Severe ME Day of Understanding and Remembrance: Aug. 8, 2017
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Working in academia

Discussion in 'Finances, Work, and Disability' started by SophieLo, May 29, 2016.

  1. SophieLo

    SophieLo

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    Hi
    I'd like to know about the experience of people working in academia who have ME/CFS. I'm considering going into academia after a PhD so I'd like to hear from people who are currently working in academia after their PhD or who weren't able to once they'd completed their PhD. I'm trying to assess whether it's a viable career option. I have mild ME/CFS but I can't work full time 9 to 5 at the moment, mostly because I can't work set hours.
    If you'd like to remain anonymous (for understadable reasons), we can organise a Skype chat.
    Thanks for your help
     
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  2. Snow Leopard

    Snow Leopard Hibernating

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    It's a good question... Something I've asked myself too, but I'm too ill to start a PhD at the moment, so...

    I think it depends on what country you live in, whether you already have academic contacts, how easily you can get a part-time academic position and or find a department in a University that is very encouraging of diversity and believes that diversity includes supporting those with illnesses or disabilities that limit ones ability to work full time.
     
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  3. ryan31337

    ryan31337 Senior Member

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    Hi @SophieLo,

    I worked as a doctoral researcher part-time for 4.5 years until suspending recently because of declining health (ME/CFS from a young age). What stage in your studies are you at now?

    I agree with @Snow Leopard, like anything its very variable and you probably won't know until you try. I think if you can find the right academic job it can be a good fit, very high flexibility in hours/attendance and a huge amount of holiday (at least here in the UK). On the other hand I worked for a research group that was very commercially orientated, the group projects and deadlines were relentless and there was little difference from working a normal job.

    I think even in a more traditional academic environment where you can work at your own pace you'll still have to deal with publication pressures, exertion/stress of conferences/presentations, supervising others as you progress etc. so I think its probably a career path for someone only very mildly affected.
     
    Last edited: May 30, 2016
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  4. CCC

    CCC Senior Member

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    It depends on what country you live in. Countries with solid disability and accessibility laws will be easier to find work in.

    If you're smart, and you already know where you want to work, then you should be able to negotiate something part time. At the very least, it's cheaper for them!
     
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  5. TiredSam

    TiredSam The wise nematode hibernates

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    I work as an adjunct lecturer. Each semester I agree what courses I can teach, and am paid per course. It's very flexible, so I could say "only 2 courses this semester" or "I want them all on a Monday" etc. I've just been offered more work, which I've decided to see if I can take on, but I could have said no. Perfect for someone with ME to be honest. They don't know I've got ME by the way. If I ever decide to tell them I'm sure they would be understanding and helpful. I just prefer not to mention it for now. Great thing about teaching is that you can do it sitting down, and get the students to do most of the work, which by a happy coincidence is how they learn best anyway. So if you're not well enough to work full-time, maybe being a self-employed adjunct lecturer might suit you.
     
  6. SophieLo

    SophieLo

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    Thanks everyone.
    I'm currently applying for PhDs.
    @TiredSam how does self-employed adjunct lecturer work? How does it differ from a lecturer?
     
  7. TiredSam

    TiredSam The wise nematode hibernates

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  8. Luther Blissett

    Luther Blissett Senior Member

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  9. KitCat

    KitCat be yourself. everyone else is already taken.

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    I am not in academia, I've just watched friends in this process.

    My impression is that if you just starting out, finding and applying for a job can be very physically demanding -- traveling for job interviews and lectures, relocating, very competitive to find a position, etc.

    I have heard it is much easier to search for academic work in the math and science fields than in the humanities.
     
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2016
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  10. KitCat

    KitCat be yourself. everyone else is already taken.

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    "Faculty job interviews are generally one or two (long) days. The main components are the all-important job talk; meeting with countless faculty, deans, and students; and usually some kind of fancy dinner. All of these components are essential to getting a job offer.

    The process of interviewing is exhausting. Two full days of talking with people can really wear you out, especially since you need to be "on" all the time. As I'll explain below, any kind of dinner or social outing is not in fact a chance to take a break, since you're being evaluated during those times as well.

    Planning travel: Usually, schools will pay for your travel and hotel expenses for the interview, though more often than not they expect you to pay the costs up front and they will reimburse you later. Get a credit card with great rewards since you'll be racking up the points over the course of several faculty interviews. Be prepared to lay out several thousand dollars for each interview trip as reimbursements can take a couple of months to process.

    If you are interviewing at several schools, try to avoid doing more than two interviews back to back. Each of these trips takes a lot out of you."

    http://matt-welsh.blogspot.com/2012/12/how-to-get-faculty-job-part-2-interview.html
     
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  11. Glycon

    Glycon World's Most Dangerous Hand Puppet

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    I got sick midway through my PhD program. I was lucky enough to have full fellowship funding for about half the time and really light teaching duties for the rest of it. On top of it I had incredible administrative support and was recognized as one of the most talented prospective academics in my field (which means that I was really good at it, but also that eminent and influential people were willing to go to bat for my interests).

    I ended up unable to perform even the lightest of teaching. And I never even went on the job market. I don't know how anyone with even mild ME/CFS could get through that. And then there is pressure to get tenure even if you are lucky enough to get a tenure-track position right out of grad school...
     
  12. frederic83

    frederic83 Senior Member

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    We are on the same boat... I had mild CFS at the beginning of my PhD and got worse through the years to a moderate state. I had to end up it after 4 years (The duration is usually 3 years; I got the permission to add one more year). So no career in academia, or other fields actually.
    Retrospectively, it was the best choice. It is just not possible, I think, with a moderate CFS.

    The working hours were quite flexible, I was allowed to work at home sometime but I had no energy, memory and sleep problems. I was not able to present a decent work and to retain all the information I read in the papers.

    If you have mild CFS (able to work (with difficulty) for 8 hours/day or close, without medication, for example), with the right supplements and drugs, there is a chance to have a good career.
    It depends on how you can manage your work, publishing, conferences, teaching...
    The brain fog and the memory dysfunction is also something to take into account, the quality of your work you provide rely a lot on it.
     
  13. L'engle

    L'engle moogle

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    I think academic work varies considerably between Europe and North America? In North America it is a very demanding scene with tenure track lecturers working basically all of their waking hours to keep up. Sessional lecturers make so little that many are forced to live on social assistance while they are working.

    It is probably better in Engineering and Technology fields than in Humanities or pure sciences. A friend with a a phd in Engineering found that sessional teaching did not pay well in enough in comparison to part-time consulting work to be worthwhile.
     
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  14. Glycon

    Glycon World's Most Dangerous Hand Puppet

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    Keep in mind that all the CFS researchers who are also patients (at least all the ones who come to mind) got sick once they already had established careers. They didn't have to complete dissertations, go through the job market, and earn tenure while sick.

    If there are prominent examples of those who did, I would be interested to hear them.
     
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  15. Glycon

    Glycon World's Most Dangerous Hand Puppet

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    In a way, the relatively leisurely life of a PhD student (provided you're good and have good institutional support) could partially mask how sick you really are.

    There is NO WAY I would have lasted as long as I did (all the while insisting that I'm not terribly ill) if I was working full-time, even in the most undemanding of career fields.
     

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