Friday, May 19, 2006

Somebody help her!

Speaking of nightmares, somewhere around my fourth year I witnessed someone hoping to get a job at my school experience one in real life. The process of getting a faculty position at a university is long and arduous, and culminates in the faculty candidate’s coming to the university for a two-day interview that involves endless meetings with individual faculty members, a presentation of proposed research projects for the faculty, and a seminar of completed research for the entire department. It was at this seminar that the nightmare unfolded.

The candidate gave her talk at our weekly departmental seminar. Her presentation was fine I guess; I have to admit that I don’t really remember it. I usually dozed off during the seminars. I couldn’t help it. In college, I learned some kind of behavioral association wherein I fell asleep the instant anyone started to lecture me on aspects of chemical engineering. One time, I fell asleep in an honors class of only six students, during which the professor had taken us to his lab to show us something. I was standing up, but I still managed to nod off. One among six students, standing up, and I fell asleep. No, it wasn’t embarrassing at all.

But I digress. Back in grad school, the faculty candidate had finished her talk and was taking questions from the audience. While she was answering the questions, she started walking over to the desk in the front row of the audience. She leaned heavily on the desk and listened to a question, and then she pitched over onto the floor.

Yes, this poor woman actually fainted during her job talk.

The department head shouted, “Somebody HELP her!” and another faculty member rushed out to get her something to drink. He returned with a Coke, by which time she had been helped back up and was sitting weakly in one of the front-row chairs. Although she accepted the soda, she vehemently turned down offers to cut the questions short, and insisted on finishing the seminar. She seemed to want everyone to just forget about her little fainting incident and pretend like it didn’t happen. Or possibly she wanted the floor to open up and swallow her whole. Because can you imagine?

No, she didn’t get the job, but I can’t swear that it was solely because of the fainting. Still, it couldn’t have helped.

1 comment:

Doktah said...

When I applied for jobs, I never had anything that bad, but I did run into a few "interesting" situations.

Having the flu while trying to give a seminar interview = not fun. Particularly when the seminar is the first thing you do upon arriving. Combine terrible congestion, a plane flight and then a seminar. Needless to say the PTEEEE-OOOOOO that you hear as your congested ears painfully equilibrate half-way through your seminar does not make the really tough questions they are asking any easier to answer.

Still, the hardest was in trying to respond to the following dialog:
I was giving an informal seminar to the entire faculty trying to impress them with my abilities and insight. Lunch was being served. I ate a bit (so as not to faint). When the chocolate cake was passed around, I apologized because I could not have chocolate. One of the more respected faculty said "No Chocolate! If I were you, I'd kill myself." What could I say? Luckily, the job was not contingent on my following up on that suggestion.