The Scheyer Institute for Teaching Excellence holds workshops throughout the academic year to help participants improve their teaching skills. More recently, Professor Eric Hudson has begun teaching a PHYS 597 physics pedagogy course. Other resources are our faculty teaching introductory courses (you can look up who is teaching them via LionPATH) and other universities’ websites on teaching. It’s best to find a resource that matches your teaching style.
Archives for December 2018
You can teach physics as an instructor or lecturer both within and outside the department. Senior graduate students (post-comprehensive exam) can teach an introductory physics course over the summer. Below is a message from Professor Robinett sent in Fall 2018:
“Each Summer, the Physics Department offers five of our intro-level (21x and 25x) courses over an extended 9-week period. These classes are not nearly as large as our Fall and Spring offerings, with lecture sizes ranging from 30-60 in most cases. We often have opportunities for ‘instructor’ type positions available for senior graduate students (and sometimes postdocs) to cover these courses and this is the first email I’ll be sending out asking for ‘expressions of interest’ from our current graduate students to see who might be interested in taking on such positions.
Some of our recent Ph. D. graduates have reported back that the experience of having done this was beneficial in getting junior faculty positions (most often at smaller, teaching focused) universities. Some aspects of such a position include:
- ‘Instructors’ in these courses would be responsible for delivering the lectures, having office hours, helping select homework, exam, and possibly recitation and lab activities.
- For each course for which we need coverage, there are two 75 minute lectures per week. The courses for the Summer 2019 term that we are looking for ‘instructors’ are PHYS 211, PHYS 212, PHYS 213/214 (one instructor does both, in sequence), and PHYS 251.
- The instructional period for all of our summer courses is Monday, June 10th – Friday, August 9th (classes end on Wednesday, August 7th, but there is a study day on Thursday, August 8th, and final exams on Friday, August 9th).
- PHYS 213/214 are two ‘half-term’ courses, taught ‘back-to-back’ over the same dates as above and are taught by the same instructor
- Members of our Introductory Course Committee (ICC staff) are in place to provide administrative support during the entire summer period (and advice on how best to prepare beforehand)
- The pay for such an assignment is $4,000
- In order to make sure that taking on such responsibilities does not negatively impact a students research progress, we ask that anyone interested in applying for such duties:
- have passed their comprehensive exam (for graduate students)
- and receive permission/approval from their research mentor/postdoctoral mentor”
Outside the Department of Physics, you might be able to find positions at psu.jobs (no .edu or anything). For example, each year since 2016 (3 years as of the time of this writing) the Department of Engineering has hired physics graduate students as instructors and facilitators (like a secondary instructor or all-class study session leader) for its Jump Start summer program. Another example is the Upward Bound program, where applicants from many STEM disciplines including physics can submit a proposed curriculum to engage K-12 students in science. Positions like these are usually also shared by the department to the graduate student listserv.
Nearly any novel source of extra income you can imagine is possible if you’re willing to look for it and make it happen. Some students have bought and resold textbooks, and I had a side hustle in my first summer writing study guides and test questions online. Arts and crafts are another option. The blog Personal Finance for Ph.D.s is a good resource for not only increasing your income but also reducing your expenditures.
The most professionally relevant opportunities are often those through the university, and for those, it pays (literally) to pay close attention to messages from the graduate program faculty and staff. For example, I can recall off the top of my head three summer instructor positions (one with the physics department, one with the engineering department for a physics course, and one with the Educational Equity office) and two internship-like positions (one reviewing tech proposals with the university’s patent office and one with the University Fellowships Office) sent out by physics program administrators this year. Of course, you can always search for opportunities on your own as well at psu.jobs, where internal Penn State jobs are posted.
Penn State offers the following additional information:
Every year the physics department awards several fellowships on the basis of excellence in research and coursework: currently, the Duncan, Downsbrough, Troxell and Miller Graduate Fellowships. Ask Professor Robinett, or look for an e-mail in the fall semester, probably toward the end. You can also read about other Penn State awards here:
The major external fellowships are the NSF, the NDSEG, the Hertz Fellowship, and for computational physicists the Computational Science Graduate Fellowship. These are highly competitive, highly prestigious, and high in the provided funding.
If you are a member of any societies, try checking whether they have awards as well. Also try searching for awards specific to your research area, or specific to your background, e.g. a first-generation student or an ethnic minority.
Penn State provides the following information about external graduate fellowships.