Archive for: December, 2010

wimminz in academia answers!! (archived from LabSpaces)

Dec 05 2010 Published by under Uncategorized

originally posted 14 Dec 2010

A while ago Hermitage organized a baby-free Q&A about being a woman in academia. That technically describes me (female, academic), and I have agreed to answer the 4 questions that she gathered from her "muffins" (her words, not mine Dr. Isis!). The only rule: I will not talk about babies AT ALL! So here goes:

1. How do you command the attention, and respect, of men in academic settings (e.g. classroom, conferences, faculty meetings)?
I don't know that I have ever thought about "commanding" attention. I just do my thing and let things go as they will. I am not a shy person, which certainly helps. It is really important, I think, to speak up. You need to ask questions, give talks, etc. That way, people have a chance to appreciate your smarts. I ask hard questions (respectfully). I know that my colleagues respect me. I earned that respect, just like everyone must, IMO. I guess the short answer is: I ignore people that don't want to pay attention to me and get shit done. Eventually folks realize that I am smart and effective and they ignore me, well, I'm not the one that is any worse off.

I'm not sure that this answer is very helpful. But the more I think about it, and other succesful women academics, I have never seen any of them do anything to command attention or respect. But they had all earned it, without having to ask.

2. How should women dealing with a two-body problem handle assumptions that their career is secondary to their partner's?
I have nothing to add here, but that won't stop me! I did not have a two-body problem, as my SO left the bench after grad school. I guess that I would say probably it depends a lot on who is the "assumer". If you have a supportive partner than who the fuck cares what others "assume"?  I would add, though, that in the faculty search we are conducting right now all of the two-body issues (that we know of) have a male trailing spouse. 

3. What would you like to see from tenure-track and not-yet-tenure-track menfolk? How can they pitch in?
I guess that I would be nice if there were more of "that guy". The one that calls the old white d00ds out when they are being asshats*. There is only so much that I can do myself, because of limited energy and political considerations.

4. How do you deal with insinuations that you were only chosen for a position/award/etc because of affirmative action?
I have actually had folks bring this up to me. It was not a secret that my dept. was under pressure to become less old, white and male when they hired me. But you know what? I DON'T CARE. I have the position, I have gotten the awards, I publish the papers. If others want to spin their wheels getting all upset, then so be it. This will not affect me.

It seems to me after going through all of these questions that most (1, 2, 4) are related to self confidence at some level. I remember realizing, as a 1st year grad student, that the "most succesful" folks in my program and dept. weren't the ones that sat quietly in the room. So I started talking. I was terrified of asking "stupid" questions. But I got over it. Fake it to make it, I guess. Now I'm confortable standing up for my ideas and contributing to the scientific discourse. And I think that has helped me to earn what respect I have as a n00b on the TT.

And there is my 2 cents. If there are other wimminz out there, please feel free to add your views! And go check out the answers from the other "panelists"!

*I feel like there was another post on this topic, maybe from Abel Pharmboy (?). But I can't find it now.

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the chalk talk (archived from LabSpaces)

Dec 05 2010 Published by under tenure-track OTJT

originally posted 11 Dec 2010

In a recent post, I threw out a few tips regarding the academic job search. In the comments, Odyssey raised a super point:

I'd like to emphasize the importance of the chalk talk. If you don't nail it, you're screwed. It's really, really important to show you've thought about what you're going to do and how you're going to try to fund things.

This was followed by requests for me to write a post about what goes into a chalk talk. I love it when I get input on topics, so of course I'm going to oblige!! But first you have to go read PhysioProf's excellent post on this exact topic. While you are at it, you should read his other posts on the job search. And also go visit drdrA at Blue Lab Coats. There are a whole host of fantastic posts on the job search, interviews, negotiating, etc. Read them all!

Go ahead, I'll wait.


Alright then. So, after your reading you will understand that the chalk talk is much different than the job talk. And in many cases, even more important. Job talks can be practiced and perfected. But you can't fake a chalk talk. It is one of the best ways to separate the top applicant from all the others. The chalk talk is your chance to convince the faculty that not only have you done well (in the past) but you have a real plan to be succesful in the future. And that you have really, really thought about how you want to run your own lab.

Going into the chalk-talk, you should be prepared to go through your first R01 application (but you knew that from your previous reading, right?). Based on my experiences, you should actually have reasonable plans (with timelines) for 2 R01 applications. You need to be able to demonstrate that you have thought about how graduate students and postdocs will have projects that will get your shit done. And that you know how to split these projects up into Aims for grants that will be fundable. Make it clear that you have thought about the timeline to get preliminary data, publish papers, etc. in order to be able to submit competetive grant applications.

Be prepared to answer these kinds of questions (in addition to attacks of your science, as in CPP):
-What will your first graduate student work on?
-What are the first papers that will come out of your lab? (hint: they better be preliminary data)
-When do you plan to write your first grant?
-Who would want to fund your research? (NIH? which institute?)
-How is your field? What makes your research unique in your field, and how can you compete against established labs (including your postdoc mentor)?

OK, assuming that you have thought about all of these things, what do you actually do when you are standing in front of the room? Everyone will have their own style, of course. I have seen 10-15 chalk talks (not including the ones I have given), because at my postdoc institute anyone that was interested could go to the chalk talk. The most common way to fail is to get defensive with the questions, or otherwise be an ass. So don't do that. Always be polite and answer every question with data and logic, no matter how "mean" it is.

This was my strategy: Before the chalk talk, I wrote the "title" of three projects across the top of the board. Each of these was an R01 (some more developed than others). Below each title I wrote 3-5 Aims. At the beginning of the talk I spent 5 min recapping the highlights of my postdoc research that were most important for what I wanted to talk about. My first "grant" was based largely on my K99 (clearly fundable!). I added a couple of Aims that I could see being the basis of the follow up R01. I also highlighted aspects that I could submit for the fancy foundation fellowships. My second application had a reasonable amount of preliminary data to support it. The third was less developed, but I had a few unpublished observations that were the key data. When it was time to start, I launched into the first project: experimental approaches, pitfalls, alternatives, what I expected to find, etc. This went pretty quick, because it was already funded. Then I started in on the second grant. This almost always took the rest of the hour, so I almost never even got to #3, which was OK because I think the main point is that I had thought about it. (I was actually freaked out about this, but several people told me that I did a super job, so it was apparently OK).

There were always a lot of questions. One of my current colleagues told me that they "threw hardballs right at my head". So be prepared. I actually really like these kinds of audiences, and my postdoc had given me plenty of practice. So I had a lot of fun. But it was intense.

Anywho, I hope that clears up the chalk talk. If I missed something, you know where to find me!

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today I had to fire someone (archived from LabSpaces)

Dec 05 2010 Published by under tenure-track OTJT

originally posted 2 Dec 2010

Today I had to fire someone. Well, actually I had to tell one of my lab peeps (let's call him Al) that they would only have a job for a few more months. This is not because Al sucks. Al helped me get my lab up and running and, though not a rock-star, has been solid. No, Al did not do anything wrong.

But I had to let Al go. Because the grant that was paying for Al is running out of money. And I was faced with a choice. Between keeping Al around or taking on another grad student. I thought hard about this, and I really think this is the right decision of my lab. Al was helpful in starting out, but the grad students I am considering are smart and motivated. And they can get on training grants.

So there you have it. I told Al because I wanted him to have as much time as possible to find another gig. But it sucked. It is the first time I have had someone in my office fighting to hold back tears.

I need a beer

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the joy of the interview (archived from LabSpaces)

Dec 05 2010 Published by under tenure-track OTJT

originally posted 29 Nov 2010

We are entering the season of the job interviews for folks that are looking for a tenure-track job this year. Just 1 year ago -almost exactly!- I was myself on my very first interview. So, as a service to folks going through the interview process this year, including our very own LabSpaces Aces, Dr. Becca (WOO HOO, Dr. Becca!!), I decided to share some survival tips*.

The TT job interview is usually  2-day ordeal. Over the course of the interview you will give a seminar to the dept., talk to many faculty members and perhaps give a chalk talk. You should get an itenerary before you visit so that you know what to expect. The first day will usually start between 8 and 9 am (depending on if someone takes you to breakfast). TIP #1: Every interaction is part of the interview. From the first moment that you start interacting with the department arranging travel, in fact. So don't be a douche! Don't be rude to the secretarial staff, don't blow off random student interactions in the hallways, etc.

In all the interviews I went on, your first meeting will be with the Dept. Chair, who will talk to you about the dept. and university environment and perhaps show you some lab space.This is very exciting, but don't get too worked up. You have a long day ahead! You seminar "job talk" will usually be on the first day. TIP #2: Give a fantastic talk. Practice it in advance, and get feedback from everyone you can. Especially people that have sat on a search committee recently. It is also good to get some old-timers to give you feedback. There will undoubtedly be some of these in your new dept., and they vote! Sometimes, the deadwood old-timers may throw around a lot of weight. Your job talk may also be used to judge your potential as a teacher (unless you are on an interview where you have to teach a class. I've heard of these, but have no experience with them whatsoever). So make sure it is clear, logical and easy to follow. The job talk is slightly different than a normal seminar. It is not just about data. Your job is to get the faculty excited about your problem, your approaches and YOU! This may be the only time you get to interact with some of the people that will be voting on the hiring decision. Spend time on background to set up the "big picture" of your research and why it is awesome. Folks are probably going to be sitting through a lot of these talks, so make yours memorable (in a good way). Tell a story that gives me a sense of what you are interested in doing and how you approach your science. Do not try to beat me into submission with data slides. Show me how your career so far has set you up to be succesful. BE EXCITED ABOUT YOUR WORK! And most importantly, whatever you do: TIP #3 DO NOT GO OVER TIME. In fact, end your talk early (aim for 45-50 min). You want to give everyone a chance to ask questions. The more questions, the better. Questions mean that your audience is engaged and are interacting with you. Win!

TIP #4: Bring water. Seriously, you will be talking for 10-12 h straight. Very few people will offer you anything to drink. I carried a 1L bottle and was still totally dehydrated by the end of the day. You may also want to bring some snacks. or Gu. I am not kidding. The job interview is like a marathon - it just keeps going. Also, you probably won't get to eat much lunch. I mean, there will be food for you. But you will also be talking to someone over lunch-maybe even a whole group of grad students. So don't expect to eat much. I was in the middle of training for a marathon when I was on interviews, and it sucked!

When you are going from office to office for the 1-on-1 interviews, your job is to show them that you will be a good colleague. You don't necessarily have to already be an expert on their work, but you have to be able to have a good conversation. The may ask you about your seminar or go straight into what they work on. I know some folks spend a lot of energy reading everything from everyone in the department. I didn't do this. I figured that I can talk about science with anyone, so I didn't do much interview-specific reading. But I am really comfortable asking questions about all sorts of random things. If you need some background, then read away. TIP #5: do not look at your watch/clock. I know you want to stay on time, but this is not your problem. It is the responsibility of the person you are speaking with to get you to the next place on time.

The chalk-talk can seem intimidating, but it is the most fun part of the interview IMO. About 75% of interviews that I am familiar with do a chalk-talk. These are informal presentations to the faculty (and sometimes others) about your future research directions. They are usually on day 2. I highly recommend that you DO NOT bring slides for your chalk-talk, even if you are allowed to. Your goal in a chalk-talk is to show the committee that you have thought about how you are going to organize your lab and funding. In my field, a common framework is to lay out the aims for your first 1-2 R01 applications (One of my interviews told me to be prepared to talk about 4-5 proposals!!). Be prepared to discuss how the projects will be split into graduate student projects. A common question I heard was "what will your first rotation student work on?". The audience will interrupt you to ask questions that challenge your approach, background, etc. The most important advice: TIP #6: DO NOT GET DEFENSIVE. Even if the questions are very aggresive or even hostile. Be receptive and responsive to criticism but stand up for yourself (respectfully). Try to control the room so that you don't get off topic, but don't be crushed if you don't get to everything you want to talk about. It is more important to show that you can interact with the other faculty.

During the course of your interview you will be asked many, many times if you have any questions. TIP #7: ask questions! But use some common sense - this is not the time to start negotiating for startup. It is appropriate, however, to ask about things like environment (Do you collaborate with anyone in the dept.? What about other depts. in the university? How are collaborations viewed wrt tenure decisions? Is there a faculty seminar series?) or shared resources (can I get access to the fancy machine? How is it maintained? Can I see it? Is is ridiculously expensive?) or grad students (are they good? Are the admitted directly to the dept. or an umbrella program? are there training grants?). It is important that you determine if you can be succesful at the place you are visiting.

TIP #8 Have fun.This is a rare opportunity. You will have many smart people that will spend 20-30 min focused exclusively on you and your work. Besides the interview, this is a networking dream! So try to relax and have some fun with all the attention Smile



*OBVIOUS DISCLAIMER: these are based on my own experiences, or of those people I talk to. Your experiences may vary. Please feel free to add in tips that I mis in the comments!


PS: I am sure that there are a lot of other great posts on interview strategies out there. But I didn't have time to track them down. Please link in the comments! Much appreciated.

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women in academia Q&A (archived from LabSpaces)

Dec 05 2010 Published by under Uncategorized

originally posted 17 Nov 2010

In my trainee days, I was known to show up to random events for the free cookie/donut (product show, anyone?). But I was never a big attendee of the various workshops/panel discussions/etc. handing out career advice. Mostly because they always ended up spiraling into a place of either a) things I don't care about or b) things that seem like common sense. And it just seemed like too much of an investment for a mediocre cookie.

OK, I admit it: I was the one that came in, took a cookie, and then just left.
Whatcha gonna do about it?

ANYWHOOOO, A while ago, Hermitage wondered why it was that all "women in academia" workshops/panels/etc always ended up focusing on how to balance your work with having babies. Now, I love babies. I have one of the most cutest and most awesomest of all time, speaking objectively. But there are a lot of things about being a woman in academia to worry about that have nothing to do with babies. And, there are a lot of women that don't want to have kids. So, Hermitage has organized a panel of female academics (including me!) to have a baby-free Q&A session online. The basic idea, as I understand it, is that you will all submit questions at her place, she will compile and choose 4, and then the panel will answer them on their own blog. Sort of a mini-carnival. So, grab a cookie and head over to submit your question(s) - as long as they have nothing to do with babies!

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are you writing a tenure-track job application? (archived from LabSpaces)

Dec 05 2010 Published by under Uncategorized

originally posted 22 Nov 2010

I've been pretty busy this last week, mostly because I have spent a LOT of time reading job applications for the TT postion in my dept. I'm probably getting more sleep than Dr. O, but still. This has kept me from having time to come up with anything reasonable to post*. So, for your enjoyment, and because I can't help myself, I have compiled a list of some things that have stuck in my head from all this application-reading. Consider it an extra addendum to Odyssey's excellent advice on how to stand out in a pile of applicants (with a slightly more rant-y tone). My brain is a little too bruised and exhausted from the workout this past week to write coherent paragraphs. So, I am going to do this bullet-list syle.


  • Research statements less than 3 pages long. Trust me, your work is not so complicated that it requires 8 pg of single-space type to get the point across. All the best applications I have seen are ~2 pages.
  • white space
  • Links to pubmed abstracts of publications in the CV pdf. So handy!
  • Summary paragraph at the front of the statement.
  • reverse chronological order
  • judicious and logical use of bold


  • Two (or more) separate research plans. Choose one already!
  • A table of contents for your application. Why are you trying to crush my spirit?
  • Publications listed at the very end of the CV (or separate from the CV). Srsly, put the things I care about most first. For a basic bio/medical position like my dept., I want to know about publications and funding. There are no official rules about what has to be in here or in what order so use the space to put your best foot forward.
  • every other sentence in bold or italics.
  • unformatted CV. Are you even trying?
  • CV at the end of the 50 pg application.
  • comic sans for labels of figures in research statement. Really!??
  • cover letters that mention how you fit so well with the dept., then list examples from outside the dept. or school.



*If you don't think this is reasonable, well...I guess I don't care. If you want, drop me an email/comment with a "reasonable" idea. If CPP can ask for topic suggestions, maybe I can too?

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lost in translation? (archived from LabSpaces)

Dec 05 2010 Published by under Uncategorized

originally posted 6 Nov 2010

A few days ago I learned the number of applications we have received for our TT job in my department. It was A LOT, which led me to write a little post about how, from what I can tell, we are going to sort through this giant pile to come up with a short-list. This post was written from a very one-sided perspective (mine, right after a faculty meeting). Odyssey jumped in with a more thoughtful and excellent post about how to make your application stand out. If you are going out on the job market go read it! Then Prof-Like Substance raised up something unexpected, to me at least, first in a comment at Odyssey's and then a whole post. PLS asserted that the fact that we wrote a fairly general job advertisement that it suggested the department was dysfunctional. I started to comment over at PLS's place, but it turns out I have a lot to say about this so I moved it over here.

First, I think my current department is pretty great. One of the main strengths, IMO, is the the fact that we have very diverse faculty research interests, yet the group is very collaborative. This has led to some interesting science that may not have come up in a different environment. We did discuss whether to make a more directed advert this year, but decided against it. We are looking for a colleague that can interact with all of us, whether a NMR spectroscopist, geneticist or cell biologist. The dearth of junior faculty is a problem-but not one that arises from dysfunction. It turns out that our department went through a major expansion in the 1950's. Then there were some hard times during which hiring was effectively shut down by the state. So now many of the faculty are nearing retirement, and we have open tenure lines to fill. Of course, I didn't include those details in my original post, so I can see how other interpretations were possible.

I would like to specifically address some of the points that PLS makes to clarify what I was trying to say.
"What a candidate reads – Divided department can’t or won’t decide on a specialty of interest for this position."
I don't think we are "divided" so much as "diverse". Even though it is more work, I was very much against a narrow search. You never know who is going to be on the market, and I really think that we could miss out on someone that would be a good fit if we went in with blinders on. And, it is much easier to discuss the merits of individual candidates rather than "sub-fields". It would be hard to decide whether we were going to hire a developmental geneticist vs. crystallographer in the abstract, BUT, in the past the structural contingent has happily supported developmental geneticists that they felt would make a good colleague (and vice versa).

"“Good science” will be arbitrarily defined by a small number of overburdened committee members looking for any excuse to toss your application."
I suspect this is true no matter if there are 250 applications or 600. In fact, the "search committee math" that Prodigal Academic describes for how they narrow the candidate pool is very similar to what I was trying to explain. To clarify how our search works: First, there is a quick triage round to get rid of applicants that are clearly not qualified or in the wrong field. We are a biomedical dept., so you have to at least hit that target. We require a PhD and at least one first-author publication from postdoc to get past this round. If you make it over this bar, I will assign your application to one of the "sub-field categories" based on a quick overview of your research statement. Yes, this will take < 2 min per applicant. Each sub-field group of applications will be read by faculty in that field, who will identify the top 10-20%. This is where Oydessey's advice really comes into play. Your application has to really stand out to rise to the top of this pile. I would argue that if you haven't caught my attention within 10 minutes you are probably not going to make it. So, yes, spend time crafting your application - research, teaching and CV. Make sure that the important points that show how awesome you are are easy to find impossible to miss and easy to understand. When the pool has been narrowed to the top 10-20%, the search committee members will read all of the applications and rank them. This will be the starting point for the discussions that will end up with a list of folks that we will have out for interviews.

We loosely define our needs because we don’t care about your time, your letter writer’s time (because we probably want LoRs up front) or that of our own administrative staff who have to process all this shit.
Wow. We clearly read job application advertisements differently. I never even considered this as a possibility when I was applying for jobs last year. In fact, I always liked the more general advertisements because I felt like they were willing to at least consider the possibility that there was interesting science outside of what was already represented in their department. For the record, LoR are submitted electronically so I'm not sure that it is such a burden on the writers. I remember being concerned with the burden to my writers last year and was informed by every last one that it was not a big deal. As for our administrative staff, they don't deal with the search at this stage. All the files are electronic, so the chair just scans in the few letters that will inevitably be sent on paper, and then sends them along electronically.

p.s. If you don’t make the short list don’t expect to ever hear from us again.
I only ever heard back from ~25% of places that I didn't get an interview. Even when I did get some form of rejection it was always a crappy form letter. So I don't really know if it matters. But, I hear that we do sent out the form letter so I guess everyone will hear from us at least one more time. 

p.p.s. We also hate the environment because we’re printing all these apps out in triplicate for the committee.
Really? Who doesn't do this all electronically these day??

"But if I applied for that position and got an interview, I’m still polishin’ up my eff you shoes for that trip. I’m going there looking extra hard for signs of a dysfunctional department."
I suspect that if you go into an interview wearing your "eff you shoes" that you won't be getting an offer. And I would strongly recommend that you poke around for signed of dysfunction no matter how warm and fuzzy the job advert made you feel. Every department is different and the interview process should help you gather information about how well you fit with them and how well they match what you are looking for.

"But chances are, if you rose to the top of a 600 applicant pile, you are likely to have competing offers. Maybe with departments who care more about the time and effort of 600 people."
It is true that most folks we hire have competing offers. When I went on the market, it was assumed that you would have competing offers when negotiating your position. In fact, the last 3 people my current dept. offered the job to ended up going somewhere else. At PostDoc Inst. only 3 of 5 searches that I saw ended up actually hiring someone. That is pretty standard in my field: if everyone has 2-3 offers, then 50-60% of all jobs aren't going to get filled. That is a fact of life for the TT search. And yes, this means that even though we get 600 applicants, there will be 15-20 people that get most of the interviews at all of the schools. I sometimes wonder how, in such a random process, these people always float to the top. Last year, I noticed that 2-3 other folks ended up interviewing at the same places as I did. And they were not in my sub-field. This did not make me feel like the dept. was wasting my time. Nor did it cross my mind that the number of applicants would in any way affect how much they cared about the person that they hired. There are certainly programs that "eat the young", but we are not one of them.

Perhaps the difference in perspective between PLS and me arises from our different sub-fields. I'm interested to hear how other experiences line up on this spectrum. Another interesting point, I think, is the fact that the same job advertisement that got 600 applications this year only had ~400 last year when I applied. What is different this year? Some of my colleagues think that this is a good sign that the market is loosening up and the postdocs that have been in a "holding pattern" are feeling more confident and therefore applying for jobs. The more pessimistic view would be that things are hard, and that folks can't afford to have postdocs in a holding pattern anymore...and that folks are being pressured to go out on the market even if they are not "ready".

So, dear readers, what is your perspective:
1. What do "general bio" job adverts say to you?
2. Why do you think there are so many folks on the market this year?

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if you were an incoming graduate student... (archived from LabSpaces)

Dec 05 2010 Published by under tenure-track OTJT

originally posted 2 Nov 2010

I'm looking for some insight from folks out there that are (or interact with) new graduate students. You see, I would really, really like to get 1 or 2 good students this year to get my lab kick-started. Where I'm at there are several sources of students: the department, a MD/PhD program, and 3 different multidisciplinary "umbrella programs". In order to get any of these students to join my lab, I first need to convince them to rotate. I've done pretty well getting attention from the students in my home department. But it is really difficult to find a way to interact with these umbrella programs as a n00b faculty. But the other day I got my "in". One of these programs, that has really good students, is having a poster session*.

Now, I know how to make good posters, IMHO. And I'm familiar with Dr. Zen's excellent advice. The thing that sort of trips me up is the whole "new grad student" part. What are they thinking? How can I get them excited about my lab? It has been a while since I was a new grad student, and I never had PIs standing next to a poster to woo me. It has also been a while since I spent a lot of time with new grad students. There weren't all that many students at Big Postdoc Inst. I've kind of been in a bubble, student-wise.

So here's my question: what should one include on a poster to get new graduate students excited and convince them to rotate in my lab?

OK, I'm sorry. There is no bacon in this post. But I do love bacon. Yummmm.

*It's like a bizarro-world "social". The PIs are supposed to stand up and give posters and the students mill about getting "familiar" with the faculty. I assume only new faculty go to these things, but I have no idea really.

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spooky! (archived from LabSpaces)

Dec 05 2010 Published by under tenure-track OTJT

originally posted 31 Oct 2010

In honor of Hallowe'en, I'm going to talk about the TT job search. If you are a postdoc that wants to stay in academia, thinking about a job search may be a scary proposition. I remember being a little freaked out by the whole process. After you spend several years trying to do kick-ass science (6 for me), you spend a summer writing up your work and thinking about your future plans. In 5 pages you try to capture why you are awesome, what you think is cool and how you are going to be a RockStar within 5 years. Then you send this out...and wait. Spooky, right?

I remember. Last year at this time, I was in the process of sending out job applications. LOTS of job applications. Now, the tables have turned. My department is hiring again this year, and I'm on the search committee. And I am finding this even more spooky.

We had a faculty meeting last week (kinda freaky, but not the really scary part). At the end, we had a discussion about our search this year. Turns out that we have almost 600 applications. And we haven't made it to the deadline yet!

I'm sorry, what? how many!?!
(It's more spooky with a black cat, yes?)

The large number of applications stems from the fact that I am in a pretty basic dept. that is looking for someone that "does good science". Anyone from a molecular biophysicist to systems biologist to development geneticist to a physiologist could be at home here. That is part of the reason I like it so much. But that means that everyone has apparently responded to our advert. Oh yeah, and the reason that we are hiring again this year, even with the crappy economy, is that our dept. is in desperate need of junior faculty. Which means that there aren't many people to sit on the search committee. In other words, only 2-3 of us are going to sift through this giant pile. Our first task is triage: apparently it will be relatively easy to "weed out" at least 150-200. I say "apparently" because I have no experience with this yet (we are waiting for the deadline). I've been told not to spend more than 2 min per application.

Yep, you read correctly. In less than 2 minutes one person is going to decide if anyone will ever actually read your application. Those that are not "out" will be assigned to themes and circulated to appropriate faculty to identify the top 10-20%. This is what really terrified me. Some applications may get read here, but I wouldn't count on it. I am told to expect to spend ~10 min per application at this level. In other words, if you make it past triage you have 10 min to convince someone you are the best thing since Howard Hughes.

So, what is the moral of this story? I promised some nuggets of wisdom, but this is all I've got:
1. if there is something that you want me to read, make it easy to find!
2. Use bold judiciously. If you bold something that I find irritating, that is bad.
3. pictures break up pages of text and are usually more memorable (this can be good or bad)
4. The first thing I am reading is the research statement. The first 2 sentences better be really good!
5. Make it clear how you are going to distinguish yourself from your advisor. No one believes that you can compete with an established lab right out of the gate.


Seriously, how did I ever get a job?!

Happy  Hallowe'en!

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how NOT to work in my lab (archived from LabSpaces)

Dec 05 2010 Published by under Uncategorized

originally posted (with content) 25 Oct 2010


So, some of you may have been confused when earlier today this post went live without any content*. D'OH!

Gerty realizes she posted a blank


I totally fucked up and didn't even know it until I powered up my trusty iPhone early in the morning while I had some coffee before I went out for my run. At that point I coudn't make the empty post disappear, so I headed out on the trails for my super-awesome, super-soggy run (WOO HOO!). When I got done I had just enough time to scrub the mud off my legs before the crazy day of toddler fun with Mini-G. I managed to take down the blank, but couldn't put anything in its place. Sorry!
Of course, I had some great shit to put here, too! Fucking nuggets of wisdom, I tell ya! And I can't withold the good shit any longer. So, without further ado:

Gerty-Z's surefire plan to NOT work in my any lab
1. If you are an undergrad, please PLEASE make sure to contact me for the first time the day before the add-drop deadline. Make it clear that if you can't do research for credit that you won't get student aid this semester. Mention that I am YOUR LAST HOPE and YOU HAVE A FAMILY TO SUPPORT.

2. If I don't immediately (< 3 h) answer your email, a great idea is to just come by lab

3. signing off an email with 😉 is always a winner (srsly, wtf?)

4. If you are a prospective postdoc, mention that you are interested in working with me because "you like PCR"

5. Avoid reading any publications from my or anyone in my field. In fact, it is best if you are not sure what field I am in.

6. Be convinced I work on "human disease"

7. or, as Biochem Belle noticed: don't show up*! Especially if you have sent me at least 5 emails trying to schedule a meeting.


Hope you all had a super weekend!


*the first two comments are from the un-post, for your entertainment

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