Prospective Professor: On the road again


Posted on behalf of the Prospective Professor

The calls to request interviews started to come late in October and the interviews themselves started as soon as mid-November. The visits last for 1-2 days and seem to follow the same general schedule, meals out with faculty, short meetings with 10-20(!) different people and two seminars, one describing previous research accomplishments and one detailing the proposed research plan (otherwise known as the “chalk talk” even though everyone uses slides).

It’s a spectacular experience to meet with so many people in the chemistry world. These will be my life long colleagues. I will see them at conferences and study sections, review their papers and they will review mine. I’ve learned about research that I might never have read about on my own accord, but that I’ve found incredibly intriguing. I’ve discussed my future plans with countless people and with each visit my ideas are challenged, analyzed and ultimately strengthened.

Despite the excitement, the novelties of travel wear off pretty quickly. Depending upon where you are coming from and going to, your internal clock will either make you extremely tired in the morning, or unbelievably groggy during dinner. And after a while the thrill of flying to a new place, staying in a fancy hotel and eating every meal out feels more like being trapped in a flying tin box towards a destination where you will stay in a sterile looking room with a hard bed while eating approximately 4x more food than usual. I never thought I’d see the day when the sight of the dessert menu makes me mildly queasy.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a privilege to have the opportunity to visit these institutions, but I can’t help feeling a bit out of sorts as I sit on the floor of an airport waiting for a delayed flight while wearing the same suit that I’ve had on for the last week…

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