Resources

Assistant Professors

BSD Track

Here you will find a summary of resources and guidance for those interested in a new faculty appointment at the rank of Assistant Professor within the Biological Sciences Division (BSD) track as well as assistance for current Assistant Professors who are interested in the process for reappointment, promotion, and tenure.  Please reference the full set of guidance available through our official guidelines and seek assistance from our office or your department for additional information. 

The BSD track is for faculty who are appointed primarily because of their potential to make world-class contributions to knowledge, who devote the vast majority of their effort to scholarship, and whose performance as faculty is judged primarily by their scholarly contributions. This is our tenure-track. We define scholarship as the creation of knowledge.  Probationary faculty on this track must advance towards tenure on the primary basis of outstanding scholarship according to a timetable, or leave the institution. To be appointed on this track, faculty must already have the background, rigorous training and demonstrated the potential for achieving the required contributions in research or scholarship. The topic of the scholarship is secondary to its quality, and all forms of scholarship conducted by our faculty can form the basis for appointment and advancement in this track as long as they meet the expected levels of quality.

 

Appointment at the rank of Assistant Professor on the BSD Track is normally made for a 4-year term.  Learn more about the benefits and resources available to new faculty:

Information for beginning assistant professors on the BSD track

Although the promotion and tenure decision may seem very far away now, it actually arrives quickly.  For that reason it is essential to 'hit the ground running' on arrival.  We have no quota on tenured faculty, in principle all assistant professors can be tenured, and our success rate is quite high -- but failures are typically associated with not taking prompt action to develop one's career.

In a nutshell, here is the typical timeline:

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Ask your department when materials will be due in its office to meet the above deadlines.  This is often ~2-4 months in advance, and varies by department and time of year.

The end dates are subject to the University’s stop the clock policy: Stopping the Clock on Review for Promotion 

If lab or office facilities are being renovated for your use, it is prudent to check periodically on the progress and estimated completion date of the renovations even if you’ve been promised a specific completion date.  Unforeseen things happen!  Renovations uncover missing utilities or abatement hazards.  City inspectors go on strike, or the permit process stalls.

Biological Sciences Division’s official statement of criteria and process for promotion and tenure is at  Official Statement of Requirements | Guidelines | Criteria, summarized at a grid summary of faculty criteria.  Material on “the BSD track” will be pertinent to you.

A majority of the assistant professors with whom I met say: “Outstanding trainees are everything!”  That is, it is critically important to have outstanding people, be they graduate students, College students, postdocs, or technicians, working in your lab as soon as your lab is ready to go.  [An alternative opinion from them is to build slowly so that you have plenty of time to do experiments yourself. Except for the extremely lucky, you are the best person you'll have in your lab for some time. It is critical that you provide yourself time to work.]   If you agree with the first view, be aware that graduate students often choose their rotations at a particular time of year and, if you miss that time, you will need to wait until the following year.  The timing of rotation choice will vary among graduate programs.  Thus, you should contact the leadership of any programs from which you may draw graduate students, and ask about this. The assistant professors cautioned, however, that taking on a bad trainee is the worst mistake one can make.  It is best to be highly selective.

If you are expecting to use equipment outside your own lab, it would be prudent to investigate in advance.  Your colleagues are typically very generous about sharing equipment, but not so good about advertising its presence and availability. 

If you are expecting to use an established Core or shared research facility (http://osrf.bsd.uchicago.edu/ ), you should discuss its use with its director, manager, or other users.  This will help you form clear expectations about its availability and cost.

Teaching and institutional citizenship do count at UChicago, no matter what “they” told you during recruiting.  Hopefully you will find interaction with students, trainees, and colleagues to be a stimulating and rewarding component of your faculty position.  Just take care to arrange activities that you find satisfying and the institution finds valuable.  Most units have a policy of relieving new faculty of some/all teaching at first and introducing it gradually; check with the chair of your department if you have questions.

Many activities, including the hiring of lab personnel, obtaining biosafety, animal use, and human subject approvals, and applying for grants can begin in advance of your arrival and be complete on Day 1.  Contact your department-to-be to facilitate this, and in any event discuss ‘special circumstances’ (e.g., exotic pathogens or animal care needs).

You must be reappointed as Assistant Professor (unless you are promoted early). A three-year reappointment normally follows the initial four-year term. Total time as Assistant Professor cannot exceed seven years except according to the stop-the-clock policy.  Your reappointment materials will ordinarily be due in your departmental office in advance of the department recommendation.  Feel free to ask your departmental office when materials will be due, and if any other activities are customary.  For example, some departments include a research seminar as part of its deliberations, and these must be scheduled well in advance.  The departmental recommendation is reviewed by the Advisory Committee on Assistant Professors (ACAP), the Dean's Office, and the Provost's Office.

Summary of Criteria for Reappointment

  • Scholarly contributions made while Assistant Professor that establish you as 'on track' for timely promotion.  These include peer-reviewed scholarship and funding and, for reappointment, scholarship and funding efforts in progress.  See Promotion in a nutshell below.
  • Sufficient quality and productivity in contributions to our educational mission and institutional citizenship, meeting the expectations of your 'job description'.  In this track, most faculty are responsible for at least one complete course (or equivalent effort) before reappointment review. 
  • A thorough and explicit career development plan that will suffice for promotion in due course.
  • Please see the official guidelines for more information

Obviously the above are mainly judgments made by your departmental faculty colleagues, for whom your chair or chief is the spokesperson.  For that reason you should meet regularly with your chair, chief, departmental go-to person, and/or mentor(s) for insight into your progress and career advice.

There is no obligation to reappoint Assistant Professors even if they meet the above requirements.

Reappointment proposal--The department will prepare and submit a recommendation for the appointment that is reviewed by OAA for completeness, reviewed by the Advisory Committee on Assistant Professors (ACAP), and endorsed by the Dean and submitted to the Provost’s office for approval. An original recommendation should be submitted to OAA. A complete recommendation will include:

Assistant Professor's dossier:

  • Updated CV:  Be certain this contains complete and correct information on all scholarly works and past/current/pending/future funding.  (If your CV changes while it is being reviewed, you may provide your departmental office with either addenda/updates.)
  • Statements of past/proposed scholarly, educational, citizenship, and (where appropriate) patient care activity
  • Statement on past and expected progress to promotion
  • Up to 5 exemplary scholarly works or manuscripts (pdf format)

Departmental recommendation

  • Chair's letter to the Dean reporting the assessment of the faculty eligible to vote, their vote on the recommendation to reappoint, and additional comments of the chair. 
  • A draft letter to the Assistant Professor communicating the department's assessment of the assistant professor's strengths, weaknesses -- and offers of assistance, if any.
  • Learner evaluations submitted at the end of academic courses taught by the assistant professor.
  • Letter of assessment from BSCD Master or documentation that one has been requested (for Basic Science Departments and/or if candidate teaches in The College)
  • Other concurrences, and documents as customary for a department.  These might include Section Chiefs' letters and reports of internal promotions committees.
  • Once the reappointment is approved, the department is responsible for providing the reappointed assistant professor with the letter conveying the department's assessment and offers of assistance.  Assistant professors who have not received this letter within a month of the announcement should ask for it from their chair, chief, or departmental office.

Reverse timeline:

Target dates

Contract end date:     30 June (or in first half of the calendar year)     31 December (or in second half of the calendar year)    
Results of reappointment review are announced     15 December, 6.5 months in advance of end date     15 June, 6.5 months in advance of end date    
ACAP, Deans', and Provosts' review of recommendation     In between above and below     In between above and below    
Departmental recommendation due in Office of Academic Affairs     1 September, 10 months in advance of end date     1 April, 9 months in advance of end date    
Assistant professor's materials due in departmental office     Ask departmental office.  May range from 1 April to 1 August depending on faculty absences. Ask departmental office.  Typically sometime in Winter Quarter.

Assistant Professors in their fifth year receive an advisory review by the Advisory Committee on Assistant Professors (ACAP).  The purpose of the review is to provide helpful advice before you enter the promotion and tenure process.  This review requires you to make a brief research presentation to the ACAP committee on the significance of the research, the scientific challenge or opportunity you are pursuing, an overview of how you see yourself getting there, and the impacts if successful.

The fifth-year review for Assistant Professors grows out of the realization that the reappointment review, performed three years in advance of the promotion decision date, is usually too soon to provide any realistic estimation of your chances of satisfying the promotion requirements, and corresponding advice. The review comes at a time when committee members can provide Assistant Professors with realistic and useful advice. Click here for more information.

On the BSD track, you cannot be an Assistant Professor for more than 7 years, so you must either be promoted to Associate Professor or leave the faculty (and normally the institution).  Unless you are promoted early, your promotion materials will ordinarily be due in your departmental office in advance of the department recommendation. Feel free to ask your departmental office when materials will be due, and if any other activities are customary.  For example, some departments include a research seminar as part of its deliberations, and these must be scheduled well in advance.

Up-or-out deliberations ordinarily follow a specific timeline outlined in this document. See especially guidelines for promotion and tenure. 

There is only one exception to the 7-year limit, known as 'stopping the clock'.  Assistant professors who become parents within a specified time window automatically receive extensions, but may opt out.  Other circumstances may warrant extensions as the policy describes.

You can be promoted to Associate Professor, Associate Professor with Tenure, or Professor with Tenure.

If you are promoted without tenure, the most common term is 3 years, ending on 30 June.  On or before 12.5 months before the end of the term, you must be notified whether you will receive tenure or or leave the faculty (and normally the institution).  The timeline is the same as for promotion to associate professor (above). 

Criteria for Promotion:

  • Body of scholarly work of the highest quality characterized by originality, rigor and importance in comparison to others in their respective fields at the same career stage.  This body of work should be coherent, and readily identifiable as that of the candidate.  Elements of this achievement in the biological sciences typically include formulation of original research ideas, developing the research methodology, recruiting necessary personnel, obtaining funding through peer-reviewed mechanisms, analysis and interpretation of the results, presentation at significant scientific meetings, and publications in high-quality peer-reviewed journals.  Publications in the peer-reviewed literature of which the faculty member is typically the first or senior author are typically the primary basis for promotion or tenure.  The number of publications is considered, but of more importance is the quality of the body of work, as evidenced by where the publications appear, the impact of the contributions, and the opinions of experts in the field. Work that has not undergone peer review should not be considered.  In areas of scholarship for which external funding is necessary to conduct the research, past and likely future peer-reviewed funding success are important considerations.
  • Stature comparable to that of recently-promoted associate professors in leading programs elsewhere in the country, with indications that the candidate will become among the leading scholars in a significant field.
  • Sufficient quality and productivity in contributions to our educational mission and institutional citizenship, meeting the expectations of your 'job description'

Obviously the above are mainly judgments made by your departmental faculty colleagues, for whom your chair or chief is the spokesperson.  For that reason, you should meet regularly with your chair, chief, departmental go-to person, and/or mentor(s) for insight into your progress and career advice.

There is no obligation to promote or tenure assistant professors even if they meet the above requirements.

Promotion Package Includes:

  • Updated CV & personal statements 
  • Up to 5 exemplary peer-reviewed works, either published or accepted for publication
  • Chair’s letter to Dean
  • Grid of external assessors, their contact information, and rationale for their selection (if not in Chair's letter)
  • Letter used to solicit external assessments
  • External assessments
  • Internal assessments of clinical and educational acumen, if needed
  • Letter of assessment from BSCD Master or documentation that one has been requested (for Basic Science Departments and/or if candidate teaches in The College) 
  • Teaching evaluations
  • Other concurrences, and documents as customary for a department.  These might include Section Chiefs' letters and reports of internal promotions committees.

Your department will collaborate with you to prepare these materials. 

The Office of Faculty Affairs offers regular programming on the promotion process and other career development opportunities.

View our standard notification of record for candidates seeking promotion to Associate Professor and/or tenure in the BSD Track here.

Faculty Resources

Content of this page is presented for information purposes only, is not intended to create any contract or agreement, and is subject to addition, deletion, and change without prior notice. For definitive information regarding processes, procedures, and policies, contact the BSD Office of Academic Affairs.