Friday, July 08, 2005


Our lab is moving in two weeks, so I can't really do any experiments. I'm trying to do some cloning, but as usual I'm having every problem in the book. The latest was a suspicious band in my water that exactly matches the size I'm expecting in my PCR. I'm waiting for the PCR with fresh water now.

So lab stuff is up in the air. I'm trying to work on a grant, but I really feel like I need more preliminary data to even know what to write for some of the aims that are kind of nebulous right now. But grants are always up in the air until they are actually funded.

I'm also working on my job search. I'm seriously considering applying to University of Nebraska, but I haven't told my boyfriend that yet. I figure it's only an issue if they offer me an interview. The other places that are advertising now are more likely locations and he knows about those. I also figure I have less of a real chance of getting an offer from those places, so again it's only an issue if I get offered an interview.

I emailed a couple of friends of mine, who work next door to each other, in a department connected to one that is advertising. They both have joint appointments in the department I would be applying to, so they know about it. Interestingly, the guy gave me pretty pointless, vague answers to my very specific questions. The woman was very straightforward, said she thought her department is better, especially for younger PIs, and that her chair is better. So she said I should apply and see for myself, but she wouldn't want to work there!

It really pays to ask the right people.

Meanwhile, I asked another friend, a senior professor who doesn't work in my field, for some advice on the job search. She is the first person who has said honestly that the people who get the jobs are the ones who are so well-known already that their names are "come up" during the search committee's discussions, and they are actually invited to apply. She said, "nobody gets a job by answering an advertisement".

Now, this is what I always suspected was going on, but scientists are so hypocritical about it, nobody I've asked until now has been willing to admit this is how it actually works.

So I'm meeting with this woman tonight to get the scoop on how you get to be one of these invited interviewees, and how you find out about openings before the advertisements go out. It really is like getting an apartment in Manhattan.

Meanwhile, I'm waiting for my PCR and feeling very unsettled about everything. Reading Science and Nature just isn't going to do it for me this afternoon. I read this article about a young, hot star who has, just coincidentally, worked in my two, very obscure fields, and got a job at my dream university. He has about 3 times as many papers as I do, but they all seem to be reviews, from what I can tell.

My advisor says I can't write any reviews until I'm more famous. This seems wrong to me, since I wrote two as a (not famous) graduate student, but suffice it to say, she won't be any help on that front.

So we are back at the catch-22: can't get a grant without a job, can't get a job without a grant.

Can't get an interview until I'm famous, can't write a review until I'm famous.
Have to be superhuman to be famous, apparently. Or at least, be able to get some basic cloning to work.

Needless to say, I'm thinking I might go to the gym this afternoon. At least there I can be insignificant and nobody really expects me to be otherwise, especially me.


At 7:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seems simplistic to think there is a single way faculty searches are conducted. An applicant has to be one of the 3-8 people most interesting to the search committee to gain an interview, and interest can be generated various ways.

1. It helps for an advocate of yours to contact a member of the committee,

2. it helps to have high profile research results members of the committee have already seen

3. it helps to have more papers, more grants, more invited talks, more awards and Fellowships

4. a self-statement that resonates with their interests and desires

Actually, reviews are less impressive than original research, if the research results are interesting.

So it is the accumulated effect, not just who is invited, that determines the outcome.

Hope this isn't too didactic, and may apply more to my field, geology, in which we all know each other, than the far vaster fields of biology.

John the seismoguy

At 8:47 AM, Blogger GrrlScientist said...

It's actually MUCH MUCH easier to get a rent-stabilized apartment in Manhattan than a job interview for a tenure-track position anywhere in the world. And we all know how difficult it is to get any sort of apartment in Manhattan!


voice of experience

At 10:36 AM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

yeah, john the seismoguy, some of us don't have advocates who know people on committees. we have to be our own advocates. try it sometime, it's a lot of extra work!

some of us don't have as much high-profile research as we'd like, mostly because there's so much high-profile research in biology that it's very difficult to be the tall poppy.

sadly, if you don't get invited for an interview, it doesn't matter how many of the things on the list you have, because you definitely won't get the job without being invited.

At 10:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I symphathize with the difficulty getting a faculty job. Although I have one now, I had to apply for about ten and work as a researcher for a decade before I got one.

Grad programs should have their eyes more on connecting their students with good jobs when they get their degrees than using them (as many now do) as inexpensive labor on their grants.



Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home