On 18 Mar 1996, Marcy Brown wrote:
> I am currently in the final stages of my Ph.D. research, and have planned
> to defend my thesis a year from now. The faculty at my alma mater have
> recently been asking when I would finish, because they are currently trying
> to fill a position vacancy in the biology department there. My old advisor
> left the position when he became an emeritus professor, although he has
> continued to teach even though he has retired. He has always wanted me to
> come back and take the position, given that I am one of only a handful of
> students that have followed in his footsteps to do avian research (most of
> the other students go on to med school). Until recently I never even
> considered the job, but now that I am nearing the end of my work here the
> prospect is enticing. I recently visited the university, gave a talk and
> taught one day of class, and talked with the department head and several
> administrators about my plans and their interest in my becoming a member of
> the faculty.
>> Thus far I have agreed to teach two classes at my alma mater this Fall
> (Animal Behavior and Comparative Anatomy), although I am still working on
> my thesis. Because this has been a trap into which many have fallen (i.e.
> taking a job while still working on a thesis, only to find that ten years
> later the thesis is never finished) I have been careful _not_ to consider a
> permanent position there until after I have my degree in hand. However, I
> feel that this semester of teaching will be good for several reasons: 1)
> because of funding I would have been a TA at my home university this fall
> anyway 2) developing and teaching my own courses will be a much better
> experience than being a TA for the eighth semester 3) the money is better
> 4) teaching this semester will put me first in line for a permanent
> position after I finish and 5) I know I will be back at my home university
> in the spring to finish the thesis. There are some drawbacks, such as 1)
> I should probably assume I will be too busy in that semester teaching to
> work on my thesis at all 2) if I do get work done, I won't be able to
> discuss it with my advisor until I come back and 3) I will have to endure
> greater geographic separation from my fiance (19 hours away instead of only
>> So, given that I have already made the decision, does anyone have
> advice/warnings for me? Is this a unique opportunity? My advisor is
> backing me on the decision, as is my entire committee. However, any
> additional information would be great. Thanks for your help in advance.
I went a similar route when writing up my dissertation. After two years
of writing and teaching temporary positions, I ended up not getting my
degree ( I got one of those default Masters that were being discussed a
while back). The two biggest problems were editing long distance (the
committee member who gave me the hardest time and I had a hard time
communicating about exactly what the problem was) and being 1000 miles
away from the lab where I did my work. In those two years, some critical
2-D gels disintingrated (lesson- don't believe anyone who tells you they
will last forever if you use thier method or product!) and even though my
advisor and I had seen the ssame result dozens of times, the back-up
data were not there.
Also being a new faculty member, no matter how light your load seems
(especially if you are teaching labs) is extremely time-consuming. I
found having the degree thing over my head was very stressful (the
conflict between wanting to do a good job teaching and feeling the tug of
my thesis sitting on the word processor).
On the plus side, it was a wonderful chance to expand my knowledge in my
subject area beyond the rather narrow confines of research.
I guess I would say that if you are _sure_ all your data are correct and
are able to get back to your degree university to visit with people
personally, go for it! If not I would seriously consider taking the TA
and really concentrating on writing.