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Preparing for a Career in Acadamia
If you want to get a job in academia, you should start preparing for this early in your career at Rensselaer. The following are a few suggestions on how to prepare for academia. Of course there are different types of jobs in academia. Some with more research (large universities) and some with more teaching (smaller colleges), so stress the following depending on your future goals.
Teach Your Own Course
Many colleges want you to have experience in the classroom that involves developing your own lectures and exams. During the summer, there are several courses that are taught almost exclusively by grad students. Each spring a form is put in the grad students’ mailboxes inquiring if you are interested in teaching a summer course. You can select which course and session that you would prefer to teach. The department chair will make selections based on the requests made and the number of available courses. This can be competitive. Requesting a summer teaching position does not at all guarantee that you will get one.
T.A. a Variety of Courses
Interactive courses are growing throughout the nation. All kinds of colleges are interested in starting these courses. Colleges like to hire Ph.D.’s that have been involved in new courses and show interest in developing educational programs. Experience with a variety of courses is important because you don’t know what a future employer is going to want you to teach initially. Additionally, a well rounded teaching resume gives you more depth.
A research institution looks more favorably upon a candidate with publications or someone with a proven research background. Most schools (almost all) stress research to some extent. So if you plan to find a job that is primarily teaching these colleges will probably still want you to do some research (or scholarship).
Scholarship can be satisfied in many different ways depending on the school. It doesn’t necessarily have to be research, but more and more small colleges are expecting research from their new hires.
Also many colleges will want to know how you can extend your research program into research projects with the students and how you will use it in the classroom. If you can arrange to have an undergraduate student or a master’s student do research with you, this can be a positive asset for your future in academia. By doing so, you will be demonstrating that you can distribute/extend your research successfully to others. Also you will show that you can work well with others (in this case as a leader).
Give as many talks as you can. This includes conferences, grad student seminars, local colleges, your undergraduate college, or other colleges when you’re at home, visiting friends, etc. Get used to giving talks. When you go to interviews you will have to give a talk or maybe two. These talks will either be on research or perhaps teaching a class.
You should work well with others and should be able to extend your math across disciplines. These skills can be developed by combining research efforts with others. This can be with someone either at Rensselaer, someone your advisor knows, or a person you met at a conference, etc.
Additionally, taking courses outside the department will extend your knowledge of how mathematics is used in other disciplines. Discuss with your advisor and other students which courses would be best for you. Finally, by attending a summer workshop (Summer Work, Coop, Internships) you will have the opportunity to work with others both inside and outside the mathematical community, while solving real world problems using mathematics.
Go to Colloquia
The colloquia introduce you to the research of others and they can help you develop skills in talking with other mathematicians about their research.
Go to Conferences
It is important to make contacts within your research community. Meet the speakers. Go to conferences every chance you can.