A professor's job is dynamic and challenging, involving diverse skills and tasks. I started on this career path after obtaining a PhD in mathematics from Columbia University in 1997, following a BSc (1988) and MSc (1992) from the University of Melbourne. After 4 years of assistant professorships in the US, I moved to Rutgers University, New Jersey, a large public university with a strong committment to supporting front-line research.
Mathematical research is my primary job, in conjunction with teaching and training graduate and undergraduate students. It is the breadth of tasks needed to support these roles that brings such diversity to the job. Describing, explaining and disseminating one's research work is essential, the main mechanisms for this being writing and publishing research papers and books and giving seminars at universities and conferences.
A typical day at work could involve teaching, reading, writing, typsetting and corresponding with collaborators. A typical week could also involve marking, accounting of grant funding and working both alone and with research students or colleagues, while a typical month may involve new grant applications, travel to talk at conferences or seminars, corresponding with publishers, developing new courses, committee work, organizing conferences and advising students.
The high points of this job for me have been the developments in my research, and understanding of my subject, new opportunities for work, for collaborations, training research students and the daily challenge to be self motivated and to continue learning.