June 19, 2013, by khyx2lyn
The most essential skill for a lecturer? Juggling
This is the time of year when, as a lecturer, your non-academic friends say things like “it must be nice to have 4 months off,” or “I guess you don’t have much to do until September now.” This perception is understandable, but also couldn’t be further from the truth. Understandable because it stems from the assumption that a lecturer’s only job is to lecture, and wrong because lecturing is only one part of a much bigger role.
A lecturer at a leading research university like Nottingham has his/her time split between three main areas – teaching, research and administration. And within each of these areas, there are a number of roles that we must fulfill. In the teaching part of the job, we have lectures, tutorials and practical classes. And to go along with each lecture, tutorial or practical class, we have to do a lot of preparation – those lectures don’t write themselves! – and marking of essays, lab reports and exams. This role mostly takes place during term time, so we do get a bit of a break over summer.
The research part of the job is what we will ultimately be assessed on. It is mostly research, and not teaching, that will get us promoted or will get us our next job. For a lot of lecturers, it is the love of research that led us down this career path. In my research role, I supervise or co-supervise 5 PhD students who work in my lab, and we will have 5 final year project students joining us in September. The research that the students do has to be top notch, and the best research will be published in international, peer-reviewed journals, so we are writing papers as well – I published 7 last year! Of course all of this research isn’t free, so we need to apply for grants and build relationships with companies to get the money.
Finally, all lecturers are expected to serve on committees and take on admin roles to “support the academic life of the faculty”. This can take a number of different forms, such as reviewing applications for ethical approval for research projects, or organising seminars. In my case, I run the school website and social media (Facebook, Twitter), as well as chairing the admissions, recruitment and marketing committee.
I love being a lecturer. Teaching students, doing research and reading interesting papers are all great, and I can’t think of any other job that would be as interesting or as varied. But, it does require juggling skills to rival this man sometimes!