Rookie Rocky: A rookie “business-class” passenger in a seminar room

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[Editor’s note: another guest blogger has joined our team… this is Hubert, facing the challenges of a new professorship]

Posted on behalf of Hubert:

For years, I went straight to a seat in the third or the fourth row in a seminar room because if I sat too far in the back, my imperfect eyesight caused me trouble, while the first one or two rows were usually reserved for the faculty members: Although there obviously aren’t assigned seats, professors do usually sit in the front of the audience, sort of like a first-/business-class arrangement in an airplane. To actually sit in a “business-class” seat as a brand new assistant professor along with my colleagues, including a number of National Academy of Sciences members, brought me a mixture of feelings, including a thrill of excitement, needless to say, and a lot of pressure: Now, even a boring seminar won’t be a good chance to doze off! You are under much closer watch by the seminar speaker, by the students and post-docs behind you, and of course by yourself. You have the feeling that you really need to learn more in order to match this higher expectation that everyone has of you. You are supposed to ask smart questions, to understand those “smart answers”, and maybe sometimes, give clever comments even when the topic is way over your head; in short, you are now supposed to walk on water in a seminar room (behold the rookie professor)! I guess this might be the price you have to pay in order to ride as a business-class passenger.