I have a job. And not just any job, but the most perfect job I could possibly imagine.
As of 1 October (!) I'm going to be a lecturer in bioscience in the school of medicine at Keele University. This is pretty amazing because it's an actual job where I get paid to do academic biology type things. But it's even better than that because Keele is just the kind of institution where I was hoping to end up, a modern university with innovative approaches to education, but one that actually has a solid reputation and serious research output. And it's even better than that because this job is actually two half-time jobs: one as a researcher and one as a teacher.
The research part is: they give me £10K and some lab space, and I have three years to establish a research group. This means I have to apply for funding, set up collaborations, find people to employ, manage the lab including budgeting and everything, and actually do some experiments which I will hopefully eventually publish. This is the most brilliant opportunity ever; I'm being given free rein to just do science and pursue whatever I find interesting. But it's also terrifying, cos I'm going to be something close to a group leader at the age of 30, with only 3 years of experience since qualifying. I feel a bit like someone who has just won one of those entrepreneurship competitions, I have the prize which is worth a few thousand pounds, and lots of prestige and expectations, and now I have to knuckle down and actually run a business. Except this business isn't producing profit (or not directly, anyway), it's producing scientific knowledge.
The teaching part is: I get assigned a class of 12 medical students for half a semester, and they are assigned a real case study, carefully chosen to involve medical issues relevant to the appropriate stage in their education. And they have to learn, which means I have to teach, every aspect of that case, whether it's the biochemistry and genetics side that I actually have expertise in, or the epidemiology and health policy and (eep!) anatomy side where I have almost no background. I think this is a very cool way of training people to be doctors, because the real world isn't divided neatly into separate subjects, but it's also going to be amazingly challenging to teach well. At some point during this I am expected to get a post-graduate qualification in either medical education or some more intense pedagogy thing I can't quite remember right now.
After three years, they reassess me and decide whether I should be specializing more in teaching, or more in research, or keep with the 50/50 thing. Anyway, this is exactly the kind of job I hoped I might reach at the end of a long and uncertain career, but instead I can get started right away, and if all goes well build an exciting career from there. Also considerably more money than I've ever earned before, which doesn't hurt, though I'm hardly going to be living a life of luxury.
The downside is that I have three weeks. Three weeks which includes all the major Jewish festivals. Three weeks to move to, um, Staffordshire. The nearest large town is Stoke-on-Trent, and since probably the majority of my job is going to be at the hospital rather than on campus, I probably want to live there. Stoke-on-Trent has something of a bad reputation, but on the plus side, it is 90 mins by Pendolino from central London, and about half an hour from Manchester. And it's surrounded by extremely pretty countryside. And there is the option of Newcastle-under-Lyme, which is not really distinguishable from SoT on a map, but I learned that it is socially extremely distinct and has something of the character of a nice middle-class English country town. I will have to investigate further; I've lived in a depressed post-industrial town before (Dundee) and it didn't kill me. In fact, living in an ethnically and socially mixed area has a lot of positive appeal for me.
The next three weeks is going to be really really interesting. And the next three years after that. I am not sure when I will next have time to sleep, let alone socialize, though!
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