Research Assistant Professor

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RAPs and startup packages

Postby S. Adley » Wed Jun 01, 2005 11:55 am

They did pay my moving expenses.

When I was an RAP, my dept treated me as a faculty member and I was expected to attend meetings and other dept functions. Actually, they always treated me with respect. Nothing has really changed since I was "promoted" to t-t. I do know of RAPs that are treated like second class citizens by their dept--it really depends.

I was independent from the beginning. It sounds great, but it's not. I had zero mentorship. Ditto from my post-doctoral advisor.
S. Adley

For James

Postby monica » Thu Jun 02, 2005 12:57 am

I am a postdoc here, which means that technically I am a contractor because my position is not permanent (5 yr cap) and I don?t have a GS level.

But I applied by looking at the postdoc listings on the website and then submitted application materials hardcopy to the address listed (which in this case was the PI looking for a postdoc). I paid for same day shipping, meaning a person had to physically sign for it, and got an email from my PI the next day.

As far as permanent positions go, unfortunately the wheels of gov't turn s..l..o..w..l..y. (For example, to schedule an appointment with the career counselor that is 20 mins away in Raleigh I have to call NIH main in Bethesda) That is one drawback even though I have been a big govt cheerleader on this board for the past few days. But the first thing to do is in addition to going through the ?jobs at NIH? web portal make sure you check out which shows the intramural listings from the menu on the left.

Admittedly, the listings are slim right now for non-TT staff, but a few TT listings are there. When I was looking in Nov they were much thicker (esp. for postdocs), so this may be a seasonal issue. Another factor is that we have a new director that was much delayed in officially starting because of the new NIH conflict of interest rules (what a mess?but that is a different rant). Given the air of uncertainty and the pull the director has in determining the NIEHS mission, I would not be surprised if staff hiring was a bit depressed. But David Schwartz (previously at Duke) is on board now so things may change. In fact, I?m not sure if they would hire new TT people without a director being in place to meet and greet etc... I will ask some friends in my lab how they got hired. Feel free to email me if I can be of any more specific help.

One thing is that often the application materials go to an administrator (you can use the web site to find out if the person listed is the PI or not), but it probably can?t hurt to get in touch with the PI hiring or the head of the Laboratory (synonym for Department at the NIEHS) if one is shooting for a tenure-track position.

I have a friend interested in the EPA who is using this approach in getting in touch with people.


Postby Kelly » Thu Jun 02, 2005 1:11 pm

SAD.... are those your initials or is this how you are feeling? seriously, I'm concerned. I went back over your posts and you seem really, well, sad.

How much longer do you have before tenure review? I know the NIH budget is tight; it is a really bad time to be going for that first NIH grant. That said, have you tried going after targeted funding at NIH? Also, even if you have some small money and some papers you might think about looking for a new position to start the tenure process over.

Having limited resources at the beginning is a real handicap; it is a lot to ask a young person to overcome. So without compromising your privacy or identifying yourself, can you tell us some more about your situation. Maybe we can come up with some constructive ideas.
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Postby S. Adley » Thu Jun 02, 2005 5:41 pm

Thank you for your concern, Kelly. SAD is not my initials.

Yes, I've looked at targeted funding and various small R-grants. Ofcourse, it took me a while to figure out that these things existed because I never got any help.

I'm up for tenure in 3 years, but I hope to escape (much) sooner. Without going into the details, it's just a bad fit at this point.

Philosophically, I'm no longer willing to buy into a system where one's worth is measured by the amount of NIH dollars that one procurs.
S. Adley


Postby Kelly » Fri Jun 03, 2005 7:45 am


I really hope you can make the move. I also think your notion of not contributing to the problem is admirable. I too have reached the conclusion that I will not take a graduate student that does not have another working degree with which to make a living (i.e., engineering, computer science or in an MD/PhD program). I will take a post-doc who is in the situation were they have been floating around for years and just wants to have a job and make a decent living, not have a career. There are so many really good scientists out there with no where to go; good people who have worked hard and find themselves without options. We need to focus on doing something for these folks not on generating more of them.
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T-T is no better

Postby DWG » Sun Jun 19, 2005 12:16 am

I\'ve been an RAP, AP and now Assoc. Professor (without tenure, \"tenure\" is this year). I have to say that a RAP position can be a deadend position depending on the culture of the institution. Generally speaking one should remember the verse from the bible that \"no man is a prophet in his own land\". Department chairs can be like kids in a candy store - they may pay top dollar for some perceived superstar from another institution, but barely give lip service to their own non-tenured colleagues.

I\'ve been there. I think the data would show that one should accept a RAP position only with the idea that you will be leaving the institution that grants it within 1-2 years. The RAP gives you some standing to get grants, and you should use it to get one. Once you get the award notice, you should start applying for TT jobs, if you really want one.

At the institution that I currently serve, I truly feel that my worth is directly proportional to indirect costs on my research grants. We do not have a conventional tenure structure, and I feel that if I should hit a rough spot (inevitable), there will be little support. I\'m someone who has had multiple NIH and foundation grants, and have won national awards, and I\'m almost more stressed about life now than I was as a RAP. The stakes are much higher.

I agree with Kelly. There is a glut of individuals that the major research institutions are churning out who have no job waiting for them. I consider myself a good scientist, but I feel I owe my current position as much to painful hard work coupled with fantastic luck. As long as graduate students continue to be seen as a cheap source of labor by greedy research intensive departments I\'m afraid we will deserve the system we have.

Have a fallback.
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T-T is no better

Postby Ike » Sun Jun 19, 2005 4:47 pm

As I have been saying on this site for while (See "Another Track to Tenure Track Heaven" thread), whether we like or not, not all PhDs no matter how well trained are going to be able to get t-t jobs in research intensive institutions. The whole process of socialization and training in graduate school prepares you for nothing else than to be do a postdoc and then get a t-t job and run your own lab. Very few people have alternative plans in mind or get exposed to little else.

Then there is the unspoken stigma and snickering against those who CHOOSE or HAVE TO ACCEPT positions in regional state Universities, liberal arts colleges or other non-research intensive places. They are considered failures because they are not working ar Purdue, Michigan-Ann Arbor or UT Austin. No matter what they say, there is always this undercurrent that only failures go to non-research intensive positions. I know folks in the lab where I postdoced years ago who are still postdocing today, 3 years after I left waiting for the "perfect" t-t position to come along at a research intensive institution.

Good luck to them and to all those here who want to do nothing but get a t-t position at a R1 school.
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T-T is no better

Postby Kelly » Mon Jun 20, 2005 4:13 pm

I think the points that Ike has made over the last few months are right on target: there is little to nothing we do (or are encouraged to do as PIs) during graduate student/post-doctoral training that recognises the reality of academic science. This reality is that getting a tenure-track job (for all its blessings and woes)in a research oriented environment is not going to happen for most people (some of even the very best). Moreover, we do nothing to prepare trainees for positions outside research intensive environments or for alternative careers. Finally, we do very little in terms of career develop to even increase the chances of trainees of obtaining a tenure-track position other than those that directly facilitate our own needs.

Years ago when jobs were more abundant and grant funding was more stable, perhaps this approach was warranted. Today, we need to approach training (if we are to continue to consider it training for something) in a different way. This change needs to filter to all levels of training. We need to select students for graduate school more carefully, we need to incorporate other aspects into the training for jobs other than research intensive, we need to remove the stigma of not going a priori into a research post-doc and we need to identify skills in our trainees that might make them appropriate for other non-research oriented careers and talk with them about these options with real excitment.
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Research Assistant Professor

Postby Charles Allen » Wed Jul 13, 2005 11:32 am

I've just finished reading all of these messages concerning the woes of a Research Assistant Professor position. I spent just under a decade as a postdoc/research fellow, finally leaving my last home, the NIH, and taking up a position as a Research Scientist with a small start-up biotech company. We also rely heavily on NIH grants (SBIR, etc).

I've recently been asked by my former supervisor at the NIH to join him as he has decided to leave the NIH and accept a position as Director of a Division within the Medical School of a top-20 university (overseeing the clinic as well as building up the number of PIs (there are currently only one, plus my former boss. He basically wants someone to run his lab for him. I've managed to talk my way up from Senior Research Associate to non tenure-track Assistant Professor but now it appears (from my reading of these postings) that even this is not such a great deal. Worse yet, it would appear to close the door on any future jobs in industry (where there are more and better paying jobs).

Can anyone out there offer me any suggestions or advice? Is it a better idea to just stick it out in industry? Is there currently an exodus from academia to industry?
Charles Allen
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Research Assistant Professor

Postby James1 » Wed Jul 13, 2005 11:50 am

if he really had good intentions, he would hire you as one of the PIs in the dept. Stay away unless you want to continue to kiss his a#@! As for industry, it seems that they can pick and choose from the best of the best.
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