Name: Jack Bateman
Email: jbateman at bowdoin.edu
Job title: Associate Professor
What College or University do you work for? Bowdoin College
Approximately how many tenure track biology faculty are there at your college/university? Bowdoin's Biology Department has 13 tenure track faculty, which is not unusual for a small liberal arts college.
Describe a typical week: This job varies greatly by season, which was a big difference from my postdoc experience. During the semester, quite a bit of my time is given to teaching and meeting with students. I also have other meetings with faculty and committees that eat up a few hours a week. Some weeks are more intense than others - when there is an exam, I meet more students, and after an exam I have grading to do - so there is an ebb and flow even within the semester. Over the summer, we shift over to full time research. I typically have between 2 and 5 students working in the lab full time for 8 weeks in June and July. Between each of these "seasons" (fall semester, spring semester, and summer research), we have about a month where we are relatively free from teaching and mentoring responsibilities. Those are good times for writing, time-intensive lab work, and de-stressing.
To add to this, the job differs a lot depending on how long you've been doing it. My first year at the college was the hardest I had ever worked in my life. Prepping new courses and setting up the lab was a round-the-clock job. Now that I know what I'm doing and teaching, I typically work a 9-5ish schedule, and I get time most days to do not-work thing like exercising, helping the kids with homework, and even watching Netflix.
What were your graduate studies in? What aspects of your graduate training do you feel have made you more successful in your position? I was a graduate student at Harvard Medical School in the Department of Cell Biology. The number one thing this job requires is time management skills - there is always more to do than you can actually get done, so you have to make sure to carve out time for research, writing, family, and for yourself. Grad school did a great job training me to ask questions, design experiments, think of alternative explanations, and writing skills. All of these are super useful too. I did some teaching in grad school, and that was quite helpful. The most helpful way to do this, if you can find the opportunity, is to teach a course entirely of your own design. Being a TA gets you some useful skills, but there is nothing like actually coming up with all of the materials and dealing with all the bumps and pitfalls that teaching a course comes with (I hear this from many new faculty - "I've taught before, but this is much harder, I've never actually done the whole thing!") This experience can be advantageous in actually securing a job at a small liberal arts college too!
What was your career path after leaving graduate school? What jobs/experiences helped you transition into your current field? I meandered a lot, and was considering getting out of science after grad school. I felt burnt out and didn't want to think about experiments and bench work for a while. So I spent some time away from the bench - I interned at a scientific publisher and I did a little bit of teaching, but mostly I just spent time reading and trying to think about my future and what I really wanted to do. Ultimately I came back to do a postdoc in a lab that I thought was really cool. Maybe the piece of advice I'd draw from that is to study what interests you! It was ultimately the science that got me going again.
What makes a CV/resume impressive in your field? An interesting research question! Splashy papers are nice, but I'm most impressed by people who work on something that I find interesting, even if that doesn't lead to a lot of papers.
Do most people with your job have a post-doc? If yes, what additional training is acquired in a post doc to make an applicant more successful in this career? A decade or two ago this may not have been the case, but today I don't think we would consider an applicant for a tenure track job that did not have significant postdoc experience. Pursuing and publishing independent research is becoming increasingly important at all small undergraduate institutions. The postdoc experience is not just a training thing - time in a postdoc gets you momentum on an avenue of investigation so that you hit the ground running when you start your lab. That gives you the opportunity to get your results in and your papers out in time for your tenure decision (typically about 7 years in). There are lots of other skills in mentoring and independent thinking that you pick up in a postdoc as well.
Does your job involve travel? If so, please elaborate on approximately how many times a year you might travel and the nature of these trips (ex: workshops, conferences, presentations, etc.) I tend to travel locally (within New England) two to four times a year for smaller regional meetings, presentations, and visits to colleagues. I travel elsewhere in the country around once a year for meetings. I don't tend to travel much internationally, but plenty of folks in my profession do.
What kind of hours do people in your profession usually work? This varies tremendously. Some work 9-5 or even less, others work 80-100 hours a week. (Depending on time management skills, these two sets of people might even get similar amounts of work done!) There is really no 1:1 relationship between hours worked and "success", it is very personal.
What are the most challenging aspects of your job? Time management and people skills. For the first, you need to juggle many little tasks all day every day, while still accomplishing your research/writing goals and having a life. For the second - your students and your colleagues have all kinds of different personalities, and you spend lots of time together!
How much time (if any) are you able to budget for research? My lab studies gene expression in Drosophila. I make it a rule to set foot in my lab every day, even if it is only to set crosses, flip stocks, collect virgins, or chat with staff and students. Time in the lab varies greatly through the year - at the busiest times of the semester, I don't do much more than the above, whereas over breaks and the summer I am free to devote most of the day to research.
What resources are available to you for research? Lab space, start up money, etc? My lab space is roughly 500 square feet, the size of a couple of lab bays. Startup at places like Bowdoin varies greatly, but you might expect funds in the $100k to $200+k range based on my experience and that of other folks I've chatted with about jobs in recent years. Many smaller schools will likely have less funds to offer, however. Schools can also get creative (and can ask you to be creative) on equipment needs, like sharing major equipment, matching grant funds, and so forth.
In terms of other resources, I have everything I need in my lab for molecular biology, fly culture/manipulation, and fluorescence microscopy. The department shares equipment for other things I need like real-time pcr, confocal microscopy, and all the standard stuff you'd need for a molecular lab (-80, ice, nanopure water, etc).
Are there special sources of funding that professors at small colleges can apply for, or do you apply for funding through the normal avenues (NSF, NIH, etc)? PIs in our department typically get funds through the NIH and the NSF. The NSF has a category of funds designed to promote research at primarily undergraduate institutions. In addition, the college provides some support for student research and competitive support for student summer stipends, and also has competitive funding opportunities for limited faculty research funds.
What courses do you normally teach? I teach "3" courses per year. Typically one is at the intro level (either a lecture section of Intro Biology, or a reading/non-majors course on genetics and society), one 2000-level lecture plus lab course on Genetics and Molecular Biology in coordination with a full-time lab instructor, and a senior seminar on Genetics and Epigenetics. I also typically mentor up to 4 or 5 research students in my lab through the academic year and over the summer. One thing to look out for at different liberal arts colleges - the "accounting" of teaching loads varies greatly. At some schools, teaching a certain number of lab sections or a certain number of independent study students can count as a teaching credit, but at others, they don't. So, "2+2" or "3+3" etc. teaching loads may differ greatly from school to school, or they may be basically the same. Check the fine print!
How long have you worked for your current College/University? Did you work at another College/University previously? )? I started at Bowdoin in 2008. This was my first job following a postdoc.