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Research assistant professor

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Research assistant professor

Postby Emil Chuck » Thu May 18, 2006 7:26 pm

If "nice" means "professional", I'd rather be nice.
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Research assistant professor

Postby P.C. » Thu May 18, 2006 7:44 pm

Niceness and being a professional in science are not necessarily desirable. Niceness and political correctness do not get us to the truth. We are looking at some harsh downturns in funding for science in the short term. I think that permadocs need a wake up call that their jobs are on the line. The payline for grants is getting shorter and shorter. People should plan accordingly.
P.V.s post may or may not be valid. If it is true it is tragic. Seven years as a post doc is about 4 years too many which puts P.V. at a tremendous careers disadvantage. One wonders if his supervisor is taking advantage with a vague promise of a faculty position... Is such a promise realistic?
(See other recent threads).
"I have never let my schooling interfere with my education" - Mark Twain
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Research assistant professor

Postby Emil Chuck » Thu May 18, 2006 8:12 pm

Well, I meant in the context of Dave's response, our discussion here has been extremely civil. Dave and I probably have both seen separate discussions go completely out of whack because critical posts turn into an insultfest.

I don't think that my advice is necessarily going to sugar-coat the truth that I see about the situation, but I also don't think it's helpful to just send the person into a fit of utter despair. The goal from my end is to have that person really start thinking about his/her viable candidacy as a faculty member. You can still be "nice" while providing very harsh criticism, provided we don't completely humiliate the person posting. That's not what we should do... in all likelihood, he/she probably feels depressed enough.

Believe me I'm in full agreement that this situation -- if true -- is an utter travesty and an abuse of what a mentored award is all about. That said, the fact we are all talking hypothetically (since we are mostly posting in an anonymous manner) should mean we should take any situation with a grain of salt and a lot of skepticism. But that doesn't mean being mean.

Should postdocs and pipeliners be given big warnings that their jobs are on the line and they could be thrown into the street when their grant funding is up? Who's to say they don't already know? It still doesn't mean that we won't have people like P.V. who thinks he/she can still make it despite the approaching storm. People rode out hurricanes before, right?
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Research assistant professor

Postby Wendy » Thu May 18, 2006 8:15 pm

One of former postdoc in my current lab was promoted by my PI (a scientic director in a reseach institute) to a tt position. The guy has worked for my pI for 7 years and published 2 first author paper in PNAS and more than 10 first author articles in moderate level journals. The guy told that my boss had promised him the job when he had been in postdoc position for 2 years. The guy interviewed in several places but did not get the offer (may not fit). My PI's promotion was very crucial to his career. I am wondering if the guy would not be so productive thereafter, my boss will keep his promise. If the guy was not productive at the initial 2 years, would my boss make such a promise to him?

But some PIs make such a promise is just to use it as a bait to take advantage of the postdocts. Believe or not, it is totally dependent on the situation, what kind of PI, what kind of postdoc and what kind of institution involved.
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Research assistant professor

Postby Larein » Thu May 18, 2006 8:24 pm

Larein, if you think that you are not getting a good dose of the truth here on this forum, you are incorrect. This is one of the only forums I've ever seen where people go out of their way to help others, share advice, or even pass along networking leads. No one here is "too nice." And we only have the occasional nasty comments, generally from the same people . . .

Dave Jensen, Moderator
With all due respect, I think you misunderstood my post. There is no need to flame me - it does not encourage posters to be frank. I have enjoyed and appreciate the forum, especially posters like Kelly, John, etc. I find their advice while "harsh" sometimes, realistic and very helpful, and read them over and over again when planning my career, and I have been pretty successful so far.
If people in the real world were so frank, there would be little need to go to an internet forum to get advice - that is where you should be able to hear "You're fat" not "you're rubenesque". Even if you don't take the advice, at least you have the info, so you can take a decision knowing the cons.
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Research assistant professor

Postby Wendy » Thu May 18, 2006 8:54 pm

John Mastro wrote: 'Niceness and being a professional in science are not necessarily desirable.'

I agree that niceness in science is not necessarily desirable. Did you hear the conversation among PIs? The conclusion reached by PIs is that nice guy dies first in science.

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Research assistant professor

Postby Dave Jensen » Thu May 18, 2006 9:07 pm

Larein said, "There is no need to flame me - it does not encourage posters to be frank."

No one has flamed you, and if you'll look at the forum closely, you'll find that 90% of the posts are frank, and as I said earlier, it is a remarkable collection of wisdom from people of all walks of science life who have shared their experiences. There are very few posts that don't provide some value to the archive.

Dave
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Research assistant professor

Postby Andrew1 » Thu May 18, 2006 10:17 pm

I would follow the advice above to go for the RAP position. Sure, it's not tenure track, but frankly a lot of positions are not these days in reality. Many medical schools for example will only pay your full salary for 2 or 3 years, then they only pay 23-30% and you have to get the rest from grants. That's not tenure track as far as I'm concerned.

With the RAP you are able to apply for grants yourself (often not possible as a postdoc or research associate), and define your own direction.

Do not believe that your boss can get you a full faculty position at some point. He may want to, but he doesn't have that power unless it's a very unusual department. 7 years is a long time in the same place, but not terminal: it will enhance your chances if you make a change.
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truth telling and people management

Postby Kelly » Fri May 19, 2006 7:31 am

Not to go off topic since Andrew steered us back to the blue but the comments about, truth-tellling, frankness, etc raise an interesting issue in people management in academics and maybe in industry.

See: when you need to deliver a messsage to someone the very first thing you need is receptivity in your listener. The person you want to deliver the message to has to be listening or your message won't get through. Sometimes when it is really important to deliver a message, especially a painful message, bare bones, all out frankness, doesn't work. Or if you make it personally hurtful.

People just don't listen to things they find very very painful. So you have to find a way to deliver "message" in a fashion that maintains receptivity or you might as well not said anything.

I think PV is in trouble and I think he knows it. I also think he is in trouble in more ways than just down on number of publications, no grant and I think he knows it. As Emil pointed out, a ruffle of papers in the year of application isn't a good thing.

The ray of hope is that PV made the note that his lab is no stranger to publishing in big journals so he may be in Dr. Big F. Deal's lab. I do hope this is the case because that would be what he needs at this point because even with an RAP the chances of getting a grant funded are pretty small and a ruffle of papers doesn't look good (better than nothing though). He needs a lifeline and that really only can come from Dr. Big F. Deal picking up the phone. This is the buffer I always talk about when I encourage people to go to Big F. Deal. Things happen; projects don't work, it is very easy (too easy) to end up in PV's situation. A call or reference from Dr. Big F. Deal may be your only bail out in the absence of tangible indicators.

How do you know if you are going to need a bail out? If by the end of your third year of post-doc, you don't look competitive based on tangibles, get thee to a big name lab with Dr. Big F. Deal so s/he can throw you a lifeline (a great reference about things to come even if it isn't exactly the truth) if you can't turn it around in the lab.


What is not encouraging is that Dr. Big F. Deal has let the situation of 1 paper in 7 years happen in the first place. This isn't a mentor that has been minding the store for his people. I also think in not going to bat for PV for a faculty position and not even encouraging an RAP but rather wants him to stay in post-doc for reasons that while true only apply to someone with 3-4 years of post-doc not 7 years, he is sending him a message in the communication style I describe above.
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truth telling and people management

Postby P.C. » Fri May 19, 2006 7:45 am

With luck and the help of his big boss mentor PV will survive and flourish. Kelly brought up one issue, that is how much power the "mentors" will have over your PhD career, especially when you stay in one place for so long. The consequences will be you will have a shorter list of references when it it time to go for another position. With the help of God, PV will maintain a good relationship with his boss. The choises he has now are more limited, based on the situation laid out by PV. I know very, very well, one person who spent 13 years in one institution, and performed well but at the end he had some major problems with two of his big co-boss partners. This situation was a career killer for that foolish and unfortunate individual. In those times there were not forums like this that provide some very helpful insights on career management in the sciences. God helps those that help themselves.
"I have never let my schooling interfere with my education" - Mark Twain
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