Faculty Recruitment

We’re starting to look at application packets for new TT openings we have here and I’m realized a few things that I thought I want to talk about.  Also, I’ve realized that I have opinions that very few people are listening to here.  So the internet shall be my sounding board.

  1. A lot of people are the same.  It’s amazing the number of people that come from similar backgrounds with similar research focuses and very little differentiating them.  How many Ivy league PhDs does it take to screw in a light bulb?  I don’t know, but I know where you can find dozens that are relatively indistinguishable on paper.  This also kind of speaks to science these days in general, I guess.  There are too many projects that are just slight variants of each other since that’s where the money is.  But what happened to doing novel research?  I know it’s harder to fund the research if everyone doesn’t think it’s hot.  But why can’t we, as great researchers, convince people that our research matters.  Even if no one had thought that it mattered.
  2. Some people are different-but in different ways.  There’s a huge push to hire ‘diversity’ candidates.  The r/enlightenedcentrism person in me just wants great collaborators that can help me and others around here.  I love diversity and think it should absolutely be pushed, but the quality of the last two candidates we have brought in have been very subpar.  They work in typical fields, but they can’t bring in money because, to be honest, they aren’t great researchers.  They came from very small schools with very few research papers under their belt before being offered a TT position here.  So atypical candidates are being pushed extra hard and I’m fighting it because they won’t help the school.  I’m very genetically atypical for this field, and I’d love to see more diversity, but not at the expense of bringing in researchers that can’t develop a successful program.
  3. Where are the industry folks?  My industry experienced shaped me differently than the rest of my colleagues.  I pull in industry funding, I have a different work ethic, and I connect students with leaders in the field to get them experience and jobs.  And with funding dropping, we need to be focusing on other sources for research money.  I’m advocating very hard for the couple industry folks that have applied.  These two don’t have the best pedigrees, but they have amazing work experience and plenty of patents that would really boost the department by broadening the industry expertise.  I’m from a biomedical background and have industry and clinical connections and relevance in mind when doing research.  This has helped me immensely in regard to papers and grants and connecting students.  However, if a student wants to enter aerospace or the semiconductor industry I can offer almost no help whatsoever.  I want to bring in at least one industry person to help push some of the other PIs to create more relevant research.  I think nearly every ‘applied’ department could benefit from a couple ex-pat industry folks.  Especially at the non-top-tier schools like mine (still R1, but not MIT).  This has been my biggest fight.  I’d much rather take a ‘lesser’ pedigree with successful industry experience than a good pedigree straight out of school.  Especially in my field (which is more applied).
  4. Why do some profs want people exactly like themselves even down to the way they look?  Do you want to be competing with students with a younger more energetic version of yourself?  What the fuck is up with that?
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3 thoughts on “Faculty Recruitment

  1. I agree, esp point 1. Too many folks don’t actually have a unique vision at all, but rather assume they’d continue doing what they have been doing in the advisor’s lab; they don’t realize that these ideas are 1) not necessarily theirs to take, 2) will likely continue to be pursued in former advisor’s lab and much more successfully because that’s an established lab with big-name people, 3) even if hired, not differentiating self from advisor is a sure way to NOT get funds and to NOT get tenured later.

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    • Oooh, I’m compiling arguments for the next meeting and I have a lot of ammunition for point three (actual numbers of student preference for industry connections, grant funding from private institutes and correlations to public funding ), but I couldn’t really think of much regarding point one. I’m stealing this and using it as ammunition.

      I can’t do much in regard to convincing them that genetic diversity shouldn’t be the most important factor (though i do appreciate that it is a factor), which is why I focus on points 1,3, and 4.

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  2. This is so true. As a student I pine for someone that stands out and comes from industry. I want a professor that has spent some time without a .edu address, and having some Prof with an excellent research program doesn’t help me out as a student. Having a Prof that knows how to succeed in industry is something we long for. Too many cookie cutter people

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