Thursday, December 16, 2010

Are there adjunct professors in chemistry? If so, uh-oh

Adjuncting: the Wheel of Pain
Photo credit to
It's probably understandable, but I really like reading non-science blogs, too. One of my favorites is Unfogged -- it's like a never-ending cocktail party, and it's mostly liberal arts academic types. One of the things they like to complain about (creatively) is the tedium of being an adjunct professor, and hoping beyond hope one day for a shot at a tenure-track position. It's one of those symptoms of funding strains and a potentially diseased academic system.*

Gotta say, I was surprised to read a couple of people on Paul's installment yesterday talking about the presence of adjunct professors of chemistry. While you see "lecturer" positions, "visiting assistant professor" positions and the like, I've rarely seen "adjunct" positions posted. But Matt has something to say about that...
In the spot that I’m in right now, it has been handled by an adjunct for the past 5 years. The chair convinced the dean to hire my position because finding a qualified adjunct who was willing to teach the advanced inorg lab was too difficult. Also, there are a lot of professionals in our area who really want to do some sort of adjunct work. They really want to try their hand in teaching. There is no shortage. So, when the need comes up, the chair has a pool of people he can go to without having to post an ad. I don’t know that they’re required to advertise seeing as how its not a full time job.
Ruh-roh. If we're adjuncting in chemistry more and more, that means we've got a problem, too...


  1. CJ, where have you been hiding all these years? Adjuncting in chemistry goes by a number of names and has been around for at least 10-15 years. The euphemisms are: "term lecturer" "part-time lecturer", "2/3 time appointment" etc.

  2. Yeah CJ, I thought everyone knew this already. I know people banging three campus' a week just to get their paycheck. Adjuncting is great for the people with a real job on the side or for people with a spouse with a stable job. Many happy people in those situations. Since they just teach at one campus.

  3. Huh -- I had no idea. I know about the visiting assistant professor / temporary faculty stuff, but I guess that I was wondering about it becoming an endemic problem -- that's what I was really referring to.

  4. Dude, it already _is_ an endemic problem.
    -An "ACS certified BSc degree" requires four full-time faculty members, one in each sub-discipline. Those little departments who _only_ have four full-timers are obviously not meeting their teaching obligations on just four faculty members.

    Then there are those little departments which advertise that students only have contact with _PhD_ chemists. That is another rationale for part-timers.

    The part-timers who I know all would rather be working full time. An article from ca. 10 years back in the NYT describes the plight of part-timers who shuttle between 2-3 campuses in a day and eat their lunches in their cars to pay their bills.

  5. Crom, I have never prayed to you before. I have no tongue for it. No one, not even you, will remember if we were good *chemists* or bad. Why we chose that catalyst, or why we isolated the minor diastereomer. All that matters is that our paper got accepted by JACS over many. That's what's important! Valor pleases you, Crom. So grant me one request: Grant me tenure! And if you do not listen, then to HELL with you!

  6. Adjuncting is endemic. Since moving to my current location, I've taught, at times, full time course loads for part-time, semester-by-semester pay. In a given semester I'm usually teaching one or both of the large organic chem sections that the bio/premed students take. This semester I'm teaching 575 students in 3 classes "part time". I do have TAs involved, of course.

    The university keeps increasing enrollments while not expanding the number of teachers or TAs. The TAs have to teach 3 lab sections a week, which seems onerous to me. We have labs running 6-7 days a week for the organic sections, morning afternoon and evening.

    There is a full-time position teaching position announced that I may qualify for, but it's very vague as to long-term prospect. Something like "you teach full time, and someday maybe we might consider turning it into a faculty position."


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20