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Early Career Geoscience Faculty: Teaching, Research, and Managing Your Career
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Career Profile: Rachel Beane

Rachel Beane. Photo courtesy of Rachel Beane and Bowdoin College.

Department of Geology, Bowdoin College

Bowdoin College is a liberal arts college.

Rachel Beane is one of the leaders of the 2014 "Early Career Geoscience Faculty" Workshop. Prior to the workshop, we asked each of the leaders to describe their careers, for the benefit of workshop participants, by answering the questions below.

Click on a topic to read Rachel's answer to an individual question, or scroll down to read the entire profile: Educational background and career path * Early teaching challenges * Research transition * Institutional fit * Balancing responsibilities * Advice for new faculty


Briefly describe your educational background and career path.

I received a BA in geology from Williams College and a PhD from Stanford University (dissertation on metamorphic petrology). I started teaching directly after graduate school at a M.S. granting university. I left one year later to teach undergraduates at Bowdoin College.


What were some of the challenges you faced in your early years of full-time teaching? Could you briefly describe how you overcame one of those challenges?

Designing courses and writing grants can be so time and energy consuming. Early on, I worked long hours ("midnight office hours"). I enjoyed what I was doing, but at times it was exhausting. Being able to build on, or modify, courses that I previously designed and coming to appreciate that I cannot make every lecture or assignment 'perfect' has helped me to overcome some of these time and energy challenges.


How did you make the transition from your Ph.D. research to your current research program?

My Ph.D. research was based on field work in the Ural Mountains, and microprobe and geochronologic laboratory work. These did not translate directly into research at a liberal arts college. When I moved to Maine, I took time to explore its geology and began new projects with undergraduates. I also established a Scanning Electron Microscopy laboratory with EDS and EBSD capabilities. I funded Maine-based research and the laboratory set-up through two NSF-CCLI grants and one NSF-MRI grant.


An essential component of achieving tenure is finding or making an alignment of your teaching/research goals with the goals of your institution.... How do your goals fit with those of your institution? Did you adjust your goals to achieve that fit? If so, how?

I chose to work at a liberal arts college that fit my goals as a teacher and researcher. I have felt well supported and have not felt a need to realign these goals.


Many of the new faculty members in these workshops are interested in maintaining a modicum of balance while getting their careers off to a strong start. Please share a strategy or strategies that have helped you to balance teaching, research, and your other work responsibilities, OR balance work responsibilities with finding time for your personal life.

My top priority is my family, including two young children whom I adore. My teaching and research also are very important to me. My husband has helped me greatly in learning to find balance and being ok with enjoying personal life and working less. For work responsibilities, I strive to be as efficient as possible, to prioritize demands, and to say 'no' more often. As a result, I've missed evening events, been absent from conferences, chatted less with colleagues, and done fewer field projects. At home, as a family, we take care to enjoy our time together and to take vacations that enable us to get away from work responsibilities.


What advice do you have for faculty beginning academic careers in geoscience? What do you know now that you wish you had known as you started your career in academia?

  1. Prioritize: consider what you need to do, yourself, both personally and professionally. As a new faculty member, try to focus your time and energy on the things that matter most.
  2. There are always multiple ways to do research and to teach a course; sometimes you just need to pick one, and go with it.
  3. Be patient and be compassionate with yourself, your students, and your colleagues. Allow yourself to enjoy what you have chosen to do, bringing enthusiasm to your research, your teaching and your life.

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