Monday, February 02, 2009

Miscellaneous Musings

  • I've been writing lots of letters of recommendation for students applying to do summer research somewhere. I often go to the web page of the deparment or institute that will be hosting the students. There are usually a few pictures to go with the website, designed, presumably, to encourage good students to apply. The pictures for field biology programs are usually from some scene outdoors, often quite scenic, and most of the time with some animals being studies: perhaps birds of lizards or something. The biomedical program's pictures involve some combination of lab coats, microscopes, beakers, and pipettes. The math department pictures? Well ... not so hot. Sometimes it's a few people sitting at a table. Other times it is a posed shot of last year's students, usually taken in front of a blackboard.

  • My spell-checker wants to turn the word "combinatorics" into "dominatrix." Accepting this change would surely make my letter more interesting, but probably not in a way that would help the student who is applying.

  • Speaking of spell checking, there is one undergrad research program web page on which the city in which the university resides is spelled wrong.

  • And finally, a non-letter-of-recommendation-writing observation. Last night I was reading a quite interesting research paper by, I would guess, a non-native English speaker. The author meant, I assume, to say "manipulating the parameters, we obtain ..." Instead, he wrote, "mangling the parameters, we obtain." Awesome.

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