This is the future. Perhaps not the flying-car future we were all promised, but at least the internet has pretty much reached the “information superhighway” status we were long ago promised, and shed much of it’s hideous geocities past. Except some chemistry departments. They’re not all “under construction signs, obnoxious gifs, and visit counters,” but some of them make you feel like it’s a tooth and nail fight to get rapid, accurate information about their department. It’s about time some chem departments realized this and made their websites functional. Or at least less non-functional. In case you’re not aware, here are common offenses, and example offenders:

1. No Mini-Bio/Research Synopsis on main faculty page: Lets say that, for whatever reason, you’re browsing a department web-page, and you want to see a list of who does organic chemistry, and there it is. And that’s it. Just a list. In this case, a list of 15 people, and 14 new windows/tabs you’ll have to open, in addition to the current one you have open, just to casually browse the interests of each professor. I use Columbia as an example, but this is a pretty common error. Give us something to go off of. A quick blurb? Keywords? At least give us keywords? A simple “this, that, and the other” next to your name is better than nothing…

2. Mis-information in mini-bios: Ok, so let’s say you find a university website that has some kind of at-a-glance info on the work of each professor. Yippee. So you click on the professor, and are brought to the department’s page/full bio for the professor. In some cases, you will now be tasked with heading to the professor’s actual group-page to cross reference everything listed in the mini/dept bio of the professor

For example, lets look at UC Irvine’s faculty page, compared to Overman’s bio page and his group page. To the untrained eye, the faculty listing page will have you believe that Overman does “chemical biology, inorganic & organometallic,” and “organic” chemistry. To the discerning who dig further, or those in the know, I’d say it’s better to describe Overman’s work as “asymmetric catalysis, and natural product synthesis.” I can see the connections – ligated transition metals –> inorganic & organometallic, synthesis of biologically active natural products –> chemical biology – however these are not exactly interchangeable. It strikes me similar to the “a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle is not necessarily a square” distinction, and I, for one, would prefer if departmental websites organized their squares and rectangles accordingly.

3. No group-page: Seriously!? You’re a professor in the modern era, and some time or another, someone is going to want to check out your work in detail – detail beyond what even a correct mini-bio can offer, and without having to sci-finder all of your previous work. Please consider getting with the times and putting up a group page of what you do? I can almost understand if you’re an older professor and don’t “do” the internet, but I’m sure there’s some tech-savvy person in your lab, or at least, your department, who can spend an afternoon, copy some code, and set up the de-facto standard group web page for you. Double demerits if you’re not an old coot and definitely have the tech savvyness to know you should have a website (let alone the relative simplicity of setting up an “out of the box” type template, as referenced, or even something like the stand-alone version of wordpress could probably suffice).

4. Remnants of old pages still on the web: UCLA’s the culprit here. While researching, I decided to google the phrase ‘UCLA Kwon” to get to Ohyun Kwon’s page faster than going through the department’s pages. First hit on google is this. I checked her research interests, and everything looked fine, until I checked her publications… which mysteriously end at 2005. “Surely, that couldn’t have been the last time she published anything. Something’s amiss…” And so, I went to the actual UCLA department page, and pulled up Kwon’s actual group page. Curiously, I went back to Kwon’s phantom-page, and clicked on “organic chemistry home.” Turns out, there’s an entire phantom-department-page still up and running for UCLA’s organic chemistry program. Also turns out that it, too, is the first google hit when you search “UCLA organic chemistry,” as opposed to the current organic page. I highly doubt that the old-school pages are really needed on the web anymore. I further doubt that the current chemistry web-admin at UCLA is even aware they’re still up, and mis-directing search results…

Anyway, now you know the warning signs. Be vigilant, and suggest that your group/department streamline and update their web pages. Your future grad students, post docs, and even undergrads will thank you. And to think, once upon a time, all of this information gleaning had to be done sans-internet. How primitive.


2 Responses to #firstworldproblems

  1. Chemjobber says:

    I’ve always used this website to find specific professors: http://www.organiclinks.net/

    Maybe it might help?

    • chiraljones says:

      iiiiiinteresting. It’s really nice that everything is listed out, and links to the most specific description of each prof’s research (usually group page), but still does nothing more than just a big list, and doesn’t help when professors don’t have group pages.

      still, couldda used this a month ago.

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