queering the academic job path

The past couple of months have been filled with the usual: thinking about what I’m going to do with the rest of my life. After much thought i’ve decided that i’m going to enter the job market.

The “job market.” The phrase has always seemed weird to me; I don’t like it for some reason. Maybe because it implies that I’m going shopping for something, when really, I’m the one being shopped for. And even that implies I have more agency than I actually have in this process. I imagine search committees picking me up off the shelf, turning me over, reading the label. Does she fit all of the requirements? Does she have all the qualifications? Is she the right fit? Does she have what it takes??

To backup a little, I did spend a fair amount of time thinking about my other options based on the things I was interested in–outreach science education, taking science to the community, increasing the engagement and participation of youth of color in science, etc. but phd’s in science don’t really prepare you for that so I tried to think up a path. (A friend of mine recently termed this making of a new path, “bushwhacking.” I thought that was perfect.) Maybe working at a science center/science museum? Maybe finding a nonprofit dedicated to science outreach? Maybe figuring out how to create my own for future?…

This all proved to be pretty difficult. Difficult because I either had no hirable skills, didn’t fit the position, or I was overqualified due to the three letters after my name. And, to be fair, there was only so much of a pay decrease i could handle.… After much agonizing and lack of direction I decided to focus my energies on trying to find a job that I would actually qualify for or that I could actually do for a little while.

I’ve always wanted to teach, so it’s not like this was a less desirable option. It’s just that I wanted to change the world (insert stars in my eyes, unicorns running in fields of rainbows and care bear stares). The disillusionment/ambivalence I’ve been experiencing with aspects of my current position made me feel like I needed to get back to the basics immediately. To put theory into practice. To not just research how students learn, or theorize about how different pedagogical methods can benefit students of color etc., but to get out there and make it happen. I thought jumping directly into museums/outreach/nonprofits would take me there.

Not so much. Or at least not right now. That’s the conclusion I came to. I figure teaching for a while will a) give me teaching experience and b) give me time to figure it out (in all that spare time that professors have).

The flipside of this is that finding an academic job… will give me a job (hopefully). Doing something that I want to do. One that will be less transitory than a postdoc…although I am applying for teaching postdoc too, but that’s because as a science phd I’m trained to to do nothing but science research, not even teach.… I’m ready to live somewhere somewhat more permanently. To begin trying to create community. To have a life.

Now the dilemma is this: how does a baby-faced, relatively shiny new science phd with a postdoc in science education with little teaching experience find a professorship where she has no research requirement, or if research is necessary then science education research? This question then becomes how do I make this science department like me even though I’m trying to offer them something they don’t want? Most science departments want a scientist who had a science postdoc and will do science research. And I can’t work in an education department because I don’t have a phd in education. I thought my ticket would be liberal arts colleges. I’ve always wanted to teach at a liberal arts college; it would be my ideal job. Who knew most of them also wanted you to have a significant science research program?

Here’s to queering the academic path, I suppose. It’s back to bushwhacking, yes, but in this sense, I’m ok with it.

So I spend my days trying to remind myself how awesome I am, trying to write the best science education research plan a biology department has ever seen, and crafting an application that makes them wonder why I’m not already working there being ridiculously innovative in their classrooms and doing this amazing science ed thing they hadn’t even thought to do.


3 thoughts on “queering the academic job path

  1. Cedar Riener

    I really really hope you find what you are looking for. I teach at a liberal arts college, and if we had a position for a marine biologist, I would go to bat for the program you describe. Scholarship of teaching and learning IS scholarship. It is too bad that many academics in science don’t want to acknowledge that.
    I came here from your #iamscience story, which was awesome.
    Good luck.

    1. alchemyinpractice Post author

      Well, thank you. I’ve actually begun seeing jobs come up that specifically want scientists who will do pedagogical/education research. Hopefully the trend continues because it’s important and valuable work that someone should do.


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