The Trending Prof

Anita Woods Ph.D., University Educator
Computers Can’t Do Everything

Computers Can’t Do Everything

I go through an ardous process every year of setting up students in various research labs for their senior research project. This year, I have a colleague to split the tasks.  We ask students to email with whom they would like to interview with prior to the school start and then we go through setting up a rapid interview process for the first day of class.  All of this scheduling could certainly be automated and save a lot of grief.  However, the process of matching students into these labs is NOT straightforward.

You would think a simple matrix in which a #1 student selection and a #1 professor selection would result in a match would be easy to do.  However, as my colleague found out this week, the personalities involved makes everything much more complicated and most matches aren’t a 1 to 1…. Despite the drama that usually ensues after the match list is posted, most faculty are absolutely fine with the students they match with.

After two weeks of appeasing and placing, we have a final match list.  I didn’t realize just how much personality does affect our matching process until I had to give the Cole’s notes on each supervisor to my colleague.  Without getting myself into trouble, all I can say is that it is pertinent to know the politics and personalities in order to produce a perfectly matched group.  Unless I can come up with a smart program to generate all of these scenarios, a computer program will never do for this particular task.

Two weeks of my working life are gone, devoted to lab matching.  It is a task that doesn’t show up on my Annual Performance Evaluation (like many of the things that I do as part of my job).  However, now I have someone else who understands the time and effort this job takes and for that I am thankful.  Computers can do a lot, but this is a particular instance where I know they can’t do everything.



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