Associate professor of medicine, and neurology
and neurosurgery, McGill University
one of the most exciting things for me when I was a new professor was
renovating my new lab. It felt very much like opening a restaurant. Often,
considerations like lab bench heights, distilled water and Ethernet ports
are shielded from you as a postdoc. I felt adept at navigating administrative tasks and bureaucracy, but I still underestimated the amount of
follow-up required for renovation issues and infrastructure changes. In the
end, though, everything worked out and I am still amazed at the amount of
whiteboard space that my lab can use up.
Another mistake I made was not fully appreciating the importance of
research trainees being able to get fellowships, and how quickly stipends
and salaries add up if your personnel do not have external financial support. My biggest surprise was the diversity of tasks that you become responsible for, and then how little time left there is to accomplish anything.
Time goes by very quickly the more things you have to juggle, whether in
your work life or in your personal life.
Assistant professor in the faculty of philosophy,
Dominican University College
i was still in grad school when a teaching opportunity first presented itself
to me. The course was on philosophical issues in feminism. It turned out to
be a small group of about 30 students from across the academic spectrum.
Fifty-plus courses and more than 3,000 students later, I still think about it.
What I didn’t know at the time was that teaching is, to a large degree, perfor-mance-based. And, not unlike any other performance, intimate settings are
the hardest to work with as there is nowhere to hide. I had typed-up notes
for every lecture, which I went through meticulously using all available
boards in the classroom. What I hadn’t realized was that my note-grinding
did little to stimulate class discussion. I was so concerned with breaking
down the arguments in the texts I had assigned that I did not pay heed to
the fact that a discussion would have helped the students understand the
texts better than any guided formal textual analysis ever would.
Also, after reading the students’ evaluations and comments at the end
of the semester, I realized that what they really wanted was to know my
There are plenty of mistakes to go around
early in one’s academic career. Whether
they happen in front of a class or behind
the scenes, hindsight shows us how to do
better. Here you’ll find a mix of experience
and advice from eight professors who’ve
been there, done that and lived to share