Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Cuba Libre

Yesterday I had the honor of meeting Fidel Castro's son--he is a physicist. Can you pick him out from the lineup?

Yes, the ice is melting in the relationship between our two countries.

Making big changes can be difficult...even when you are in charge

One of the first things I learned, when I came to NSF, was how entrenched the status quo often is. A big project for the Directorate was headed for disaster and no one seemed to be able to pull the fire alarm. In the end, I needed to move the program, and change out every single individual from our management team before things began to turn around.

Now, I'm facing a similar challenge with another big ticket project. It's been frozen in place, with 'business as usual' for years and there's a lot of pressure from within to just keep on keeping on. Trouble is, it makes no sense in terms of the best interests of the rest of the Directorate. So, we are making changes, but once again very much sailing into a headwind. There are a lot of strong emotions directed at keeping things just the way they've always been.

But when you're in charge, you actually are charged with making those big changes. Too stay in stasis is to fail.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

It's panel season here at NSF...

Which means the lobby and elevators are jammed first thing in the morning. But it also means that community members are coming together to perform the lynchpin function in the merit review process--in my opinion this peer review has been critical to the empirical success of the NSF since it's founding in the early 1950's.

Which brings me to the point of this blogpost: I think that where appropriate from the standpoint of expertise, more deans, provosts and even university presidents should participate in NSF panels. I think this would help them hone the qualities of "scientific taste" that they need for recruitment, retention and even promotion and tenure processes. I know, that during my sixteen year tenure in a decanal position at George Mason, serving on many NSF panels helped me a great deal in building out a high-performing faculty team at my academic unit. Of course, there will be conflicts of interest for proposals from one's home institution and administrators would have to recuse themselves from those discussions and decisions.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

My official blog...

The one that reflects my public persona these days--it's here.

A population of neurons in CA2 that encodes spatial location during immobility and sleep

New article in Nature out of Loren M. Frank's lab here. But the CA2 population is really the tip of the iceberg. It's a new hippocampal circuit triggered by a non-theta rhythmic activity termed N-Wave (less than 4Hz).

After a year and a half at NSF

So, right now this blog is private because I'm very much in the public eye. But one day, when I return to academia, it'll go public again. So I've decided to start writing again today.

Yes, running BIO at NSF is the most challenging job I've ever had in my life. I find myself working at, our beyond the level of intensity of my years in grad school in Ann Arbor. The high points are incredible. The low points are devastating. I certainly didn't expect this type of life for my sixties.

Writing is like exercising. I'm out of practice. So it'll be slow. But I'm ready to go ahead again.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Limits on limits....

to computation that is...

Igor Markov's seminal article in this week's Nature, here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

How Ebola works to kill...

ScienceInsider has a great lay-language summary here. Interestingly, Ebola doesn't infect the immune system cells. Rather it disrupts their communication network and then co-opts them. Pretty scary.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Bad aps and good ones....

From Alex Tabarrok, here. Mostly about the issues with health technology development here in the US. I'm ordering the book.