President's Pages in Princeton Alumni Weekly
A Day in the Life, a Year in the Life: What Faculty Do
January 29, 2003
In preparation for the Board of Trustees retreat this fall, we asked several faculty members to describe how they spend their time. The trustees found these descriptions very informative, and I thought you would also. Here are two samples.—S.M.T.
A professor's day
by Anthony Grafton, Henry Putnam University Professor of History; Chair, Council of the Humanities; Director, Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies
Wednesday, October 9, 2002. Note: This is an autobiographical account of one, more or less, normal day in a senior professor's week.
5:30 a.m. Up (normal time) to think about the day's teaching. My seminar, History 448, deals with the art and craft of history in the 20th century. It is aimed at seniors—most, though not all, of them in the history department—and is meant to help them think about their own theses, as well as the larger field it covers. This week we're looking at one of the big innovations of 20th-century history writing, the effort to ground human history in its natural environment. I spend an hour planning seminar tactics: my introductory talk, questions to pose, aspects of the book to concentrate on.
6:30 a.m. Make coffee, wake wife, skim newspaper.
8 a.m. Arrive at office, answer most pressing e-mails. Five of the least pressing remain un-answered.
8:30 a.m. Two-and-a-half-hour space meeting with the provost and several others. In my capacity as chair of the Council of the Humanities, I want to make a pitch for turning a central space in the new humanities center into a splendid, comfortable common room for students and faculty, where we can have occasional scheduled talks and concerts, receptions and, a couple of times a week, informal teas.
11 a.m. Back in the office, meet a senior who is working on her thesis (on French intellectuals and the war in Algeria—as so often, I am learning a great deal from my pupils). Answer most pressing e-mails (but am now farther behind than this morning).
11:30 a.m. Call former student (now an associate professor at Stanford) who has left message asking for career advice.
11:45 a.m. Answer most urgent e-mail messages. Am now behind by 10 or so.
Noon. Meet the students from my seminar in the library. Over lunch, four times this term, a member of the history department gives them an informal talk about his or her research methods. This adds an element that the course previously lacked; the students not only read major historians, but hear and question them. Robert Darnton, the first speaker, set a high standard, but I have great confidence in this week's speaker. Graham Burnett, a Princeton alumnus ['93], a Pyne Prize winner and now one of our assistant professors, fascinates the students with a description of his work on the development of cetology (the formal study of whales) in 19th-century America.
1:30 p.m. History 448: a wide-ranging discussion, and students show clear evidence that they have read the text very closely and that they can judge it in a critical, fair, and informed way. They have also done assigned background reading from JSTOR (the Mellon Foundation-supported electronic system for storing and accessing articles from scholarly journals), and bring in much of that material as well. Web readings clearly work much better, for this generation, than print readings in Firestone Reserve.
4:30 p.m. Latin reading group—three graduate students work through a hard piece of late 16th-century Latin with me. Good for me too, since I don't teach elementary Latin, as my colleagues in classics do.
5:15 p.m. Join the department's picnic for new graduate students in McCosh courtyard. Despite a bad market for historians, dull weather, and burnt burgers, spirits seem high.
6 p.m. Dinner at nearby restaurant with a colleague from comparative literature, Leonard Barkan, my wife and son—and an old friend and superb classicist now teaching in Rome, Ingrid Rowland.
8 p.m. Public lecture on Machiavelli by Carlo Ginsburg, an Italian historian who wrote his most famous book, The Cheese and the Worms, while in residence at my department's Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies. He has a new theory about Machiavelli (there have been thousands of others), which provokes a lively discussion.
10 p.m. Home, writing more e-mails—I have to answer the most urgent messages, but some take longer. Two graduates of the class of '02 need advice. One is now working in New York and applying to graduate schools in history, the other now living in Athens and applying for a Fulbright to stay on there. Also, I have to send comments to Megan Williams, a recent Ph.D. from Princeton's religion department, who worked with Peter Brown and me on her thesis. This coming Sunday she and I will be making a joint presentation on collaborative research to the Princeton Group for the Study of Late Antiquity. I am now at least 10 e-mail messages behind on the day.
11 p.m. Rereading notes on dossiers, in preparation for a meeting to award fellowships. To prepare for this I have read several books, dozens of articles, and heaps of letters of recommendation; now I'm trying to draw preliminary conclusions so I can sleep on them.
A professor's year
by Michael Celia *83, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Director, Program in Environmental Engineering and Water Resources; Director, Program in Environmental Studies
Like most faculty members, my activities in the academic year 2001-02 primarily involved teaching and student advising, research, and service within and outside the University. I will describe major efforts in all three of these categories, trying to give a sense of where I focused my efforts and how they impacted the University and my overall field of research.
In fall 2001, I moved all my lectures onto PowerPoint, which took a large amount of time. But the lectures were improved, and I now have a stable set of lectures from which I can draw material. My major teaching effort occurs in the fall semester, when I give ENV 201: "Fundamentals of Environmental Studies." When I began teaching this course four years ago, the initial enrollment was 17 students; this fall the enrollment was over 90. The increase is satisfying, both because I am the instructor in the course and because I serve as director of the Program in Environmental Studies, which offers the course. We have seen a general improvement in the program, which now teaches almost 180 students a year, and attracts a broad group of undergraduates from all divisions of the university. In the spring term, I taught a graduate course in my home department, civil and environ-mental engineering, on numerical methods for environmental transport problems—a fun course for me to teach.
I spent much of my research efforts over the past year continuing to build a program to study geological storage of carbon dioxide as a possible solution to the atmospheric carbon (global warming) problem. The idea is to capture carbon dioxide and inject it into deep geological formation, thereby keeping it out of the atmosphere for long time periods (hundreds to thousands of years or more). My group is part of the large effort on campus called the Carbon Mitigation Initiative, a 10-year program funded by BP and Ford Motor Company to find meaningful solutions to the carbon problem. The geological storage part of the project, which I coordinate, involves six faculty members, three post-doctoral researchers, and three graduate students. In addition to this project, I continue to work in other areas of interest, including studies of the interactions between soil, water, and plant systems with a focus on root extraction processes and their dependence on soil moisture and a fairly detailed computational and theoretical investigation of multi-phase fluid movement in porous media.
To date in calendar year 2002, I have published 14 papers, 7 in peer-reviewed journals (6 different journals), and 7 conference proceedings. Almost all of my research is collaborative and most of the papers are coauthored, with the list of coauthors including 15 colleagues from 6 different countries.
Service activities include undergraduate and graduate student advising and service on various University committees, including the Executive Committee of the Princeton Environmental Institute. My most time-consuming external activity is service on a review panel for the Hydrologic Sciences Program of the National Science Foundation. This panel meets twice each year, and for each meeting I am responsible for reviews of about 35 proposals. I spend the better part of a month preparing for each meeting, then travel to Washington for two days of meetings with little tangible reward, so it really is "Princeton in the service of the nation." Last year I also co-organized a special session at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union, served on a review committee for the Earth Sciences Division of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, organized two workshops associated with our carbon dioxide research activities, gave a number of invited lectures, and attended a variety of international conferences and events.
My hobby is ballroom dancing, and I did manage to continue to teach a weekly class for the Princeton Ballroom Dance Club with my partner, Associate Dean of the Faculty Lin Ferrand *88. But Lin and I gave up competing, in part because our schedules have become too complicated. Overall, this past academic year was rewarding, although a bit exhausting. I traveled too much and danced too little.