This past week a team of skilled and experienced professionals
presented a “Preparing for life” workshop and one focused on
things to do when starting out in an academic career at a research
First of all, tradition speaks of three legs to the stool of an academic
career– research, teaching and service. In reality however one leg
dominates– research. (There are exceptions, like the encouragement
at Harvey Mudd to excel in teaching.)
Success in academic research is represented in metrics by two
things, money (prestige: total grants and awards) and space.
Early on, an assistant professor needs to know where to apply
and shortcut approaches to explore for grant money.
Our expert, Prof. S. Graham (Professor, MEng. GaTech) offered
DOE, DOD Young investigator awards, NSF Career awards,
and industrial funding. Collaborate with other colleagues on
proposals. Write “white papers” and submit to grant reviewers for
their comments. Give talks outside your department and in other
universities (People will come up to you with ideas.)
Space: You need to ask for it and need to display patience.
The key element of research success is your graduate students.
Ask to be involved in recruiting graduate students. Devise your
own “recruiting plan” to inspire and motivate good students and
students who will develop into productive researchers. Develop a
motivating, nurturing and respectful culture in your research group.
Sam described how he intentionally plans to take grad students to
international meetings and share the experiences. He adds value
to belonging to his group by inviting them to outings and
traveling with them to attractive locations and meetings.