I just got back from a four-day trip to Chicago, for my first conference after starting at Oxy, so I thought it’s a good time to talk about the research side of my job. My co-authors and I wrote most of the paper during the spring semester, which required multiple late nights on my part. Despite that sacrifice, I found that I actually enjoyed sitting down and organizing my thoughts through writing. Maybe it’s because it’s the first piece of academic writing I have done since my thesis and it was a relief to have to write only six pages of text. My paper with a student was particularly enjoyable, since they did half the experimental work and I didn’t have to deal with the analysis (at least, not the initial stab) and could focus on the writing.
Still, when I think ahead to establishing a broader research program, I can’t see the path from here to tenure. The easiest obstacle to overcome is computational resources, but I plan on using my startup to get computers before the summer’s over. More worrisome is the lack of students with advanced computational skills. The students may only be able to do conceptual work at a high level, while I try to convey the structure that I need from their work. It has been working well thus far with my summer student, but it’s hard to say whether I will continue to have student-completable work. My teaching and research mingle in the case of student researchers; the better I do attracting students to computer science, the more potential recruits there are. For the next year or two, however, I’m not sure I will be able to maintain a research group with any continuity.
On an even longer horizon, one piece advice I received is to develop a five-year research plan for topics for papers and venues for publishing them. I suspect this is one area where computer science differs from many fields, since papers are published on an annual conference schedule. While I have a broad research goal to pursue and projects within that goal, I do not know when each project will be complete or reach a publishable state. Maybe this also speaks to my own inexperience, but as long as I keep moving multiple projects at different stages of the pipeline, I don’t feel as though a concrete long-term plan is necessary.
It is already the end of June, halfway through the summer, and I feel I have only taken a breather and caught up on all the non-teaching work that I needed to do. I will be presenting at another conference in August, and hope to submit at least one paper in the fall, all while starting to prepare for classes again, this time with added committee service on top.