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Having my own research without teaching?

PostPosted: Sun Oct 15, 2017 9:07 pm
by Ian W
I am a PhD student in genetic epidemiology. I greatly enjoy working on research (both my own projects and those of other people), but I do not like teaching.

I am wondering what my career options might be after graduation if I want to keep doing research but I do not want to teach. I want to be able to continue to pursue my own research interests/ideas/projects at least 25-50% of the time. I would like to work in an environment that is collaborative where I spend some time working on or consulting on other peoples' projects too.

Does this sort of position exist? If so, what is it called? Where can I find postings for jobs like this, and how can I find people with jobs like this that I could contact for informational interviews?

Re: Having my own research without teaching?

PostPosted: Thu Oct 19, 2017 12:12 pm
by Dave Jensen
Bumping this one up -- Sorry, I can not help you with this question, but others can. I want to make sure you get a response so my reply will position this at the top of the forum,

Dave Jensen, moderator

Re: Having my own research without teaching?

PostPosted: Thu Oct 19, 2017 10:28 pm
by Rich Lemert
There are positions that allow you to pursue your own research interests without requiring you to teach, but you haven't yet earned the right to one of them. You first need to demonstrate your independent ability to consistently generate meaningful results. You're still just showing us that you can be successful working under the guidance of someone else.

With that caveat out of the way, there are really just two good proutes available to you.

1) Some academic programs allow selected individuals to serve as research professors. These can be very stressful, though, because you are responsible for generating all of your support - including your own salary.

2) Some of the National Labs will give their staff limited time to pursue their own research - although typically it needs to fit with that lab's charter.

The bottom line is that you generally don't get the 'freedom' you want without paying your dues. Show us what you've got first, and in ten or fifteen years we can talk.

Re: Having my own research without teaching?

PostPosted: Fri Oct 20, 2017 2:41 am
by D.X.
Another area for you to explore is "Facilities Management" at a University.

During my grad School years we had a Mass Spectrometry Facility with state of the art Technology (MALDI-TOF type stuff) that was run by a Person who was hired to run the "facility", for the on-site University community and also Held an entry-level tenture track title. He mainly helpled others with their Projects as facility Manager (i.e. new Protein identification, or post-trans modification, or what ever else you do with Mass Spec) and the had his own Projects where I'd say he spend about 20% of his time in the begining. As he was an integral part of helping People with their Projects he usually got some form of acknowledgement or authorship on many publications and was a key collaborator on many grants etc. As i understand it today via my Desktop Research, he's a full Professor still running the facility.

I knew other who ran a shared microscope facility and had is own Projects in the area of optics, i didn't get to know him well, so I don't have a follow-up on him.

However to Rich's Point, you have to earn it. I assume this Person had a history in Mass Spec to acheive such Position and acheive the successes he did. I guess you'd have to figure out if you have some specilized skill that could take you in that direction if that's an area you wish to explore.

Good luck,


Re: Having my own research without teaching?

PostPosted: Fri Oct 20, 2017 11:28 am
by Cory
Given your background I'd suggest considering a career in public health.

For example, in public health you might serve the interests of the government agency which has the responsibility to advise Congress on matters of national importance (infectious disease, cancer, pesticide exposure). This would almost certainly make use of your PhD skill set, you would work collaboratively in a team and you wouldn't have to teach, but your research wouldn't be yours and yours alone either. Even top researchers with maximal independence still work to answer questions driven by granting agencies.

Let me finish by emphasizing what's been said by others - the concept of doing your own research without being fundamentally tied to some activity that meets the needs of others just isn't possible unless you are independently wealthy.


Re: Having my own research without teaching?

PostPosted: Fri Oct 20, 2017 2:27 pm
by R Aitkin
Shouldn't the poster consider a applying for an NIH award (K? - I am less familiar with the system) or a fellowship from the research councils in the UK (e.g. Wellcome Trust and MRC)?

These are highly competitive and generous fixed term awards. Yes, they are not permanent jobs but they allow one to work on one's own research questions. The UK fellowships are available at stages - predoctoral and beyond and there is no expectation to teach.

Re: Having my own research without teaching?

PostPosted: Mon Oct 23, 2017 2:43 pm
This might not be true everywhere, but in my experience, many faculty at major medical schools have very little teaching obligations (ranging from nothing at all to a few lectures a year). I'm talking about research faculty in the sense that their main job is research, but they are tenure/tenure-track faculty. (As opposed to research-track faculty, which are different.)