Why I want to be a prof

Dianna L. Bourke dlb17 at PSU.EDU
Tue Apr 23 21:05:51 EST 1996

Julia Frugoli said to Kelly Tetro:

>Not to rain on your parade, as both my husband and I dream like this.
>But reality has set in.  He now has a tenure track position at a
>small/medium university (15,000 students and masters program).  He loves
>mentoring and teaching, but 3 courses a term and 3 graduate students
>keeps him stretched to the limit.

I don't have grad students, but supervising undergraduate research projects
takes a lot of time, too. Sometimes even more time than grad students
because you have to keep on top of them constantly. You can get wonderful
results with them and it is very rewarding to introduce people to research,
but it is exhausting and takes a LOT of patience. And things go very

 To buy restriction enzymes, media,
>petri dishes, etc for those students (he's a microbiologist) requires
>getting grants from the same pool the big guys compete in, only he
>doesn't have the resources or the time to work in the lab, write, and
>mentor because of all those courses.  Because it's a small to medium
>university, there is no such thing as start up money or institutional

I did have some "start up" funds, but anyone used to "big" reasearch would
roll on the floor laughing at the amounts I have had to deal with. The
first year I got a -80o freezer (very small one) and someone donated a
cryostat to me that had been donated to them by a hospital that didn't want
it anymore. We spent $2500 refurbishing the cryostat to make it functional.
Voila, I can do frozen sections. Throw another $1000 in for micellanea and
that was my start up funds. This was considered incredibly generous and
many of my colleagues at other branch campuses were very envious. One woman
waited 3 years for a microscope! The following year I got a CO2 incubator.
I had to wait the following year for a laminar flow hood, etc. Now I can do
cell culture, but I still am using a student stereoscope to look at the
culture with! I am very grateful for what I have, but sometimes it is

 Best of all, he had to beat out a pool of
>over 50 qualified applicants for this gem of a position-and that's a
>small pool by today's standards.

I was told there were over 90 applicants for my position.

 I have one friend who told me he'd
>never take a position like this.  He's in his 5th year of post-doc, with
>no interviews in sight, so he may have to "lower his standards".

THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT POINT OF ALL! People are just going to have to
begin to think compromise. My position is kind of neat, in that I can do
some research, but the days of just putting in the PO and knowing there is
money to cover it, are over. Some days I feel like I am crossing the Great
Salt Flats in a Conestoga wagon, but I am getting things done, even if I do
have to illegally carry liquid nitrogen in the front seat of my Toyata!
And, I am on hard money all the way folks, something not to be taken

>I have heard that the small institutions are taking advantage of the
>post-doc glut by hiring people for tenure track positions with no
>intention of giving them tenure.  By setting impossible standards (high
>teaching load, major grants and pubs), they can let the person go after
>7 years and hire again.  Since they don't make the big investment in
>start up large universities do, this is feasible for them.  Anyone else
>seen/heard this, or is this just disgruntled jr faculty blowing off

I don't really know that the administrators intentionally do this, because
it really is such a pain to do the whole search committee/transition thing.
But, there are some difficult standards to meet for sure. I don't see
really significant salary increases between Assistant and Associate
professor, so I don't think salary is such an issue. Probably the most
attractive thing is ability to get rid of people when needed. I hope this
isn't true.

Dianna Bourke
Hanging On in Hazleton!

Dianna L. Bourke
Penn State Hazleton

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