Strategically Searching for an Academic Position
Dr. Paul Blowers, The University of Arizona
Dr. Laura Ford, The University of Tulsa
Kathleen Vaeth, MIT
Timeline in Relationship to the AIChE Meeting
1-2 months before the AIChE meeting: send a letter and packet of information to schools you are interested in.
1-2 weeks before AIChE: start getting calls to meet with people during the meeting
During AIChE: present talks and meet as many people as possible (there are hospitality suites sponsored by many schools where you can talk to faculty about their schools)
1-2 months after AIChE: get calls for letters or recommendation (different schools have different timelines)
2-3 months after AIChE: start to get visit offers
What to Do before AIChE
Get as many publications as you can before the AIChE meeting (schools look to see how much work YOU did)
Present as many things as you can at AIChE and other conferences. Try to present 2-3 talks your last year. (Maximize your exposure)
Work on letter of recommendation writers early (let them know who you are and what you are doing so they can write a detailed letter about you)
Have research ideas and teaching philosophy finalized in your mind before AIChE
How to Look for Openings
Send letters to schools - there is a publication that lists the faculty and addresses of every school in the U.S. Directory of Graduate Research by the American Chemical Society.
Look through Chemical and Engineering News and other journals.
Look for openings on the web
Look for postings around your department
Let your advisor and department head know you are looking
Talk to everyone you know about looking for an opening
Things to Send to Schools
Cover letter - let them know when you are looking, what type of position you want, what you want to do and what youíve done
Curricula vitae - make it look great and have many publications and presentations
Research and teaching statement: 1-4 pages detailing what you plan to do, how youíll do it, and what your teaching philosophy is (be genuine-theyíll ask you about it later)
List of references: 3 or 4 people who will say many, many great things about you and your abilities
Copies of representative publications if they ask for them
Things to Think About Before you Talk with Someone at a School
Have good reasons why you want to be at University X.
Know where you are going to get funding from.
Plan what your first projects will be
Know what your first student will do.
Decide on a teaching philosophy.
The Visit: Timeline
Arrive the night before your seminar - taken to dinner (recall that no question is innocent)
Breakfast bright and early (ask if they are taking you or if youíre eating on your own)
Meet a new person approximately every half hour all day except when you are presenting your hour long seminar to the department
Go out to dinner
Day Two - Breakfast and then meet with the rest of the department until you leave.
The Visit: What to Take
Updated CV - show them how hard youíve worked since you sent your letter
List of Start-Up costs - let them know what you need to get to work
Research Statement - you need to review what you told them you were going to do
Slides - make them elegant and easy to use
Suit - you want to look your best
Bottle of water - they forget you are only human during your visits!
Telephone numbers of your contact in case you have travel problems.
The Visit: What to Ask For
Extra day or 2 to visit if you can spare the time - gives you a chance to explore and see if you can live your lifestyle there
Meetings with collaborators outside the department
Tours of facilities important to your research
Meeting with grad students
Meeting with undergraduate students
Stay near campus - you can see if you feel comfortable near your future workplace
The Visit: Honesty Before, During and After
Let them know your expectations for a timeline
If you are looking to start earlier or later, it will affect the way they view you
Tell them about other issues, like a spouse, etc. that will affect your decision making process
They will do everything in their power to help you
The Role of Your Defense
If you can, defend before your visit!
Your defense is a great practice talk
The schools know you are done and can start working
This frees your attention up for your trips
However, this is hard because you need a job for the inbetween time...
If You Canít Defend Early
Try to nail down your defense date with your advisor
Schools will be wary if you donít know when you are defending
Lets you know your timeline so you can plan your research and writing
You should try to put yourself "on schedule" to finish in June-August
Post Doctoral Positions: Pros
Give you time to work on your proposals
Gives you time to read the literature
Gives you more people to write letters for you
Can widen your area of expertise
More and more people are doing it and it will put you ahead of the competition
Some awards are based on post-doc work
Gives you a chance to separate yourself from your advisor
Some schools will let you accept a position and then go post doc before you start working
Post Doctoral Position: Cons
Can let people "scoop " you on your research before you get a chance to start
Delays starting your life
May not help you if your boss is very demanding
You may not get time to work on the pros
Some awards are tied to age - if you post doc, you would not be eligible for them by the time you started your tenure-track position
You pay for your trips and are reimbursed later - some schools pay for selected portions if you ask them to
Make sure you have enough money on hand!
Schools will create a short list of about 12 candidates
About 4 will visit for one position
Be serious if you visit! They spend a lot of money and time to get you there
Academia or Not Academia?
Pros of Academia:
Long range impact of work can be greater
More intellectual and scientific freedom.
You can teach and change the way the profession is
Extremely rewarding - can consult with different fields and travel
Cons of Academia:
Longer hours, especially in the beginning
You can end up very far from research as time goes on
Who am I?
Is the research more important or is teaching?
How important is it to me to be controlling my own research?
How important is it to me to physically do my own research?
If teaching is essential, then academia is for you!
Compromise situations: Core research labs and national labs
Once Youíve Applied, Ask:
Public or private school? The money flows very differently in each one
Small versus large? Affects your resources for money and time
What type of department are they? How will your personality fit in with the departmentís philosophy
Is it in a place where you would like to live? If you would not want to live there, donít waste their time and money (or yours!)
The pay is a lot lower
It isnít, but you have to raise some of the money through grants
Tenure is very hard to get
If you do your job search correctly, youíll find a supportive department that sees you as an investment and they will help you succeed
You donít have to work as hard at a smaller school
Often your teaching load will be higher even as you try to do the same amount of research
You will have long hours
But if you like it, that wonít matter to you
Well intentioned interviewers have indicated that having children before tenure is not a great idea