Yes, yes, I know, that in my 13th year of teaching I should be embarking on my second research sabbatical; however, the needless, surprising, and traumatic mid-career job change I experienced as my first sabbatical would begin postponed it until now. Thanks, but no thanks, Central Washington University Chemistry Department!
What’s weird at UVU is that research sabbaticals are not automatically approved and few people actually take them. Because the focus here so heavily emphasizes teaching, even qualified and correctly timed applications may not go forward if it would place too much of a teaching burden on their department. Fortunately, no one else in my department applied this year, yet I was not alone in being eligible.
Instead of taking a sabbatical “leave”, I’ll be staying at UVU. Now I’ll have time to work on my research projects in my shared lab space and might be able to mentor a few students too. Although I want to do an external sabbatical, I felt I should solidify my research position and complete and publish my current projects before working on someone else’s research agenda. I’ll admit, it’d be exciting to do a tandem teaching and research sabbatical with Neil Garg at UCLA, do some amazing synthesis work at Harvard (Myers, Jacobsen, Shair), Scripps (Baran, Yu, Shenvi), Caltech (Sarah Reisman), Cal (Richmond Sarpong), or Utah (Ryan Looper) to mention a few, or travel to Australia to do some deep-sea diving and natural product isolation/identification with Ronald Quinn, a research collaborator on our clavatadine A project. Another part of my sabbatical leave will allow me to dedicate time to create a chemistry-focused history/philosophy/political science course for the UVU Honors Program. Leading a small, honors-style course that focuses on reading, in-class discussions, and projects has been a dream of mine since I began teaching. Finally, I’ll hopefully be able to write manuscripts on a pedagogical research project I’ve been working on for a few years now and also a couple of articles describing some in-class activities and assignments that seem suitable for the Journal of Chemical Education.
Finally, looking forward to the future, I re-submitted the abstract that I planned to give at the Spring 2020 ACS meeting that was cancelled. The ACS announced that their Fall 2021 meeting in Atlanta will be in-person. As I prepared the abstract for submission, I believe I checked the box that said, “Present in person even if my division is only offering virtual presentations.” Now that I’m fully vaccinated, I’m ready to rejoin my community and declare a moratorium on my personal boycott of virtual meetings.