- Do you have space in your lab for me?
- What is a “teaching professor”?
- How can I get research experience?
- Are you a tough professor?
Do you have space in your lab for me?
I’m a teaching professor, which means I don’t run a lab of my own. But, if you’re interested in analyzing open access datasets or improving neuroscience education, do get in touch.
What is a “teaching professor”?
Various big research universities have “teaching professor” tenure tracks in addition to the more common research professor tracks. It’s a great job for people who are primarily interested in developing teaching methods as well as understanding how students learn.
Teaching professor positions (in the UC system formally known as lecturer with potential security of employment, LPSOE) are tenure track and have the same pillars as other faculty: teaching, scholarship, and service. However, as teaching professors, we spend much more of our time in the classroom (about two thirds of our time).
Teaching professors in Biological Sciences at UC San Diego do a range of things:
- educational research, helping us understand how students learn and developing best practices for our classrooms (for examples, see Biology Education Scholarship & Research @ UC San Diego)
- developing cutting-edge biology curriculum
- directing various campus programs
See Harlow et al., 2020 or the Tweet thread below for more details, as well as this growing list of places with teaching professors. I also spoke about my experience as a teaching professor on “Translate your Training” and “Once a Scientist” podcast.
“Scholarship” encompasses a wide range of work. Lisa McDonnell, for example, recently published about jargon in biology education, and Claire Meaders has investigated what students remember from the first day of class (Meaders et al. 2021 & Lane et al. 2021)
Many of us also focus on developing innovative courses and curricula or communicating science to the general public. For me, this has been a mix of creating new courses, publishing lesson plans, as well as writing a book. 📚
“Service” is a category where we’re all a bit different. I co-direct STARTneuro as well as our BS/MS program, but other TPs serve in other roles. You can join committees for issues you care about, e.g. several TPs lead EDI efforts in our school.
As for balancing these aspects, across the UC system, L(P)SOE faculty say they spend 65.5% time teaching, 18.6% on scholarly activity, and 15.9% for service. Give or take a few tenths of a %. 😉 (Yes, one of our TPs, Stanley Lo, even studied TPs!)
How can I get research experience?
If you’re at UC San Diego, there are a few specific ways to find research opportunities:
- Look through the REAL portal (https://real.ucsd.edu/) for open listings.
- Look through the list of faculty on the Neuroscience Graduate Program website. These faculty are at UCSD as well as neighboring institutions. Seek out their lab websites and social media accounts, where you might see some mention of open positions.
- Many labs at The Salk Institute also hire undergraduates. Go to the Salk Careers Page to see current positions. With 0-2 years of experience, you’d typically be eligible for Lab Tech I or Research Assistant I roles, but check individual listings for details.
- UC San Diego also highlights many other ways to engage with biology research and career opportunities on this blog. The STARS program is a big one!
- Biology has an awesome mentoring program called “BUMMP,” which provides scholarships.
More broadly speaking, here’s how you can find research opportunities:
- Apply to a summer research program. UCSD has several, and many times these turn into longer research positions in labs. Here is a list of many more summer internships.
- If you’re graduating soon, consider either formal or informal post-baccalaureate research programs. For example, check out the NIMH programs or the NYU Research Associates program. Here is a great guide to post-bacc programs.
- Talk to faculty you’ve taken classes with, reach out to other trainees in the lab, stop by office hours, or try to meet faculty at department events. The main thing is: do your homework beforehand. Faculty will be impressed when you actually know a little bit about what they do.
- Many faculty will hire undergraduates that cold email them! Choose your top 10 faculty, and spend a little bit of time writing them each emails that:
- Introduce who you are, and any relevant research or coursework experience that you have. Attach a resume!
- Demonstrate that you understand the research in their lab (even just superficially). You can say something like, “I’d be particularly interested in the ways that your lab uses stem cells to study neuropsychiatric disorders.”
- Communicate that you’d like to join their lab as an undergraduate researcher. Don’t simply say “I need lab experience.” Be clear about what kind of experience you’re looking for (a BISP 199 advisor, paid experience, etc).
- See the responses on the tweet below for additional helpful tips:
Are you a tough professor?
No one has ever actually asked me this directly, but I’m willing to bet it has crossed a few minds. You can look at the CAPE responses for my classes if you’re interested in knowing what the typical grades are — they’re fairly standard for biology classes at UCSD.
Neurobiology Lab (BIPN 145) is very likely to be quite different than other courses you’ve taken. It’s not a course about memorizing information. It’s a course about problem solving and communicating your thought process as a scientist. You might find different challenges in this course than in your other courses.
Neural Data Science (BIPN 162) is a course about learning coding skills to analyze open access datasets. If you don’t know how to code, that’s okay and expected! This course is designed for students who are beginning with no coding knowledge. [GitHub]
Will you write me a letter of recommendation?
If you’ve completed one of my courses, or if you’ve worked with me in another capacity (e.g., as an instructional assistant) please email me to request a letter of recommendation at least one month in advance of the deadline.
Have additional questions? Leave a note 👇