Helping the Minoritized Achieve in Academic Science

Archive for July, 2013

Networking On Campus

Networking should not just be done off campus, at conferences and other professional gatherings. Your on-campus network is just as important (maybe more so) than your off campus. Most of us are tenure track at research or small schools where your department, college, dean, and provost will have a say on if you get to stay after your tenure decision. Make sure these people know who you are and have a positive opinion of you before your tenure case comes before them. Below are a few ways you can do them. Again, you can go the in your face, PublicityWhore route, or you can be subtle or discreet. Just don’t be too subtle that they don’t notice you.

Get a group. I don’t mean a scientific group, I mean an EveryOtherThursday Group. This is a group of like-minded women to whom you can talk openly and honestly about the challenges of this job and who will give you feedback and advise.  We have several of these on campus. My group has a number of very senior women, mid-career women, and junior women. Your group doesn’t have to be just women, but there are definitely issues that women face that men are oblivious to (too many to list here, and we will get to them – eventually). The group should be supportive and problem-solving – not just a bitch-session group, although that is useful too. The senior women in my group have helped immensely with navigating my early career, academic politics of the university, and they were supportive of my tenure case at the college-wide level in a number of ways.

Go to lunch. Invite random people to lunch routinely from within your department and outside. This is another part of that bonding over science and personal information to form friendships. This is called “being collegial,” and it makes you look like part of the team. If people in your department go running, biking, hiking, or to the gym together, join in with that. Be part of the team. Do not exclude yourself.

Go to lunch with senior faculty. The year before my tenure packet went in, I had a series of lunches with influential senior men in my department. Your know who they are. If you don’t – pay attention in faculty meetings: which members of the department do people always listen to or credit with ideas? Those are the people who are respected. If people roll their eyes when someone senior is talking, don’t go to them. When I invited them to lunch, I specifically told them that I wanted to talk about my tenure case with them, to make sure I was on the right track and would be fine. At lunch, I laid out the path to tenure as I saw it. I had 6-9 months left until my packet went in, I had this many papers out, this many in the pipeline to publication. I was working with this many students, postdocs, undergrads. I did not bring up negatives, but only positives. My goal: get these men on my side. They are the movers of the department, the wise elders that people listen to. I didn’t want there to be any surprises at tenure time, and I wanted any one of them to be able to present my case as if they knew it by heart.

Be seen at conferences. This is not about off-campus mentoring, so why am I brining up conferences? Well, when you go to a conference, you will likely have other people from your department, college, university at the same conference. Be visible to your institutional colleagues. Make sure they see you are giving a talk or a poster. Make sure they see you out and about at the meeting talking and networking. Much like going to lunch, this is also part of being collegial. I have seen someone not get tenure because someone in his department said, “I never saw him at that conference, so I assume he was just in his hotel room.” Of course that is irrational and stupid reason to destroy someone’s career, but it happens. Make sure it doesn’t happen to YOU.

Respond to emails. This is hard because we all get bogged down with stuff and can’t always respond right away, but when your on-campus collegaues send an email – respond!

Do your part. When working with others on non-service tasks, do a good job. For instance, if a big multi-PI grant is being assembled, and they assign you a task, do it well and in a timely manner. Yes, your chances of getting it may be slim, and it it may seem like a waste of time, but you need to be part of the team. If you are doing service, there are some times when you should work really hard and do a great job and other times when you should half-ass it. Of course, do your work that you are assigned, but don’t spend too much of your precious time. Example1: you are working on the admissions committee reviewing files. Do have all your files read and commented on by the deadline. Don’t spend 6 hours on 3 files – spend 20 minutes on each, giving your impressions. There will be a discussion, and you will have time to go back and re-evluate if your quick scan was too cursory. Example2: You are serving on a student’s qualifying committee with 2 senior people from other departments. Do respond to emails and be at the committee meeting for the student on time. Don’t be so hard to track down that the senior person heading the committee has to ask your senior colleagues if you are traveling. That makes you look bad both out of department and within.

Write lots of grants. At my university, every time I write a grant, my chair signs off and my dean signs off. That means that my dean sees my name about 5-10 times per year in the context of research and grant writing. This is a positive. My name is associated with grants and money and research – all positive. In this environment of no money, you shouldn’t ned much motivation to write lots of grants, but this added self-promotion may help you get a few more out and across people’s desks.

Are there other specific suggestions for networking on campus? It is a long-term thing, so start early – you can’t save it all for the last minute. Please guest post or comment!


One really important part of coming up for tenure, and actually every part of your job as an academic, even after tenure, is networking. I personally enjoy networking and chatting with people in my field. Good science ideas come out of it, and most of the people are actually fun to talk to. Plus, it helps remove feelings of isolation that can often come on in this job – especially if you are “the only one” in your subfield in your department of university. Talking with experts in your field to get them excited about your work is very satisfying. Bonus: what if that person is on a grant panel or one of your letter writers? Getting them excited about you and your work predisposes them favorably to you. I will have two posts on networking: (1) Networking off campus (like at a conference) and (2) Networking on campus.

Networking off campus. I am sitting at a small research conference in the middle of nowhere, so this is on my mind now. I am actually employing these skills in many of my conversations right now!

Sometimes it can be scary, but stay positive. If you are giving a talk or just chatting and someone who is very negative to you, try to stay positive. Ask them more questions about their opinion and tell them that your goal is to do great science and their opinion is important. This often diffuses the person because they realize that you value their opinion. If they are really negative, ask them to become your ally. I say, “We have some new stuff we are going to submit, would you mind reading it for us?” This often works and makes them a colleague instead of a competitor. Many times, if he/she is an honorable person who is just a good scientist/hard-ass, they will help you. And, if they get called to review the paper, they will not review it because they have already commented and had input, so reviewing would be a conflict of interest. If you worry they might still review it, thank them in the acknowledgements and make sure the editor knows that they had input on it, and they won’t be asked.  If they are really a meanypants, they might refuse to help you. If they do this in front of other people, they will get a bad reputation as a jerk, so most people who care about being liked won’t do this.

Show off unpublished work. This is also scary, and I know you can be afraid of being scooped, but sometimes you have to risk it. When you show off work at a meeting in a talk or poster, there is the added bonus of marking your territory on a problem. You also need to put yourself out there with the right group. This is especially important if you are changing fields. For instance, if you are switching from Astrobiology to Physical Chemistry, you cannot only talk to Astrobiologists. You must talk to Physical Chemists and get their opinions on your work. This is the group that will judge you, so they need to get to know you. It is easier for them to do that in person at a conference than when they review your proposal or write you a letter for tenure. Show them your work, discuss your ideas, and ask them for guidance in coming up with your problems. It may hurt at the time, but better in person than at a panel on in your tenure packet where you cannot defend yourself and refine your ideas.

Self-promote. Did you get a new grant funded? Let people know. You don’t have to be a PublicityWhore like me and announce it during your talk. You can do it discretely. For instance, in your poster or in your talk, write NEW! next to the funding agency name and the grant number. Is your student graduating? Let people know he/she is looking for a position – again loudly by announcing it or discretely, by putting up the words only. Make sure people are aware that you are doing your job and doing it well – science and the other stuff.

Don’t neglect students. Although you do want fancy BigShots to notice you and talk to you about your work, don’t forget to talk to students. One reason is that you could recruit a good graduate student or postdoc to your lab through these interactions. But second, it is a nice thing to do, and they might go home and talk about you to their BigShot PI and say good things. Good things are good. Also, give back and mentor a little. Some students have terrible advisors and need help and mentoring – offer it. You never know when it will pay off. (tomorrow or 10 years from now).  PayItForward. Some of the people that were most influential to me were random nice people at conferences who were more senior. They treated me with respect and dignity, even though I was a grad student (a female one at that!). I still remember them, and their treatment meant a lot to me. I try to treat graduate students and postdocs that way, too. The old adage is true: Treat others as you would like to be treated.

Chat with friends. Having conversations about non-science things is good, too because it takes people past the colleague arena into the friend arena. Forming bonds by sharing personal information can allow people to see more sides to you besides your awesome science. They can see you are a real person who has feelings. I don’t think it can hurt.

Facebook with style. You should decide: who will you be friends with on Facebook? Is it only going to be real friends and family, and you wouldn’t want your colleagues to see you? If so, make sure it is private and people cannot friend you. I use Facebook to network and promote myself. I friend people in my field, and try to initiate science questions or even the social science of science questions.

Other specific ideas and advice for effective networking? Guest post or comment.

Service Statement

The three areas of a tenure track job are Research, Teaching, and Service. Your packet must address each of these three separate parts, but let’s be honest, no one really cares about service.  So, check with your department chairperson and look at the packets you got from others and ask, “Do I need a separate service statement?” If the answer is “no” make sure that your CV has all the information about your service in it, so that people know what you did. If the answer is “yes” then you need to write a separate service statement.

This statement is even worse than the teaching statement about knowing what to write because most people don’t have a vision of service. You usually just do the service you are assigned and don’t mess up too bad. But, if you think about it, you might find that some of the service you do might be aligned in some way, and you can write about that. For instance, did you serve on the graduate admissions committee and mentor new graduate students and served on the qualifying exam committee? You can write about your commitment to training graduate students. If you were an undergraduate advisor and served as the liaison between the department and the undergraduate student club, you can talk about undergraduate mentoring and education. Not all your committee assignments will coalesce, but you don’t have to detail them all. All your committees are listed in your CV, so you just have to outline and point out the ones you want to here.

Another aspect of service is your scientific community service. This includes the panels you serve on, the papers you review for journals, the meetings you organize, and any national committees you serve on for your societies. This is the easiest to describe, since it is closely aligned with research, and maybe you actually sought some of these service activities, instead of having them randomly assigned.

Any other suggestions? Comment or guest post!

Your Packet: Teaching

At most schools, research is most important and teaching is a close second. So, you need to have a teaching statement in your packet. This should be familiar, since many schools and departments require a teaching statement in your application packet. When writing your application, it was probably not clear what that teaching statement was supposed to say, especially since most of us haven’t taught before going to their tenure track job. Well, it probably isn’t clear here either. Again, this is where some one else’s packet and teaching statement can help immensely.

Another thing is that your CV now has a bunch of information about your teaching including a list of courses that you taught, a list of students you have mentored, and students’ committees. So, what needs to go here? This post includes some suggestions of topics you can include. I am sure there are other good things, so please comment or guest post. (Don’t forget to hit the follow button to be notified every time there is a new WomanOf Science post!)

Your point of view: People say you should discuss your vision for teaching. When applying, this was a daunting task. Never having taught meant that I had no idea how to teach poorly, let alone how I thought it should be done well. After a few years of teaching, and hopefully getting better at it, you might actually have a real vision of the best way to teach. Maybe you don’t have a “vision,” but you can say what things are important to you about teaching a class. Again, give them your take on things to orient them about your opinions on teaching.

Course development: This may or may not apply, but if you did develop a new course, you should describe what you did in your packet. This is similar to what you do in your research statement. Describe what you did. Use figures, including pictures of your class, if you have them. If you were funded to develop the new course, describe the grant. Play up the fact that you took a risk and did something innovative before tenure. Again, self-promote and sell it here.

Student mentoring: Part of your teaching includes the training of students in the laboratory. If you have specific means to mentor your students, describe them. I think it is easier to have a vision about how to mentor than how to teach because it is so closely aligned with research, which is the one thing you were trained to do. You probably had some idea of how you would train your graduate students and some ideal of what your graduate students would come out being able to do. Do you teach them specific skills? Then there are a whole bunch of other skills that we train our students in addition to the science, and most people have a good idea how they would ideally do that, too. For instance: Do you train them in writing? How? Do you educate them in presentation skills? In what way? Do you encourage them and send them to conferences to present their work? How is training a postdoc different from training a graduate student in your lab? How do you train undergraduates? Check with your institution if mentoring should go under teaching or research, but it usually is part of teaching.

Classroom teaching: Since your CV already has a list of courses, this section should include more information about how you went about teaching your assigned courses. You should emphasize innovative changes, those 20% changes that we talked about before, that made your class better. If your evaluations improved over time due to these changes, point it out.

More so than the research statement, the teaching statement has a lot of flexibility. You can quote student evaluations and even include scans of thank you letters from students – should you have them! Again, you are selling yourself so that you are sailing over the bar instead of just barely making it. I am sure there are a lot of other great suggestions, so hopefully some others will chime in!

Selling Yourself with your Packet

When you go up for tenure, there are only a few things that are still completely in your control. Your packet is one of them. You should promote and sell yourself using your packet. This is your opportunity to make it clear how awesome you are. As with a proposal, you don’t want your audience to infer or guess that you have achieved all that you promised when they hired you. You just have to tell them. Here is some advice about your packet from a WomanOfScience who just went through it successfully. This post will only describe the research section. Teaching and Service sections will follow. Any other suggestions welcomed and encouraged!

Most important: Get some other packets as examples. Ask people who just went up within the last year. Ask people in your department in your subfield. If that doesn’t exist, ask people in other departments within your college, in a similar subfield but maybe in a different department. Try to get at least 2-3 because different people have different styles. You can pick the aspects from each that you like most and use that.

Sell your field: When your packet goes out, it might go to people who are not in your particular subfield of your discipline. Hopefully the letter writers will be right up your alley, but maybe not, depending on how big your field is, if there are even smaller sub-subfields, and how good you did at meeting others and making a network outside of campus. You will probably have to sell it to the members of your College Promotion and Tenure committee (Personnel Committee), if not your own department. Having a few sentences up front about what your subfield is called, and how you view the field is a good way to orient the readers, and get everyone on the same page – your page. This is especially important if you are in a fringe subfield that is unusual within the department or within the college.

Sell your topic: Your packet readers may not know why studying the respiratory pathway in gulf shrimp is important. Sell it! Or why block-copolymers are essential to energy harvesting. Sell it! Write it like you are talking to a scientist from a very different field at a dinner party. They are smart, but they just don’t know what you do or why. In fact, attend or host a dinner party and try out some ideas on people. Just chatting about your science is a good way to feel out what types of selling lines work and which do not. Maybe you don’t like dinner parties, but there are other opportunities to chat with scientists from different fields over lunch or whatever.

Detail what you did: Next, you need to describe what you accomplished scientifically. Discuss each project separately. Most people have 2-3 distinct projects that they made progress on during their tenure process. If you have over 5, try to lump them together. List or describe the funded grants you got for each project in the text to make it clear that you got funding. If you didn’t have funding, you can list pending proposals. Have images to illustrate your data. You should be able to reference your own papers. Try, as much as possible, to not reference papers by any other groups in the research write-up section. It is not petty; it is part of self-promotion. Do not be afraid to self-promote. You are doing it because this document is supposed to highlight your work – not another group. You are building a case for yourself and what you did, so you shouldn’t have to reference any other work outside of the introductory material. In cases where you have collaborations with other scientists, especially senior people, be very very clear about what you did. Find out beforehand from a senior person in your department about how they feel about these collaborations. Many departments think collaborating is good. Some don’t, make sure you know so you can emphasize or de-emphasize as needed.

Clearly detail all your papers in the text: This is up to you, but many packets I got from others and I used this style myself, inserted a block of citations in the middle of the text just after the paragraphs describing the work. My thoughts on this is that:

  1. It draws attention to your work, so they can’t really miss it. Plus, when you list papers in your CV, they are by date of publication, which is important, but it is just as important for people to see them listed by project or research thrust in your lab. This is how you probably think of them, so why not be explicit!
  2. It can be more detailed with annotations to highlight what the paper showed and which students of your did the work. I highlighted which students were high school, undergrads, graduate, and postdocs from my lab.
  3. I included the relevant book chapters and review articles in with this list. That gave me a list of about 4-5 per project, instead of 1-2 research papers only. It also highlighted that people in my community care about what I think, which is why they ask me to write reviews, prospectives, and chapters.

Future aspirations: The last paragraph of my research section had a five year plan for research. This is similar to what you might write for when you went up for the job. The difference is that you have a lot of experience, and you know what will work and what might be higher risk. Tenure is about to give you job security for life. It is the time to take some risks. Highlight that you are moving into a more innovative, high-risk, yet high-reward phase after securing tenure.

Are there other specific or general items that I missed? Please guest post or comment!

Your CV

One of the main components, if not the first component of your tenure packet will be your CV. This is a place where it is easy to get it wrong. The people writing letters and on the committees will get your CV and scan it. Much like writing a grant, it needs to be in the right format – a format that people expect. Unexpected things from an outsider (woman, minority, whatever) are not welcome. So, what does your CV need to include and what order? The best way to find out is to ask someone for their CV. I suggest asking the young people at your institution who just got tenure. They need to be at your institution, because the Promotion and Tenure committee at your institution will ultimately make the decision. If they just got tenure, then they obviously did something right. Don’t just ask for one. Ask for many. In fact, ask for their entire packet. We will discuss the packet more in a following post.

What should be in your CV?

  1. Your name and contact information right up front. No pictures of yourself. That is odd.
  2. Your education including your undergraduate and graduate (Ph.D.) degrees. You can put your postdoctoral appointment(s) in this section or in the following section I have seen both.
  3. Your professional positions. If you got paid to do it, it is professional. This changes as you get on with your career.
  4. Awards and honors. Include a short citation after the names so people understand what the award recognizes.
  5. Publications. When going up for tenure, I modified my publications area in several key ways. I had a sentence describing author contributions in regard to author order. This is distinct from sub-field to sub-field in my department, so I wanted it to be clear for my particular sub-field. I grouped my publications as at my current institution and prior to my current institution, so that it was easy for people to see what work should be attributed to my pre-tenure years. I also highlighted which students worked in my lab under my direction and indicated if they were high school students, undergraduates, graduate students, or postdocs. Also, it is now becoming standard to add the DOI locator at the end of each reference, so it is best to include it.
  6. Presentations. By the time you are coming up for tenure, this list might be fairly long. You can divide them up into different types of presentations such as Invited Presentations at International Conferences, Invited Seminars and Colloquia, Contributed Talks at International Conferences, and Contributed Posters at Conferences.
  7. Funding. Yes. List your funding in your CV. When you are coming up for tenure, be explicit. List all the grants you currently have active, your prior grants that have expired, and the grants that are pending.
  8. Teaching Record. As I have said before, being a professor is many jobs in one. Your CV now needs to reflect these other responsibilities and duties that you have taken on. I think you want to be specific about what you did for teaching and mentoring. *Mentoring of research students could go in the research sections above after funding. I have seen both ways. The teaching section should include:
    1. Classroom teaching record. What you taught and when, number of students, evaluation scores.
    2. Student mentoring including postdocs, graduate students, undergraduates, and high school students. Don’t forget to include students for whom you have served on committees as a committee member, also.
  9. Service Record. Much like teaching is a new addition, so to is service. Make sure you are updating your CV often when you get new service assignments, so you don’t lose track. Also, there are multiple types of service. Service to your research field, service to your department, service to the college and university. I separated these different service aspects out, so they were not jumbled together. Also, did you get funding for service or teaching activities? Where will you list it? Up in the funding, which is really your research section? It might be a bit distracting. I separated out my service and teaching funding and put it into a separate funding section. Some sections in my CV include:
    1. List of funded and pending grants for service and teaching activities.
    2. Professional service to societies and meeting organization. This includes any offices held in professional societies or any meeting sessions organized or chaired.
    3. Proposal reviewing is a professional service, but some panels are anonymous and others are known. If it is anonymous, like NSF, don’t list the panel or the date, but simply leave it vague, like (2 panels over the past 5 years). If it is a published list, like NIH, you can list the panel. I also list ad hoc proposal reviews by the organization.
    4. Journal reviewing is important to show that other people care about your opinion. I list all the journals I have reviewed for and the years I served as a reviewer.
    5. List and short description of service to my department.
    6. List and short description of service to the college and university.
  10. For going up for tenure, I also make a list of active collaborations with a short description of the collaborative work. This helped the department decide who to ask for letters and who was an “insider” vs. and “outsider.” After tenure, I don’t see as many people listing these collaborators, but having it for tenure makes it easy for people to read what are your contributions to these collaborations.

These are just some of the items you can put in, and this is your CV, so you can add other things, such as publicity for your work and cover artwork. But, make sure that the research is up front. For instance, it would be a mistake to put your publications at the end of the CV.

Any other advise or suggestions on getting your CV ready for tenure? Guest post or comment!

Coming Up: Tenure

Many of the posts we have discussed on improving teaching, self promotion, and lab management are all geared toward ensuring that you secure tenure. Some of your may be coming up sooner than others, so I want to make sure that we spend a few posts on some simple things you can do when coming up for tenure to make sure that you get it. These are the last minute things like writing your package and communicating with your senior colleagues. These things are not going to help if you don’t have papers or grants and your teaching is poor. But, I feel that many deserving women don’t get tenure or barely get it even when they are good teachers and have a lot of research behind them because they are somehow not part of the club. Many of the things I will bring up also go under the heading of Self Promotion. Again, women and minorities are socially groomed to be demure and not boastful. Unfortunately, in academia, that can give you a whole lot of nothing. So, just remember, Women Rock, and you are one of them! So, let everyone know how awesome you are.

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