With my mentor, ADM James D. Watkins 2010

I promised myself years ago that when my mentor, Admiral James D. Watkins, passed away, wherever I was, whatever I was doing, I would make arrangements to go to his funeral.

And now it happened.   So I jumped on a red-eye flight back to Washington, DC and attended the funeral ceremony.  It was a beautiful service,  in one of the largest Catholic churches in the country.  It was attended by Senators, Cabinet Members, military, clergy, and many “just plain” people.

He was a highly decorated Naval officer, and a devoutly religious man.  Maybe it was that mixture that gave him the special perspective that I  as a younger man found so instructive.


Here are some of the lessons I learned from my mentor:

“Get out in front of your skis”

Sometimes it’s best to be a little uncomfortable.  Sometimes you just need to move from where you are.


“Don’t look over your shoulder”

If you’re not sure whether you’ve got the backing of your team, then you probably need to build a better team.  If you’re going the wrong way, they’ll jump in front of you to force a new direction.

“Do your homework, then put it away”

The value is in learning the lesson, not in showing everyone what you know.  Build on the knowledge, don’t celebrate it.

“You can build an argument, but you have to earn support”

Collecting evidence to make your case is the easy part.  The tough job is selling the case and making it important to others.


There are many other lessons that I learned from my mentor, and each one is remarkable in its breadth of relevance.  I can apply those lessons to my work and my life.  Every researcher should be so lucky as to have a mentor like mine.

Rick Spinrad, VP for Research

Please enter the conversation! We appreciate your comments to issues raised in this post and others on the Spin on Research blog.

Image of original, handscripted Morrill Act document.
“AN ACT Donating Public Lands
to the several States and Territories
which may provide Colleges
for the Benefit of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts.”

– First Morrill Act, 1862


It’s not a usual day when one gets to hear Bill Gates plus two Cabinet Secretaries, yet I was so privileged at the convocation of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) in Washington, DC in late June.  The event was a celebration of the Morrill Act of 1862, the enabling legislation for the concept of Land Grant institutions.

I listened carefully throughout the day for hints at the speakers’ perspectives on - what else? – research.



BillGates, smiling.Mr. Gates was quite enthusiastic in his advocacy of extending higher education to broader audiences via  – no surprise – technology.  He loves that universities already are putting courses on line for hundreds of thousands of students –  a first wave of future capabilities. He intimated that such use of technology begs the need for more advances in managing educational content, delivery and assessment.  I sat proudly thinking about how OSU is right where we should be on this wave, reaching out to the far corners of the state and the world, and developing better ways to do so.


Vilscack speaking and gesturing.Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack made an impassioned plea:  when you think of agriculture, think beyond food. Think, for instance, textiles. Think biofuels.  I appreciated his broadened perspective, which got Dean Arp (sitting next to me at the session) and me thinking about emerging OSU leadership in the intersection of ag sciences and material sciences. In both fields, OSU researchers already hold positions of preeminence.




Duncan talking and gesturing.

The presence of  Secretary of Education Arne Duncan helped remind me that our researchers are superlative not only in their fields of study, but also in inspiring and training the next generations of researchers – and how that also is integral to our land-grant commitment.



Chuck Vest, smiling.



One of my favorite presentations emphasized the role of Land Grant universities in building and sustaining our national strengths in physical sciences and engineering. Dr. Chuck Vest, President of the National Academy of Engineering, and past President of MIT, really inspired me to think about our strengths in these areas here at OSU.




150 years of learning, discovery and engagement The Morrill Act, 1862 - 2012The APLU convocation was a great confirmation of what so many of us here know: Land Grant Universities are a linchpin in the technological progress and leadership of our nation.  And they have been for a century and a half.  Our challenge is to continue to build on that legacy. I imagine our descendants celebrating the Morrill Act with the same enthusiasm at the tercentennial in the year 2162!

55 cent stamp, USA, Justin Morrill with imag eof him, LandgrantRick Spinrad, Vice President for Research

illlustration of rodent, pigs, fish, rodent



Steve Durkee, Oregon State University’s administrator of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) of the Office of Research Integrity, says,  “Lives are saved because of research animals. Caring people make sure the animals are taken care of.”

See his recent article in Speaking of Research, a publication by an advocacy group that provides accurate information about the importance of animal testing in medical and veterinary science.


Work & Life      Children & Career      Academia &  Family

“I heard about the workshops with a researcher about work-life balance. I didn’t have time to go, of course – I’m too overwhelmed. Did she have a solution?”

Bookcover of Professor MommyDr. Rachel Connelly visited campus in May bearing tips for parents in academia – particularly for women. Co-author of the book Professor Mommy: Finding Work-Family Balance in Academia (Rowman & Littlefield), she presented research and international examples of the problems– and strategies to address them.

She also offered personal stories from raising four children while succeeding as a professor of economics and of gender studies. “Having achieved tenure, I feel the obligation to give back,” she said. “There are things that individual women can do to adapt, but we also need to change the institutions.”

In workshops for students, post-docs, faculty and staff, and a lecture open to the public, Connelly addressed feelings such as guilt (“for not doing more in mothering / for not doing more in teaching and research”) , offered reassurance (“ it gets better”) and got down to practical tips – for work as well as home life.

Here are her ten on-the-job tips for academic researchers (For full explanations, refer to her publications)

1. Figure out when your best research time is and use it for research.

2. Always have a plan for the day and one for the month

3. Don’t prepare for teaching until the last possible moment.

4. Go to conferences every year even if you don’t have something new to present

5. If you really don’t like your position, go find a new one. This can be inside the university or at another institution

6. Apply for grants even if you don’t think you will get them

7. Don’t be afraid to take on a new branch of research.

8. If you know you are going to have to do some committee work, try to insure that it is work you want to do.

9. Don’t answer every email immediately

10. Think of ways that will make you happier with your teaching.

Rachel ConnellyConnelly’s area of research is at the intersection of demographics and labor markets. She has published articles on the effect of broad demographic trends on the labor market decisions and on the economics of child care.

Connelly’s visit was hosted by the President’s Commission on the Status of Women, as part of the President’s Lecture Series.

For those who did not have time to attend, here are resources:

President’s Commission on the Status of Women, Oregon State University  http://oregonstate.edu/leadership/pcosw/


-  Jana Zvibleman

Over the past year, the Research Office has implemented both Cayuse 424 and Cayuse SP.  Cayuse SP replaces the paper Proposal Transmittal Form, and will be used for all proposals.  Cayuse 424 is the Federal form set for both Grants.gov and Research.gov, and can also be used to prepare proposal budgets for proposals going to non-Federal sponsors.   There are two approaching deadlines  concerning proposal submission at OSU.

  • Effective July 1, 2012, all proposals will be routed through Cayuse SP.
    Faculty should no longer be submitting paper-based proposals or the OSU Proposal Transmittal Form.  Multiple training sessions have already been offered on the Cayuse products, and staff from the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) will continue to offer training sessions at least monthly.  An additional session for June has been scheduled for June 22, 2012, in MU 213, from 10:00am – 11:30am.   Faculty and staff can send an e-mail to sponsored.programs@oregonstate.edu to reserve a seat in this session.
  • Also effective July 1, 2012 , OSP’s web drop capability for Grants.gov packages will be disabled.
    These proposals (with the exception of the submissions for OSU’s Statewide Public Service funds) should be prepared through Cayuse 424 and routed through Cayuse SP.
  • Effective July 30, 2012, proposal routing in Cayuse 424 will be disabled, and all proposals will be routed using Cayuse SP.
    Any faculty that have begun proposal preparation in Cayuse 424 can contact an OSP staff member for assistance with proposal routing. 

    The Office of Sponsored Programs team of Aedra Reynolds, Dawn Wagner and Vickie Watkins support the College of Agricultural Sciences, the College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, the College of Forestry, and the units housed at the Hatfield Marine Science Center.
    The team of Eric Anundson, Cindy Rasberry and Lin Reilly support all other units.


This reminder has also been sent to Deans, Associate Deans, and unit heads.
Please contact Pat Hawk, Director of Sponsored Programs (541-737-6699 or patricia.hawk@oregonstate.edu ), if you have any questions.


Patricia A. Hawk, Director
Office of Sponsored Programs

Sitting on the University’s Promotion and Tenure Committee is one of the most important roles that I can fulfill as VP for Research.  Most tenure/tenure track faculty appointments include a percentage of time dedicated to research activities.  The measures of performance in research are varied, and their relationship to scholarly productivity proves to be an important focus of discussion.

It doesn’t take long before some challenging questions emerge from individual curriculum vitae:

  • How much effort should be focused on hypothesis-driven research, versus more service-oriented productivity?
  • What constitutes a legitimate proportion of attention to “high-impact” journals?
  • How should one represent one’s contribution to publication activity (e.g. first authorship)?
  • Is there a best balance of students and post-docs?
  • How do we weigh the respective merits of intellectual property development (e.g. patent disclosures) to peer-reviewed publication?
  • What is the “community ” standard for rates of publication within a given discipline?

ladder and moonAs an oceanographer, I bring my own “community” biases to the discussion of research impact.  For example, I’ll look at a publication in Nature (with its high impact factor) much differently from one in, say, Journal of Geophysical Research.  I also know what it means to have served as a Chief Scientist on a major research cruise, but I may not know what an equivalent activity might be in another field.  Those are metrics that may not be part of the culture in, say, plant pathology.  You should know the culture of your field.  If you don’t, speak with your mentors, ask your peers.  It is to your benefit to understand early in your career how you will be judged within your field so that you can reach your aspirations.

This year, alone, the P&T Committee read through nearly 10,000 pages of dossiers, and spent hundreds of cumulative hours in review, discussion and consideration.  And that doesn’t count the time and effort put in by the candidates, faculty committees, administrators and staff!  The time-honored traditions of P&T merit this investment, an investment that pays off to guide the careers of our university’s educators, researchers, administrators and service providers.

So, as we close out another academic year, let me be one of the first to congratulate those who’ve been promoted and/or attained tenure.  Your accomplishments are noteworthy and significant.  It’s a pleasure to recognize your success!



Rick Spinrad
Vice President for Research
Comments to this blog are welcome!  From the main “Spin” page, select “comment” below, and “Leave a Reply.” From this individual post, simply “Leave a Reply” in the field provided.

The media is peeking in through your lab windows?
Opt for fame that depicts your usual safe practices.

Benjamin Franklin’s idea for tenderizing a turkey: electrocute it. Alas, the jolt from two Leyden jars was a shock – to the  body of Franklin. He logged  "Experiment in Electricity that I desire never to repeat."


Many famous scientific mishaps do not conjure up images of safety gloves or sound evacuation plans. While  absentminded practices may sometimes have led to discoveries that were interesting,  Oregon State’s advances are based on laboratory practices that are safe (stirred into a test tube of common sense).

Let’s also remember to be aware of how our scientific procedures are depicted in the media.

The Flash was the first comic book hero to obtain super powers in a lab accident - he inhaed "hard water" vapors, and attained super speed.



Say a popular publication  gets wind of your brilliant hypothesis, and wants an exclusive of you in the moment of invention. In situ, the photographer thinks you’ll look more dashing if your eyelashes show, so “off with those goggles for a sec, please.” Or the reporter thinks it would be cute to get you to cuddle that rat .  .  .

The results: the world – via magazine, newspaper, web, video – receives images of less-than-best practices. Young would-be scientists pooh-pooh their teachers’ precautions. Havoc is unleashed on the world – probably not in the form of a new Beatles song.


A German alchemist stored urine in his cellar, going for gold. Putrefied and boiled, it became a waxy, glowing goo that spontaneously burst into flame: phosphorus.  Seventy-five years later, a Swedish chemist developed an industrial method of producing phosphorus;  among his other discoveries were chlorine and the compounds ammonia and prussic acid. That chemist was found dead in his lab, “perhaps owing to his propensity for tasting his own toxic chemicals.”


If the media is ringing you up, sweep the floors, check your hair, and review your safety procedures. Contact Environmental Health and Safety for guidance and training needs.



Historical information from Discover Magazine – 20 Things You Didn’t Know About … , and other sources (- must be true – we  read it on the web).

Rick Spinrad speaking at event
photo by Pat Kight/Oregon Sea Grant

On March 23rd, 2012, Rick Spinrad joined Bob Houtman, NSF Section Head- Ocean Sciences Division;  Sabah Randhawa, OSU Provost and Executive Vice President; Rob Munier, WHOI Vice President;  Marine Facilities and Operations; Mark Abbott, Dean, College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences; and John Byrne, OSU President Emeritus, CEOAS Past Dean; and others in Newport, Oregon to bid thanks and farewell to the Research Vessel Wecoma, and to welcome R/V Oceanus. The following is from Rick Spinrad’s remarks at the “retirement” event.
Let’s do some time-traveling.

Looking up at ship, OSU flag
Pat Kight/Oregon Sea Grant

It’s November 3rd , 1976,  6:04 in the evening. Less than 24 hours earlier, Gerald Ford and Bob Dole won Oregon, but lost the Presidential election to a toothy peanut farmer from Georgia. From a pier in Newport, Oregon, the still-shiny, brand new R/V Wecoma cast her lines and set out for a short cruise along the C-line to test gear in preparation for the upcoming long cruise off of Peru. The official ship’s log for that coastal jaunt is hardly a page-turner: they consumed 5278 gallons of fuel, 3600 gallons of fresh water, 25 gallons of lube oil (and although it was not recorded as such, an unknown volume of 95% laboratory-grade ethanol).

Improbably, the most noteworthy development was in the ship’s laundry; the log reads  ” The shipping ring on the laundry washer has broken. This item permitted partial use of washer in rolling ship operation. “  In other words, the agitator moved with the movement of the vessel. Gotta love that kind of resourcefulness.

The only research-relevant note in the log: “scientists have a very good procedure set up for launching and recovering the nephelometer under positive control.  I feel it is much more satisfactory than our close quarter R/V YAQUINA operation.”  So we knew the new ship would be an improvement over our older vessel.

How telling that was, in terms of the next 35 years of research that would be conducted aboard this wonderful vessel. The ship’s crew included Captain Linse, Chief Mate Tony Loskota, Cook Tom Kluttz (incidentally, my wife, Alanna, still uses Tom’s recipe for macaroons  – *provided below –  best in the world ) and AB John Keiper. The scientific crew was led by Ron Zaneveld and Hasong Pak, with a rowdy bunch of techs and students: Bob Kaupaun, Bob Bartz, Jim Kitchen …. and one long haired, banjo playing graduate student whose name was misspelled on the manifest as Rick Spinrod.

I had the pleasure of being on the Wecoma for 53 days, off the coasts of Oregon, Washington and Peru.

The Wecoma at seaAfter 1976, and for the next 3½ decades, the R/V Wecoma served as host to an oceanographic hall of fame.  OSU’s researchers filled the bunks: Chief Scientists with the names of Smith, Huyer, Carey, Pearcy, Kulm, Caldwell, Schrader, Miller, Zaneveld, Dymond, Gordon, Pak, Keller, Heath, Small, Lilley, Paulson, Prahl, Collier, and no doubt many others, just up to the 1986 period when the ship was laid up for repairs. And that’s just the Beavers.  Consider this list of other Chief Scientists from that same period: Barber, Cox, Knauer, Lorenzen, Bruland, Wyrtki, Knox, Murray, Weiss, Martin, Hickey, Brown, Beardsley, Winant, Irish, Karl, Robison, Packard.  Believe me, this is impressive to people in the marine sciences.

Wecoma was witness to discoveries that changed the way we think about our world, including how upwelling drives coastal productivity and fisheries; the magic of El Nino; the sheer power of deep-sea vulcanology; and understanding the complex nature of how the interactions of the ocean and atmosphere affect our weather and climate.

Not to mention those Nobel-laureate-worthy discoveries of the real-time full water column monochromatic specific beam attenuation coefficients – conducted by the most preeminent optical oceanographic team in the universe: Spinrad and Zaneveld, (OK, Zaneveld and Spinrad!) If you want to know details,  let’s meet at the Beanery.

Seriously, the world is unquestionably a better place because of the service this ship, her crew, scientists and land-based staff have provided  - for longer than many of us have been alive.

The name Wecoma, I propose, might be an acronym for “With Every Cruise, One Meaningful Accomplishment.”

It’s not easy to say goodbye.  The “retirement” event was a pretty emotional moment for many of us.

Wecoma is a star.  She was a workhorse, a transport, a world-class lab, and, for many of us at some point in our lives – even if was after a night at Anna’s bar in Callao –  she was our home.

Pat Kight/Oregon Sea Grant

But this is also a wonderful time, as we welcome the R/V Oceanus into our OSU family.  We can only imagine the discoveries and revelations that this new vessel will help us attain. Understanding the mysteries of ocean acidification, the complex microbial networks that define the foodweb of the seas, the ever-more intricate definitions of the four-dimensional structures of ocean dynamics.  The OCEANUS will be our tour guide to the next generation of oceanography.

Recently I was enjoying a drink with an old friend of mine who said he couldn’t have been more delighted to see the Oceanus come to OSU.  He went on to add that our legacy of transdisciplinary research and scientific accomplishment couldn’t be better suited to Oceanus’s capabilities.  That friend is Bob Gagosian, the former Director of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.  We should feel good about that. I can’t wait to see what we do with our new ship!

The R/V WECOMA has sailed her last cruise for Oregon State University.  The last sample’s been drawn, the last station taken, the last watch retired.  The horizon will be her home, her legacy will be her name.  Research Vessel Wecoma, we wish you fair winds and following seas.


bonus : recipe from the Wecoma

Coconut-crusted round cookie*Tom’s Macaroons

Stir together:

1-1/2 cup sugar
6 Tablespoons flour (matzoh flour works as well)
dash of salt
6 heaping cups shredded coconut

Beat until stiff :

6 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla

“Fluff in” sugar mixture with egg whites. Be sure to stir the ingredients carefully to keep the air in the egg whites.

Put oil on your hands and loosely roll the dough into balls.  The oil makes the dough slip off your fingers.  Don’t press too hard or handle too much.

Place on heavily sprayed cookie sheet , or use parchment paper.

Bake 350 degrees for about 15 minutes -  watch them carefully!

Makes 20


bonus question:
What are the original meanings and origins of the words  “wecoma” and “oceanus”?