I just sent in my application for QUT’s ECARD (Early Career Academic Recruitment and Development) program. The program is an ongoing attempt by QUT to recruit young researchers and train them as lecturers and academics who will sustain the university as the more senior academics retire. It’s not just a staff hiring program, though, as it requires that those recruited into the program undertake a postgraduate course in tertiary education and engage themselves with the administrative aspects of the university as well.
This round there are 11 positions in the Science and Engineering Faculty, two of which are with maths/stats. I’m hoping to get selected for one of these two positions. I’ve spent the last 4.5 years with an aerosol science research group learning how to be a statistician. It’s been a bit of a weird experience and reminds me of Professor Ian Turner (my Linear Algebra and Computational Mathematics lecturer) who has a PhD in Engineering yet does research into numerical algorithms for solving matrix systems and their mathematical properties.
The prospect of moving back to the School of Mathematics doesn’t feel like I’d be going “home” so much as finding a new group of people to work with. I did my undergrad and honours in mathematics but my primary Honours supervisor has moved to the School of Public Health and most of my cohort have either moved on to other universities or gone into industry. The people, location, organisational structure, units, etc. have all changed since I left. Despite all these changes it’s still the QUT School of Mathematical Sciences and there are other Bayesian statisticians over there, something I can’t really say for the School of Chemistry, Physics and Mechanical Engineering (where I am now).
Of course, I could remain employed in an applied sciences group and still collaborate with other statisticians (as I do now) but there’s a world of difference between my little office in M block with the other ILAQH members and a quarter of a floor full of mathematicians and statisticians in the new Science and Engineering Centre. For all my love of using Git and LaTeX to collaboratively write papers with people half a world away, you really can’t beat proximity to others like you to continually inspire and challenge you.
There are a few other jobs that I’m looking at, both in Brisbane and overseas. I got some very good advice from a friend of mine who’s currently working in Northern Europe; you should aim to find a job that:
- is interesting
- has good people
- is in a good place.
The first is clearly the most important in terms of job satisfaction. Working on a project you don’t care about (but can competently do) sounds soul-destroying. Working with people you don’t get along with and who don’t value what you do will lead to stress, conflict, etc. and working in a place which has nothing going for it will prevent you from being able to enjoy your time away from work.
I think an ECARD position within the School of Mathematical Sciences would fit the all three of these, particularly if I end up lecturing one of the new ST01 units and have some discretion over the sort of research I do.