Tuesday, July 11, 2017

State of the Blog (2016-2017)

The members of TEPS and our guests at the Université de Montréal in June. This year saw enormous growth in our program, something very satisfying to see as an author of the proposal and as a member of the team!

It's July and that can only mean one thing, here at HTWT: time for the annual State of the Blog update! Unlike last year, I did manage more than zero posts with 8 in all. I also kicked off a new Blog for my lab over at http://york-pvl.blogspot.ca/ which has had 33 posts describing life, research and teaching amongst my students and trainees. The content over at our new location has been rather good and some of the posts have been very popular - in all we've had about 2,600 visitors over the year, not a bad start at all.

The big news over the last year will be no surprise to our regular readers. To my utter shock and amazement I published an article in Nature. If you talked to me a year ago, I would have thought you crazy to suggest that such a thing could happen. But this business is full of surprises. I won't spill much digital ink rehashing the experience (but if you want to rehash, by all means click for my description and background commentary) other than to say that I'm pleased that I can still learn new things about the business of getting science published despite having been doing planetary for 14 years. It was also very nice to be honoured by York University as a Research Leader for 2016 as a result.

In terms of staffing, we stayed relatively flat this year with no new graduate students added, though this summer we have welcomed an additional 3 undergraduate interns. All told, the group now counts 14 paid staff (including myself, PDFs, grad students and undergrad interns). That means that we can explore many different areas of science and engineering at once and can bring significant resources to bear on any one problem or activity, for instance the outreach event we held in May. At the same time, it is a challenge to coordinate so many simultaneous projects being led by so many people and I have to admit that I'm still learning the best way to do that.

As far as research goes, aside from the Nature paper and our contributions to Henrik Kahanpaa's Mars Vortex paper, you might be forgiven for thinking that it's been a bit of a sleepy year. It's not that we haven't been busy, instead I feel that 2017 is simply the eye of the publishing hurricane with approximately a dozen papers either under review or in prep within the group. While not all of those will be through the process by next summer, still, look to next year's update for a deluge of science.

There have been other successes to speak about. For instance, the TEPS program continues to grow and now counts over 30 trainees as members. We held our first Summer Skills Series (The S^3) in Montreal in June with guests from around the world who spoke and interacted with our trainees. 

I've also had some modifications to my teaching duties. My fourth year Fluid Dynamics course (PHYS 4120) has been handed off and in its place is one of the largest courses taught within my department. ESSE 1012: Earth and the Environment can have an enrollment in excess of 300 and is a required course for much of the Lassonde School of Engineering. It's nice to be trusted with such a pivotal first year course and I'm looking forward to the responsibility. I even hear that I will have a Lab Director to help me out, in addition to a small army of Teaching Assistants, so it'll certainly be a collaborative term! My other new course, ESSE2030: Geophysics and Space Science also went well during its first run this past spring and I look forward to cleaning up the rough edges so that the course is even better in 2018.

Finally, a review of the stats are in order. With my big splash of a paper, I'm now up to 49 papers in total so far and I'll certainly pass 50 in short order. With great numbers of students comes great numbers of conference abstracts, which have now jumped well above 100. Google Scholar now gives my h-index as 25 with over 3200 citations, so my library of past papers continues to see interest. Turning to the blog, the total number of page views is now just under 65,000 with Russia supplanting Canada as the 2nd most popular source for views.

My tenure file is now in prep and fingers are crossed that all goes well. At this point, with my teaching evaluations completed and my CV submitted it's all out of my hands. Look to this space next year to find out how everything went!

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