One key to your understanding of the context in which you are seeking a position is understanding what faculty members are expected to do.

The laboratory

One way to understand a laboratory is to view it essentially as a small business.  The faculty member running the lab must:

  • Determine the research direction for the lab
  • Obtain funding for the research (e.g., for capitalization, ongoing costs, space costs)
  • Ensure appropriate accounting
  • Design and maintain the space in accord with experimental requirements, personnel and equipment needed to carry out the research, and mandated safety and hazardous materials rules
  • Create and maintain an expert and dynamic research team with all the human resources requirements and issues in addition to the ensuring appropriate expertise
  • Develop collaborations with other labs (e.g., the equivalent of consultants, partnerships, resource networks)
  • Market the work of the lab (e.g., talks, posters, networking, meetings, web site)
  • Produce a product (e.g., peer-reviewed papers and reviews, patents, designs)
  • Maintain currency in the field


Faculty members in a university have an educational role that includes:

  • Classroom and/or online teaching
  • Creation of teaching materials
  • Teaching in the laboratory (with undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral trainees, and occasionally high school students)
  • Outreach to the community


Faculty members also carry a service responsibility that extends from local departmental service (usually various committees), to university service (e.g., more committees, special presentations, taskforces, faculty senate), to national service for the field or for the scientific community (e.g., reviewing papers and grant proposals, taskforces, serving as a science expert in testimony to congress, serving as an officer or board member for scientific organizations and societies).