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Career Profile: Jon Lewis

Jon Lewis
Photo of Jon Lewis, courtesy of Jon Lewis.

Department of Geoscience, Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Indiana University of Pennsylvania is a predominantly undergraduate state system university (ours is an undergraduate only department).

Jon Lewis is one of the leaders of the 2011 "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 Jon'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.

B.S. Vermont ('83); M.S. Tennessee ('88); 6 years as environmental professional; Ph.D. Connecticut ('98) with Tim Byrne; NSF Earth Science Postdoctoral Fellowship UC Davis ('98 - '01, hosted by Rob Twiss); Adjunct Assistant Professor UMass ('01 - '04); started on tenure track at IUP Fall 2004.


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?

Teaching large (>150 seat) liberal studies classes raises a question: in a setting where student evaluations are important to the tenure & promotion process how am I to maintain high standards for achievement? Setting the mood is a help. I started running my fieldwork iPhoto library on random before class and this had a stunning impact on the students; turning very unengaged audiences into more inquisitive and enthusiastic audiences.


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

For me in an undergrad-only department a key to the transition was being on the lookout for talented first- or second-year students. I lured one into my lab in my first year and trained him to do numerical modeling. This proved very fruitful (student co-authored publication) and I continue to use this strategy.


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?

My goal has always been to provide a research-rich environment for my students. This was not always so at my institution but it was in my Department when I arrived so we were in sync from the start. My university increasingly strives to do likewise and it maintains high standard for excellence in teaching.


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.

Make space in your life for something that provides relief from the grind. Yoga? Cooking? Painting? Something you can do readily. For me it has been running and mountain biking.


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?

The importance of the geoscience community locally and more broadly cannot be overstated. Develop sincere connections and you maximize your chance for synergy.


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