Saturday, April 19, 2014

Holy Schmolly!

     It's been 2.5 years since my last post. The reason? I thought I'll focus on getting a job (tenure-track position) and then make my next post when I do land one. After 6 interviews in 6 different states over 2 years, I finally accepted a tt position that will start this fall.

    For the benefit of anyone who will be applying for a tt position in the future, here is a short list of the most important things I learnt during my tt job search:
  • apply very liberally. You never know what will work out and what won't. But don't apply to places you will never go to. Applying takes time. Look online for job postings in several places: job search engines, professional society websites and science journal job sites.
  • have an excel file of all the places you are applying to, when reference letters are due, application deadline etc.
  • skype/phone interviews: Be well prepared. Read up (online) on what resources the department has, what courses are offered. Have a short pitch ready on what you do and why its important. Finally, they'll ask if you have any questions: always have a couple of good questions ready. It is very important that you nail the skype/phone interview. Very good performance here may influence how they see you in your in-person interview. If its a skype interview with video, dress decently well (perhaps a shirt/sweater), at least from the waist up!
  • job talk: you probably know you should practice it several times. But practice not only involves familiarity with all your slides and content, but also how you talk. Have key sentences within your talk that encapsulate why you are uniquely positioned to address your research problems (with an eye towards the big picture...not just your narrow niche). Repeat some of them (with good voice inflection) at several places in you talk.
  • during your interview, always keep in mind how big the school is and what resources they have. When they ask what you need to do your research in your lab, don't ask for a half a million dollar piece of equipment if its a smaller school. In rare cases, they may be ok with it, but it is more likely to have an adverse effect on your candidacy.
  • even though you have 2 or 3 interviews lined up, keep applying. There is a non-zero chance that all of those interviews won't work out. You may perhaps apply to jobs that more closely match you at this time.
    The above are things which I wish I knew when I started applying. Hope it helps you. I don't know if I'll post here again. In case any souls in the interwebs still look at this blog, I want to say "good luck with whatever you are pursuing in your life!"

Friday, November 4, 2011

Grown-up stuff

Wow, it’s been a while since I had a post! It was not that I was too busy to post. I guess I just didn’t get around to it. Also, perhaps having a kid can keep you slightly preoccupied at home :]

I’ve been thinking about ‘grown up stuff’ a bit…you know, getting a job and such. I recently submitted an NIH K99 app this Oct cycle. I initially thought I’ll apply for a tenure-track position next fall. I also want to get a job in a particular region. Turns out that a couple of positions have opened up in schools in the region I prefer…so I’m thinking if I should apply to a couple of places this fall itself to get (i) to see if I’ll get an interview in the first place, (ii) some practice interviewing and (iii) a job, maybe!

One of the issues is…even though the chance of getting the K99 is small, if one does get it, one should not have a TT offer at that time…given that going into a TT position with k99 in hand is better than without it, should I wait and see what happens to the k99 and then apply next fall? It’s not just about money either. The additional training can only help. On the other hand, people say it’s always better to apply early to TT positions. So, I guess I’ll most likely apply to 2 or 3 places this time, which means I should get the research and teaching statements done real soon.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Auditing with undergrads

I’m auditing an undergrad class that deals with a topic I’m quite interested in. It is taught by a very good lecturer – apparently, she has won teaching awards every year for 20-odd years. I sometimes wonder what it takes for a lecturer to be a consistent hit among students. I at least know why this particular lecturer is liked by most. Almost everything she says in class is given as a well-written handout. She has 2 different powerpoint slides projected (on separate screens, using separate projectors) *at the same time*. For instance, the left slide is for some main points while the right slide is for examples etc. I think hers is a teaching (and not a research) appointment, and I guess that helps – that way, one can afford to be this elaborate in teaching.

I’m most comfortable just sitting in the last row and being all inconspicuous (I think). Mostly because I feel a bit weird sitting among kids who are like a decade younger. Some of the students bring laptops to class and have it open. I assumed that most of them take notes with it and such. But at any instant I’ve glanced at any screen, I just see either facebook or twitter or some such site. Of course, it’s the student’s choice and all, but I can’t help but think that without the interwebular distraction, there is at least a better chance that they’ll pay attention to the lecturer. But then, there always seems to be a fraction of students who aren’t into the lecture no matter what.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Saturday, March 5, 2011


When I was in grad school, I can't recall a single time when I worried about getting scooped. Mostly because we were the only lab studying a particular protein using a particularly esoteric technique. So, the results were unique - we could look at things no one else was looking at. So much so that I didn't even know what the proper meaning of 'scooping' was. I thought it refers to a situation where someone learns what you are about to do and then does (publishes) it before you. It was only much later that I realized that it refers to the act of getting beaten to publishing something, whether or not the competing group knows what you are upto - so, it's competitive but not necessarily malicious.

On thinking about (and getting exposed to the risk of) getting scooped, one thing I realized is that, very often, it is not as bad as it is made out to be. Of course, not getting scooped at all may be ideal...but in reality, lots of people gravitate towards 'hot' topics, and one is bound to have competing groups working on similar problems more often than not. But it turns out that, most likely, different groups have different takes on the same problem. When I was writing my paper (from my postdoc work) several months ago, a paper (in a prominent journal) from another group came out that used a simple but key idea that we had also independently arrived at. But the 'flavors' of our problems and our attacks on them were quite different. The main result was also completely different. Some (well-intentioned) people, who falsely assumed that the key idea we implemented was all that there was to the work, told me that it was a setback for us. Later, it turned out that the reviewers didn't have the slightest concern that someone else had used a similar idea before. They focussed on the way we implemented the idea, what the results were and what it's implications were to the field. It even got accepted in the same journal.

I am no saint and I do have my concerns about getting scooped, but it appears that it is not as much as a setback as it's made out to be. The above does not apply to some studies like, say, publishing the genome of organism x or the mutation that is responsible for some disease. But even in those cases, it's not all or none. One can do a more rigorous analysis of the genome or something else that can make the paper really good, if not 'totally new'. At the end of the day, there is the risk of scooped. One can, may be, avoid people who are 'malicious scoopers' (if at all that is possible). Otherwise, I guess we just get scooped a little, inadvertently scoop a little, and enjoy the science.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Ok, this didn't happen to me - but imagining this scenario cracks me up...