New Faculty Advice

At the New Faculty Colloquium there was a plethora of tips and great advice for people new to the tenure track faculty life. Here I will highlight some of the top tips I heard.

  1. If you are in a department that values grants then it is in your best interest to write 1-2 proposals in your first year. It takes a while to get good at writing proposals and no one gets it on their first try.
  2. Before you go an write a full 15 pg NSF proposal make sure you get some feedback on your idea. You can contact the NSF program director that you think you will send your proposal to, and ask them to give you comments on a 1-2 page summary of your idea. This will help you find the right fit. Also ask mentors in your department or people you trust to read it over.
  3. Be kind to your graduate students, and set clear expectations for your research group. A great quote was “Graduate students are the oil that makes the research engine hum.” Try to remember what it was like when you were a gradate student and make sure you are treating them in a way that you would have wanted to be treated. For example, it is NOT recommended to hold lab meetings on the weekends. People have families, and research breakthroughs often happen when you allow your brain to reset.
  4. Be willing to fail. Don’t be so consumed with fear about the paper not being “good enough” or the proposal not being “novel enough” that you never submit anything. In academia you grow and learn from the comments you get back from your community. It is an iterative process.
  5. Network, network, network. This is very important for tenure, generating ideas, and making collaboration connections. Tips for networking in 5 minutes or less can be found in this blog post.

If you are going to be a junior faculty next year, and want more tips I highly recommend the New Faculty Colloquium. The organizers did a fantastic job!

Note about the author: Destenie Nock holds a PhD in Industrial Engineering an Operations Research from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is a Post-Doc in the Carnegie Mellon Engineering & Public Policy (EPP) Department for 2019, and in 2020 this will transfer to an Assistant Professor position in EPP and Civil and Environmental Engineering. She earned a MSc in Leadership for Sustainable Development at Queen’s University of Belfast, and two BS degrees in Electrical Engineering and Applied Math at North Carolina A&T State University. In her free time she likes to hit the gym, try a new dance class and cook with friends.