Archive | April, 2014

10 reasons why I am thrilled about my new job at SF State University

13 Apr

A few days ago I signed a contract with SF State University to become an assistant professor in their Biology Department. I am soooo happy about this!


In case you are not an academic biologist, you may not realize that jobs as assistant professor, especially in nice places such as San Francisco, are very hard to get. I sent out many applications (not just in SF, but all over the US and in Europe) before I got this job. But now I feel like I hit the jackpot! Here are some of the reasons why I am so excited.

  1. I will not have to apply for jobs next year. During the last three winters I have spent a lot of time and energy applying for jobs and flying to interviews (if I was lucky to get invited). Next year I won’t even be reading the ads!
  2. I don’t have to move to the other side of the country (or globe) or leave beautiful California, or choose between my job and my husband’s job!
  3. As an assistant professor, I will be running my own independent group (tradition says that this group will be referred to as the “Pennings Lab”). Even though I have had amazing advisors during my scientific career, I look forward to being my own boss.
  4. As part of the job, I will be teaching again, and my teaching will count for my evaluations and for getting tenure[1]. I really like teaching, but in the last couple of years I didn’t teach at all, knowing that only more publications on my CV would really help me to get the job I wanted to get.
  5. I will be teaching students from a wide variety of backgrounds, which will be exciting. I expect to learn a lot about the US from these students.
  6. I will be in the same department as Kimberley Tanner, who does research on biology education and who convinced almost everyone in the department to take a one-week HHMI funded course on scientific teaching. She also wrote this useful paper on equity in the classroom (
  7. I will have great colleagues to collaborate with. For example, there is someone in the SFSU Biology Department who is interested in evolution of HIV (Joseph Romeo), there is also someone who is interested in molecular evolution and who runs a “dry lab[2]” just like I will (Scott Roy), and there are several people in the department who are interested in adaptation in natural populations. Plenty of opportunities for new collaborations!
  8. I’ll still be close to Stanford and look forward to continuing my collaborations with Dmitri Petrov and Bob Shafer and their groups. I will also continue to be part of the Bay Area Population Genomics community.
  9. At SFSU I will get help with writing grant proposals (for example, they pay other scientists to pre-review my grants if I have them ready on time), but I don’t necessarily need to get an R01 or similarly big grant to get tenure.  Given the current funding situation, this may save me from a lot of pre-tenure stress.
  10. I will be part of a department where 38% of the professors are female. I don’t know of any biology department with that many women.


[1] I will come up for tenure after 6 years. If I get tenure, I will become associate professor and later I can be promoted to full professor.

[2] A “dry lab” is a group of biologists working only with computers. The opposite, a “wet lab” is mostly used to refer to molecular or cell biology labs. One of the first questions I always got in interviews was: “Will you be running a wet lab, or just a dry lab?” I recently learned that mathematicians call our “dry labs” “computer labs” in stead.