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Faculty Member

Faculty Member (professor or instructor in academic institution)


What do faculty members do?

Faculty members are responsible for teaching, research, and service.  Teaching can involve formal class instruction and mentoring graduate students.  Research includes design of experiments, personal wet or dry lab work, supervising team members (undergraduates, graduate students, and staff), obtaining funding for research, preparing publications, and making presentations.  Service work often includes committee membership, advising, or administration.  The amount of time spent in each of these three categories of duties varies with the institution, the department, and even the stage of one’s career.  At a large research university, research will have priority; a community college appointment may not have a research component but there will be more responsibility for teaching.  Generally, at a research institution, new faculty will be given light teaching loads while they establish their research programs.

What type of training is required?

Faculty positions generally require a PhD; a Master degree may be sufficient to obtain a position at a community college or private four-year college.  Currently almost all successful candidates have a large body of published research and a record of independent funding from a national grant agency.  Thus, several years as a postdoctoral researcher beyond the PhD is necessary. 

How can I best prepare for this profession?

See the page on preparing for entrance to a PhD program.


Sarah Anderson

Education: BS, Genetics, ISU, 2011; PhD, Integrative Genetics and Genomics, University of California, Davis, 2016; post doc, University of Minnesota, 2016-2019.

Current position: Assistant Professor, Department of Genetics, Development and Cell Biology, Iowa State University

I am currently an assistant professor in GDCB at Iowa State studying how variation in genome content in maize leads to differences in gene expression. While I enjoyed several parts of my undergraduate genetics experience, working in a lab best prepared me for graduate school and my academic career path. While working in a lab, I was able to develop technical skills, refine my research interests, and network with faculty, which together set the groundwork for my career. 



Dan Kliebenstein

Education: BS Genetics, ISU, 1993; PhD Genetics, Cornell University, 1999

Current Position: Professor, Department of Plant Sciences, University of California - Davis

Dr. Dan Kliebenstein

My research career was largely enabled by my undergraduate courses at Iowa State. I was able to take lab and lecture courses in plants, genetics and chemistry every semester during my four years which laid the foundation to conduct work at the intersection of genetics and chemistry in plant biology. Without these courses and the ability to conduct laboratory research, I would not be successful at the research we conducting.