Advice for starting a tenure track science job.
July 3, 2007 8:02 AM   Subscribe

NewAcademicJobFilter: What did/should you do, to start off a new academic job at a new institution and do it right? Lab? Colleagues? Students? People to know? Actions to take? How did you leave your own institution?

If you know of any links that address this issue, particularly for scientists, let me know. Also: please fwd this to science profs. that you know!

Advice wanted: I'm starting at a masters comprehensive uni as a tenure-track chemistry professor. I've started pre-ordering my lab equipment, planning my first experiments and reading the university handbook. I've got a place to live, and have essentially written 80% of my first semesters lectures and most of my first grant. I move there in 3 weeks and formally start in 10 weeks.

What did you do, or wish you did, when starting a new job as far as planning, organising, meeting people, setting up rules, finding out about the unwritten rules, the whole echt I'm-making-my-career-the-way-I want it-to-be-and-starting-it-off-right.

Also, what actions did you take or wished you took when leaving your postdoctoral/previous institution? Questions you'd asked? Alliances you'd kept? Philosophies taken or discarded?

I'm asking for advice that can range from the philosophical to the "don't forget your lab keys" . Any and all advice gratefully received.
posted by lalochezia to Work & Money (6 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Some of the ScienceBlogs members write about this fairly often. Particularly check out the sites of Janet Stemwedel and Chad Orzel, who seem to focus on academic life and science education more than some of the others. The best blog in this vein, though is definitely Female Science Professor, who writes candidly and openly about her trials and tribulations in an academic science dept.

The archives of the Chron are also worth checking out.

I know I've read other articles on this, and there's a great link aggregator site somwhere that I can't find at the moment. I'll let you know if I stumble back across it.
posted by chrisamiller at 8:15 AM on July 3, 2007

Oh, and a lot of advice will depend on the culture of your institution. Find a fairly young prof (who's been there for a few years) and use them as a mentor. Their experience will help you immeasurably.

- Stretch your startup money as far as you can. See if you can get time on other lab's equipment (if that's kosher at your school), etc.

- Don't grow up your lab too fast, or you won't be able to handle it. The first years of research are the most demanding on your time, until you get a few senior students who know what they're doing and can help indoctrinate your new students.

- Pay attention to your lab's culture. Do you want to be one of those buddy-buddy profs who hangs out at the bar with your grad students? Or do you want a very business-like atmosphere? Decide up front and take steps to make sure it goes that way.

- Treat your grad students to free food and drinks once in a while. It's the quickest way to a grad student's heart. :)
posted by chrisamiller at 8:22 AM on July 3, 2007

I don't know exactly what your department's setup is, but it probably has a secretary/administrative person. Be nice to him/her! Especially if s/he's been there for more than a year or two - s/he will know where all the bodies are buried (figuratively speaking, of course) and will have a good handle on unspoken rules and department politics.
posted by rtha at 9:28 AM on July 3, 2007

Second the mentor. As a young member of staff you may feel caught between the academics and the students socially, but never be in a hurry to be too friendly with your students. I don't mean be grumpy with them,. but you'll only get one chance per institution to set your "performance"- and all teaching is performance.
posted by A189Nut at 9:36 AM on July 3, 2007

it probably has a secretary/administrative person. Be nice to him/her!

Also, the lab techs and maintenance engineers. And the librarians and IT. It's good to be on a friendly basis with any support staff, especially those who've been there before.

And from a professional point of view, find out what sort of research is going on around you, and what sort of equipment they use. Amazing how often things overlap when you know what they are. I saved myself three days waiting for a standard to come in because the biologists downstair use it as a stain.
posted by kjs4 at 11:59 PM on July 3, 2007

especially those who've been there before

try "for awhile"
posted by kjs4 at 11:59 PM on July 3, 2007

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