One of the things we’re expected to do as physics PhD students at Glasgow is help out with undergraduate lab demonstrating. You might be allocated any of 1st through 3rd year labs, teaching either physics or astronomy (or very occasionally something else). We get a bit of training for this and we’re supposed to have time in the lab with the equipment and a lab guide before our first session, although it doesn’t always work out that way. Naturally, there’s usually some marking to be done as well.
Some people don’t like it very much because it pulls them away from their research or because they just don’t like teaching very much, but I like the break and I do like teaching, so I’m quite happy to do it. Plus we get paid, so it’s a nice bonus. Oh, and not to brag, but I’m pretty good at it. Everyone likes doing stuff they’re actually good at.
I’m about to enter my 4th year. I’ve only got about 6 months worth of funding left. After that I hope that I can pass my viva and get a job as quickly as possible – the idea of being unemployed terrifies me. Since this next six months is therefore going to be a bit of a race to the finish, I asked to not be given any demonstrating duties in the second semester. My request was granted, and then some – I only have about 4 hours worth of work in the first semester (normally it would be 3 hours per week plus about 3 more hours of marking).
Technically, the school has been very kind and thoughtful. Practically, if I don’t get more teaching hours people are going to be getting very cheap Christmas presents. I might be super busy, but I also need money. Given that I only have 6 months of funding left I’m in a kind of tricky position of having very little time and very little money. It’s kind of a dilemma.
So I spoke to the lab heads and managed to snag an extra 18 hours of demonstrating. Some stuff that isn’t regular, some stuff that just got set up late so they hadn’t had time to sort out the demonstrator allocation by the time the semester started. It’s not tonnes, but now that the lab heads know I’m looking for extra hours I’ll probably get a few more emails when other demonstrators have to pull out for whatever reason. It would be nice to have something more reliable, but it should be ok.
So, my advice to anyone else at Glasgow, or anywhere where PhD students get paid for teaching duties, is that if you want extra hours go and tell the lab heads. Usually it seriously helps them out and they’ll keep you in mind as a possible stand it should anyone drop out. Plus, having the staff on your side can sometimes be a really good thing.
Originally posted here: http://unazukin210.tumblr.com/post/130398536235/not-enough-lab-demonstrating