Thursday, March 19, 2015

March Madness

March has been filled with annoyances and disappointments.

We've recently added a senior person to our department who I respect as a scientist, but can't stand their approach to serving the department. This person came from a very different institution and doesn't have a degree in engineering. They took on several service assignments in exchange for less teaching, which annoyed me off the bat. They assign all of their work to other people (junior faculty or create subcommittees) or do such a bad job that other people take over and do things for them. They don't understand what makes our degree and department unique and constantly question why things aren't done differently instead of asking why things are done the way they are.

The people that have funding buy out so they teach less and then the people that don't have money end up teaching more and have less time to apply for grants. Seams a bit backwards.

I'm a perfectionist, like most academics, so when I had my merit review this year and saw that my scores have gone down even though my output (publications and funding brought in) more than tripled over last year, I got mad to the point of disgruntled. It's affecting my work now. I had a new very small grant funded and a few new papers accepted, and I could care less. The meaningless congratulatory emails of my colleagues don't bring me any joy anymore since I know it barely moves the merit needle and just clutters up my inbox.

I'm really questioning whether my success is limited by my ability or by the environment that I'm in. I've been visiting a lot of other schools lately, and while everyone is strapped, I've yet to meet any other junior faculty with multiple funded grants that were worried they might have to downsize their lab. Yes, there are mid- and lower-tier schools where they teach more than I do, have smaller groups, and lower quality trainees, but their universities aren't putting all of their effort into improving rankings to the point where they hurt the quality of the education. The people I meet on my visits, in general, want to talk about science and get excited about new research ideas. I'm just thinking about new funding opportunities and wondering if the new ideas are fundable.