sunday afternoon panic attack (archived from LabSpaces)

Dec 05 2010 Published by under tenure-track OTJT

UPDATE: The comments from the original post are here. I wanted to include them, since some other anxious n00bs might stop by after reading DrDrA's awesome advice.

originally posted 22 Aug 2010

OK, I'm freaking out about tenure. I've convinced myself I will never get it. I have no idea what I am doing. Yes, I realize that only last week I was full of advice for grad students. But this tenure thing is a whole new beast (for me). I'm TWO MONTHS in to my TT job, and I feel like I'm already behind the tenure clock. I guess this is sort of like a "reverse advice" post. In other words, I am going to list some of the major anxiety-producing thoughts that I have going on right now. Any advice is welcome.

The Gerty-Z list of tenure clueless-ness-es*
1. I am sitting here, writing a grant and paper. It is not going well. If I can't even do this, how am I not screwed? I feel like I'm not a very good writer in the best of times. These are NOT the best of times.

2. In a desperate fit of procrastination, I have been reading drdrA's most excellent advice about the tenure track and Odyssey's repost about how many papers you need to get tenure. These seem like great nuggets of useful advice. But I just feel more like I have no idea what is going on. Why are tenure requirements so fucking vague????

3. How do I know if I am talking to my Chair enough? or too much?

4. I'm still trying to figure out how you actually meet people in this place. How does a nOOb Asst. Prof get "advocates" that are senior faculty in other departments? Am I supposed to just start stopping by and sticking my head into people's offices? I assume that other people are busy, and I don't even know what I would say. I don't want to piss anyone off or make them think I am stupid! How do I meet other Jr. faculty? There are none in my dept. I assume there must be others in different departments, but how would I know?

5. I have a rotation student starting in a month!?!?! What the fuck am I supposed to do about that? I barely remember my rotations. Postdoc PI had a way of just throwing people into the lab without a project or even pairing them up with anyone-this never seemed to work all that well. But I have no idea what students expect for a rotation. I really don't want to start off on a bad foot with the students.

6. Am I spending my money too fast? or too slow??

7. Am I doing too little benchwork? or should I be doing MORE benchwork?

8. How do I "pick mentors"? I think that I am supposed to have an official mentoring committee, but I have no idea how to get folks to be on it. This is more terrifying than picking a grad committee by like a million-fold. At least then I had someone (my PI) that helped me choose people who would be looking out for me. What if I step in a steaming pile of department politics inadvertently?

9. I don't know how to collaborate. I really like talking about science with people, and collaborating sounds like lots of fun. But I have never been involved in collaborations. Almost all of my pubs are 2-person affairs. Neither my grad school or postdoc PIs were very collaborative. Should I be collaborating with people? I assume so - but how does that work?

10. There are no other jr. faculty in my dept. The last person (and the ONLY person in the last 7 years) that went up for tenure was a fucking rock-star. There is no way in hell that I will not look shitty by comparison. I am SO FUCKED. *sigh*

*I understand that isn't a word. But I'm freaking out here, so lay off!

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4 responses so far

  • [...] To Gerty Z on Sunday Afternoon Panic Attacks… January 4, 2011 by drdrA I know I have been neglecting this blog, and I assure you this is not permanent desired or permanent state. I am not sure when I’ll get back to regular posting- as I have a January travel hell coming up, but I really want to emerge from my self imposed blog hiatus and give a shout out to Gerty Z, on the occasion of her Sunday afternoon panic attack. [...]

  • Zen Faulkes says:

    Tenure requirements are often vague because they're written to give power to the tenured faculty.

    http://neurodojo.blogspot.com/2010/02/tenure-guidelines-usually-leave.html

    • gerty-z says:

      Dr. Zen, I'm sure this is true. And it even makes sense...but it also contributes to my own fear of not knowing what is going on. Still, I see your point and I will try to think that vagueness is a good thing. Thanks for stopping by!

  • DrugMonkey says:

    If you just started, you are probably doing enough benchwork. You are probably not, however, setting yourself up with hands (techs, grad students, postdocs) to free yourself from benchwork in year 3-4. The rotation student can be highly valuable if you can figure out how to get useful data out of them. this depends a lot on your models and how quickly you can get set up in the lab.

    Collaborations work best when you have something that someone else wants. Techniques, models, etc. Labor, even. This prospect of getting something productive out of *you* is highly motivational. Remember too that as a newb you have a fine row to hoe. It is of some benefit to have collaborations so even if you are the one doing the work, if it looks good on paper (i.e., the letter of collaboration for your grant applications and tenure file) then it may be worth it. Still, you don't want to be the local one-trick pony who looks like a service core for the "real scientists" around the place.

    if you want to be strategic about it, look for someone who publishes a lot and a lot of collaborative work. this is your best place to sink your effort. (i know, duh)

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