Frequently Asked Questions about Teaching, Research, and the Job Search
Each year, we ask our workshop participants to identify their top questions about a career in academia, specifically in the areas of teaching, research, and the job search process. Below are a few of the most frequently asked questions with links to web pages with the answers.
Jump down to questions about research or the job search process.
How can I engage students, especially non-majors, in learning geoscience?
How do I teach large classes?
Large classes can be daunting to teach and come with a unique set of challenges, including engaging students and dealing with assessment on a large scale. It's such a popular topic that we have a "site guide," or list of links to relevant SERC web resources, specifically for teaching large classes
How do I design a course from scratch?
The idea of having to design a course from scratch can be overwhelming, especially if you're new to an academic career. This is such an important topic that we have a course design tutorial
to walk you through the process from start to finish.
How do I design and/or teach courses outside my area of expertise?
Whether a course is in your area of expertise or not, the place to begin the process of course design is the course design tutorial
. Presumably, you will also have to do some research into the topic in question. If it's a topic commonly taught within the geoscience curriculum, you'll find many helpful resources on the topical pages linked from the On the Cutting Edge
How do I prepare lectures and how much time should be spent on this?
The Daily Class Planning
web page offers useful tips and a worksheet on how to plan effective lectures efficiently. The usual rule of thumb is that you should spend no more than two hours preparing each one-hour lecture.
What are effective methods for assessing student learning?
How do I incorporate research into teaching?
One way to engage students in lecture material and to show real-world applications for course material is to incorporate research into the classroom. This can range from simply describing the results of current research to discussing journal articles on current research to having students conduct research
as part of a course. Greg Hancock, at the College of William and Mary, also has an effective way to incorporate research into his teaching
. It may also be useful to incorporate teaching about the process of science
into your courses.
How do I teach students who have weak math skills?
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How do I come up with new research project ideas?
Advice on moving beyond your dissertation
is available, and includes tips on bringing your research to a new setting and links to resources about how to develop new ideas for research.
How many research projects / grants / publications are enough?
For almost any question about how much is enough, the answer varies by institution. There is no one-size-fits-all answer; you'll have to ask your colleagues, particularly members of the Promotion and Tenure committee on your campus.
What should I expect in terms of start-up money?
Information about negotiating start-up funds is available from the Negotiating
web page. More specific advice from Tim Bralower, from Pennsylvania State University, based on a presentation given at the 2005 Preparing for an Academic Career Workshop can be found on the Negotiation Advice
Where and when do I begin looking for research funds?
How do I set up/start a lab from scratch?
Setting up your Lab
guides you through the process of starting your lab and obtaining equipment. In addition, Moving your Research Forward
provides a helpful starting point for finding information about how to move beyond your dissertation research.
How do I increase my writing/publishing efficiency?
How do I balance time between teaching, research, service/outreach, and a personal life?
Job Search Process
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Where and when do I start looking for a job?
How do I know whether academia is right for me?
If I don't fit the job description exactly, should I still apply?
If you think you are qualified for the position described, you may as well apply. If you're not sure whether you meet the requirements, you can contact the chair of the search committee for clarifications of their expectations.
How can I make my application stand out?
An application for highly qualified candidates who fit the school, program, and job description will stand out the most. However, one important thing you can do to is to follow the directions in the advertisement. For information on each piece of your application, see Assembling your Application
What should I expect during the interview?
Our web pages on interviewing
include extensive information on preparing for an interview, advice on preparing research and teaching presentations, examples of interview questions, and more.
How do I know which institution will be a good fit for me?
Beginning your Search
includes a section of links to resources that can help you choose what kinds of institutions you are likely to enjoy.
What should I expect for salary, start up, and benefits, and how do I negotiate?
How does one deal with dual career issues and the two-body situation?