# Three Year Prof-iversary

Over the weekend I spent some time organizing files, prepping notes for class, and doing whatever it is that profs do in their free time1. Of course, sitting around organizing meant that I spent much of my time exploring the past year of work. It’s weird; most days I feel as if I get nothing accomplished because I spend far too much of my time in meetings. But, as with most aspects of my life, it’s not until I sit down and actually reflect on the past that I realize how much has happened in one little year.

From a strictly academic viewpoint I managed to submit several papers, write a bunch of reports, and work on several cool (at least to me) simulation studies. The year was also filled with so many grant writing sessions that I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing grants. I found myself in Newfoundland and Labrador for a presentation, spoke as part of a panel of experts for a teaching innovations conference, and was invited to speak at Western University. All told, not a bad year.

I think, however, the best part of the past year had to be the Farm To Fork project. It has become a central part of my life. It is on my mind all of the time, and it’s something that continues to amaze me. I am constantly blown away by the support that it has been shown at the local level, and the interest it has garnered beyond the borders of Guelph-Wellington.

Farm To Fork has also reminded me how amazing students can be if you just give them something worthwhile to do. The amount of work they’ve put into the project continues to make me smile a crazy stupid proud smile. Getting to work with the Farm To Fork students has been a fantastic experience, and I’m not quite sure how I lucked out as I have. It’s going to be very strange around my office when they all graduate.

Anyway, it wasn’t long after thinking about all of this stuff that I realized I just passed my third year as an Assistant Professor. Crazy how time flies. So many things have changed since the day I first stepped into the halls of the School of Computer Science. My job is better than I ever could have imagined it would be. And while my days are often rammed with meetings, I do love what I do. I think the students have a lot to do with that.

Officially my contract has two years left on it. I’m pretty excited to see what those two years will bring. If they’re anything like the first three, it’s going to be a crazy ride.

For now, I’m going to celebrate my three-year anniversary with a wee dram. It’s what profs do.

1 Some academiologists2 suggest that professors spend their spare time enjoying scotch. I can neither confirm nor deny this. I can only tell you that this professor enjoys spending his spare time sampling wee drams.

# Death By Meeting

I spend too many hours in meetings.

There, I said it. Somehow, I feel a little better.

Seriously though, I’m having one of those days where I’m trying to figure out how I’m supposed to work on – let alone finish – the various projects that I’m trying to complete.

Of course, maybe the number of hours I spend in meetings is normal. Maybe it’s par for the course.

I have to say, even if it is par for the course, I feel that it’s entirely too many hours. For example, this week I’ve spent a total of 15 hours in meetings – 4 hours on Monday, 8 hours on Tuesday1, and 3 hours today. Over three work days2, or 21 hours3, that amounts to more than 70% of my time.

Seventy percent!
In meetings!

Surely this has to be too much.

And believe it or not, this week is actually light in terms of total hours spent in meetings. I know for a fact that most weeks are worse.

So, I guess the questions I have are as follows:

1. Is this normal?
2. How does one sit through this many meetings and still accomplish things?
3. How does one sit through this many meetings and not stab themselves in the eye?

On the plus side, not all of my meetings are adventures in soul-sucking. Some of my meetings are quite productive, especially those with my students. Those meetings often leave me pumped up and wanting to do more work. I’m also often stoked because I know that some of the students will end up with their first publications (and I’ll somehow get to help out with that). But most of all, I’m thrilled because I get to work with and learn so much from the students.

I just wish sometimes that not every week required so many meetings.

1 That’s right, 8 hours. Gah.

2 Technically Wednesday was a day off, although I did spend a few hours working from home.

3 My paycheque apparently believes that I only work 35 hours a week, or 7 hours a day. Ha! Too funny.

# All It Takes Is Pie

Today I headed to Cape Croker – just north of Wiarton, Ontario – with two undergraduate students, two graduate students, and one Post Doctoral Fellow. This band of misfits included 3 biology students (1 who is transitioning from biology to statistics), 1 computer science student, and 1 engineer. Oh, and me – a card-carrying PhD and Assistant Professor of all things nerd-tacular1.

To say the car was full of nerds would have been an understatement2.

The purpose of our trip was to visit Cape Croker, meet some people, attend some meetings, and tour the facilities and the area, all with the intention of informing or supporting the research that we do. While not all of these goals were met – some meetings were cancelled – the day was still successful for several reasons.

First, I learned that where I thought we had little biological data on a particular species of fish, we actually have a lot – it’s just not in a form that I can work with – yet. Even better, my newest URA – Stephen – is working with me this summer to create a database for storing such information. Seeing how the data are currently recorded makes designing a better system that much easier.

Second, it’s always awesome to get to know one’s students better. Being in close quarters – such as a van – for several hours (6+) really helps. What did I learn? Not only are these students nerdy, they are also great people, and quite hilarious. We spent most of the day laughing and enjoying ourselves. So much so, that it seemed a lot less like work and a lot more like awesome-sauce.

Third, we found Sponge Bob Square Pants. Except he was nailed to a tree. On second thought, I’m not sure that this actually is a reason to consider the day a success. It’s definitely a reason to consider the day weird.

Fourth, even great days can be made better with the addition of pie. Especially if that pie is homemade. And filled with blueberries. Wild blueberries. Oh, and served warm. Perhaps with coconut milk ice cream3.

Okay, let’s be honest. Today would have been more than successful if nothing other than pie happened. True story.

Anyway, having recapped my day and relived the joy of buying a pie, I’m feeling a bit peckish – almost as if there is a spot in my belly specifically reserved for pie. Weird.

I wonder wherever I shall find pie at this hour? :)

1 Okay, maybe not all things nerd-tacular, but a lot of things nerd-tacular. Also, I don’t really carry a card. Perhaps I should.

2 It would also have been incorrect, because we had room for at least 2.75 more nerds.

Dan was almost Sad Dan because he was out of coconut milk ice cream, and then Almost Sad Dan realized that he still had pie, and thus Almost Sad Dan chose not to be sad.

# How Quickly They Grow Up

If not for the fact that I put almost everything into my calendar, I’d forget even the simplest of things. Like eating, wearing pants, and breathing.

Okay, that’s a bit of a stretch – I wouldn’t forget to wear pants, I’d just opt not to. Regardless, I’m betting that if breathing weren’t an autonomic response, I’d need a reminder to inhale.

I digress.

My point – and I do have one – is that I almost forgot that today is my Ph.D.-versary. My 2nd such -versary to be precise.

Wow. My wee baby is 2 years old. It is absolutely amazing to me to think that 2 years ago today I was standing in front of a room of learned individuals defending the work that I’d spent so many years deriving, programming, evaluating, analyzing, and writing. And I can’t forget the sweating. There was a lot of sweat.

It’s also amazing to me to think about all of the things that have happened since that fateful day. For one, I’m now on the other side of the table. I’m the guy that grills the students who have spent so much of their time and effort developing something new and exciting. I’m the guy that causes the sweat on the other side of the table. I’m the guy that I dreaded when I was in that situation.

As I did last year on this particular date, I’ve decided to look back and see what I’ve accomplished in the year. Why? Because today is a day that I have set aside to celebrate awesomeness. It’s a day where I have opted to evaluate my successes and failures so that I don’t stagnate, bore myself to tears, or become an old curmudgeonly cranky-pants mcgee who does nothing but chase children off his front lawn while waxing poetic about what things were like in my day. And it’s also a day to figure out what I want to do next, because there should always be something next.

Without further ado – my list-o-things:

Family/Friends/Random

• My brother was hit by a car driven by a distracted driver. He almost died, but didn’t. Because he’s awesome.
• I had surgery to fix my stupid stomach.
• I turned 36.
• Elliot and I celebrated our 1 year anniversary.
• Several friends finished their Ph.D.s (Congrats Dr. Levere and Dr. Gregorio!).
• Several friends went back to school (Dr. Beth, Kevin, and Rebecca) – because they are huge nerds.

Wanderlusting

• 13 trips in one year – including Hawaii, Calgary, Ottawa, New York, Montreal, Chicago, Wolfville, Halifax, and Victoria.
• Ice climbing and bobsledding in Calgary (February, 2012).
• Visiting Rick (again) in Calgary (April, 2012).

• Taught Advanced Methods for Population Modelling, Calculus II, Experimental Design, User Interface Design, and Discrete Optimization.
• Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Statistical Society of Canada in Wolfville (June, 2011), the GeoMed 2011 Conference in Victoria (October, 2011), and the Joint BioMS Series Colloquium in Guelph (February, 2011).
• Continued Ecological Risk Analyst for the Saugeen Ojibway First Nations (Fall, 2011).
• Taught a 3 day course for the Public Health Agency of Canada on SAS (February, 2012).
• Finished 7 papers, submitted 3, published 1, with the rest awaiting final edits from co-authors.
• Submitted 1 first author talk, 1 co-authored talk, and 3 co-authored posters to the Annual Meeting of the Statistical Society of Canada.
• Submitted 1 co-authored poster to the First Symposium on Telomeres and Genome Integrity.
• Chaired/chairing three committees (one within the School of Computer Science, one for the Province of Ontario, one for the Saugeen Ojibway First Nations). Member of 4 other committees.
• Took on several graduate students (as a committee member).
• Judged an awesome science fair.
• Finished a lot of grant applications (and working on more).
• Examined 2 M.Sc. students, and was an examiner for 2 Ph.D. qualifying exams.
• Finished my first year as an Assistant Professor in the School of Computer Science at the University of Guelph.

Not-So-Bucket-List List Accomplishments

• Published 3 articles in 1 year (item #3).
• Saw a ballet with Steph (item #30).
• Saw Tori Amos in concert (item #35).
• Saved $500 in change (item #39). • Learned to make dairy free banana bread (item #54)/ • Tried 30 new wines (item #58). • Bought a$100 bottle of port (item #59).
• Bought a new camera (item #60).
• Bought a new road bike (item #62).
• Ran 30k Around The Bay (item #75).
• Biked 60k (item #80).
• Climbed the CN Tower (item #82).
• Ran 5k in under 22 minutes (item #103).
• Ran a marathon (item #105).
• Traveled to BC (item #127).
• Traveled to Chicago (item #129).
• Traveled to visit Arlene (item #130).
• Traveled to Montreal (item #133).
• Traveled to Nova Scotia (item #136).
• Traveled to Vancouver (item #144).
• Traveled with Rick again (item #170).
• Went snowshoeing (item #186).
• Traveled with Rick again, again (item #187).
• Traveled once per month for 12 months (item #195).
• Had a brandy tasting night (item #196).
• Ran 5k in under 21 minutes (item #221).
• Biked 10k in under 20 minutes (item #223).
• Biked 20k in under 40 minutes (item #224).
• Published with Rick (item #232).
• Went caving (item #236).
• Went ice-climbing (item #237).
• Signed up for RunKeeper Elite and broadcast a race (item #250).
• Went bobsledding (item #255).

# The Day My Face Exploded With Awesome

January is just full of anniversaries.

First I had my Job-iversary; a day to celebrate the successful completion of one full year as an Ass. Prof.

This was followed by Dan and Rick‘s Trip-iversary, which celebrated the day 1 year ago when we boarded a plane and made our way to a most awesome adventure in Hawaii.

Then there was my blog-iversary; a celebration of blogging here at Consumed By Wanderlust for 1 full year.

And now today marks the 1 year anniversary of this:

That’s right folks. Today is the anniversary of the moment when I was innocently practicing my yoga, slipped, and braced the fall with my face. That particular mishap left me with a nasty laceration above my left eye. Surprisingly, there wasn’t nearly as much blood as one might have expected. And even better, very little in the way of pain.

Fortunately for me, Rick was smart enough to insist that we head to the hospital for stitches despite my assertion that crazy glue would work just fine.

You’d probably assume that this put a huge damper on our trip given that it happened right in the middle of it, but you’d be very wrong. We probably laughed way more than most people who have smashed their face on a hardwood floor. And to say that we were giant goofs at the hospital would be an understatement. So while it may have modified our original plans for the eve (which involved a bottle or two of wine, a telescope – yes we are nerds – and enjoying our last eve overlooking the ocean before flying to Oahu), we ended up having a pretty hilarious and fantastic night.

The result? Well, one year later everything has healed up pretty well. I still have people staring at the obvious Harry-Potter-Lightning-Bolt-Scar that remains (a few whom have asked whether I had done this on purpose). But mostly my lightning bolt scar has become a part of me. I’d say that I rarely notice it but that would be a lie. To be perfectly honest, I love my scar and I probably notice it on some level every day. And when I do I smile, because it reminds me of one of the craziest nights in my life, and it also reminds me of my most awesome Hawaiian adventure with Rick.

In honour of this festive occasion, I’ve relinked three videos of The Stitchening – also known as when I went to the Hilo Hospital with Rick and had my face sewn back together.

Video 1: I Shall Call You Stitch-Face: The Cleaning (starring RN Sara).

The cleaning was the weirdest feeling ever. Imagine having cold water shot into your forehead. Under the skin. What I felt was weirder than that.

Video 2: I Shall Call You Stitch-Face: The Exam (starring Dr. Coker).

This is probably the most disgusting of the videos. As such, it is my favourite one.

Video 3: I Shall Call You Stitch-Face: The Stitchening (starring Dr. Coker).

Note how the doctor describes the shape of the forthcoming scar. Sounds like a lightning bolt to me!

# How Does One Celebrate A Job-iversary?

Given the craziness of the holidays, I almost overlooked the fact that January 1 was not just the beginning of 2012, it was also the beginning of my second year as an Ass. Prof. I know, how could I forget such an occasion?

That’s right folks, I almost forgot that I’ve officially been gainfully employed at the University of Guelph, in the School of Computer Science for a full year. Three hundred and sixty-five days. And better yet, I’m still gainfully employed. Amazing, right?

Honestly though, I have to say that I am so lucky to have the job that I do. Despite the odd day where I grow tired of meetings, writing grant applications, or other administrative tasks, I love what I do. Seriously. I get to spend my days exploring statistical and mathematical theories, developing methods and models for ecological risk assessment, population modelling, and public health assessment, I get to learn new things on a pretty much constant basis, and I get to teach the next generation of students. How could I not love what I do?

Even better – someone pays me to do this Ass. Prof. job that I love so much. It really does make most of what I do seem less like a job. Every day seems to bring new challenges, and new exciting research questions. I get to meet new people on an almost constant basis. I’m surrounded by, and get to learn from and work with some of the most brilliant people around. All this and I get paid. Amazing.

I am one lucky S.O.B.

I look forward to see what this year brings. I hope it is as fulfilling as the one that has just passed. And I hope it’s as productive, if not more so. I think I’m starting off the year on the right foot. Two draft manuscripts have been passed on to one of my coauthors for review, two other papers require some edits for re-submission to journals for publication, I’ve got 5 or so other papers in various stages of production, and several more starting this semester. Beyond that, I’ll be teaching 2 courses this semester – a graduate level course, and a 2nd year course. I am probably going to apply for my P. Stat. designation. I get to help out (and hopefully present at) the upcoming Annual Meeting of the Statistical Society of Canada – which will be held at the University of Guelph this year. And my list of graduate student committees continues to grow, as does my list of students that have me as their co-advisor. Awesome. Finally, I get to work with an amazing couple of students this semester (seriously folks, these guys blow my mind and they want to work with me). I can’t wait.

Anyway, here’s to another year doing this job that I love so much.

# Introducing The Ass Prof Blog

So it’s official folks.  Today I launch my newest blog.  Say what?

That’s correct; I’ve started yet another blog.  But it’s not going to be quite the same as Consumed By Wanderlust.  It will still be epic and awesome and full of the nerdy goodness that you’ve come to expect here, but it will be different.  That is to say, it will represent my professional side.  It will be my professional blog.  The blog I will present as Assistant Professor of Statistics in the School of Computer Science at the University of Guelph.

Why would I want the responsibility of another blog? you ask.  Well, as much as I enjoy writing Consumed By Wanderlust, the posts here are on the less professional side.  That is to say, I don’t think my students or colleagues necessarily need to know about my travels and various adventures.  This isn’t to say that I don’t share my wanderings and such with them, because I absolutely do, but I felt it necessary to have a blog devoted to my research, my courses, and my academic pursuits.  Clearly, there will be a bit of overlap between the two blogs, but the goal is to provide unique material in both.

Anyway, my new blog is simply titled:

Okay, so the name isn’t as flashy as Consumed By Wanderlust, and in all honesty it’s anything but simple, but it gets to the point.  I hope you’ll take the time to check it out.  I will almost surely post less frequently there, and the posts will likely be related to interesting problems that I come across during my research or while teaching my courses.  Regardless, it hopefully will provide you with a bit of mathematical and statistical insight beyond that which has been, and will be, presented here.

Check it out.  I hope you like it :)

# An Interview With An Ass. Prof.

Several weeks ago, a friend of mine dropped by campus to run several errands.  While there, he decided that it would be a great idea to shoot me a text message to see if I was free for a coffee.  As it turned out, I was.  Well, more specifically, I was free for a quick lunch.

Which friend was it? you ask.  None other than the uber nerd Jasper.  Yes, the Jasper, of the world-famous Jasper Vlog.  To bring you up to speed – you know, in the event that you weren’t already aware – Jasper has been working on a project that requires him to post a video blog entry every day for an entire year.  As of today, he’s produced over 80 videos.  My personal favourites are those that he entitles Five Second Friday.  Click here, here, or here for several examples.  They are sure to leave you smiling.  Disclaimer: although they are called Five Second Friday, they will actually require 10 seconds to watch, what with the 5 second introduction and closing screens.  Surely you have 10 seconds to spare.

Anyway, he decided that since he was on campus he would take the opportunity to spend a little bit of time chatting with your’s truly.  The result of that conversation; a two-part vlog entry.  Both part 1 and 2 are provided below for your viewing pleasure and convenience.  You’ll note that in the second video, I begin to discuss some of the things that I’ve already written about on the blog (specifically here).  But because I’m such a nerd, writing about it isn’t enough; I also have to talk about it with my friends (whether they want to listen or not).  Why they still talk to me is anyone’s guess.

Enjoy!

# It Is My Professorly Duty To Inform You…

Given my recent Professor’ing1, I feel that it is my professorly duty as a professor to inform you that April is Mathematics Awareness Month2.  I know, when I found out, I was so full of squee I could barely contain it too.  An entire month devoted to the awesomeness that are mathematics and statistics.  It’s almost too much for one to handle.  Almost.  But fear not; we’ll get through the excitement together.

In honour of Mathematics Awareness Month, I shall endeavour to bring to you, dear readers, at least a little mathematics or statistics with each and every post that I write this month.   This may include awesomely awesome and beautiful number patterns, fun with equations (yes, I meant to write fun), cool parametric plots, or adventures in probability (and oh, will they ever be adventurous).   Math is everywhere, so I’ll be sure to try to capture its awesomeness in as many ways as I can.

Of course, even though April is officially Mathematics Awareness Month, I pledge to you now and forever, to add a little mathematics or statistics into my posts and hopefully into your lives, whenever I can.  I just can’t help myself.

Anyway, be prepared to get your math on :)

For today, I simply present to you a rather neat pattern.  Aren’t numbers freaking awesome?

$1\times 1 = 1\\11\times 11 = 121\\111\times 111 = 12321\\1111\times 1111 = 1234321\\11111\times 11111 = 123454321\\111111\times 111111 = 12345654321\\1111111\times 1111111 = 1234567654321\\11111111\times 11111111 = 123456787654321\\111111111\times 111111111=12345678987654321$

1 Professor’ing is akin to knighting except with less pomp and ceremony. It may or may not involve robes, sceptres and other medieval bric-a-brac, and there may or may not be someone dressed up like a king or queen. I can’t say. It violates the rules of Professor Club.

2 I have to keep using the word professor because it still seems so weird and hilarious to me. Perhaps repeating it will make it real.  That, or it will make me a giant horse’s ass; specifically the pompous type of giant horse’s ass :)

# Just Call Me Ass Prof For Short

Before reading this you might want to find a chair and sit down, for the magnitude of what I am about to relay to you is so shocking that you might actually pass out from the sheer intensity of it (assuming you are of exceptionally weak constitution or prone to random bouts of fainting).

So today it is official. After spending the bulk of my life in school, I have signed all the necessary paperwork, and can announce to the world that I have a job. A real job!

My shiny new position comes with a title as well. Specifically, I am no longer just a Doctor of Statistics, now I am also an

Assistant Professor of Statistics.

My new home is in the School of Computer Sciences at the University of Guelph. It comes with a newly constructed/painted office1 (in the former Axelrod but now refurbished and newly minted Alexander building; rooms 101 and 102 to be exact), and a lab to fill with young minds that I might shape and such. I know, I’m shocked too that someone would entrust the shaping of young minds to me, but hey, it’s an awesome job and one that I gladly accept.

I also get to purchase some fancy-pants new computers. It will come as no surprise to anyone that I plan to purchase Macs. When I know what I’m getting, I’ll be sure to blog about them :) [Update: Clearly I wrote this ages ago, as we are all aware that I've already purchases said shiny new computers - as documented here]

The position officially started on January 1, 2011, however there were some paperwork issues, and as such I haven’t been able to sign the contract until now. Regardless, I’m stoked. I’ve already started teaching two courses: Math2080 – Calculus for the Biological Sciences, and IBIO6070 – Advanced Methods in Population Modelling. The former I’ve taught twice before. The latter is a course of my making. I’ve actually been surprised at how well the latter course has been received. At this point, I’ve had to turn students away so as not to overload myself in my first semester. Crazy stuff!

Anyway, now I need to figure out what to do with myself given that I am gainfully employed. I have a good idea what my research goals will be, but I still have to fill in a bunch of details to get from where I am to where I want to be. A little overwhelming to think about all at once, but also very exciting.

In other news, I’m still not accustomed to stating my degree/profession when queried about my employment status. Take for example the following two situations.

Situation the first: Shortly after getting my Ph.D., my phone rang. Someone was calling to get a reference for one of my former students. The conversation began something like this:

• person calling: Could I speak with Dr. Gillis, please?
• me (to person calling): Who?
• me (internally): Oh wait, that’s me.
• me (to person calling): Oh wait, that’s me.

Epic fail.

Situation the second: Everyone will recall the recent introduction of my face to the floor through the matchmaker that is yoga. While I was at the hospital getting my face repaired (or improved if you are to ask Rick), I was asked my profession by the attending nurse. I actually giggled to myself before saying it aloud, and even when I did, it sounded hilarious. So much so, that the attending nurse had to ask numerous times. I think the professor part of assistant professor threw her (but to be fair, she also needed me to spell statistics, so maybe she had just never heard of the profession before).

Anyway this is guaranteed to be an adventure of a lifetime, and to say that I am stoked is a gross understatement.

1 Of course, the furniture leaves something to be desired, but hopefully my CFI grant will cover the cost of fancy new furniture like things (assuming of course I get the grant).