I held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole
and whispered
where does it hurt?

it answered
– Warsan Shire

All around the world people are suffering. Domestically are dealing with racial inequalities, xenophobia, and homelessness. Abroad we have people also being persecuted for their beliefs, their livelihood ravaged by civil wars, and having their homes blown up by airstrikes from the righteous foreign countries trying to take out the bad guys.

After the attack in Paris I was scared. Not for myself, but because my brother is abroad and he’s the kind of guy who would go to a concert in Paris to hear music he doesn’t like just for the experience. I was worried about my brother. After getting in contact with my brother I couldn’t shake the feeling of emptiness I had – just that hollow feeling. How many sisters lost their brothers on Friday? How many people lost someone they loved? Then I thought, how many times a week does this happen to the people living in the Middle East? Why do people think it is acceptable to visit such devastation on others?

Syria is fighting a civil war inspired by the Arab Spring revolutions. It began in 2011 as a chain of peaceful protests. In July 2011, army defectors declared the formation of the Free Syrian Army and began forming fighting units. To escape the violence, over 12 million Syrian refugees fled to neighboring countries – half are children. Children affected by the Syrian conflict are at risk of becoming ill, malnourished, abused, or exploited. Millions have been forced to quit school. More than 700,000 refugees and other migrants risked their lived to travel to Europe.

The Syria crisis has affected over 12 million people. That’s more than the Haiti Earthquake, Hurricane Katrina, and the Indian Ocean Tsunami COMBINED!

Now we have the potential for refugees from Syria coming to the United States. We have half of our nation’s governors attempting to close their state off to them. The American public on whether or not allowing refugees to seek asylum in the country is a tangible threat. This really makes me wonder, what the hell is the matter with you people?!

Yes – we have issues in this country that need to be taken care of. If half of you people complaining about “your tax dollars being spent on refugees while we have homeless people” actually got up to help some homeless people, I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have a crisis anymore.

To echo Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) [yeah, I can’t believe it either] if we can’t take on our fair share of Syrian refugees we should probably just ship the Statue of Liberty back to France because we forgot what it stands for. “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

People are hurting. They are in crisis. Should the United States take in refugees from Syria? Absolutely! Should we take in all of them? Nope – it is not feasible for us to do that. What the United States should do is what we all should do every day, as much as we possibly can. We don’t have to do EVERYTHING, but we have to do SOMETHING. Most importantly…


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Six Canons of Engineering Ethics

The full Code of Ethics for Engineers can be found HERE!
The 6 Fundamental Canons of Engineering Ethics according to the National Society of Professional Engineers

Engineers, in the fulfillment of their professional duties, shall:
1. Hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public.
Engineers should always put the safety, health, and welfare of the public before all other things.
2. Perform services only in areas of their competence.
A computer engineer shouldn’t be designing bridges. This is kind of like how you wouldn’t go to a podiatrist when you really need a neurologist. Nor would you expect a podiatrist to give you any advice beyond, “You should really consult a neurologist about your chronic headaches.” No one should expect one engineer to work outside of their trained discipline, and any engineer should know what they know, and know what they don’t know.
3. Issue public statements only in an objective and truthful manner.
Which is probably why you don’t see too many of us on the news. We form opinions based on facts, we then share these facts objectively (which is what many other professions do as well). Engineers must stick to the facts and tell the truth.
4. Act for each employer or client as faithful agents or trustees.
We can’t tell Company B what Company A hired us to do. Engineers all the insider knowledge for all other these different clients on the down low.
5. Avoid deceptive acts.
We can’t deceive people either – unless we have to for like research and stuff,even then it has to be ABSOLUTELY necessary for the research to be successful. After the experiment the subject would have to be “de-briefed” or informed of the deception that took place to ameliorate the effects of unavoidable deception. Click here to learn more about deception in research.
6. Conduct themselves honorably, responsibly, ethically, and lawfully so as to enhance the honor, reputation, and usefulness of the profession.
Just in case canons 1-5 weren’t clear, number 6 kind of covers it so that there’s really no gray area. I think engineers are getting off pretty easy compared to 1790 BC. Just sayin.


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Strategies for maintaining focus when you’re wired for distraction

I have Attention Deficit Disorder, while some people don’t believe it actually exists I think that we can all agree that we can all agree that everyone displays varying degrees of its symptoms from time to time. I am wired to be distracted. When my medication wears off I am off the wall, impulsive, fidgety, and show a complete lack of focus. During the day, it’s not so bad, but as you can imagine on occasion there things in the workplace that make it difficult to get things done.
How do you become productive when you’re wired to be distracted? Become aware of yourself & have a plan thing that plays to your strengths.
Having a plan is good, planning to be flexible is better – Keep lists of what has to be done, prioritize your tasks by day (I’ve never been good at that), and then be prepared for things to change because as much as we love to think that things go according to plan, they seldom do.

Find your time of day – I work best in the mornings so I focus on my difficult or longer tasks in the morning and work on lighter tasks after lunch and toward the end of the day. It helps me from getting stressed and allows me to remain consistent in the amount of effort required to exert the same level of focus.
2013-08-23-tumblr_m08celcrnT1r3isxuo1_500Some of my colleagues love to work at night while that is something I simply cannot do, but it works so well for them. Find your time and focus your more difficult tasks during those times.
Identify your major distractors – Between the hours of 9 AM and 5 PM I hate my cellphone. It’s like Facebook Messenger, my Gmail, Outlook, and text messages all decide to blow up at the same time. It drove me nuts for months. When I’m at work I have to mute my messenger and other email accounts. Since I am a chronic worrier however, I leave my text messages and phone calls on vibrate just in case something happens.
tumblr_static_helloYounger students regularly will stop by for advice which I am happy to provide but can set me back for hours. This is one distractor I’m willing to accept. I would rather have an open door for younger researchers and students so I can serve as an effective mentor than get a few extra things knocked off my list.  tumblr_mglptftelw1rrb9xco6_r1_250
Know how stress affects you and how to deal with itStress in small does makes me superhuman. I get a massive amount of stuff done in no time, but if this stress is consistent over a prolonged period of time, I shut down. I fall into a deep depression and panic regularly. I have difficulty getting out of bed and going to work, so what do I do on those days? Those days I email my supervisor and attempt to work from home surrounded by kittens. Limiting social interactions helps tremendously, plus working from home is great because there are fewer distractions than at my office. I am aware that this is not possible for everyone. I am very fortunate to work in an environment where my supervisors are so lax about where we get our work done so long as it’s getting done.
tumblr_n0t6a8nEpG1toj4xso1_500Being able to overcome the distraction is a challenge but we can do it! It takes time, practice, and determination.
you got it dudeA post for another day considers how medication may impact your mood and ability to be productive. One post I really enjoyed reading about Adderall and medication to assist with attention deficit disorder can be found here.

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This semester in particular I feel stretched extremely thin. I am taking 3 classes, working 20 hours a week as a GRA, completing my prelims, planning a wedding, and running an animal rescue. This has been the most challenging semester of my life. I hope that it’s going to be worth it and that the spark that I had when I started graduate school is still there when I leave because right now I can feel flickering like a flame in the wind and I’m afraid it’s going to be extinguished.

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Setting your mind on fire with critical pedagogy

Education can function to control and contain students and maintain the status quo. Or, it empowers students to be critically engaged and active participants in society.
It is time to take education beyond the walls of the classroom. 
Focusing singularly on textbook problems and not applying them to a real context leaves students wondering “what is the point?” and that’s really not what you want the take away from your lessons to be.  Often times courses that are run like that leave the students feeling like this…
Another concept within the principle of critical pedagogy is eliminating conventional power relations – when I’m teaching I would really prefer to be called Alex, or Dr. Alex (if students really have to stick a title in there). This title + last name thing for folks we’re talking with everyday is a daily reminder of a rigid and dated power paradigm. notFriends_Family
Any time I head a prof. wanting to be addressed as Dr. S0-and-so PE I’m like
Critical pedagogy requires critical reflection and analysis. 
Like really – you can’t shut it off. You need to light your brain UP – fire those neurons. Think critically, think about things after the lecture. Discuss them with those who will talk with you about them.
Reexamines the role of educators in relation to society and environment

Be an inclusive instructor – Read more about that here
 Communicate WITH not AT students
Self explanatory – have fun, have discussion, treat them as equals. They’ll freakin’ love it.
Problem based learning – problem-solving and problem-posing
Problem based learning is not the picture on the left. It’s the one on the right. Have fun with teaching so these students have fun learning. If they’re having fun they’re more likely to be able to recall this information.
Critical consciousness which allows for the informed analysis of systemic issues
It is the responsibility of the instructor to raise awareness of critical issues in society (e.g., environment), and encourage students’ sense of themselves as active agents with the ability to shape the world in which they live. Keep it real with them – like really real.
 Some critics of this  type of pedagogy say that it will “create political radicals” honestly that’s totally fine with me. There is some division between traditional and progressive education and that statement highlights it quite well.
 The future isn’t something hidden in a corner. The future is something we build in the present. – Paulo Freire

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Scholarly Integrity – Post Docs & Pudding Cups

This case study is from the ORI RCR Resource Development Casebook from the Authorship and Publication chapter.
Summary of case study: A young post doc has taken a position at a famous institution with a strong publish or perish culture. She has some difficulty writing writing scientific papers in appropriate and nuanced English; so she typically asks colleagues to review and help edit her writing.
Ana (post doc) enjoys giving people ideas and supporting them. In return, she sometimes asks for help with her writing and is happy to acknowledge their assistance in her papers. But when colleagues return her manuscripts with their names included in the list of authors, Ana is stunned. It seems they feel entitled to do this. Though she feels others are taking advantage of her, she refuses to change. She gains satisfaction by thinking that she is helping to improve science. She says her goal is to be a good scientist, not to fight over who gets to be an author of her work.
Yet Ana is upset when her lab boss not only puts his name on her work, but also takes a proposal she has prepared for funding by NIH and sends it off under his name–without even discussing that with her. She mentions it to him, and he just looks at her as though she were crazy.
Ana is unsure what recourse she has. She values the opportunity to share ideas with others and get their responses, and is unwilling to do anything that will cut off that rich intellectual interaction. The theft of her ideas seems a minor price to pay for her scholarly environment.
What should Ana do?
Colleagues claiming undeserved authorship: I think that it is great that Ana is so altruistic and wants to contribute to the scientific community. However, if her colleagues did not contribute to the major components of the study development, data analysis, or anything of the sort, than they certainly do not deserve authorship. Authorship should be based on substantial intellectual contribution! Reading a manuscript and providing feedback does not make you a co-author. It makes you a decent co-worker who might be able to ask for the same sometime in the future at best. The APA provides guidelines on authorship if anyone is struggling or is interested, they can be found here.
Supervisors stealing grant proposals: That’s a big no-no. It doesn’t matter how big or small the grant is – that’s fraud, baby. That guy should be canned. Never allowed to supervise anyone ever again, be stripped of all his awards, and probably publicly shamed. I can think of nothing worse than taking a bright young researcher and disheartening them to further your own agenda. That is a selfish and horrid thing to do and that type of person should not be allowed to interact with people, let alone perform research on them.
Look – I can see why Ana wouldn’t want to speak up. It’s intimidating. There’s a major imbalance of power there, and the potential for negative recourse on her end is high being the new kid on the block, but that the no reason to stay silent. You are not an idea factory for the powers that be. You cannot allow yourself to be beaten down by those “above” you, because they’re not really above you, not ethically or morally – perhaps in rank. It can get better for you if you continue to seek opportunities and don’t confirm to the wacky power structure that they’re trying to impose on you.  It is important to stand up for yourself and your work, otherwise  people are going to walk all over you and steal your work for the rest of your life.  Or worse – people will steal your pudding cup from your lunch.

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Inclusive Pedagogy – Moving past privilege and bias toward a more inclusive climate

Before we begin, I want to break down the differences between privilege, bias, and racism.whitePrivilege
Privilege (n): a right, immunity, or benefit enjoyed only by a person (or group of people) beyond the advantages of most.check-your-privilege Below are a just a few examples – one of male privilege that I have encountered through my research in transportation safety. The other, I was less aware of until recently.
The Automotive Industry – Male Privilege
Seat belts are less safe for women (like by a lot) – When safety regulations were originally imposed on automakers in the 1960’s regulators wanted to require the use of two crash test dummies, a 95 percentile male and a 5 percentile female meaning that only 5% of men were larger than and 5% of women were smaller than the crash test dummies. Automakers pushed back on regulators until the requirement was reduced to a single crash test dummy, a 50 percentile male (the average man). Women drivers were far more likely to be severely injured than male drivers in crashes due to seat belts. Since 2011, female crash test dummies have been required in safety testing, so we’re moving forward but we have been working with 50 years of dangerous design practice in the automobile industry.

The Cosmetics Industry – White Privilege
I’ve never had an issue finding band aids that match my skin tone (unless I’m at a friend’s house who has children, then its Elsa or bust, baby). [Additional info here]
Bias (n): prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair.
Explicit bias occurs at a conscious level. Expressions of explicit of bias (discrimination, hate speech, etc.) occur as the result of deliberate thought. Thus, they can be consciously regulated. People are more motivated to control their biases if there are social norms in place which dictate that prejudice is not socially acceptable.
Implicit biases however are inescapable – everyone possesses them. The implicit associations we hold do not necessarily align with our outward beliefs or reflect what we endorse. We generally tend to hold favor toward our own “ingroup” though research has shown we can hold implicit biases (and interestingly in some cases explicit biases) against our own ingroup. The good news and bad news is that implicit biases are malleable – we can unlearn implicit associations we have formed through, though in some cases new biases can be developed over time and exposure.but


Institutional/Systemic Racism (Discrimination)
 Systematic racism – Systemic racism occurs when the way a society is structured systematically ends up giving advantages to some and disadvantages to others.
Systemic racism is something we can see every day – consider the following;bntsg

Systemic Racism in Higher Education
This is a fantastic article on institutional racism in higher education [here] you should read the checklist and see how many your favorite universities check off. I know one of mine is pretty high up on the list as demonstrated below – someday I’ll get to addressing the other offices at Tech, but this example will do nicely for now.


Presidents of Virginia Tech 1872 – Present

Now – I’m sure that by and large our past presidents have been lovely men (here’s lookin’ at you Sands!) but the fact of the matter is, they’re all “mature”, Caucasian, males in charge of this university. How would the mission of the university change if the face of Virginia Tech were a woman? A person of color? I suppose a homosexual woman of color with a physical disability would be completely out of the question, but what if? I bet faculty and staff would be getting more useful training that WebEx versions of Title IX and COI training that’s for sure. Follow on question – what if we had more empathetic leaders? Leaders who were willing to put themselves in to the shoes of the folks who are living, learning, and working here – it’s not too hard to imagine all it takes is consideration and a question,  “What can WE do?”
“What can we do to create a more inclusive environment for our students?”
“What can we do so that all of our students feel safe on campus?”

Creating an Inclusive Environment in the Classroom and the Universitywhite-privilege-9Be aware and understanding
Be understanding of the needs of your students. If you should make yourself aware of the holidays and practices of religious groups. For example being hungry really stinks (Snickers said it best, “you’re not you when you’re hungry”) but it’s one of the main components several observed religious days of multiple groups. So it is important to be considerate of the changes in demeanor. If I had to get up super early to pray and couldn’t drink coffee, I’d probably crash pretty hard in my own class too. This requires educating yourself a little bit, but we tend to cater toward a special kind of privilege with regard to the holidays we celebrate in academia (and with regard to the American government as a whole), but again, educating yourself will help to mitigate any implicit bias. Check this calendar out from University of Missouri, THIS IS WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT!

Encourage discussion
In the design of systems we have to ultimately consider the user. For example – speech recognition systems are inherently horrible (with command prompts, etc.) particularly for people with accents. If you start dropping non-American slang into the SI forget about it. From a human factors perspective it would be a fantastic discussion point to bring up issues everyone has had with these systems (or any system in general) and how the designer could have been more inclusive in their design.

Encourage the use of “I statements” over “You statements”
This one may have come from many years in therapy, but hear me out. “You statements” are typically the way we communicate (e.g. “you are no help at all”, “you are insensitive”, “you are a bigot”). These statements are typically not well received and do not offer the receiving individual any grey area or time to reflect. You’re placing them immediately in an “I am right, you are wrong” situation. The use of I statements make the speaker take responsibility for their emotions, seeing as we only know how WE are feeling. When we are able to own and share our emotions we create a bridge to allow the person we are speaking with to then get in touch with their feelings.
When you focus on what you are feeling, rather than on your opinion on the matter (as is conveyed through a “You” statement), it is non-threatening and inoffensive. So the person is less likely to jump to DEFCON 1 and they’re more likely to listen to what you have to say. It is important to identify what you are feeling rather than what the other person is doing, or how you perceive their intentions.
If someone says something that offends you, tell them, but state it in an “I” statement, not a “You” statement.

Open door policy
My door will always be open for my students when they need me. I will continuously make them aware of that. Despite my generally sarcastic nature I genuinely care about the physical and psychological well-being of my students. I will not tolerate any discriminatory action being taken against them and I hope that they would feel comfortable to speak with me about any issues that are having.

In Closingeffingeducate

Additional Resources:
This one gets all the “yeses”!:
A pretty solid list of the different types of privilege:
Table data:
Strategies to reduce the influence of implicit bias:
Awesome blog:
Times article – Gender bias:
Educational comics provided by:



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Open Access – Publish or Perish

The journal I selected is the Open Transportation Journal published by Bentham Open – the publisher is located in the United States.  The Open Transportation Journal, a peer reviewed journal, is an important and reliable source of current information on developments in the field.

Readers can study, download and/or print OPEN access articles at no cost.
Bentham OPEN is committed to disseminating research and scholarly publications as widely as possible. It supports the principle that the results of research that have been publicly funded should be freely accessible in the public domain and therefore it encourages researchers to make their research available through Open Access (OA).
Open access publishing is not without costs. To provide open access, Bentham OPEN journals partly defray the expenses of peer review, journal production, and online hosting and archiving from authors and their research sponsors by charging a publication fee for each article they publish.

There are merits to the OA concept. Publishing in recognizable journals is important- that’s not to say that widely disseminating knowledge is not a bad thing if it’s quality knowledge. The issue with OA comes back to the priorities of the editors; do they really want those publication fees, and will they take garbage articles (have more lax acceptance criteria) to get them? Or will they hold themselves to a higher standard due to the controversy of OA?

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Finding my teaching voice by watching Doctor Who


While trying to think about how I want to teach I happened to be on a Doctor Who kick. Doctor who is about a humanoid alien (Time Lord to be specific) with two hearts, a blue space ship called the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension In Space) that is bigger on the inside. A biological function of  the Time Lords allows them to change their cellular structure and appearance for  the purpose of recovery following a potentially fatal injury (hence the multiple faces in the gifs below). The Doctor travels through space and time fighting monsters, saving the world, and making friends through out the galaxies.  I realized that Doctor Who sends many great messages. There are a great number of things from Doctor Who that I would like to apply to my every day life as well as to my teaching voice.  Here are the top 6, Allons-y!


  1. Show compassion
    One of the main themes in Doctor Who is compassion. The Doctor is constantly revealing his heart (both of them) and chooses to show compassion to strangers, friends, and enemies. The rule of compassion seems to be one that the Doctor can’t break. Remember that you were once in the same position as your students, show them compassion like you have two hearts. tumblr_lsel3aoKff1qat9klo1_r1_500
  2. Show humility
    At times the Doctor can be arrogant, but he’s at his best when he is modest. That being said, you aren’t a Time Lord from Gallifrey and you certainly don’t have a TARDIS. Remember to leave your ego in your office (or better yet, at home) when you’re teaching a class.
  3. Demonstrate morality
    The Doctor always offers those wrong who him a choice. He is one for fairness and justice, but also has a strong sense of right and wrong. Sometimes students will cheat on assignments, slack off, or just have a really rough day. Be compassionate (point 1), but remember to stick to your morals.
  4. Be weird
    Being weird is cool. Bow ties, fezzes, and Stetsons – are not cool by themselves. Being your quirky self, however, is very cool. Society is good at teaching individuals to mind their place, to keep in line and to conform. Yet I cannot think of a single person who I admire, or who has accomplished anything extraordinary, who was not weird in some major way. Seriously though, be yourself when you’re teaching and don’t try and be anything else, and remember; there’s no point in being grown up if you can’t act childish every once in a while.
  5. Be clever
    I learned there is no problem in the entire universe that cannot be solved by being clever. There is always a better way to go about something, provided you have the time and resources available to achieve it.
    The War, Tenth and Eleventh Doctors were brought to the last day of the Time War during The Day of the Doctor, an occurrence that should’ve been impossible owing to the fact that the events of the war were time locked.
    Using all his previous incarnations to work out the required calculations, the Eleventh Doctor was able to secure Gallifrey’s future within a pocket universe. He found a different and “better” way to do things and, the Doctor now has the knowledge that his people are still alive and out there somewhere, just waiting to be found and brought back without reigniting the Time War.
    Be clever in the classroom. Its a space for being creative, problems will randomly present themselves. What if your projector stops working and so on. Be an active problem solver, don’t just sit on your heels and wait for things to happen around you.
  1. Be willing to help and accept help
    The Doctor is a hero, he’s strong, he’s smart and he is obviously someone that the audience look up to. The Doctor is always keen to give help to whoever needs it. The role of the companion is actually to help the Doctor whether by being a friend and being there for him or actually helping him in his plots. Even the Doctor calls on his friends for help when he is in a difficult situation. One particular example is the episode “A Good Man Goes to War” where the Doctor has to call on all of his friends for help.
    Be willing to ask for help when you need it. Your lectures aren’t going to so well? Ask the people suffering through them for advice. Answer all the questions whenever you get them. Don’t be a jerk, you are here to help (in case you forgot, please see point 2). here_to_help

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Making the grade

I enjoy the company of young people – they like to think. They have cool ideas, they’re off the wall, and down right hilarious. As I’m getting closer to the age of wanting to have a family of my own I find myself looking at the homework of my friend’s children and often times helping with it. In one particular case – my neighbor’s oldest son (who shall be called J) is in the second grade. J is a kind boy who listens well and has a real respect for people who show him respect. I often help J with his homework (which always seems to be freakin’ math) after school because his home situation is less than ideal. The first time we did his homework together he remarked, “Wow, it takes a lot longer to do the assignment with you.” I wasn’t sure what that was. Sure, we usually ended up doing most of the assignment twice – I would let him work through the whole thing on his own, we’d go over the problems that were incorrect, but that didn’t seem out of the ordinary. I make him re-write numbers that were difficult to read and his half-hearted attempts as erasing. In spite of those things I still didn’t think us doing his homework together took much longer than it would take than if he did it with him mom, granny, or CW.

One Monday morning J was outside visibly upset – so I asked him what was wrong. He replied, “I don’t want to do my homework.” Now, the fact that a second grader has homework over the weekend is kind of tripping me out a little bit already, but I can roll with that. So his mom asks me to come in and explain a logic problem to her because she didn’t understand it. While I’m looking at the assignment I notice something strange. None of the handwriting on the assignment is J’s. His mother was doing his homework and her response when I asked, “Why in the world are you doing your child’s homework?” was “So he will get a good grade, but now he will just have to get a bad one.”  – Now you can imagine the look on my face sort of went like this…


Grading systems are dated. We live in a competitive society where getting into colleges, scholarships and fellowships, and getting a job is contingent on a number associated with your grades (GPA is an entirely separate issue which I’m sure I will rant about at some point this semester).  Things are getting competitive earlier and earlier to the point where we’re having parent’s doing children’s homework. Depriving them of the very thing that they are going to school for, an education. And while given our current academic structure grades might be important now, a student’s worth, particularly a child’s should not be so heavily impacted by it. I shouldn’t have to listen to J say he’s stupid because he didn’t get a “check-plus” or a “doggy stamp” on his homework. J is a kind boy who struggles with certain things in school just like any child. J will make it in this world if people continue to build him up, work with him, and teach him. I hope in the future we can reform education so that it isn’t a system of segregation and a bringer of emotional distress. Learning should be fun – not anxiety inducing.

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