Prospective Professor: The Beginning After the End

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Posted on behalf of the Prospective Professor

After months and months of grueling travel, crazy cab drivers, late night practice talks and waking up wondering what city I was in, I thought the worst of it was over. Little did I know that the fun had just begun. I am happy to say that I was able to find a job, and not just any job, but what seems to be the “perfect” fit for me. But after a few weeks of celebration and relaxation, that little voice started up again, “what have you gotten yourself into?!” I’m about to start a job for which I have never been trained!

Certainly my feelings aren’t unique. I’ve had conversations with countless people over the years discussing this very issue. Most of us will have spent at least 7 years pursuing our doctoral degree and doing postdoctoral research. And during this time, we may teach a few lab sections, write a quiz or two and hopefully compose a fellowship application. But never during this time do most of us get training in lab managements skills, mentoring techniques or budgeting (time or money). In essence, every step of my training has prepared me to be a bench scientist. And lets face it, after so many years of schooling I’m lucky if I can budget my monthly groceries let alone supplies for an entire lab, as well as funds to make sure my students can hardly afford their groceries!

Everyone tells me that I will learn with time. I just hate to think of the disasters that will happen in the meantime: Exams with an average score of 17%, a student crying after groups meeting or a lab left empty on the weekends (horror of horrors!). I will start my new position filled with nervous excitement and ready to learn many new lessons. The first question on my mind is, how do I attract students to my lab? I keep having flashbacks to junior high dances where we all waited at the side of the gym desperately hoping that someone would ask us to dance and wondering, “will anybody like me??”