I received my PhD in mathematics about ten years ago. Despite my preference, desire, and attempts, I was not offered any postdoctoral positions. Part of the reason was (I think) that my dissertation topic was outdated, as opposed to being trendy. Since then, I have accepted a couple of tenure-track positions in teaching-oriented institutions, the second at a two-year Community College and in two years from now I will most probably be tenured. However, I constantly struggle with existential questions. I am not where I wanted to be. Granted, I have a job, but if my goal was to have a job, I was totally capable of aiming at a higher-paying job, instead of mathematics, when I was deciding what to study at college. As a teenager what intrigued me about mathematics (and still does) was its beauty and the opportunity it provided me for being creative through research and continuous learning. However, since my PhD the processes of research and learning have been very slow, despite my continuous attempts. For a long time I used to think the reason was lack of time due to heavy teaching load. While that may have contributed to the problem, I now think a bigger reason is lack of team support. There is a disconnect between my job and my research. I don't have people (graduate students, researchers, etc.) around me to whom I can talk about my research, everyday or every week. Consequently, the ratio of outcome to the time that I spend on research and learning new things is very small. So what are my questions?
- Ideally I would have liked to be part of a team, a lab if you like, consisting of one or two senior mathematicians (lab leaders), research assistants (mathematicians like myself who are not young enough to be postdocs, but still need to develop their research plans), postdocs, and graduate students. My question is, does such a model exist anywhere?
- Are there any options for mathematicians who really are not after a secure job and prefer to work as research assistants (paid less), rather than tenured "calculus teaching" faculty who do not meet age requirements to be considered for postdoctoral positions?
- Suppose someone (e.g., myself) didn't know better and did his dissertation on a topic that was not trendy and because of that couldn't secure a postdoctoral position. Is that the end of their career as a research mathematician? Are there any other options? What would you suggest?