Martin S Olivier

Open door consultation times

One of the primary reasons I became a lecturer was to talk to students. Sometimes I can help them by explaining a difficult concept (repeatedly - if necessary). Very often I learn from them. In the 'old days' such consultations happened automatically. Unfortunately modern technology (safety doors, email, and so on) gets in the way of such face to face discussions. Hence I try to 'advertise' slots that I have set aside for such conversations. During these times anyone is welcome to visit me (without any prior arrangements). These times are also good times to phone me to arrange meetings for other times.

My slots reserved for such discussions are listed below. Note that I sometimes have to cancel or move slots. In general I will try to do so at least one week prior to the slot. However, if you plan to come to campus just to talk to me, it may be a good idea to check this page a day or two before the planned visit - just to be sure that nothing has changed.

Note that significant changes to this schedule are likely at the start of every new semester. An RSS feed alerting subscribers to changes in the schedule is available.

A note for those not familiar with academic schedules: It often seems that lecturers lead a leisurely life that allows them to be at the office for only brief periods during a week. The truth, however, is that lecturers' work very often happens outside the office: in lecture halls, in laboratories, and in consultations with students, other academics, industry partners, government officials and others. They serve on various committees, panels, boards and other structures that keep the wheels of academia turning. And, as scholars, they need to read and write significant amounts of literature, which is often done much more efficiently at places where one can play Bach, the Beach Boys, Blagne, Boyce or Bruni at top volume while pacing around - a practice that is not often appreciated at the office.

A note on communication by email

I have no control over the amount of email that arrives in my inbox per day. As noted above, large parts of my work is not compatible with reading emails and responding to them. The result is that they arrive at a faster rate than I am able to respond to them, which means I usually have a few hundred emails in my inbox that are all urgent. I wish I had the capacity to respond to a few dozen emails per day, but I don't. So, if you want to communicate with me about a matter that requires a response, it is best to use synchronous communication - come and see me, or phone me.

Donald Knuth, one of the most famous computer scientists of all time, famously said "I have been a happy man ever since January 1, 1990, when I no longer had an email address. I'd used email since about 1975, and it seems to me that 15 years of email is plenty for one lifetime. "Email is a wonderful thing for people whose role in life is to be on top of things. But not for me; my role is to be on the bottom of things. What I do takes long hours of studying and uninterruptible concentration. I try to learn certain areas of computer science exhaustively; then I try to digest that knowledge into a form that is accessible to people who don't have time for such study." While I will never compare my work to Knuth's, the fact remains that reading and writing research papers, preparing and presenting lectures, and discussing academic matters with students are activities that are best not interrupted by a constant stream of emails. And processing emails in batches soon leads to a situation where I need a week or two without any other duties to clear my inbox - which just never happens. Of course, I have also received many emails that helped me to digest or write research papers, prepare for lectures or shed insight on a consultation session with a student; I will forever be thankful for those emails.

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Last update: 13 July 2013