Academic Researcher

Job Description
Careers in academia are centered around research, but include administrative roles and teaching responsibilities. As a Principal Investigators (PIs) your primary focus is getting grants and high-impact publications. As a young tenure-track faculty, getting grants and publications will determine if you receive tenure. Regardless of seniority, PIs are expected to maintain a steady stream of grant funding to support research and potentially the salaries of themselves and/or personnel in the laboratory. Teaching responsibilities vary depending on the institution or seniority of the PI, but can range from assisting in a graduate student course to running more than one large undergraduate course. Training graduate students is also expected. Academic responsibilities include serving on a variety of committees to improve the institution as a whole as well as the programs the PI is involved in. Although it is not a common part of post-doc training, PIs oversee lab finances and manage staff. Successful labs often have PIs who are excellent managers. Increasingly, collaborations are required for successful grants, publications and acquiring tenure. Thus, PIs with the ability to work with peers are more likely to be successful. An academic career requires >40 hours per week and salary ranges from $40k for an entry-level position to $150K for a more senior-level position.

Although PI is the most canonical career for an academic researcher, there are alternatives that are becoming more popular. Staff scientist positions are increasingly filled with PhDs who love research, but do not want the competition and additional responsibilities of being a PI. NCI has a new type of grant aimed at encouraging staff scientists to stay in academia.

Proficient in verbal and written communication
Planning, executing, and analyzing research
Time, budget and personnel management
Teaching and mentoring

Types of Positions
Visiting professor
Adjunct professor
PI (associate to full)
Staff Scientist

Medium and large universities
Medical schools

First Steps
Write Grants: apply for grants from both internal and external funding sources
Publish: primary research papers, review articles, response/commentary articles
Mentor: undergraduates at UMN or in summer research programs; graduate students
Teach: complete Preparing Future Faculty coursework; TA, guest lecture or instruct courses at UMN or local colleges
Present: posters and talks at conferences and local symposia
Service: serve on University committees, volunteer at GPN sponsored events (State Fair, Science Museum, Brain Awareness Week, Brain Bee)

Application Process
CV (teaching experience and publication record)
Research statement
Full presentation
Chalk talk
Teaching philosophy
Career Progression
PhD --> postdoc(s)   --> tenure track assistant professor --> associate professor --> full professor. Career progression is dependent on research productivity as measured by grant funding and publication record. On average it takes 3-5 years to reach associate professor from assistant and ~15 years to full professorship.
Twin Cities Employers
University of Minnesota

UMN Resources
Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship

Preparing future faculty courses:
Preparing future faculty retreat:
External Resources

Funding Databases