I received a PhD in Mechanical Engineering in 2013 in the USA and then had a brief stint as a "teaching assistant professor" for one year at my alma mater. I moved then to a post-doc position in Europe which was highly dissatisfying and "unsuccessful" (unsuccessful=zero publications) for a year. I returned to the USA and now I am in a non-tenure track position (teaching track as "Lecturer") in a mechanical engineering department. A non-tenure track position at my university is a two year rolling contract which may be renewed based on performance in TEACHING, service and some project management activities.
I enjoy teaching and find that my students do like me as a teacher and this is evidenced by favorable "instructor evaluations" from the students. Instructor evaluations are one of the main factors in "re-employment".
I find very often that there are burning research questions that I would like to work on but since I am on a 4-4 teaching load (4 courses/preparations per semester), I actually do not find too much time to start investing my personal time in research. My personal time goes into "mandatory service activities" (a lot of it is 'busy work') for my department. These service activities are skirted by tenure track faculty and falls squarely on the shoulders of "Lecturers" (NTT).
I would like to get into a tenure track position as that seems to be inviting. I say this because, it would seem that on average, in the USA, for mechanical engineering/applied mechanics departments, tenure track (Asst Professor) has a 2-1 or even a 1-1 teaching load. The other portion of their time is mentoring graduate students and writing grants.
The topic for my PhD was niche (hydrothermal space applications) and did not produce tomes of publications (2 Journals, 10 conference), none of them cited significantly (twice at most for journal papers).
How do I break out from my non-tenure track position and move into a tenure track position? I realize the breadth/scope of my question is perhaps too subjective so I decided to form strategies. I am wondering if people on this forum who are into hiring committees could shed more light on whether these strategies are useful or if not, provide other perspectives
Continue in non-tenure track for a few years. Eventually I won't be spending too much time on new course preparation and that may afford me time to spend on research. However, then I will have significant backlog of scientific work to catch up on!
Start applying for tenure track positions fully knowing that although I do have an aptitude for the research I want to do, I am lacking in publications. I have exhausted my PhD work into two publications (such was the nature of my PhD) and there is no "new data" or "new angle on old data" that I can publish right now. In this strategy of "job applications", I will have to focus on projecting my strengths (teaching, mentoring) and extend it or relate it to future proficiency in research
Quit my job and spend time trying to do research sans a pay-check (risky?) in the hope that this would allow me time for research.
Collaborate with tenure track faculty in my current university. The trouble is ("challenge" is a better word...) striking a working relationship with someone when I know that I am exhausting over 10 hours a day (on avg.) on teaching activities with little zing left in me at the end of the day!
Anything I might be missing as a strategy. This is where perhaps I could gain from someone's experience in this forum.