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Small Science? The facts and myths about science careers in liberal arts colleges Karen F. Greif, Ph.D. Bryn Mawr College

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Presentation on theme: "Small Science? The facts and myths about science careers in liberal arts colleges Karen F. Greif, Ph.D. Bryn Mawr College"— Presentation transcript:

1 Small Science? The facts and myths about science careers in liberal arts colleges Karen F. Greif, Ph.D. Bryn Mawr College

2 What we’ll discuss Liberal arts colleges: what are their features? Preparing for a career in a liberal arts college What search committees look for The interview Funding your research: special opportunities Life at a liberal arts college

3 Some statistics According to US News and World Report, there are over 200 residential liberal arts colleges in U.S. They award 3-4% of all baccalaureate degrees in U.S. However, 16% of undergraduate degrees in the natural sciences are earned at baccalaureate institutions. They have the highest per capita production of graduates who go on to earn Ph.Ds (data from NSF) –15% of recent Ph.Ds in science and engineering obtained their baccalaureate degrees at L.A. colleges. –The top 25 colleges awarded baccalaureate degrees to a third of these science Ph.D.s Graduates of liberal arts colleges are disproportionately represented in the leadership of the scientific community

4 Albion College Alma College Amherst College Bates College Beloit College Bowdoin College Bryn Mawr College Bucknell University Carleton College Colby College Colgate University College of the Holy Cross College of Wooster Colorado College Connecticut College Davidson College Denison University DePauw University Dickinson College Earlham College Franklin and Marshall College Gettysburg College Grinnell College Hamilton College Harvey Mudd College Haverford College Hope College Kalamazoo College Kenyon College Lafayette College Lawrence University Macalester College Manhattan College Middlebury College Mills College Mount Holyoke College Oberlin College Occidental College Ohio Wesleyan University Pomona College Reed College Sewanee - U of South Skidmore College Smith College St. Olaf College Swarthmore College Trinity College Trinity University Union College Vassar College Wabash College Washington and Lee University Washington College Wellesley College Wesleyan University Wheaton College Whitman College Whittier College Williams College Consortium of Liberal Arts Colleges (59 Institutions) (one of several consortia of leading institutions)

5 Characteristics of L.A. Colleges Total enrollments of 3,000 or less. The leading institutions are highly selective. Focus on teaching undergraduates, including non- science majors, by regular faculty. Expectation of breadth in teaching and interdisciplinary program participation. Small class sizes, individualized attention to students by faculty members Undergraduate students and faculty collaborate in original research. Summer and sabbaticals provide most research time.

6 How much teaching is there? Formal requirements usually expressed in “courses” taught each of the two semesters. Ranges from 1/1 to 4/4. Most loads are between 3/3 and 2/2. Class size will vary from a high of perhaps 150 to classes of 5-8 students How are “courses” calculated?

7 What is a “course”? If a course has a laboratory, does that count as a separate course? Sometimes. If you have X UG doing independent research in your lab, does that count as a course? Sometimes. Is there a mechanism (formal or informal) to give more credit for teaching large courses (e.g. intro) or non-major courses? Sometimes. Do you have a smaller number of courses that repeat every year, or do you have to update multiple courses that are each only offered occasionally? Other commitments: advising majors, advising non- majors.

8 Research at LA Colleges Levels of research will vary. A few institutions have graduate programs, but most do not. Top-tier LA institutions expect faculty to be actively engaged in research, publishing and seeking funding Lower-tier institutions will have lower expectations for research productivity

9 Preparing for jobs at Liberal Arts Colleges Get teaching experience! –Take “teaching seminars” –Volunteer to teach sections –Teach a course at a local college –“Teaching” postdocs Develop research plans that are undergraduate- friendly

10 Undergraduate-friendly Research Overall project can be broken into smaller projects. Can be done in relatively short blocks of time – students are all taking other courses at the same time, and thus have less time and fewer long blocks of time to devote to their research projects than graduate students. Projects are not likely to be ‘road kills’ by competing big labs. Projects can be done with available equipment or items that will be purchased as part of faculty start-up. Ongoing costs for student projects modest. Projects must match resources available.

11 Some questions to ask about research activities What have recently tenured faculty accomplished at the institution? Do most faculty have funded research programs? Do faculty work on their research during the summer? How much money does the institution provide for research (in-house grants for research supplies, travel, undergraduate stipends, etc)? What is the sabbatical policy? Range: 1 semester every 7 semesters to never. Some institutions have a pre-tenure junior leave.

12 Applying for Jobs Know your institution. Visit websites, become aware Apply for jobs that fit you Cover letters –Cover letters should indicate awareness of institution –Stress relevant experience/knowledge of LA environment –One-size DOES NOT fit all! Avoid generic letters, especially those you use for research universities

13 What Search Committees Look For Different tiers of colleges have different expectations and may weigh different components quite differently. All look at the same characteristics of a candidate: experience and promise in both teaching and research. Awareness and understanding of the liberal arts environment. Any suggestion that this is an “easy” alternative career is fatal

14 Evaluation of teaching potential Motivation and enthusiasm for teaching Efforts to gain teaching experience Teaching philosophy well-thought out. (These tend to be superficial and unoriginal) Some awareness of current trends: active learning, case studies, inquiry-based learning, supplemental instruction (reaching all students), etc. Interest in teaching in the laboratory as well as in the classroom.

15 More on teaching Experience: preference for those having taught a complete course, but generally quality TA experience is sufficient. Breadth of experience and of courses in which candidate has both the interest and experience to teach. Be specific about courses you are interested in teaching and/or developing. Potential to teach new and appropriate courses, especially interdisciplinary courses.

16 Research Expectations Most, but not all, institutions will prefer or require postdoctoral experience Publications: 1-10, at least some first author, in high quality journals Grant support: Potential for future funding; previous grants not expected for entry level positions. Postdoctoral fellowships a plus! Research area to complement but not overlap with other faculty in the department. (Given small faculty sizes, this is amongst the top criteria.) Research program amenable to undergraduate participation—both conceptually and technically

17 Letters of recommendation Get letters that assess both research and teaching potential. If you don’t have a letter from your graduate or postdoc advisors, search committees may wonder why. Provide an explanation if you can. Strong letters from individuals who have some awareness of the LA environment are particularly helpful.

18 Additional Expectations (some assessed at interview) Clarity of written expression (as a measure of communication skills). –If you are not a native speaker of English, and/or are a weak writer, make sure your application materials get “vetted” Ability to interact comfortably with students (and other members of the faculty). Clarity of presentation of research seminar – at a level appropriate for an undergraduate audience.

19 The Interview Generally, your expenses will be covered Typically 1-2 grueling days (12 hours per day not unusual!) You will meet department members, some senior administrators, students, outside members of search committee Be prepared to talk about both research and teaching AND ask questions about the department and institution. The interview is a two- way street! Do your homework! Familiarize yourself with departmental research and curriculum Research talk: aimed at an undergraduate audience (THIS IS CRITICAL) Some institutions will also ask you to teach a class Interactions with students are important; if the students don’t like you, you will not get an offer

20 Employment packages 9 or 10 month guaranteed salary –Starting salaries vary with institution and location –Salaries are generally lower than at universities Summer salary must be picked up on grants First appointments are generally for three or four years, with review in the third year Subsidized health insurance coverage and spending accounts Other benefits: life insurance, retirement (TIAA-CREF or other); disability; mortgage plans; tuition plans; faculty housing (varies)

21 Negotiating a package Small institutions often have less flexibility in starting salaries Start-up package: –May or may not include renovated lab/office space –Generally, don’t expect the level of support you would get at a major research university! –Ask for what you really need but don’t pad –Don’t count on being provided with a technician or other professional personnel

22 Major Sources National Institutes of Health (AREA, R03, R01) National Science Foundation (RUI, REU, CCLI, MUE, MRI) Other Sources Whitehall Foundation Sigma Xi Psi Chi Howard Hughes Medical Institute (Institutional Programs) Council on Undergraduate Research Institutional Funding your Research Program

23 NIH Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA) Grants - (R15) Maximum funding level = $150,000 (direct costs) over 3 years (requested in $25,000 modules under NIH’s Modular Budget Program). P.I. can submit “competing continuations”.

24 R15 Awards 2005 Reviewed AwardedTotal Funds success rate 2005 NCCAM 8 2 $273,645 25% NCI $4,033,242 34% NCRR 1 1 $210, % NEI 11 3 $563,594 27% NHGRI % NHLBI $4,191,938 49% NIA $2,250,420 32% NIAAA % NIAID $3,771,145 26% NIAMS 22 5 $1,028,365 23% NIBIB 9 1 $195,000 11% NICHD 36 7 $1,387,215 19% NIDA 12 4 $721,195 33% NIDCD 18 6 $1,249,472 33% NIDCR 5 2 $397,145 40% NIDDK $1,823,511 26% NIEHS 17 9 $1,778,121 53% NIGMS $10,196,158 35% NIMH % NINDS $2,349,337 27% NINR $3,320,523 23% $39,740,776

25 Research Project Grant (R01) (usually following AREA or R03; For well-established programs. Hard to get in this time of tight money) Direct costs of ~ $150,000 – $1,000,000, depending on the Institute (over 5 years). P.I. can submit competing continuations. Small Grant Program (R03) Direct costs up to $50,000/yr for two years (depending on Institute rules).

26 Generally less than $100,000 per year. Institution must meet certain eligibility criteria. Home page - Also Collaborative Research in Undergraduate Institutions (C-RUI) Fosters interdisciplinary collaboration between P.I.s within a college or between colleges, following RUI guidelines. National Science Foundation (NSF) Research in Undergraduate Institutions (RUI)

27 National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) CAREER Program Goal: New investigators with clear plans for successful integration of research and teaching. Five-year funding period with minimum budget of $100,000/yr. Home page -

28 National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Funds mentored summer undergraduate research Two forms of funding: REU Site (departmental or institutional) ~ 10 students/yr. REU Supplement (individual investigator generated) Home Page –

29 National Science Foundation (NSF) – Equipment Programs Multi-User Biological Equipment and Instrumentation (MUE) Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) Grants to fund major research equipment (usually shared).

30 National Science Foundation (NSF) – Course, Curriculum, and Laboratory Improvement Equipment for new undergraduate laboratory teaching and research instrumentation and equipment. Division of Undergraduate Education

31 Life at a Liberal Arts College Challenges: You wear many hats! Teacher, scholar, advisor, faculty member, committee member (not counting your family….) You are pulled in many directions: finding a balance is often difficult You work very long hours to fulfill your goals Rewards: Small size permits you to have close interactions with students Small size permits you to have interactions with faculty in other disciplines (Have lunch with a philosopher or political scientist! Join a faculty seminar on “time”, etc) You will have considerable flexibility to pursue new teaching and research interests as they arise


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