presenting our work

Pamela Norton pnorton at
Mon Feb 26 12:23:19 EST 1996

   The other responses to this topic have been excellent, and I thought I
would relate some advice that I was given several years ago. 

   As a postdoc beginning to look for jobs, one piece of advice that my
boss gave me was to not pretend that you know more about something than
you actually do. I know this sounds obvious, but he wasn't raising it
because he thought that I was very likely to do this. Rather, the
department had been interviewing candidates for asst. prof. positions. One
guy, call him X, in a talk with my boss, Y, mentioned that he, X, viewed
his work as heading into a new, fairly hot, field. Coincidentally, Y had
dabbled in this field, and asked some specific questions. It became
obvious that X knew almost nothing about the field, but had hoped to make
himself more marketable by being trendy. Instead, he eliminated any chance
of getting the job (my boss was department chairman at the time).

   The two morals of this story are: 1, don't misrepresent yourself
(again, obvious) and 2, don't assume that you know more than your
listeners about anything except your own work. This holds for public
presentations as well as interviews. 

   To get closer to the original question, I do think men are more likely
_on average_ to commit an error of over-confidence, an instance of which
is given above, than women. While I dislike generalizations, I guess I do
see some differences _on average_ in the way men and women do science.
Neither is necessarily better. Rather, I hope we can we can identify the
strengths and weaknesses in different people's approaches. In this way, we
may all benefit.

   Speaking of work.... I better get back to it.
      Pam Norton

Pamela A. Norton, Ph.D.          Assistant Professor of Medicine
Thomas Jefferson University
Philadelphia, PA 19107           p_norton at

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