A happy ending to a tenure-track job search

Note from Jeremy: This is a guest post from Greg Crowther.

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Previously I have whined about the difficulties of getting a good, stable college teaching job.  This whining is perhaps justified by the extremely low supply of these jobs relative to the demand.  But since almost everyone, including me, likes happy endings, I now wish to present a happy ending.  That’s right – I have received and accepted an offer for an ongoing full-time position.  At the age of 44, I have finally climbed aboard the tenure track.

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Please help me identify ecologists hired as tenure-track assistant profs in the 2016-17 faculty job season (UPDATED)

Last fall, I compiled data on the gender balance of over 170 newly-hired assistant professors of ecology and allied fields at N. American colleges and universities. The results were good news: 53% of N. American assistant professors of ecology hired in 2015-16 (or in a few cases in 2014) were women.

This year I’m doing it again. To make it easier, I’m asking for your help. This Google Docs spreadsheet lists all tenure-track positions in ecology and allied fields (plus a bunch of other positions) advertised in the 2016-17 job season. If you know who was hired to fill one or more of the listed N. American assistant professor positions in ecology or an allied field, please email me with this information (jefox@ucalgary.ca).

Before you email me, please read the following:

I only want information that’s been made publicly available, for instance via an official announcement on a departmental website, or by someone tweeting something like “I’ve accepted a TT job at Some College, I start Aug. 1!” If you want to pass on the information that you yourself have been hired into a faculty position, that’s fine too. All you’re doing is saving me from googling publicly-available information myself to figure out who was hired for which positions. Please do not contact me to pass on confidential information, in particular confidential information about hiring that has not yet been totally finalized.

Please do not contact me with nth-hand “information” you heard through the grapevine. Not even if you’re confident it’s reliable.

I’m only interested in N. American tenure-track asst. professors who are “ecologists”, broadly defined. That basically means:

  • anybody hired into a position with “ecology” or an ecological term in the job title (including positions like “evolutionary ecology”, “paleoecology”, “biodiversity”, etc.)
  • anybody hired into a position in a closely-allied fields like conservation biology, wildlife, fisheries, rangelands, etc.
  • people who are ecologists, but who were hired into broadly-defined positions such as “biologist”, “plant biologist”, “vertebrate biologist”, etc. A substantial proportion of academic ecologists hold those sorts of broadly-defined positions, so it would be weird not to include them.

If in doubt, contact me with the information and let me decide whether to count the hire in question as an “ecology” hire.

I’m interested in positions at all institutions of higher education, not just research universities. Even if the position is a pure teaching position with no research duties.

UPDATE: I emphasize that I’m only looking for hires at the assistant professor level. Hires at higher ranks are senior people moving from one faculty position to another, which isn’t relevant for my purposes.

Thanks in advance for any help you can provide.

Does gender influence when people first apply for faculty jobs?

A couple of months ago, a reader of the blog sent me an email containing a figure she’d made from this year’s ecology job wiki, using data from the “anonymous qualifications” sheet. That figure suggested that women might be waiting longer than men to start applying for tenure track jobs — or, more specifically, that men might be more likely that women to apply for faculty positions while still in grad school or within the first year after getting their PhD. After recreating the figure myself and also looking at the 2015-2016 job wiki and finding a similar pattern, I decided to do a poll to see whether this pattern held up with more data. Results are below, but the quick summary is that women do not seem to be waiting longer to apply for faculty positions (at least based on the poll data).

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Poll: What determines when people start applying for tenure track jobs?

A recent conversation I had — starting with a postdoc (not one of mine) and then continuing with others — has me curious about the factors that influence when people start applying for tenure track jobs. I’ve created a poll to try to get insight into those factors. Please fill out this poll if you have considered applying for tenure track positions (or their equivalents in other countries), even if you haven’t actually applied for any yet. I’ll leave the poll open for a few days, and hope to have a post with results appear some time next week.

Update: For the questions, if you applied/got an interview/got an offer before getting your PhD, choose “0”. If you applied/got an interview/got an offer after getting your PhD, but within a year of getting your PhD, please choose “1”.

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You can’t estimate your odds of getting a faculty job from common quantitative metrics (UPDATED)

The 2016-17 ecology & evolution jobs compilation includes a spreadsheet on which anonymous job seekers can list some common quantitative metrics summarizing their qualifications. Year of PhD, number of years as a postdoc, number of peer-reviewed publications (first-authored and total), h-index, number of major grants held, and number of courses taught (not counting TA positions). Job seekers also can list the number of positions for which they’ve applied this year, the number of interviews they’ve received (phone/skype and on-campus), some personal attributes such as gender, and other information. The purpose presumably is to allow job seekers to determine how competitive they are for faculty positions.

As of Dec. 19, 2016, 73 people had listed their information. Not a massive sample of current ecology & evolution job seekers. Also surely a statistically-biased sample in various ways. But it’s many more current job seekers than anyone not currently sitting on a search committee is likely to have personal knowledge of. So I checked how well quantitative metrics like number of publications and h-index predict the number of interviews job seekers receive. For comparison, I also compiled data on the h-indices of 84 North American ecologists recently hired as assistant professors.

Faculty job seekers understandably want any information they can get on how competitive they are. But how competitive any given individual is for any given position depends on many factors, many of which are only captured coarsely or not at all by common quantitative metrics. You can’t put numbers on fit to the position, quality of your science, strength of your reference letters, and so on. So I suspect that many job seekers tend to overrate the importance to search committees of things you can put numbers on: publication count, h-index, etc. It’s an instance of “looking under the streetlight”. Hence my question: Can you estimate your odds of being interviewed for, or obtaining, a faculty position in ecology and evolution just from common quantitative metrics?

Short answer: No. For the details, read on.

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The teaching job that slipped through my fingers, and what I learned from that experience

Note from Jeremy: This is a guest post from my friend, biologist Greg Crowther. Thanks very much to Greg for being brave enough to share some personal experiences and advice that I’m sure will resonate with many readers. Thanks as well to Greg for only sharing non-embarrassing anecdotes about our time together as undergrads. 🙂

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This blog has featured fascinating personal stories (from Jeremy and Carla) on the often-long, sometimes-quixotic quest for a traditional faculty job.

Today I’d like to add another job-search saga to the pile – this one focused on teaching-focused positions – and to extract some lessons, if possible.

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Helping grad students pursue non-academic careers: advice from Anne Krook

I recently attended a “lunch and learn” session at my university on how to talk to graduate students about non-academic careers. The session was led by Anne Krook, who spent seven years as a professor at Michigan before moving on to a successful career at Amazon and other companies. What follows are my edited notes from the session. Any errors, omissions, etc. are mine.

We also have a series of guest posts from ecologists who’ve gone on to non-academic careers, the first of which is here (and as an aside, if today’s post is at all of interest to you–and frankly, even if it’s not–you should do yourself a favor and read that old post as well. Seriously. Read it. Leading candidate for best post we’ve ever published.)

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Formatting a CV for a faculty job application

One thing I think blogs can be useful for is providing information that ideally a mentor would provide, but that, for whatever reason, doesn’t always end up being provided. Some examples from our blog include how to suggest reviewers, how to respond to reviewers, and how to review a manuscript for a journal. Here, I will focus on how to format one’s CV when applying for a faculty position. Update 8/26/16: To be clear: I write this from the perspective of a scientist at an American research university. All of my search committee experience is on searches related to ecology and evolutionary biology.

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#UMichEEB is doing a search for three new ecology faculty!

Come join Meg at UMich! We’re searching for three tenure track assistant professors in ecology (specifically ecosystem ecology, population & community ecology, and theoretical ecology). To answer one common question: yes, you can apply for more than one of the positions. The formal ad and the link for application is below the break.

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Tenure track teaching faculty position in invertebrate biology at University of Calgary

The Dept. of Biological Sciences at the University of Calgary is hiring a full-time tenure track Instructor in invertebrate biology. Instructors at Calgary are faculty whose primary duty is undergraduate teaching (as distinct from what Calgary calls “professorial-stream” faculty like me, who have heavier research duties). We’re looking for someone with broad training, who can teach both field- and lab-based courses integrating systematics, behavior, ecology, and physiology. Expertise in aquatic inverts would be a plus. The successful candidate would teach a range of courses at both introductory and advanced levels.

You need a Ph.D. in zoology. The ideal candidate would also have post-doctoral experience, teaching experience, and broad knowledge of biological pedagogy.

Application deadline is Apr. 30, 2016. Here’s the full ad, with details of how to apply.

A bit more background info and some personal commentary:

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