Career Profile: Barbara Tewksbury
Hamilton College is a private four-year institution, primarily undergraduate.
Click on a topic to read Barbara Tewksbury's answer to an individual question, or scroll down to read the entire profile: Educational background and career path * Current job responsibilities * Best part of the job * Challenges and strategies * Qualifications * Balancing work and life * Advice
Briefly describe your educational background and career path.
I've been involved for more than 15 years at the national level in efforts to improve undergraduate geoscience education. I've been PI or co-PI on seven NSF-DUE grants, including all of the grants for On the Cutting Edge, and my passions are innovative course design and effective teaching strategies.
For about 10 years, the bulk of my scholarly activity was focused on pedagogy. About five years ago, my scholarly activity moved back to include more geologic research. For the past five years, I've conducted research in Iceland on the origin of deformation bands in subglacial volcanic rocks and their role in collapse of subglacial edifices. I have also recently begun three major projects in the Western Desert of Egypt in collaboration with several Egyptian and American colleagues. I am lead PI on an NSF grant for three years of field work In Egypt and am just beginning a collaborative project to build LiDAR capacity in Egypt. I also work with NASA on geologic training for the current NASA astronaut candidates and on analog field tests for future lunar exploration.
Briefly describe your current job responsibilities, perhaps by describing a typical day, week, or semester.
Teaching consumes much of my time during the academic year. The reality is that I do most of my research during the summer and in concentrated spurts during the academic year before deadlines of various kinds (grant and report deadlines, professional meetings, etc.).
What do you like best about your work?
What is the most challenging aspect of your work? What strategies have you developed for tackling that challenge?
What qualifications do you think made you competitive in your job search(es)?
Many of the graduate students and post-doctoral fellows in these workshops are interested in balancing a family and career, in dual career couple issues, and in how other personal choices affect the search for a fulfilling career. Please share information about your situation, your ideas and experiences.
What advice do you have for graduate students or post-docs preparing for academic careers in geoscience? What do you know now that you wish you had known as you started your career?
- If you want a position at an institution whose mission stresses teaching, get real teaching experience ("pilot-in-command-time", not just TA or fill-in lecturer) before you put yourself on the job market.
- Be broad-minded about searching for an academic position – no one type of institution has the "Holy Grail" of academic positions. Know yourself, and know what you are willing to put up with and what you want an institution to value.
- Do your homework before an interview – learn about the department and the institution, figure out what their strengths are and what is important to them, and know where the institution is (I kid you not – some interviewees don't know this...).
- When you are interviewing, remember that there are no "off" times – potential employers will judge you during every minute you are with them.
- Make time for yourself and the people who are important to you.
- Do not waste time reinventing the wheel – find out what others have done, and adopt or adapt.
- Learn something about how people learn and about teaching strategies that optimize student learning. Get over the idea that "coverage" and "exposure" guarantee learning.
- Move past your dissertation/postdoc work as quickly as you can to document that you can develop new research avenues and carry them to completion.
- Find collaborators for your research work, but be sure to have something that you can point to as your own.
- Develop a (realistic!) two-year plan and a five-year plan, and update them every year. Be sure that you are crystal clear on what the expectations are at your institution.
- Learn how to work with difficult people and to stand up for yourself while maintaining civility and collegiality.