Advice given to jr. faculty….

As told to me in various settings… and in no particular order…

1. Hire one solid postdoc or tech, that person will get you tenure.

2. Limit your committee service to the only two important committees: 1.  The space committee, 2.  The promotion and tenure committee. (the giver of this advice particularly disliked curriculum, and curriculum design committees)

3.  With regard to publications… N+1 is better than N.

4.  Don’t win any teaching awards.

5.  Figure out which battles are really important, fight those- and hang back on the rest.

6.  As far as NIH/NSF/your favorite federal agency is concerned, data that ONLY exists in your notebook… doesn’t count.

7.  Don’t monitor people’s hours, monitor their data.

8. Treat people that work with you as you want to be treated.

9. In hiring people to work for you, remember that people don’t come on a 1-10 scale- some can reach negative numbers (actually reduce lab productivity).

Comment, add your own. …


23 thoughts on “Advice given to jr. faculty….

  1. As someone who is considering joining a new lab as the first post-doc your #1 scares me. I don’t want that person’s tenure on my shoulders (at least not exclusively). That’s too much pressure for one minion.

    What’s with #4?? Shouldn’t we be rewarding good teaching skills (as long as it doesn’t come at the expense of grant $$$$)?

    #7 – yesyesyesyesyes.

    The rest of it sounds like common sense, but good to keep at the forefront of one’s mind.

  2. Treat people that work for you as you would like to be treated.
    When training graduate students, remember that critical thinking does not come naturally and most undergraduate programs demand regurgitation not analysis.

  3. ScientistMother- If I don’t write ‘works with me’ Whimple or Sol will fuss… but yes, people that work ‘for’ me count in that category.

    AA- #1. No pressure- Simply means that one hardworking, productive person can carry the whole lab.

    4. Well, there is bound to be some discussion about that.

    7. I personally think monitoring hours is for the birds. Show me the data instead.

  4. I agree with most of that list. However, I am confused by #2. Junior faculty members aren’t allowed to serve on promotion and tenure committees. I would also add that an excellent service task for junior faculty is organizing the departmental seminar series, as this allows you to invite a bunch of speakers that you can then get to know. This can be an incredibly valuable networking opportunity, and also can lead to seminar invitations for yourself.

    I also disagree with “don’t win any teaching awards”, unless this is just a facetious way of saying “don’t devote too much effort to teaching at the expense of research”. If you are devoting a reasonable amount of effort to teaching, and you happen to win a teaching award, who gives a flying fuck? No one is going to hold it against you.

  5. I wouldn’t have any data myself to back this up yet, but the HHMI/BW book “Making the right moves” stresses that the professors who don’t get tenure are the ones who spent too little time in the lab.

  6. I was actually told #4, after it was too late. WTF, indeed. I had the same take as CPP, though another possibility is that it threatens the deadwood who will be voting on your tenure who can’t teach, never won no stinkin award, and don’t do anything else.

    Sometimes when I read these blogs, I wonder if it is possible that I am in the most dysfunctional department of all time. Or maybe it is me. Cheery thought.

  7. C PP and Anon- I believe it was meant as ‘don’t devote too much effort to teaching at the expense of research’- and was said to someone in a research intensive dept.

    Anon- You’ll notice I don’t write much about my dept.- they are really awesome. I’m lucky, but not naive enough to think that all depts are like this.

  8. That’s a pretty damn good list. Some I’d add:

    10. Limit the number of new preps you have to teach.

    11. Don’t spread yourself too thin on advising too many students or working on too many different topics. (I think no more than 3 topics.)

  9. Haven’t been in those shoes yet but the advice I always hear is, Don’t hire someone you’re a little ambivalent about just because you really “need a pair of hands.” As a corollary to #9, even if you’re stressed about getting experiments going in your own lab, don’t hire out of panic.

  10. I have seen several lists like these for new faculty. Now I would like to see one more along the lines of “So you’re coming up for tenure and you’ve screwed everything up. What can you do to salvage your tenure case?”

    And where were all these useful blogs six years ago?

  11. Too funny anonymous. That’s the same list I’d like to see.

    Advice for new faculty: do NOT do anything new. do EXACTLY the same thing you were doing as a post-doc and only the most immediate extensions from that.

  12. whimple and anon- funny- I was just thinking about that exact topic ‘do NOT do anything new. do EXACTLY…’. I was contemplating a post on just that…

  13. haha, I was emailing with a senior person that I have had a few interactions with over the years and he felt the need to give me loads and loads of unsolicited advice.

    two tidbits paraphrased:

    -collaborations seem nice, but avoid them until you have your own work going very well

    -every person you hire is somebody you can’t hire later on.

  14. whimple,

    good one…a few ‘senior’ folks told me that.

    of course, there were a few who told me to try something new and exciting…because now is the time.

    (I am focusing on something I know how to do, paper #1 is 75% done…this last 25% is proving more difficult than I thought…stupid science!)

  15. Now is indeed the time to do something new and exciting, but in this tough funding climate even if your new and exciting thing succeeds, you may still “fail”. Remember that your post-doctoral project was a fundable and funded project. Reviewers (grants and papers) understood it and knew what to expect and how it all fit in with their world. If you go rocking their world now, it doesn’t take very much “diminished enthusiasm” on the part of grant reviewers to wipe you out. You’re also going to have trouble explaining your “lack of productivity” while you were getting your new and exciting thing to work.

    (I put “fail” in quotation marks above, because I’ve seen what tenured faculty “success” looks like, and in many cases it isn’t very pretty.)

  16. #4: Where I am, if you are a junior or female researcher and win a teaching award, it is pretty much the kiss of death. EVERYONE KNOWS that female scientists here don’t do research that is as good as their male colleagues, and you can’t POSSIBLY be good at both (unless you are ancient and eccentric) . . . so avoid being an overly good teacher until you have research respectability (whatever that means). Ahh, the delights of working in science.

  17. Actually there are places where not-yet-tenured faculty serve on the promotions and tenure committee. I’ve done it at my institution (R1, public, in the NE) and it was tremendously helpful both to see how cases were discussed and to get to know some of the more prominent faculty on campus. Highly recommended, though it is a time commitment.

  18. RE #4: I helped on the seminar committee in grad school for a semester, and invited one of my favorite undergraduate professors to give a seminar in our dept. He was doing excellent research, but I mentioned in the introduction how he had been an excellent teacher/mentor to me, won teaching awards, etc (since that was the capacity in which I had known him). Now I’m feeling badly that I may inadvertently delivered a blow to his research reputation before his seminar even began…

  19. CE- I think you worry unnecessarily. I am sure your comments were taken in the spirit that you intended them.

    Neuropop- That’s excellent information- I’m definitely going to have a chat with the PO when things calm down for him/her, and some of the ARRA insanity is over.

  20. “Now I’m feeling badly that I may inadvertently delivered a blow to his research reputation before his seminar even began…”

    I wonder if the intent of #4 was to point out the dangers of giving your colleagues an excuse to fob their teaching responsibilities off on you. “Oh, but you’re just so good at it, and the students love you!”

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