posted 14 April 2005, about 3:30 p.m.

Yesterday, about 4 p.m., one of the researchers here at the LOV came to me and said (in French), "We've just had an idea. Three of us have a group of eight undergraduates here for a short course. We've showed them sampling methods, microscope work, and library research, but since you're here, we'd like to have them critique a scientific article, too. Could you give them an hour's lecture on how to go about it?"

Well, yes, sure, I guess. I spend several hours a year telling students how to put a scientific paper together, so it shouldn't be hard to turn it around and tell them how to take one apart. In English or in French? French, please, because they might not follow English. Ooooookay . . . . I can do this. When? The lecture hall is free at 2 p.m. tomorrow.


So last night I put in an hour or so roughing out an approach, then I spent most of this morning compiling a list of the questions one must ask oneself about every scientific article. Then translating the whole thing, to make sure I had all the right vocabulary. Then breaking it up into a series of lecture notes and printing it large enough to read at arm's length (about lunchtime).

When the witching hour rolled around, I found that it wasn't one of my best French days (maybe because I wasn't mad at anybody), but I spoke slowly and forced my recalcitrant lips to twist themselves around the syllables, and my vocabulary didn't fail me, so it actually went pretty well. It took only about 40 minutes, but the prof posed some questions (in the absence of any from the students; she had warned me they were pretty passive), and I had been warned not to run over, because they had experiments running that needed to be checked promptly at 3 p.m. Just now, Laurence dropped by to say that her grad student (who sat in on the class) thought it was great, so I guess I did okay. Whoof!

There's one for the CV.

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