My last (untenured) summer (hopefully)

This is it.  The semester is nearly done.  Just one final and I can dedicate myself solely to my research (and some fun travel!).  I’m trying to put together a list of what I want to do, important deadlines, and who I want doing which tasks.  Planned more meticulous than I’ve ever done before.  And why?  The T-word.  This is my last summer un-break that I have before I need to start preparing my package.  My goal is to have five papers nearly done, three grant applications in, and ten conference abstracts submitted.  I have this awesome set of experiments I am so excited about seeing the results of.  All of this while not having to worry about teaching in the classroom.

Vacation-wise I have four trips planned: two backpacking trips, and two tourist-ey trips.  For the backpacking trips I won’t be able to keep an eye on my students since I won’t have reception, but for the vacation I can, and will.  Normally, I don’t care, but it’s crunch time.  The summer are partially why I decided to make the jump to academia.  I’m not the kind to fuck off and screw around, and I do love teaching, but 100% dedication to my research will keep this fire going.  Time to science


What I was (less of) a corporate stooge I ran the lab.  I was in a leadership position, and damn good at getting things done.  I was rarely the bottleneck.  Now, I’m sure there are plenty of things for administrators to do, but signing anything I need signed from them is not one of those things apparently.  Now, I’m sure there’s plenty going on in the background, but what the fuck do they actually do?  I need to know, because I’ve been waiting for this form to get signed for two weeks.

This got me thinking about administrators: when I was interviewing at schools, my current one is the only head that I didn’t really like.  But the university itself, the collaborators, and the city made it easy to not think about the admins.  Especially since they don’t stick around forever.  The other ones served as kind-of mentors, willing collaborators, and generally nice people that want you to succeed.  My current one just tries to give me tons of tasks (which he knows I can’t as easily turn down, given my lack of tenure), without doing anything easy for me in return.  Is his job just to give people busy-work and hope the department gets good enough so he can move up the academic chain?  I know he’s not really doing research anymore, which should mean that his admin duties are so involved he can’t dedicate himself to his research?  But I really don’t know.

Talking to other profs here they all seem to think similarly, and that we only need him for his signatures, but I like to think that he does more.  That being said, maybe he could be replaced by one of those signing robots…

Teaching isn’t so bad

When I was a graduate student, one thing I heard a lot of was how much the professors didn’t want to teach; preferring to spend their time on research. And that they would do whatever it took (buying out, complaining a whole lot, etc) to ensure most of their effort was spent on research. So I naturally assumed that teaching was the worst and that I should avoid it at all costs. My first year here I negotiating a zero teaching load for, with only one class/semester until after tenure review. But I came to realize that not only am I great at teaching, but I do enjoy it. I wrote into my grants a buy out, but I think I’ll miss teaching if I exercise this option. I like grading papers, I love the feeling I get when a student grasps a topic they didn’t before, and I love re-learning some of the basics I sometimes forget. It’s all great! Now, it is a time-sink, but I think some people aren’t as busy as they say if I can fit this in with minimal complaining.

What is weird about my past profs complaining is that they were all different ages. It’s not like just the new ones or just the old ones were complaining about teaching; they all were! Except for the occasional older professor who’s research program has widdled down a bunch and teaching is the majority of their work. They love teaching. So why is it so bad? I understand if you have a heavy load and you have research obligations, but most of the complainers only have one class/semester… Am I too stupid to realize that teaching sucks?!