Martin Krieger, University of Southern California – What Do Academics Do?

Martin Krieger

Martin Krieger

Just what do academics do when they’re not teaching?

Martin Krieger, professor of planning at the University of Southern California, sheds light on the life of academics when they’re not standing at the front of the classroom.

Martin H. Krieger is professor of planning at the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California. He is trained as a physicist, and has taught in urban planning and policy at Berkeley, Minnesota, MIT, Michigan, and USC. His nine books are about mathematical modeling, environmental policy, and about theories of planning and design. He has been a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and at the National Humanities Center. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society.

What Do Academics Do?


Professors live curious lives. Very little of what we do is shown to others, at least when we are doing it.

Of course, we teach courses, typically two full courses each semester. Courses need to be prepared, students need lots of attention about the course but also about their lives and dreams, papers need to be graded. And, we attend meetings about the governance of our departments and the university, as well as seminars where we learn of others’ work.

But most of the time,  no one is keeping track of us hourly, daily, or weekly or monthly. If we are in a university that is committed to the scholarly life, as is often described in Academic Minute, we spend a large fraction of our lives in scholarly work. We need to actually do that work, in the library and archives, in laboratories, and in the field. We need to raise funds to pay for costs of the research. We need to train the next generation of scholars. And we need to disseminate what we learn through writing and publishing and through meetings with colleagues throughout the world.

So every few years, we are asked, what have you done lately?  And the answer is in terms of ongoing projects, published books and articles, students trained and grants received, and external lectures given about our work. Most productive scholars work many more than 40 hours each week, willingly.

Yes, there are scholars who not productive, or who teach very little. And in universities where teaching plays a predominant role, there is less time for scholarship. But the academic life enables us to give our students the fruits of our collective scholarly labors and to give society the fruits of our thinking and invention.

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