Sunday, November 9, 2008

To TA or Not to TA

The current and recent economic situation, and specifically the funding climate of the past few years, is starting to put a pinch on my advisor, and thus on her four graduate students and professional research assistant. We are the in the hellish process of attempting to renew her main grant, which has been going on for over a year now. Naturally, they decided to shift from "3 rounds of submissions, and expect to go through all 3" to "2 rounds, and you'd better hope you make it in 1" just as we got back the reviews on round 2. So I was a bit thrown off by my advisor saying it might be better for me to RA than TA next semester. How exactly does that work?

It turns out this is just my advisor's attempt to be equitable across graduate students. It's very likely that this would be the last semester she can put us all on RA-ships, so if I want to have a semester I don't teach for the remainder of my graduate career, this might be it. I explained that I would much rather have all that money set aside for summer, when TA-ships are few and not enough to keep you out of debt. Besides, the department is woefully short of TAs once again.

I'm not concerned if I'm the only of her graduate students teaching; it was a frustrating pain in the neck the first time, when the grant proposal was being thrown together at the exact same time I was throwing together a lab course, but I've since achieved some level of balance. Often I feel like I need teaching requirements, to give me something to do besides the frustrating and sometimes pointless research. Of course, all this positive feeling might not do me any good if I'm assigned to teach stats. At least next semester is relatively light in the formal requirements...

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