How I Survived The Junior Faculty Years

DM just posted very good advice that junior faculty must be submitting at least one grant per round in order to have a fighting chance at survival. I agree 100%, and I routinely submit two grants or more per round. His post got me thinking about what I did to survive through my junior faculty years (point of reference: I have been a PI for eight years). I had good advice to help me, and some things I learned the hard way. Here are a couple things which helped me to build a stable research program as a research-intensive faculty member at a medical school.

Things in retrospect that I did right:

1. I submitted my first R01 (NOT R21/R03/etc.) in the first available round after arriving at my TT job. It was funded after two rounds at one study section and another round at a different study section. Five years of stability are invaluable in building a successful research program.

2. I built a strong and close relationship with my chair, who in turn was a very strong advocate for my career advancement.

3. Whenever I was asked to serve on a committee, I said yes. Building relationships with others at the university was essential for opening up doors later on.

Things I could have done better:

1. Not adequately considering just how supremely important the right study section can be for success in peer review. I am a cell biologist studying cell death, and as such MANY study sections may be appropriate. SROs can be helpful, and you should contact them well before submission with your Aims. In my case, my first grant sat stagnantly in one study section for two rounds before being funded first time around in a different study section. I was also advised by some senior folks that the Cell Biology IRG (Integrated Review Group) study sections were a death sentence because those sections were so competitive. Guess where my grant got funded? If you are truly lost on where to submit your grant, look up where other senior people in your field serve on study section. I still get this wrong on occasion, especially since study sections seem to have much higher turnover and/or more ad hocs now.

2. I should have gone out of my way to be more friendly and collaborative with the other faculty in my department. I did not realize initially how important my co-workers were in furthering my career.

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One thought on “How I Survived The Junior Faculty Years

  1. Pingback: A confession about service obligations | Small Pond Science

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