc. A lot of them are at the border of what used to be the gym major in the college of Education and what used to be called "Home Economics" and got renamed "Human Ecology."

Anonymous said...

#4. The business professor is wearing a tie, speaking in the atrium of a building filled with well-dressed people. He seems to be making a speech.


Hmmmmmmm that looks very much like the Right Honorable David Cameron - A.K.A. the British Prime Minister!!!!!

Either that or David Cameron has a Doppelganger.....

http://www.number10.gov.uk/meet-the-pm

Lucy said...

I'm almost sure that the "business professor" is David Cameron, the prime minister of Britain. He's not a professor at all.

Anonymous said...

Faculty in the visual and performing arts earn a little more than half of what you do in the sciences, and work about the same hours. Might that affect the happiness of this group?

Lucy said...

oh, indeed it is Cameron: http://www.apimages.com/OneUp.aspx?st=k&kw=david%20cameron&showact=results&sort=date&intv=None&cfas=PERSON_FEATURED_NAME&sh=10&kwstyle=or&adte=1279019027&pagez=60&cfasstyle=AND&PERSON_FEATURED_NAME=%22DAVID%20CAMERON%22&rids=be79de412244421ea35499ed661141f4&dbm=PY2010&page=1&xslt=1

Shavahn said...

Hmmm.... that thing the biological sciences professor is holding looks like either a late term aborted foal or still born foal (it appears to have its umbilical cord still attached). It also looks to have some pretty major limb deformities.

Pointsofdata said...

The business one is actually David Cameron, prime minister of the UK. He actually did PPE not business, at Oxford

Comrade PhysioProf said...

It is true: we have kajillions of dead fucking bodies in my lab.

A Postdoc said...

Uhm, I'm pretty sure the "business professor" (#4) is actually current British prime minister David Cameron...

Anonymous said...

Physical science, PUI, 2.

Anonymous said...

3. CS, which is apparently supposed to go with math and engineering.

I like that your scale goes up to 11, for that extra degree of unhappiness that academia can provide. (I choose to read it as a Spinal Tap reference.)

Anonymous said...

The "education" photo is of education grad students or soon-to-be teachers. Consequently they're engaged and wearing clothes suitable for impressing students.

There is such a thing as "human ecology" but I don't know what it has to do with health. Human ecology is just what it sounds like - ecology (ie interactions of organisms and their environment) with a focus on humans. Human ecologists are out in the field as often as other ecologists. They got the raw end of the deal in this photo, while the environmental science prof is out having fun in the marsh. Personally I think it's pretty nice for your job to be to hang out in a pretty place outside all day and play in the water. I guess that's why I'm in ecology / evolution even if I don't get outside much any more (postdoc doing all computer modeling).

I don't know why the article needed a slide show. It sure is funny. I wonder what impression it gives to non-academics.

Anonymous said...

There is actually a good intersection between math and engineering. Many engineering fields rely on applied math or computational statistics (mechanical and chemical engineering come to mind) and their problems often drive mathematical developments. Personally, I am in an area that fits into stats/cs/operations research. I call myself an engineering due to my problem focus, but my home department is statistics.

FSP: the dead thing looks to be a fetal(?) horse.

chemmer said...

I'm pretty sure the "business professor" is David Cameron (British prime minister, never a business prof)... random!

The slideshow rankings on HuffPost college are usually pretty ridiculous but this one might take the cake. And I agree, I don't get combining math with engineering but separate biological sciences and medicine? Obviously they should all be separate categories but it's weird that they combined some disparate disciplines and not others.

wow said...

I'm a postdoc in physics and I voted #1. Happy happy happy is my middle name. (I think the grad students in my lab want to murder me, but I am just glad to have a job.)

Slide #7 is quite disturbing. I thought it was a baby Bambi. I do a lot of outreach with young girls. No wonder none of them want to become scientists...their 'role models' are creepy old men like that guy!

Anonymous said...

I LOVE the biological sciences photo! Hilarious!

Female Science Professor said...

I'm starting to think that the 'business professor' is actually the UK Prime Minister.. I was struck by the resemblance and almost wrote that the professor looked like a politician, but I did not catch on that it really was the UK Prime Minister. Perhaps I am too impressionable -- I was told this was a business professor, and that's what I believed. I must work on that, it is very unscientific. I'm pretty convinced about some of the others, though.

Why would anthropology be grouped with nutrition and recreation studies?

Anonymous said...

I am much happier now that I am NOT in the physical sciences any more.

Gee, did someone say that the business prof is David Cameron yet?

Alex said...

First, I don't know if any other commenters have pointed this out yet, but the business professor looks like the Prime Minister of the UK.

:)

My happiness level is 3, and I'm a physical sciences professor.

FrauTech said...

I really like the biological sciences one. Like he was showing them neat computer models he uses or something microscopic and the photographer went "oh come on, don't you have animals here? isn't this biology?" so he thought fine, I'll pull out a big DEAD ANIMAL and take a picture with that, you happy mr. photographer?.

And contrary to whoever said engineers didn't need huge chalkboards, that's all we use for my classes. Huge chalkboards covered in graphs, diagrams, and equations. Engineering in a lecture setting is necessarily very mathy.

Anonymous said...

The silliness of HuffPost's slideshow aside, it looks like there are some very interesting comparative data in the report. Inside Higher Ed also has a much more informative article (http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/07/12/coache), focusing in part on significant gaps between men's and women's responses.

Anonymous said...

biomed PhD student (and mom of 2 littles), 3

Anonymous said...

As a literature professor, I would rate myself as a 2 in terms of happiness. I'm not permanently blissful, but in general I am quite content and I have regular peak experiences.

However, I do begin every single class period by writing "Madness" on the board then reading a book with a frown on my face for the remainder of the hour. So that might be why I'm so happy.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

I'm a historian who rates her job happiness at 3, with the recognition that most of the things that make me unhappy (stupid bureaucracy, plagiarizers, etc.) are transitory and can safely be ignored.

But I'm surprised that you (FSP) didn't comment more overtly on the fact that, with one exception, the slide show codes all professors as male, and with one other exception, codes them all as white.

Considering how often I've heard that only women and minorities can get job interviews in academia, I'm puzzled. Where on earth did the slide show's compilers find all these endangered white men?

Female Science Professor said...

This is the only female professor in the slide show.

I guess we have different definitions of "more overtly".

Doctor Pion said...

#7 (biology) looks like a Russian researcher holding the result of either Chernobyl or one of the above-ground tests they and we did with animals.

#1 is happy because he gets to use the "right" units that make Maxwell's equations neat and symmetric. And because he is doing some of my favorite cool demos with dangerous equipment on spectacularly antique carts. The students are bored because they just want to see sparks, or the professor electrocuted, not an explanation of physics they learned in high school. (It is at MIT.)

#8 (math and engineering) is my favorite. Did anyone else notice the bizarre juxtaposition of Dedekind's problem concerning Boolean functions and the simple harmonic oscillator? The mathematician is smiling because the engineer doesn't even realize his idea of "math" just got pwned.

Concerning the one female professor (#5 Social Science), I wonder if they made this choice because of the high level of unhappiness among female professors in that area compared to those in other areas. The book she is holding even reflects speculation (in the IHE discussion) that their disgruntlement about unclear tenure standards, among other things, might originate in a lack of respect for gender studies by others in that field.

Finally, I suspect the people in the arts are unhappy because they tend to be at the bottom of the pay scale unless they are Really Famous.

Janus Professor said...

CPP - You are toooo funny!!

Anonymous said...

In the original survey, they actually surveyed "untenured assistant professors". Anyone a guess, if/how the list might be different for tenured professors?

Short Geologist said...

4: geologist (former grad student, working in industry). I didn't think I'd be marginally happier than the average.

Anonymous said...

biological sciences, 3

GMP said...

Wow, look at all the shiny happy people reporting high levels of happiness (3)!
I'd say before tenure I was at 6-7, now after tenure perhaps 4-5.

I love the challenge part of the job, but there is very little support from the department/university (administrative or teaching release), the raises have been nonexistent, I constantly have to hunt for money, and it's very hard to recruit motivated students... But I do have a secure job that provides me with intellectual stimualation. Have I said it's a secure job?

Anonymous said...

Assistant professor in social sciences at a regional state university: 5.

Kea said...

I'm an unemployed physicist and I'm not happy at all. In fact, it's a crime for me even to use the word happy.

Of course those arrogant sexist MFs are the happiest people. Home duties? Hah, hah! The ladeez exist to pleeze dem, you know. I just thought of another poll you should try, for female physics professors only: what is your bra size? What a cool proof of discrimination against the non honorary males!

fridayafternoonwriter said...

PhD student, 4. But with a disclaimer: I found a job in the R&D department of a company which I'm truly thrilled with. So right now, the perseverance and depression tied up in the finish of the last bits is buoyed by "I have a job! I have a job! People think I will fit in well! People thought my research was interested and well presented!" So excuse me while I'm beaming at everybody right now.

Anonymous said...

non-tenure track biological sciences, 2-3.

I'm a (younger, female, less creepy) version of the weird old guy in #7...On a good day, I get to work with strange dead things, and that makes me happy. So clearly I'm somewhere off on the edge of the spectrum of normal, accepted society. From a teaching perspective, though, if a gory picture or mummified critter sparks someone's curiosity, is that bad? It certainly beats many of the lecture-hall experiences I had coming up the ranks...

Anonymous said...

Oooh. Results look something like a bell curve... how to interpret?

gasstationwithoutpumps said...

Although lumping engineering and math makes no more sense than lumping science and math, computer science is properly an engineering discipline, not a physical science.

See my post at http://gasstationwithoutpumps.wordpress.com/2010/06/10/engineering-vs-science/

Anon said...

@ gasstationwithoutpumps:
Although lumping engineering and math makes no more sense than lumping science and math, computer science is properly an engineering discipline, not a physical science.


:-) gasstationwithoutpumps, shhh! I hope the CS people at my university don't hear you calling them "engineers." They consider themselves very much the scientists and are in the College of Letters and Science; they also very much look down on the whole College of Engineering, where the Dept of Electrical and Computer Engineering is. So be careful whom you call an engineer! :-)

gasstationwithoutpumps said...

In my school the computer scientists are in the School of Engineering and get paid on the engineering salary scale (which is higher than for the sciences).

Anonymous said...

Biological sciences Postdoc, 5.

I should clarify that its not my science that contributes to the unhappiness.. its the lack of funding and opportunities. My PI (who is a great person and scientist) has ran out of funding to support me (and the rest of the lab). So currently I m hanging in the middle of a period of uncertainty.

Also, my work doesnt involve dead animals, rather cute little microorganisms and fancy sounding things like genetic engineering.