I'm a fairly new Assistant Professor at a 4-year university. As is often the case our teaching load is high and we are also expected to do research. Personally, I like both teaching and doing research.
- The difficult part of it, however, is to attract the students to work in your lab (often on a voluntary basis) that will make it worth the time and effort needed to train them.
- The other challenge is this: once you have a student that you clearly see has the ability to perform well (both intellectually and skill-wise to work in a lab), how do I motivate them to spend as much time as they can in the lab?
It's obviously not worth it when a student starts an experiment and then loses the motivation to come in in-between classes to make a measurement. It's my feeling that the students see it like this: "if I come in and do some work in the lab, then that's good and useful for the professor", but without the true engagement to learn something from the experiment, without the student having the curiosity and passion to follow-up, it becomes more like waste of time and money.
Obviously, I realize that I'm asking a lot. It's generally accepted that this kind of behaviour/motivation can be expected from a Ph.D. student, but not so much from an undergrad. Nonetheless, this is the situation that many professors are in since they only get to work with undergrads and are still expected (and genuinely want) to do exciting research. If I could, I would spend much more time in the lab myself, but it's just not always possible.