A Look Back at My First Year
It is the beginning of a new year here at R1U and I thought it might be a good time to reflect on how far we've come.
First off, general thoughts:
Last year I observed that being a faculty member was like getting kicked in the pants up the side of a steep cliff. I still agree. In many ways, it reminds me of having a baby. The naive blissful pregnancy period followed by the harsh reality of poopy diapers and 3 AM feedings, but combined with awe and amazement at having produced something so beautiful. I love my job. It is the best job in the world. I get to study what I want, when I want, the way that I want. I work on problems that have the possibility of changing the world as we know it.
On the other hand, I feel constant pressure. It is difficult to secure grant money and even after I get one award, I am looking to the next. I am responsible for a growing number of people and I have difficulty committing to support students when my funding situation is only known for 2-3 years and they will be here for 5. But, that is the nature of the job. I have to take it on faith that I will get a grant between now and 2 years from now. And I know I will, I just don't know when or for how much.
We had an amazing year. We went from this:
Since we started up we have put out 2 papers and a review article (all from my postdoc). We also have two promising lines of research that I hope to produce publications soon. We have established three new collaborations.
I wrote 6 grants last year and 1 got funded, 1 I still haven't heard on one(expected Oct).
I lost one postdoc, but gained two in replacement.
I have one Ph.D. student, 1 M.S. student, and 1 BS-MS student
I have 6 UGs and 3 HS students.
On the negative side, I think maybe we have too many people. It is difficult to manage everyone. Although I think I am doing an okay job right now, I am worried about what happens when I teach in the Spring.
My first teaching assignment was okay. I loved it, but my reviews were really mixed. A lot of students slammed me for mistakes on lecture and handout materials. Of course I was writing everything for the first time so it was kind of expected, but students are demanding. Also, I foolishly did not believe that I was much faster than my students at solving problems and made tests that took me the amount of time allotted. Students mutinied. In my second teaching assignment, I slowly adjusted the test length (at least my length when I took it) until I found the right multiplier, which in my case turned out to be 5. So I take tests 5 times faster than my students, which I still find hard to believe. I think things will be better this year.
This is perhaps my favorite part of the job. This year I had a chance to serve as a consultant to our local science museum, to teach HS teachers how to use -ology in their curriculum, to design experiments for middle school students in -ology, and to demonstrate -ology to my daughter's pre-K class. It was awesome. I love the chance to bring science to the local community and especially to bust stereotypes about the kinds of people who do science. I try especially hard to be stylish when serving in these outreach roles.
In summary, as Frank Sinatra would say, "It was a very good year..."