I used to do research, now I teach

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I used to do research, now I teach

Postby Michael James » Thu Nov 10, 2016 11:45 am

Hello forum,

I've been an Assistant Professor for just over three years at a new medical school without a strong research track record. Despite that, many of our faculty are given start-up packages to initiate research. I've found that this is helpful in recruitment, but extramural funding has been non-existent. It's not without trying. Many of our faculty publish regularly, they review papers and grants, and they have had success at past institutions. We are just not competitive in this environment.

I'm nearing the end of my start-up funds and I have already received two bridge awards that will likely not be awarded again. I don't see the light at the end of the research tunnel. I will be able to publish a few more papers with the remaining data I have, and I will be able to revise and resubmit the handful of grant applications I have put together over the years, although I am skeptical that this effort will translate into an externally funded research enterprise.

Luckily, I have had the opportunity to take on a major role in teaching over the past three years and this role has grown as a senior mentor is retiring. Our institution takes medical education seriously and we are commended for teaching well. This role also comes with administrative responsibilities.

I am eyeing the future and seriously considering a discussion with my Department Chair about switching from research to education tracks. I would like to be proactive about this and "take life into my own hands". I realize that my research program will not last. I have an opportunity to carve a niche for myself and excel at teaching. We will see what the future holds.

I don't have so many questions, rather than a desire to post my thoughts for those who are navigating these difficult waters. I don't think I am alone. Research dollars are becoming scarce outside of major research universities. Success and happiness requires a bit of practicality and humility.
Michael James
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Re: I used to do research, now I teach

Postby Dick Woodward » Thu Nov 10, 2016 5:38 pm


The first question to ask yourself is if you really enjoy teaching. If so, full speed ahead. If not, you may want to start looking at other institutions where the funding environment (intra- and extramural) is more accommodating.

When I was an undergraduate in the biochemistry department at Cornell, there was a push to retire some of the older profs who didn't publish much, because the lab space was needed. Lo and behold, one of the victims, as a result of the Law of Unintended Consequences, was the lady who taught the introductory biochem class. This was a huge class and she had taught it for years. She also had a little lab - literally under the eaves of the building - where she did some research and maybe published a paper every so often (I don't really know). When the purge happened,she felt that she was one of those targeted and I think that she retired. My sources told me that there was a collective "Oh, s***" at the next faculty meeting when they realized that there was no one to teach introductory biochem.

Moral of the story - teaching positions are valued. Just make certain that if that is what you want to do, your position is valued by the research colleagues. After all, you are doing stuff that they would likely prefer not to do.

Best of luck,

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Dick Woodward
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Re: I used to do research, now I teach

Postby RGM » Sat Jan 14, 2017 2:26 pm

I'd like to know how the OPs talk and educational pursuit are going?
"Some men see things as they are and say why, I dream things that never were and say why not"
"If you think research is expensive, try disease." - Mary Lasker
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