Archive for: September, 2011

It takes a village to raise...a tenure-track professor?

Sep 27 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

I used to be fiercely independent, and not in a good way. Like, delusionally so. I just figured I could do everything myself and that my way of doing things, even if that "way" had no basis in experience or knowledge, was probably the right way. Over the course of the last few years, however, I learned that there are, in fact, people out there. People with information! Information that might actually make your life easier. It's mind blowing, really.

Never in my life have I embraced the existence of all these people more than I am right now. I'm actively seeking help--from NJU's grants liaison, from my program officer, from one of NJU's HR reps--and accepting help when people make themselves available to me, which thank Jeebus they are. Does it fill my days with meetings, phone calls, and endless email strings? Yes. Does it mean I don't begin working on my grant until 5 pm every day? Yes.

But very slowly, I can feel my toes starting to sink in and grab the soil, here. I am no longer incredulous that I might one day arrive at work and find a lab, with people and equipment in it, and real science being done. That day is still a ways off, but my first major equipment purchase has arrived, and I am in fact interviewing candidates for a lab tech tomorrow! After all, somebody's got to [help me] put the new equipment together.


25 responses so far


Sep 19 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Joyous news, my dear readers! The very brilliant and hilarious Dr Cynicism has asked if I'd grace his excellent blog with a cocktail recipe now and then, and I was only too happy to oblige. Today marks the first installment of my moonlighting gig as his Mixology Consultant, and I've whipped up a tasty autumn-inspired cocktail for you and yours.

While you're over there, do be sure to take some time to poke around--Dr C knows the funny, you understand?


No responses yet

The new puppy

Sep 16 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Aw, were you thinking I was going to tell you about how I got a new puppy, and show you pictures of a cute puppy? Sorry. Well, OK, now I feel bad, so here's a picture of a puppy, but it's not my puppy. It's an internet puppy.

Anyway, what I mean by the puppy thing is that being new faculty is like being a new puppy. You are adorable (obvs). You are paraded around the department, not wholly unlike the way one takes his or her new puppy around the neighborhood so everyone can ooh and ah and pet you/ask you how you're getting settled. The tiniest action--a quick wave to the group at faculty meeting, for example--inspires wide-eyed smiles and quiet tittering. The fact that your office is fish tank-style, with one full-windowed wall, doesn't help, as anyone walking by inevitably peers in at the cute new prof with the fancy coffee machine. Do not tap on glass (Feeding is OK, though. Encouraged, even).

Exhausting as it's been being the new puppy--I've had to write no fewer than 5 separate blurbs about myself, my research, or both for various NJU features and spotlights, have 3 lunch dates set for next week, and have been roped into participating in the new department video shoot--it's truly awesome that the greater NJU community is interested in promoting its new faculty, and that the department has been so welcoming and supportive. Construction on the lab is very nearly finished, which is both exciting and terrifying. I'll put up some pics soon, once the floors are all waxed and shiny. The before & after is going to blow your mind!


10 responses so far

What do you do...

Sep 07 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

....with your arms when you're asked to stand up while the dean reads your bio to a room of 80 or so during the new faculty dinner? Hands on hips? Down at the side? Continuous beauty queen wave?

Amazing, isn't it, how two appendages you've had your whole life can, in an instant, feel a) completely foreign and b) twice as large as they should be?

31 responses so far

How to get tenure in 90 minutes

Sep 01 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

You might not guess it by looking at me, but I've been to a lot of orientations in my life. A lot. I couldn't even tell you how many times I've been orientated. So as a seasoned orientation veteran, I can say with some authority that yesterday's new faculty orientation at NJU was one of the best.

It was a full-day affair, with much opportunity to mingle with my fellow n00bs, and mingle I did! I met people from all over NJU, from the Biology and English departments to the Art and Journalism schools. I even got to talk to the Dean of the whole school about my research! Oh sure, we were also inundated with hours of boring numbers talk--we have this many new TT faculty, our incoming students' SAT scores went up this much over the past 10 years, our external funding has doubled in the last five. NJU is teh awesomez!! Etc.

But once the dog-and-pony show (as an esteemed colleague of mine so eloquently put it) was over, they kicked out the faculty who were hired with tenure, and shit got Real™. They brought in several newly-tenured faculty for a 90-minute panel on How to Get Tenure at NJU, and their candidness and wisdom were much appreciated. I tweeted their bon mots as fast as my thumbs could go, but I figure those of you who haven't embraced the 140-character revolution might also like to be enlightened.

So without further ado, I present to you #tenurein90min:

I took this not to mean that we should prepare to seek other employment in five years--in fact, they explicitly said that they have positions for and intend to grant tenure to each of us--but that you should strive to make yourself as impressive as possible. First and foremost, of course, know the NJU requirements for tenure, but also talk to your friends at other institutions, and take inspiration from their tenure process.

This, I feel, is great advice no matter what stage of your career you're in. Get a new paper, a new grant, a new committee, a new award. Keep building.

I'm paraphrasing, of course, but the panel members could not emphasize this enough. Make sure that by year four or so, you know at least a good handful of the absolute top people in your field.  One panel member noted that he realized around that time that he wasn't connected enough, and spent the next year inviting himself to give talks, introducing himself to the bigwigs, and making sure everyone important knew who he was. Self-promote, people! Nobody is going to do it for you.

"The first few years are all input and virtually no output," one panel member said, "and that can be demoralizing." He went on to say that it happens to EVERYONE, and that you can't let the lack of immediate reward get to you.  I'm pretty sure my Scientopia peeps Prof-like Substance and Professor in Training have written on this very topic, but my quick search couldn't find the exact posts. Anyone have the links?

Yes, well, if my incessant iPhone-checking during yesterday's presentations is any indication, I am on their level, you know what I mean? Ooh, shiny!

Like most things in this crazy game, 'tis a delicate balance. I'd really like to hear from my faculty readers on this one--how do you manage to expand in new directions (that may require help from others) but at the same time show independence and leadership?

Armed with all this fabulous knowledge, we then proceeded directly to the reception next door, where we quickly drank away said fabulous knowledge. Aren't you glad I wrote it all down?

8 responses so far