June 12, 2016

Book Review

Academaze by Sydney Phlox

I spent several enjoyable hours over the past week reading an advance copy of Academaze Written by Sydney Phlox, the author of the academic science blog Xykademiqzthis book is a thoughtfully organized collection of previous posts that showcase her decent, humorous, and realistic approach to academic life. Dr. Phlox is a physical scientist at an R1 institution, but I would imagine most material would be useful to a range of physical and biological professors at many types of institutions. Funding advice is, however, primarily focused on NSF. 

Life is too short to constantly fight for the approval of random new people.

Academaze is surprisingly weighty for a book of blog posts. In addition to advice on applying for a faculty position, getting tenure, securing funding, teaching well (and sanely), and writing excellent papers, this collection also covers more amorphous aspects of academic life such as work-life balance, mentoring, departmental politics, and imposter syndrome. I had expected to read pretty much the same set of advice I’d already seen in other faculty manuals like At the Helm. Instead, I found plenty of new and thought-provoking material. For example, a section on “flipping” classrooms addresses how this teaching strategy trend might adversely affect introverted students. The section on writing for graduate students is particularly insightful and has lots of spot-on advice for students and their mentors.

“Looking like a professor” means being a white dude with glasses and crazy hair, so that’s really hard to pull off for any woman without, at a minimum, gender reassignment surgery.

Dr. Phlox’s tone is confident and sassy, introspective and empathetic. While articulate about the challenges of the job, her genuine fondness for her students and her mentees comes through, as does her passion for research and writing. Phlox is both honest and kind, without idealizing PIs or their mentees. She also has a wicked sense of humor.

The work has to get done, and there is only so much you can say no to or delegate before you become the self-centered douche.


Reading <u>Academaze</u> was like having a long chat with a  colleague who’d had experiences similar to mine, but actually processed them instead of simply surviving. It was invigorating and inspiring, and I’m looking forward to sharing the book with my students. I recommend it both to those contemplating entry into, and those already in the midst of, the academic maze.

Academaze will be available in Kindle format and in hard copy from Amazon on June 20.

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