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Author Topic: Teaching and conducing research at a (Small) Liberal Arts College (SLAC/LAC)  (Read 36705 times)
txgalprof
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« Reply #30 on: March 23, 2012, 3:58:24 PM »

Back to the OP....

A Summary (i.e., how TexGal is reading this thread):
  • The OP is interested in a more teaching-intensive position
  • The OP is currently in a research position
  • The OP doesn't have a background in teaching
  • The OP may or may not have a strong background in research
  • {insert long discussion of what is a SLAC here}

FWIW: I think the OP should concentrate on getting some teaching experience. I don't know what the options will be given the current situation. Adjunct for a local CC or online university? Look for a VAP position?

The research background will be a "nice to have" added bonus, but I think the (future) SCs will be looking for a basis that exhibits solid teaching skills.
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lyndonparker
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« Reply #31 on: March 23, 2012, 5:17:33 PM »

Derail aside, after looking again at the OP's background and experience, I think she or he has a pretty strong background for a decent or better SLAC. Having attended a SLAC, especially a nationally known one, greatly improves a candidate's status in the eyes of some SC members, myself included. This is because many applicants simply do not understand the mission and atmosphere of SLACs. Some think this is unimportant. I think it's crucial.
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Lyndon always has such a nice succinct way of putting things.
grasshopper
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« Reply #32 on: March 23, 2012, 5:28:46 PM »

However, since I live with one foot outside of academia, most R1's are not research institutions in the sense that I think of research institutions.  They can't be because a good chunk of their mission is to educate students.  

Once more, the way you think of R1s is wrong.

These schools can indeed be R1s precisely because a good chunk of their mission is to educate students. That's because they're universities, not research institutes. R1 (or RI, or whatever the new label is) is a classification for universities, where, by definition, students will be educated.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Research_I_university:
Quote
Research I university was a category previously used by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education to indicate those universities that engaged in extensive research activity.

In the 1994 edition of the Carnegie Classification, Research I universities were defined as those which:

        Offer a full range of baccalaureate programs
        Are committed to graduate education through the doctorate
        Give high priority to research
        Award 50 or more doctoral degrees each year
        Receive annually $40 million or more in federal support[1]

So, oddly enough, those institutions that you said were more rightly considered R1 don't even fit the basic parameters of classification.

What is that thing you always say? That when you're the outlier, the onus is on you to justify your conclusions? Google is a friend, no matter what Pry may tell you.
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daniel_von_flanagan
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Works all day. Posts all night. Needs sleep.


« Reply #33 on: March 23, 2012, 6:18:27 PM »

However, since I live with one foot outside of academia, most R1's are not research institutions in the sense that I think of research institutions.  They can't be because a good chunk of their mission is to educate students.
Any university - this includes MIT and CalTech - have education as a primary mission.  As you note there do exist stand-alone research labs (though some - like Argonne and Livermore - are really branches of universities), but they were never relevant to this discussion.  (Moreover, any research unit that does not have a significant research component should not be getting NSF money, since education is an important part of the stated NSF mission.)

It is palpably not the case that all the best science research takes place in the research labs, though some of my friends in research-only units do like to tell themselves and others that they are "true" scientists as opposed to those with some teaching.  If a faculty member at Chicago or MIT does his experimental work at Argonne or Lincoln, that does not invalidate their primary position as a faculty member at Chicago or MIT.  - DvF
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The U.S. Education Department is establishing a new national research center to study colleges' ability to successfully educate the country's growing numbers of academically underprepared administrators.
aloneinkyoto
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« Reply #34 on: March 24, 2012, 11:25:55 PM »

Hi All,

     Thank you for your suggestions and comments. Most were really helpful.

     Firstly, in my field of microbiology and in the current scientific climate, having 4 first author papers (3 of them were in high impact factor journals) is a very strong record for a graduate student. At least, this was what was told to me verbatim by a tenured Chair of Microbiology at one of the top tier public institutions in the US. However, feel free to correct me if others thing otherwise.

     Now, to elaborate on the teaching and mentoring experience that I've had so far Ė Well, as an undergrad in a liberal arts college, my job as a teaching assistant required me to assist students in lab exercises, prepare media, and outside of lab provide any assistance that students might require pertaining to the course in question. I also tutored students in Molecular Biology, Organic Chemistry, General Chemistry, Microbiology, & Genetics. With regards to tutoring, I held two 2-3 hour sessions weekly, assisting students with the coursework and homework. In every session I would have anywhere from 2-8 students to teach. As you are aware, if you have been to a liberal arts college, undergraduate students assist teachers in teaching courses. In most liberal arts colleges, to the best of my knowledge, students do not design courses for other students, particularly in the natural sciences.  At least that was the case in my undergrad institution.

     As a graduate student, I was a teaching and lab assistant for Medical Microbiology. Here too my responsibilities were primarily to facilitate the labs to be run smoothly. I prepared the media, reagents and other lab-associated equipment. Moreover, as part of my teaching responsibilities, I also served as a tutor by assisting students in answering their questions or tutoring them during the duration of the course. Besides this, I actively mentored 3 undergrad students, 1 graduate student, and 1 high school student in conducting research in lab. With regards to the undergraduate students, I mentored each of them for a period of ~ 10 weeks in 2006, 2007, & 2010. By mentoring, I mean that I, along with a colleague, designed a research project for each of them and taught them the intricacies of the protocols, techniques and provided input and hands on research experience to them. I personally oversaw their projects and guided them through that and they would reports to me with their data and we would discuss it and plan subsequent experiments together. So here it was a very intimate interaction, akin to what is the philosophy of SLACs/LACs. With regards to the graduate student, I was directly responsible for introducing her to the research in lab and overseeing her performance, providing critique, suggestions, and planning experiments with her. This was also for a period of ~ 10 weeks. However, for the high school student, it lasted only about 2-3 weeks and my responsibilities were essentially the same as they were when I mentored the graduate and undergraduate students.

     Additionally, I tutored 2 students, one on one, during the entire duration of a semester in microbiology & organic chemistry respectively. With one of them, I would meet twice weekly for ~ 2-3 hour sessions and teach him microbiology and this spanned the entire semester (~ 3 months) in the Fall of 2011. With the other student, I would meet about once a month (~ 3 hours/session), over the course of the entire semester, and teach her aspects of organic chemistry that she was having difficulty comprehending. This also lasted an entire semester

     Regarding middle school students, I was invited to speak to speak to them about science, specifically microbiology, and the importance of science in our society today. Besides this, I assisted them (~15-20 middle school students) in actively conducting research in my lab. However, both of these were short stints and did not exceed a week.

     All in all, I have been fortunate to be able to tutor students in courses or mentor them in research. However, Iíve never formally taught an undergraduate class for an entire semester. Nonetheless, in my current position as a post-doc, Iím soon going to be teaching undergrads this semester. Moreover, Iím going to be doing the same in the coming summer and fall semesters and this teaching is going to be more intensive whereby I will be teaching a group of ~ 5-10 students weekly (similar class size to that of a liberal arts college). Iím going to continue to do this for the entire duration of my post-doc career. Additionally, Iíve been actively looking at local community colleges where I could possibly teach as an adjunct. I would like to do this also for the entire time that Iím a post-doc Fortunately for me my mentor is very understanding and is actively pushing me to commence teaching as soon as possible, besides conducting research. This is particularly important for me because I find teaching extremely invigorating and it actually potentiates my research productivity.

     Last but not the least, Iíve applied for fellowships that will enable me to conduct research and teach as a post-doc. Iím waiting to hear back from them. If this particular one works out then I will be a Visiting Assistant Professor during 2015-2016 at a highly selective liberal arts college (Iíve already worked the details of this out with the Biology department of that liberal arts college). However, it depends entirely on my acquisition of the fellowship. Also if anyone here is aware of other post-doctoral fellowships that have both a research and a teaching component, and could direct me to those, I would be exceedingly grateful to you guys.

Thanks for all the advice and suggestions. I appreciate them immensely.

Sincerely,
AloneinKyoto...
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mended_drum
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« Reply #35 on: March 25, 2012, 1:17:31 PM »


     Now, to elaborate on the teaching and mentoring experience that I've had so far Ė Well, as an undergrad in a liberal arts college, my job as a teaching assistant required me to assist students in lab exercises, prepare media, and outside of lab provide any assistance that students might require pertaining to the course in question. I also tutored students in Molecular Biology, Organic Chemistry, General Chemistry, Microbiology, & Genetics. With regards to tutoring, I held two 2-3 hour sessions weekly, assisting students with the coursework and homework. In every session I would have anywhere from 2-8 students to teach. As you are aware, if you have been to a liberal arts college, undergraduate students assist teachers in teaching courses. In most liberal arts colleges, to the best of my knowledge, students do not design courses for other students, particularly in the natural sciences.  At least that was the case in my undergrad institution.


As someone who works at an SLAC and has served on hiring committees, let me suggest that you don't frame work in tutoring or as a teaching assistant while an undergraduate as teaching experience.  That's sometimes a useful way to frame it when applying to graduate school (if hoping for a TAship), but it's not going to work when applying for jobs.  It will sound weak.  You're better off referring to this experience when talking about working with undergraduates in the future in your own research and teaching.  Something like, "Because the experience I had doing blah-blah at my undergraduate SLAC was so valuable, I hope to involve my students in blah-blah in the future, including more-specific-idea-here."

The thing you're probably missing is teaching evaluations; hopefully, you'll have a few sets in the future that are positive and can enhance your application.
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"dr. mended_drum don't give a sh!t; she will chew me up like a cobra."
fuwafuwa
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« Reply #36 on: March 26, 2012, 3:44:09 AM »

You should also think about what kind of research program you can run at a SLAC. You will have far fewer resources, greater competing teaching demands, and no grad students. You will still be expected to conduct meaningful, publishable research. You can take a look at the websites of biology departments of various SLACs to get an idea of the kind of research programs out there.
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mulerooster
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« Reply #37 on: March 29, 2012, 7:38:24 PM »

Quote
If this particular one works out then I will be a Visiting Assistant Professor during 2015-2016 at a highly selective liberal arts college (Iíve already worked the details of this out with the Biology department of that liberal arts college).

Which one?  I am a biology VAP at a highly selective LAC too.  Like you, I'm also hoping to get a tenure track position, but it isn't going to happen for this fall anymore.  I need more publications and experience writing grants to have a chance.

Well, I was going to suggest that you get a VAP position or at least be an adjunct.  You need experience developing your own courses, which is hard and time-consuming work.  If you can do that then I think your CV will be stellar and you'll get a job somewhere, maybe not at an extremely selective LAC, but it's all based on luck and being in the right place at the right time, isn't it?

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mtnman
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« Reply #38 on: March 29, 2012, 9:43:15 PM »

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