Dr Mallika Pathak, an alumna of Miranda House, was ­bitten by the teaching bug during her ­college days. “The way my ­teachers ­interacted with us, helped us overcome obstacles and motivated us, left a lasting impression on my mind and made me wonder if I could ever be as responsible as them. Needless to say, I was sufficiently inspired to make a career in teaching,” she shares.
Pathak was awarded CSIR-UGC Junior Research Fellowship (JRF) and ­an eligibility for lectureship - National Eligibility Test (NET) in 2002. “I have served as an assistant professor in Miranda House for the past nine years and there has never been a dull moment. This profession not just offers me an ­opportunity to mould opinions and shape young lives. I also get to constantly learn and grow,” she adds.
Pathak, who has a specialisation in physical chemistry, hopes to be an agent of change through her work and spends hours preparing for her classes.“We have to officially be in the college for 25 hours per week. But most of us end up spending almost 40 hours which includes preparing for lectures, presentations, ­giving guidance, checking papers, organising academic events and attending various meetings,” she says.
While Pathak enjoys every aspect of her job, she ­acknowledges the unique set of challenges that it brings.“I think being a lecturer on ad hoc basis was challenging for me ­considering the amount of uncertainty it involved. Since I started my job while I was still doing my PhD, there was extra pressure. I wanted to give my best to both and somehow it always felt inadequate,” she shares.
Talking about on-the-job ­challenges, Pathak says, “Because we have a semester system, there is always this ­pressure to finish the ­syllabus in the shortest possible time (without compromising on the quality of teaching). To do this effectively, we have to bring all students on the same level. Since no two students are alike, you should have the ability to come down to the level of the ­weakest and take all students along, even if it requires you to give one or two extra lectures.”
With the spotlight on research, teachers are expected to push the boundaries of ­knowledge. “These days all the teachers are supposed to do research work. Hence, holidays are also not entirely free. The role of teachers has changed over time. We are no longer mere knowledge givers, instead, we have to generate knowledge,” says Pathak.
“Subject expertise is important. It is not about just ­reading a book or two in class. Your ­teaching should reflect how much you have thought about the topic at hand.
While ­having in-depth ­knowledge of the old ­concepts is important, keeping abreast of new technology is also essential,” she adds.
There is no dearth of ­opportunities. “You get a chance to travel and ­promotions are systematic. Plus, there is no tension of meeting deadlines and a lot of scope for research which is funded by government agencies such as Department of Science and Technology, University Grants Commission, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research etc. You can easily carve a place for yourself in this profession,”she concludes.
All you need to know about a career as a university teacher
University teachers not only work in the tertiary-level and research institutions, but also contribute their expertise to many national and international missions. In addition to ­universities/colleges, private institutes, private education content companies/web portals, and think tanks, some can be consultants to big companies and international bodies
Maintain a consistently good academic record up to your ­masters/MPhil/PhD. The UGC conducts the National Eligibility Test for lectureship and for award of Junior Research Fellowship in 77 subjects. The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research holds the NET for life, physical, chemical, mathematical and earth atmospheric ocean and planetary sciences jointly with the UGC
Skills and traits
* Intellectual vitality
* High level of self-motivation, especially focus on research
* A genuine interest in the discipline as well as a desire to gain additional knowledge
* Analytical skills
* Strong verbal and written communication skills
University teachers should have the ability to take all students along
Rs. I take home
Rs. 40,000 per month
I love my job because...
I get to interact with the young and stay young
Subject expertise is important. It is not about just reading a book or two and reproducing it in class. Your teaching should reflect how much you have thought about the topic at hand