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Going away to teach

Linnea Ista lkista at UNM.EDU
Mon Mar 18 16:59:27 EST 1996

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
> 5).  
> 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.
> Marcy> 

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.

Best wishes!

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