Current Job Title - Assistant Professor
Name of Organization - Southeast Missouri State University
Undergraduate Degree - Bachelor of Science, Computer Science, University of Denver
Graduate Degree #1 - Master of Science, Mathematics, University of Denver
Graduate Degree #2 - Doctor of Philosophy, Mathematics and Computer Science, University of Denver
What does your current position entail?
I am an assistant professor of mathematics, so my job entails teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in mathematics, pursuing research in mathematics and performing service activities within the department and university. I teach four (usually different) courses each semester ranging from lower-division undergraduate to graduate.
How did you get your current position?
I actually found the advertisement for this position HERE. I applied by sending my CV, research statement, teaching statement and letters of recommendation. From there, I was asked for a phone interview and eventually an on-campus interview. Happily, I did well on those and they offered me the position.
In relation to graduation, when did you start the job search and when did you secure your position?
I graduated from DU in June 2009 and I actually started the search in August or September 2008. Jobs start appearing on both mathjobs.org and EIMS about that time. A lot of academic jobs in mathematics have application deadlines in November or December. My on-campus interview was in April 2009. They were originally intending to offer me the position in April, but the Dean froze funding for the position and I was not offered the position until late June 2009.
In regards to the job search process:
*Can you tell us a little bit about your decision to pursue positions inside the academy?
I love mathematics and I love to teach. My personality is more the "ivory tower" type. The traditional "9-5" job just didn't appeal to me very much. I really like the flexibility and challenge of the academic life. I did decide to pursue a university with a teaching emphasis as opposed to a research emphasis. Ultimately, I wanted to remain involved in research to some extent, but I did not want the pressure involved with publishing and grant-writing that exists at more research-oriented schools. Besides that, I love to teach.
*What recommendations do you have for PhD students hoping to pursue academic jobs?
First, sit down and ask yourself what type of academic job you want. Most academic jobs will have a requirement for both research and teaching, but the requirements for each can vary widely across universities. Do you want to research and teach one or two classes a semester or do you want to primarily teach? Second, start early. Get your CV, research and teaching statements together before your final year starts and take all of them seriously. Do NOT blow off your teaching statement, particularly if you are applying to a university like mine. I had professors and fellow graduate students help me proofread my documents. Also, make sure you give your recommendation writers some time to write a good letter for you. Third, if you're interested in math jobs, look at both mathjobs.org and EIMS. A lot of graduate students go to mathjobs.org, but overlook the EIMS postings. Fourth, don't give up. Academic positions are extremely competitive. I did receive a rejection letter saying I was one of 648 applicants for one tenure-track position. Finally, if you can avoid limiting yourself geographically you will increase your odds of getting a job.
*What resources were most helpful for you in creating your professional documents (i.e. teaching portfolio, teaching philosophy, CV, e tc.)?
I was very grateful to my professors who helped me proofread my documents. Both Dr. Petr Vojtechovsky (my advisor) and Dr. Michael Kinyon looked at my documents and they gave me excellent feedback and helpful advice for landing an academic job. I also went online and looked around at other teaching statements and research statements just to get ideas for what other people were putting in. A lot of teaching statements can sound very repetitive (particularly if a search committee has to read hundreds of them) so I tried to make myself stand out in comparison to the documents that other people had posted online.
Which aspects of your background have been most helpful in your current position?
As a teaching assistant at DU, I worked with all sorts of students from the lower-division courses to the upper-division courses. Each audience is different. Teaching a Business Calculus course is a lot different than teaching an Intro to Abstract Algebra course. Having had the experience of TA'ing a lot of different courses helped when I got to my current job at Southeast. I was a teaching assistant for MATH 1200 many, many times and that experience was quite beneficial because I frequently teach the equivalent course at Southeast. My Abstract Algebra teaching assistant experiences were also quite helpful when I got to teach Intro to Abstract Algebra for the first time.
If you were in your graduate program again, what would you do differently, if anything?
I think the main thing would be to try to get into research a little bit earlier. I was a computer science undergrad so I had a little bit of catching up to do, but ultimately the Ph.D. is a research degree and I would have tried to get the necessary coursework out of the way and start doing research earlier that I did. The coursework is necessary to do the research, but there is a lot of joy in working on a problem in which no one knows the answer.
Any additional comments for current students?
Enjoy your time as a graduate student (even when you're studying for quals). DU has a tremendous mathematics faculty and this is your time to really explore how wonderful mathematics is and gain some breadth and depth within the discipline. Also, go to conferences and network as a graduate student. I started attending the major conference in my research area two years before I graduated. I still attend that conference every year and the friends I made back then are collaborators and coauthors now.