Science woman addresses professor workweeks


I wanted to share this post by ScienceWoman, because it addresses an issue that many of us young scientists are concerned with. The post is this: Ask ScienceWoman: What are your work hours? Can I be a professor part time?

One thing that sciencewoman doesn’t talk about is being a professor at an institution that is not as research oriented.  I’m sure the workweeks are still pretty busy at a place where your teaching load is 3 or 4 courses a semester, but there are other options as well.  A woman I know somewhat is a science professor at a 4-year institution that caters to students such as those who are the first from their family to go to college.  It is teaching focused, but she has lab space and is encouraged to work on research as well.  I do not think she got much research money as part of her start-up package, so she is responsible for finding her own funding for research, and teaching is definitely the main thing.  She is also a mom, and the last time I spoke to her I thought she said she was going to campus maybe 3 or 4 days a week.  I’m pretty sure her daughter is not in full-time daycare.  I wish I knew more about her situation, because it seems very appealing to me, but she is the wife of one of my husband’s long-time friends, and I don’t see her that often.  But I just wanted to talk about this a little bit, to flesh out some more of the options that I believe are out there for people like the one who wrote to sciencewoman.

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6 thoughts on “Science woman addresses professor workweeks

  1. I have a good friend who is a first year assist prof at a small 4-year university. She only has to be on campus when she is teaching or has office hours. She teaches 2-4 courses a semester (I’m not sure how many) so she can be home with her baby quite a lot. She is encouraged to apply for external funding and if she gets it, she gets released from a proportional amount of teaching. The school has a religious affiliation, so she even gets work credit for going to church! My friend has a 1-year-old and hasn’t defended her diss yet, so I think it was a big adjustment when she first started. Now she says it’s almost like working part time, but the pay is commensurate (i.e. it doesn’t pay especially well). If one’s goal is teaching, this is a great gig.

    BTW, I like your new template a lot.

  2. To me, that sounds just right for when I have small children. The problem, however, is that I wonder if that’s just right once my kids are grown up, and how much room there is to move around if that’s the route you go. But in general I think it sounds great – I imagine I could just put a little more into research once my kids got a little older, and that I’d try to have one project going at all times, but probably only one at a time until my kids are a little older.

  3. That sounds like a nice option. However…I thought that was exactly what I was getting into when I took this position. It is a teaching institution that also caters to students who are the first in their family to attend college. Our teaching loads are the equivalent to 4/4 (slightly different for me, as I teach lab classes). I have a toddler, and an infant, and I am about mid-way to the tenure year, just for background.

    I work as many hours as my postdoc advisor at an R1 did. It’s just that, instead of research, my hours are spent honing my teaching (good), trying to set up an undergraduate research program with NO funding support (frustrating, but so far rewarding), and sitting on myriad committees (some good, but many pointless and frustrating). I teach 4 days/week, but because I have no lab prep help, my “day off” is spent prepping labs. Oh, and because it is a small campus, we are expected to have “out of class” interaction with the students, which means attending after-hours events, etc.

    I don’t mind doing the work, but what I do mind is the inequity. The senior faculty here got tenure under very different requirements (“professional development” meant going to a conference in-state every so often, not even presenting), and so they don’t quite get it. Then there are the Golden Boys. These two gentlemen also have young children, and they take their days off at home, to spend with their families. They are lauded for this–in fact, such an arrangement was suggested in one of their review letters–while the extra workload is being placed on the female faculty–several of whom have children of their own, but some who don’t. These guys also NEVER attend events after hours, and sometimes refuse to attend meetings on their “days off”. A blind eye is turned to this, and in fact, they’re lauded for being SuperDads. It is incredibly frustrating, but ultimately the rewards of this job outweigh the frustrations (so far).

    I am not trying to be negative or discouraging. On the upside, I have a lot of flexibility–if I need to be at a doctor’s appointment, I can.leave and not answer to anyone. I’ve had senior faculty members babysit at my house when I had a sick kiddo but HAD to get to class. So, there are positives as well. I would just say to job -seekers…try to get as realistic a view of how the atmosphere is at your potential campus, because my situation is very different from what I was sold when I interviewed. I like it, in some ways, but it is difficult in others.

  4. Thanks for the great details, biofemme! I’m sorry it’s not quite what you had in mind, but it does sound like it has its positives too. I would be really annoyed about the Golden Boys – are they at the same spot in their careers as you? Have you had any opportunity to address your concerns with others in the department?

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