Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Responses to Comments


Is being content ever more than merely fleeting?


I think these are probably THE places to be in the next few years. Especially if you have teaching experience and really want to teach (see below).


It's a little more complicated than 'I just want a job at an R1'.

See, I fall into this bizarre category of being underqualified in the teaching category and overqualified in the research category for anything other than R1. Most non-R1s couldn't afford the equipment I'd need.

Of course this is a moot point, since as you know, I'm also still underqualified for any serious R1s.

When I applied to 2nd and 3rd tier places in the past, they thought they were my safety school so they didn't take me seriously. But when I applied to 1st tier places, I didn't make the cut.

I am a B+. Nobody wants a B+.

Perhaps if I were to do this again I would have to really go out of my way to show how extra-enthusiastic/serious I would be about the 2nd and 3rd tier places.

As it was, when I did it I was totally equal-opportunity about the way I did my applications, which is to say I applied without doing nearly enough networking for any of them.

Again, if I were to apply to faculty positions, I know now what I would do differently.

But lately I am thinking I would not apply again. I just want to get these papers out. And then we'll see.

I was laughing at an article I re-read today (I'm sorry, I don't remember which site) about how it's important to take vacations and avoid burnout. But they specifically mentioned students and junior faculty. I don't think it was intentional, but the message jives with my experience: everyone gets to take vacations, except for postdocs.

Anon 8:04,

I don't know you. I'm glad you like your job and it sounds like your job likes you.

But I did 'know' this guy, or at least what he said he wanted and where other people assumed he was going, years ago when we were in school together.

To me, the interesting thing about seeing where people end up is seeing how this measures against their qualifications and people's (past) expectations for them.

Case in point, he's at a place that 'values' teaching, but I know for a fact that this guy NEVER TAUGHT ANYTHING before getting hired.

I'm also, as you might know from reading this blog, very interested in the extreme disconnect between What The Establishment Says They Want in a new professor, vs. Who They Actually Hire.

Getting that paper in requires getting those experiments done, at least to my own satisfaction that I at least tried.

I am infinitely frustrated right now because I would almost rather quit than keep fighting my way over all the everyday speedbumps, because I just don't have the patience for them anymore.

In other words, somebody else should be doing these experiments. My imaginary students or technician.

I know eventually I would come to regret it if I quit now.

But it is taking. so. damn. long. Too long!!!

You know it's bad when you find yourself fantasizing about how, if you got scooped, then at least you could justify quitting. Assuming the other guy gets it right and you get the satisfaction of at least knowing the answer (but he never does).

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At 7:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We have a search going on now (Main State U in a middle-tier State). We're hiring two or three assistant professors. There have been what seems like an unending stream of seminars and chalk talks. Here's some observations on who's getting interviews (note: I'm not on the search committee):

1) nobody gets an interview that doesn't come with at least some of their own money. If you don't have a K99/R00 or equivalent society grant, forget it.

2) when we say "we value teaching", what that means is, "if you accept this job, we're going to make you teach". We don't care about teaching experience so much as teaching fit. We need somebody to teach subject X to the med students. We feel that for you to be actively working on X is both necessary and sufficient to qualify you for teaching X.

3) nobody gets an interview that doesn't have ultra-stellar letters of recommendation. I suggest that if your PI won't write you one, you offer to write it yourself and have the PI sign it. That might overcome the activation energy on the part of PI enough to make it happen. If you get to do this, go ballistic-crazy describing how you're the best thing ever to come through.

4) there is value in being perceived as having been able to establish collaborative inter-institutional interactions. if it seems like you personally are doing the initiating, rather than your PI, this carries a lot of weight. we're looking for someone who can pursue an independent research program and this is a good way to demonstrate scientific initiative.

5) we do NOT appear to require ultra-great papers, however, there needs to be more than one first author paper, particularly for a longer (4+ year) post-doc. These papers need to be in top-shelf solid journals (PNAS grade and up).

6) you have to come from a big-name lab. someone on the search committee needs to know of and be impressed with your PI.

I'm not saying that I agree with any or all of the above, however, I observe that every candidate that we have interviewed so far has had all of these characteristics.

At 8:10 PM, Anonymous JR said...


Is being content ever more than merely fleeting?"

Of course not. It seems you haven't found it yet. I hope you find it soon. Its very liberating. And you don't need medicine, although in some circumstances it can help. You are your own worst enemy.

At 3:20 AM, Anonymous teaching science said...

Hey there,

I think you underestimate your teaching experience. I have noted from your essays (on numerous) occasions that you enjoy training students. Aspiring faculty should not discount this experience.

Enjoying helping others learn is probably more important that hating to teach and weaseling your way into teach 5 courses.

If you haven't done so already, work on documenting these training interactions. How did you approach the training? How did the trainee respond? Did you readjust your training approach? What was the outcome? What did you learn from the entire experience.

At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, they have a developmental program for scientists called Delta, where they offer courses that can help grad students and post docs prepare for faculty careers.


One of their courses is:

"Writing Teaching and Learning Philosophies"

"Date: Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Location: Tong Auditorium, 1003 Engineering Centers Building
(1550 Engineering Drive)"

Description: In this three hour interactive workshop, you will learn what a teaching and learning philosophy is and how to write one through a variety of hands-on engaging activities. As a participant in this workshop, you will get to work in small and large groups to critique existing examples of teaching and learning philosophies as well as generate teaching and learning statements/beliefs in a brainstorming session that you can use in your own philosophy. The workshop weaves in opportunities to individually write parts of your teaching and learning philosophy and obtain peer feedback on what you write. You will leave the workshop with an understanding of the basic parts of a teaching and learning philosophy, how to write one, a detailed outline of your own philosophy, and examples of teaching and learning philosophies written by science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) graduate students, postdocs, faculty, and academic staff."

Now it is unlikely that you are at UW, but I would suggest finding a book or other resource on this topic. These teaching and learning philosophy statements have helped people get jobs in R1s, liberal arts schools, and industry. This type of document is analagous to your CV; it's a conversation starter for people interviewing you who care about teaching, and it is often a useful checkbox to hit for interviewer's who don't value teaching. What this document could say is:"I value teaching others. I would work hard to be good at it. I would be a good collaborator in a department"

Sorry if I have been pedantic, as I know how you hate that.

At 8:41 AM, Blogger yellowfish said...

Ugh, I'm on the brink of applying for faculty jobs and am totally afraid of all this discouraging stuff... but on the other hand I am totally over being a post-doc, so there I am.

Out of curiosity, you say if you could apply again, you would do it differently- what are the things you would change?

At 10:15 AM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

Anon 7:53,


Most of this fits with what I have suspected for a while, but couldn't confirm (and which many people I've asked have actually denied).

Wish I could get a 'society grant' but I'm not eligible (have posted about that at length previously).

So maybe that's the end of the game for me. Kind of knew that, kind of wish I had confirmation sooner.


As usual, I wish I knew what you would say if we actually met in person.

The more I think about what 'alternative' careers I could do, the less I think there is one I could survive on that would make me un-miserable.

I was actually asked to apply for something yesterday, but I'm pretty sure I would hate it. More on this later, maybe.

teaching science,

Thanks, yes, I've worked with someone on writing one of those. That is very helpful, though, and I hope others find your comment here.


I can't remember if I've blogged about that before, but I could certainly do it again. Right now though, I think I might sit here and cry, and then pretend I didn't just sit here and cry.

Kind of like how Edwards looked on the news this morning - nose all red, pretty obvious how he must be feeling today.

At 1:58 PM, Blogger ena7800 said...


this is another article that i found with some very interesting and disturbing insights. makes me a little trepidatious about our field.

At 10:27 AM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...


I'd read this one before. Keep in mind the bias of the authors. I personally have a lot of issues with these kinds of studies that claim generalized differences. Sure, maybe there are trends, maybe it is a bell curve with more people in the middle and the peaks slightly separated. I try not to pay much attention to these kinds of studies- it can be interesting in the way it gets you to think about these issues, but I wouldn't take any of it to heart.


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