Staff Writer: Maya Arruda
In this cutthroat industry, only the most skilled and knowledgeable will survive and thrive. Not just anyone can make it. Though many have tried to reach scholarly greatness, not many have achieved the hallowed rank of Doctor and gained the legal right to put Ph.D. after their name.
Even fewer still choose life in academia, the delicate balance between enriching young minds and professional research projects to provide prestige to the educational facility that signs the check.
Academia is one of the toughest job markets around, with tenure about as easy to get as an Olympic gold medal. Out of around one hundred applicants, eight were chosen to vie for only two positions in a battle of academic prowess.
It’s time to find UMass Dartmouth’s next top biology professor.
The biology department at UMassD has two open professor positions, replacing Dr. O’Connor and Dr. Hable.
Dr. O’Connor taught various ecology courses at the university, so her successor will have to be up to snuff to teach hundreds of students per semester in multiple types of ecology courses, not just one specialty.
Dr. Hable taught sophomore cell biology and was a cell and molecular biologist through and through. May her retirement be a good one. It’ll take something really special to hold a candle to Dr. Hable in both teaching and research.
Candidates will give their final presentations to a panel of judges, an hour-long sales pitch seminar about why they should be UMass Dartmouth’s next top bio professor.
These judges consist of their would-be colleges should they beat all the rest: the current academic residents of UMass Dartmouth, including the head of the department, Dr. Silby himself.
That’s not all!
In addition to the hardened veteran scholars in the audience scratching down notes with stone faces, candidates will face the judgment of the one group so fearsome and important that they must win over at all costs: students.
Graduate and undergraduate biology students will be in attendance for every live in-person presentation to decide whether or not each candidate would be a good teacher bringing enough research opportunities to the college. While students cannot directly be the cause of immediate failure, student feedback does matter.
This seminar must include past and current research for the academic area the candidate is applying for, either ecology or cell and molecular biology. The candidates must address any plans for research if they win the title of UMass D’s top bio professor and demonstrate sufficient knowledge of their field.
Oration and presentation will be key in this war for success.
Out of the eight final candidates, there are four for each position: four more ecology-oriented academics to fill Dr. O’Connor’s position and four cell and molecular academics to succeed Dr. Hable.
While this may cut down the pressure for our contestants to only compete against three others to win the grand prize, this only means the stakes and nerves will rise during their one last shot to convince the judges that they truly are UMass Dartmouth’s next top professor.
It is do or die.
This week, two out of the four ecologists gave their seminar to the panel of judges.
Since it would give an unfair advantage to the two candidates still left to present, the specific contents and responses of these seminars will not be published at this time.
Likewise, to discourage research of the competition and protect the privacy of the candidates, the names of the two who presented will not be published at this time.
These seminars have not been electronically recorded and published for the same reason.
All seminars for the ecologist professor position are on Mondays and Wednesdays at 12 P.M. at the Charleston College of Business, with the last presentation this upcoming Wednesday, 2/1.
The seminars for the cell and molecular professors will be held the subsequent week on Thursday at 11 A.M. and will be judged by a different group of current professors entrenched in the field.
By the end of February, all candidates will have given their final presentations, and two lucky individuals will be given the title of professor.
Even after these two have wrestled the title from the competition, the struggle isn’t over yet.
As anyone familiar with state-level academia would know, working as a professor for the first few years is just a very long interview to see if the university would like to keep you. Each professor must survive six years in academia before the university decides their fate based on their performance.
If they succeed at appeasing the university after jumping through hoops and balancing teaching, research, and their personal life, they will receive the coveted tenure and obtain the ever-elusive job security, a must-have in this economy.
However, they will be bombarded by work, stress, and students that email them at the witching hour the day before an assignment is due.
This phase is when student feedback really can make or break a career. It’s this stage in the academic employment process where the university really looks at those end-of-the-semester professor feedback reviews, and if a professor consistently gets negative feedback and fails to correct the underlying issue, they’ll get the ax.
The surviving candidates must be able to navigate a stressful environment while negotiating the delicate balance between a high standard of learning and not melting student brains for years before they can truly be UMass D’s next top biology professor.