I just accepted an Assistant Professor position at a regional campus and am wondering what kinds of things to plan for before I start my job. I am curious to hear from those who are at smaller schools in terms of how to set up a lab. How do you manage if you're not given a big startup in terms of getting computers, setting up cubicles, etc? What kinds of things can one do to save money and still have a working lab with enough computer work stations? In addition to relocation-related things and prepping for new courses, what else should one prepare for the summer before they start a new position? Please be sure to share your experiences and where you are at (e.g., R1, R2, SLAC, regional campus) so we can all get an idea of what to expect for these positions.
Date: 10 Apr 2012 17:23
Number of posts: 5
RSS: New posts
I hope others will chime in. I am in a similar situation—starting at a regional liberal arts school in the fall. I think that my startup is decent enough to support my research plans, but I would be interested in learning about ways to save money and general tips on setting up the lab space, etc.
I spoke to the chair and he made it clear that they don't expect me to really get anything done research-wise in the fall, even though I have a course release (from 3 to 2). I'll be busy prepping & teaching my other courses and just learning the ropes in general. It's also always hard to move, unpack, and figure out everything else about a new place. Unfortunately I'm only going to have about a week of time to move & settle between my current job and the new one.
I'm finishing my third year at a small regional university. We have a 4:4 teaching load. I got little start up money - essentially just enough to buy a couple of computers and response boxes. The department already had money dedicated for experimental software (e.g., E-Prime), statistical software (SPSS), and had a few subject-running booths. One way we stretch our research dollars in the department is by having shared research spaces and equipment. There are few scheduling conflicts because many faculty members are doing little research and those who are doing research primarily use online surveys or go off-site to collect data. One issue that was unexpectedly problematic was availability of a participant pool. When I interviewed for the position, I explicitly asked about the participant pool and was assured that it was adequate (e.g., approx. 300 students a semester, each student could complete several experiments). When I arrived the numbers were there, but the faculty were not. Specifically, those people teaching Psy 101 (our primary participation pool source) did not require their students to participate. They had various reasons for this … long story short … it has taken essentially three years to get everyone on board. Now the pool is excellent it took a lot of time and effort to get it where it is today. So, my advice in regards to research at a smaller school (where research is not a huge priority for most faculty) is to make sure your needs and their expectations have been communicated effectively. You may not have any negotiation power at this point, but you can be proactive, addressing the issue as early as possible. For example, if you are going to want to draw participants from specific classes, the instructors of those classes may need to modify their syllabi before classes start in the fall ;) You could contact them ahead of time to gauge their willingness to contribute to the participation pool and perhaps offer a sample syllabus containing a section devoted to guidelines/instructions for student participation.
In regards to how to prepare for a new position, I may have gone about it the wrong way. I had the summer to try to get three papers out and prepare three new courses. Naively, I thought I would be able to do all of that and relocate. I did manage to get a couple of papers out, but only got 1.5 courses prepped (lectures/presentations completed) ahead of time. I should mention that I didn't find out about the third class until 2 weeks before class started, so I was only half a class short of my initial course prep goal. I didn't think this would be a problem because I had prepped-as-I-taught before for a summer class. Teaching four courses is much different than teaching one course (sounds exceedingly obvious when stated this way, but trust me, the time commitment is serious). The second half of the semester was a challenge, to say the least. The course demands were compounded with other time commitments (e.g., orientation meetings, learning how the university works, department service, student advising, answering student email, and scheduling). To put it briefly, no matter how much you want to finish up that project/grant/paper or take that extra trip this summer, your best bet is to make your new course preparations your first priority. Of course, this applies primarily to schools with higher teaching loads.
Thanks stillsearching for the incredibly detailed response, very helpful! I wish others would have commented on this topic as well = (
Does anyone have tips on how to work around shared lab spaces? If you want a certain kind of a set up (cubicles/partitions/certain kind of a furniture set up) but are using a shared lab space, are there creative ways to get around this? How do folk who have to share their labs make the most out of the space they are given? Any advice or suggestions on how to make the most of a shared lab space would be very helpful.
Also I work with physiological measures, any suggestions on which softwares are affordable and useful for this type of work?
Hmmm, changing lab setups in shared lab is not a good idea. You are most likely going to annoy the person who shares the lab with you, especially if their research cannot be done in your setup. Setting up and taking down partitions is not easy for every time you run a study. It usually requires a lot of work to install partitions, especially the ones that are stable. I'm guessing you need partitions so you can run multiple people at the same time? Is there a possibility you can run in two separate shared labs when they are not being used? I was lucky enough to get the set up I wanted. I'm not sure how to get a specific kind of a set up in a shared lab space, sorry. Can you still negotiate for a separate lab space or have you already accepted the job offer?