EEB and MB Graduate Student Organizations

Name: Muir Eaton


Job title: Associate Professor/Curator of Vertebrates

University: Drake University

Approximately how many tenure track biology faculty are there at your college/university? 10

Describe a typical week: A typical week is hard to describe, and varies a bit depending on the semester, but I am in the classroom in some capacity for about 12 hours per week, with an additional 5-6 office hours per week. Time outside of the classroom is then split among various meetings, depending on committees that I participate on (IACUC, or University Faculty Council, as examples), as well as bi-weekly faculty meetings (Bio Dept), meeting with students for help with course work (usually during office hours), advising meetings (more frequent around registration times), working with students on research, and working on research myself, and class prep. Time needed for class preparation can vary substantially given the semester, as teaching a new course or lab activity might require up to 8+ hours for each lecture.

What were your graduate studies in? What aspects of your graduate training do you feel have made you more successful in your position? I did my graduate work at the University of Minnesota, Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior Department. Given that my career goals were to be at a smaller, liberal arts focused (i.e., teaching focused) institution, I would say the most helpful training was seeking teaching experience beyond TA positions. Hence, I applied for adjunct positions at colleges nearby University of Minnesota during my graduate time. Luckily, I had an advisor that was supportive of these experiences, as they certainly took time away from my research effort. Gaining experience preparing a course as the 'professor' was invaluable in making me a top candidate for my current position, as well as giving me an understanding of what would be needed for designing and teaching my own courses.

What was your career path after leaving graduate school? What jobs/experiences helped you transition into your current field? I did a 3-year post-doc at KU, during which I was offered my current position. I have already described some experiences that helped with my transition to my current position, but the post-doc was also invaluable in giving me time to expand my research program, accumulate more publications, etc.

What aspects of graduate training were most helpful in preparing you for your current position? Experience teaching a course beyond TA positions, or guest lecturing.

What makes a CV/resume impressive in your field? Most people that are being interviewed for positions at my institution do have post-doc experience. Although more research experience is likely contributing to success for people coming to a place like Drake, what is most important is some demonstration that teaching is a passion, and success at teaching have been achieved. If these can be part of the post-doc experience, then you are more likely to emerge as a top candidate for open positions at smaller colleges/universities.

Does your job involve travel? Yes, but finding the time to do these things is a big challenge.

What are the most challenging aspects of your job? Balancing time among being an outstanding teacher, mentoring undergraduates in research, securing funding, and conducting research.

What is the salary range for your position/career? Varies widely.

What do you like most/least about your career? Teaching has always been a passion of mine, and the is what I like most about my position, inspiring undergraduates to be excited about biology, and more specifically evolutionary biology. I also very much enjoy that I am able to build and curate an ornithology collection, although this of course, requires more balance of my time! What I like least about my career, is that at times, I feel the pressure to succeed in research at the same, or similar levels, to R-1 institution expectations, while teaching 2-3 times as many courses.

Do you have any other useful advice for graduate students interested in your field that hasn't been covered yet? I have said this a few times in answers above, but I cannot stress enough that getting good teaching experience is essential to be considered for a position at an institution like Drake.

Are there postdoctoral opportunities at your College/University? No.

How much time (if any) are you able to budget for research? This also really varies depending on the semester, and often comes and goes in burst of available time. That is, there are periods during a semester when I have no time to devote to research, and other periods where I might be able to dedicate 10+ hours in a week to research.

What resources are available to you for research? Lab space, start up money, etc? I have a dedicated laboratory, and I had three years of start up money ($10,000/yr). There are some internal grants available to support undergraduate research projects, or undergraduate participation in larger research projects.

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)? I think both NSF and NIH have specific grants targeted towards researchers at smaller colleges/universities, although I have not pursued these funding sources. Often looking for local and regional sources of funding can be good avenues to support research, but of course, this will depend on your field and research needs. The more expensive your research program, the more difficult it could be to support it, simply because of the constraints placed on your time for grant writing (see below).

What courses do you normally teach? Part of Intro Biology, Evolution, Ornithology, Vertebrate Biology, Senior Capstone Experience, and Museum Curation. Teaching load is 9 contact hours per semester, which generally equates to either 3 lecture-only courses, or 2 lecture courses, one with a lab (our lab hours count equal to lecture hours in terms of contact hours mentioned above. This is somewhat unusual, as lab contact hours are often counted as some fraction of lecture contact hours, depending on the institution.) I teach my Museum Curation course voluntarily, i.e., it does not count towards my total contact hours. I also teach a J-term course, Avian Winter Ecology, which I do for extra compensation and is an optional teaching assignment.

Do you have other obligations at your job (ex: administrative duties)? It is usually optional if you want to take on administrative duties.

How long have you worked for your current College/University? Did you work at another College/University previously? 8 years. I did two different adjunct teaching positions, each for a semester at small liberal arts colleges (during my time as a graduate student), and a 3-year post-doc at KU.

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