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June 19, 2017 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 95, Issue 25



New professors

Kudos to Lisa Jarvis, the C&EN staff, and the generous candor of the three first-year chemistry department faculty members you showcased in your May 22 article “A year in the life of a new professor” (page 34). I found this cover story to be a very interesting and enlightening read. It was clear that the three young faculty members you showcased poured everything each had into the job, grew and accomplished a good bit over the year, and are very deserving of being tenure-track young faculty at their respective universities.

Timothy J. Rydel

Saint Charles, Mo.

I enjoyed your feature on the first-year experience for newly minted assistant professors. In this era of the $2 million start-up package, my own experience in 1963 with Yale University offers an interesting contrast. The matter of start-up assistance was never discussed. It was tacitly assumed that the needed funds would come from NIH or NSF, and indeed my NIH grant was activated on my first day of appointment. Yale did end up contributing; they had asked me to include $8,000 for lab renovations in my NIH proposal. By the time the grant was funded, the renovations had been completed at Yale’s expense. Alas, Yale learned too late that work completed before the grant had been approved could not be reimbursed. So the $8,000 became my start-up package.

Christopher K. Mathews
Corvallis, Ore.

From the web

The story of three first-year professors also resonated with readers who commented online.

Re: A year in the life of a new professor

 A senior VP once told me, as I took on the role of leading a group at a biotech company, “Imagine that every day you come to work, you’re given $1,000 to spend, because that is roughly what it costs the company to employ you, once you have factored in your salary, benefits, facilities, equipment, and consumables. Spend that money wisely, as if it were your own.” It was a valuable lesson in time and resource management, but also in personal responsibility. It doesn’t matter where you are in an organization, top, middle, or bottom of the career ladder, the advice still works well.

Jim Palmer

 Hey @cenmag How about profiling chem asst profs at lib arts colleges? Diff challenges, important career option! #realtimechem

Mary Boyd (@marykboyd) via Twitter

Your title on the cover seems to suggest that the tenure track is the only academic option for chemists. How about the teaching track?

M. Gallardo-Williams (@Teachforaliving) via Twitter

Great article! As a new asst prof starting my own lab I think these are broadly relevant themes outside chemistry!

James R. Priest (@JamesRPriestMD) via Twitter

Industry is no different than teaching in a university or college. Yes, teaching is hard and rewarding work. I have taught part-time while working 40–50 hours in my full-time job. Plus I do not receive a three-month vacation. Try doing what industrial chemists do and I suspect you would still choose teaching. The plaques on the door for  an industrial chemist are an even longer list.

Dave Wynn

Senior Correspondent Lisa Jarvis (@Lisamjarvis) asked her followers on Twitter: Interesting comments on my “Life as a new PI” story from chemists in industry. Folks, think the jobs are comparable?

I think the learning curve is steep in both. @DrRubidium quote is spot-on for industrial researchers. Teamwork is under-taught in Ph.D./ PIs need more breadth & have an entrepreneurial aspect of their jobs (starting a lab) that is lacking in established industrial labs./ Industrial chemists have to adapt to teamwork atmosphere, learn new technical/ scientific skills & corporate env. Focus on science is #1./ Learn to be productive in a “regular” workday. Manage time in lab with other obligations and expectations. Build your network with peers./ Ultimately 1st year industrial scientists distinguish themselves by their scientific accomplishments while contributing to their team./ Biggest diff: Problem selection; in industry, problems find you & can’t decide not to take them on. No need to convince others of value. Six tweets from L.-C. Campeau (@DrLCsquare) via Twitter

What they share is chemistry, but not much else. Big difference is a choice about which problems to solve (a double-edged blade!). Philip Wheeler (@Humulonimbus) via Twitter

Only way to answer that question. Your next series: A Year in the Life: Following a First- Year Hire in Industry George VDD (@HLA_Alchemist) via Twitter


May 29, page 5: The U.S. Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy was established by the America Competes Act of 2007, not by the Obama Administration. Congress first funded it in 2009.


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