Monday, November 18, 2013

Ethical Issue?

I want to know how ethical it is to:

1) accept an academic offer i.e. sign your name on the offer
2) and tell the department that you are not going to join (due to circumstance or better job offer)

Isn't this that regularly happens in industry? Is it different for academia?

I will love to know your thoughts !

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

I haz the Job

Thats right.
I have a tenure-track offer from a research university. It is the kind of department that I am looking for with a balance of teaching and research. They are supporting me a lot for my research activities. I am carefully considering but I think I will accept the offer.

Got to go and sign the letter, put in a resignation from my current position and making all the arrangements for the move. Oh did I mention travel schedules in between.

More details later. Wish me luck !

Thursday, September 26, 2013

How much to smile?

I thought about this in the morning. How much should one smile while on an interview?

We have all heard that apart from your research and other credentials search committee is also looking for a good colleague and manner et. al are also part of the interview. I am generally a happy person so in my normal life I smile and laugh a moderate amount (at least this is what I think).

But I wonder if smiling a lot in an interview gives the impression of non-seriousness? incompetence? of-a-pleasing-personality (not in a good way)? or something more sinister?

On the other hand not smiling at all will give an impression of non-approachable. Also smiles can be of different kinds and would be perceived in different way by different people.

The wise blogosphere I ask you. What do you think about the effect of smiling on the search committee in general and what is the "right" amount of smiling and the "right" kind of smiling?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Inter-disciplinary Science (The Bastard Child)

This post is a result of a discussion with a colleague and a recent post here. There are two parts to this post. The first part deals with how I got my PhD in Interdisciplinary Science (IDS), and the second part deals with how IDS is good/bad for your academic future. 

For the sake of discussion assume that I was a grad student in department A and the other areas were B and C. 

1) I got my PhD in IDS and my dissertation focus was at the intersection of three different areas. 

I think, I was successful in pursuing the committee member to hand me over a PhD (rather quickly) by formulating the question of the dissertation as "solving problems in B and C areas using awesome-expertise in area A". 

The trick worked because it contributed to human knowledge(and hence published papers) but also because the dissertation "spoke" their language. This language took me a long way because the faculty was able to see my contributions even though some of them were not familiar with areas B and C. I am confident that I wouldn't had gotten my PhD if I were to formulate the work the other way around.

2) For your academic career I hope this will turn out to be good (since every one or many want to do IDS). This is not to say that doing IDS allows one to get a faculty position (which I still haven't) quickly. That is because getting a faculty position in a department while doing IDS has its own sets of challenges. 

I got my PhD in department A and would like my faculty position to be in department A as well; since I am the most expert in this area and will be able to teach courses etc.

Departments want to have IDS people. However, they do not know how to assess them in their scientific merit. So a department A would be impressed by my publication record and will call me for an interview. But most of the faculty is a specialist in one core-area, which is common in my sub-fields. Therefore, most of the hiring committee members would know one of your area but not others. Hence would be less inclined to acknowledge your contributions in other areas (or at least the fact that it is difficult to do IDS because they themselves have never done it; other would be cocky because they might have tried it and failed in doing this so would come and bash you to feel good)

Most of the members would complain that you didn't talk about areas A-1, A-2 etc. Well, I would if I were also not concentrating on areas B-2,C3,4 AND A-3 & A-4. I am sure these members go back for the meetings and bash my work in the same way. 

For the time being I am presenting my self as a faculty candidate by using the strategy that I used for my dissertation. I hope it works. Time will tell.

p.s. In case you are wondering why "the bastard child". This is because everyone want to do IDS and want to hire IDS people. But no one want to take the responsibility (credit/discredit) of the newly found research areas.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The A**-holery of some faculty members

So I went to a faculty interview this week. Everything went fine (almost) including the talks, discussions with the faculty, discussion with grad students, talking with admin people and talking about the place/area/family. The lunches and dinners were amazing and I really enjoyed visiting the department and this mid-sized city. Everything went awesome (well almost).

You see there were two faculty member that behaved like a**holes. Both were senior faculty members with one of them being in a place of power.

The first one asked two inappropriate questions about my current job and the future job during my job-talk. Thereafter, he went on to tell me that he didn't see any XX sub-area being used in the research, hence should not apply for a job in this department.

I gracefully answered his questions and went on to take other questions. In the meeting with this particular person he kept on insisting that the problems that we are facing in my sub-area are trivial and should had been solved by now. Mind you that this person is not any where near my broader or sub-area in his research interests (a quick google search shows that he published his last paper 10 years ago !). Anyway, I very patiently tried to explain why the problem is complex and requires far more years than he was suggesting. Needless to say that this meeting left a bad taste in my mouth.

The second person who is in an influential position (hence I expected him to be professional) got all worked out about my sub-area. His argument was since I have not talked about this sub-area in my talk I should explain how I plan to incorporate this sub-area in my future plans. I tried to explain but he wanted more and more detail. Mind you that this person is not anywhere near my area or sub-area and does not have a slightest idea about the problems that is being faced by everyone. Also note that the same explanation (even less) was useful for other faculty members who did not worked in my area.

After trying to grill me on this he asked me to tell him the courses that I can teach ( reasonable but he wanted to know exactly what I would teach right on the spot), and some equations that I had not seen in the past 10 years of my research career ( again equations not corresponding to the research area or the discussion).

Interesting same person was nicer in the morning since he had very positive feedback from the other faculty members !

I do not know what to make out of this behavior.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Interviews this season - 2013

Phone/Google_hangout/skype Interview(s) = 2          

On-Campus Interview(s) accepted = 2
On-Campus Interview(s) request declined = 0
On-Campus Interview(s) completed = 2

Offer(s)=0 (hopefully it will be a positive number this time AND I accept )

Monday, July 8, 2013

Cold Contact and Collaborations

Academia is full of examples where who you know matters a lot. One of my goals these days is to get in contact with people who might be useful for me in the future (job, collaborations, advice etc. etc.). Mind you that I am fairly well connected, have multiple collaborators, and am generally good at inter-personal dealings. I also arrange a annual mid-sized meeting and have been on a undisclosed-post for some time now which gives me good exposure to many people and allows me to interact with them.

But I want more !

One way that I have been thinking about is to contact the local scientists in my geographical-area and start talking to them. But I am not sure how to do that. What do I say? Do I ask them to collaborate with me? Do I say nothing and just chat with them on random scientific topics?

I think part of the problem is my research area. I do not fit any of the traditional departments, and between two/three department my research lies are not always so welcoming.

I am thinking about cold-cantacting them and seeing what happens. I am not sure how to do that either. Email ofcourse. but what do I say.

Blogosphere might have some brilliant thoughts?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

On playing the number game?

I recently read this article:

The article discussed why we should stop playing the number game and work on real stuff that counts. The main idea discussed in the article is to stop publishing least publishable units (LPU's) and work on hard questions. We as researchers and academics all know about these things.

The dark side of my mind interpreted the article in a different way. Since, the article discusses the way people rig the system; why not play the number game and win ? Quite frankly there were some things that I didn't knew people did to rig the game, and if I were to choose I can incorporate that as well in my agenda (to get a faculty position).

So what should one do? Try to play the game, go all ballistic on publishing LPU's and making your publication list long, or work on problems long & hard and publish significant results only. I assume, but not sure, that search committees, do look at some papers to assess the quality of work?

I am sure this topic has been discussed many times in the blogosphere and other places. But I am going to ask these questions anyway:

1) Did you play the number game when you were looking for a faculty/research position?
2) If yes, how did you balance quality vs. quantity (if any)
3) If no, why not? and how did it pan out for you.

(my dark side: Play the game, get very good at it, beat every one else, get a faculty position and then worry about working on hard problems that matter -- evil laugh :P)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

On Turning down a tenure-track offer

Yes, it is official. I have turned down the only tenure-track offer I had on the table. Yes, it might come as a surprise to many and deep in my heart I am not happy either. But the decision was based on rational thought and nothing to do with my heart ( sort of ).

I see that there are only four possibilities when an offer is made:
1) Bad Place, Bad Offer
2) Bad Place, Good Offer
3) Good Place, Bad Offer
4) Good Place, Good Offer

Certainly good place and bad place are very subjective terms; depending on your personal preferences ( e.g. the kind of people you would like to work with etc.), research interests, and teaching loads etc.

Good offer and bad offer depends mostly on the compensations, startups, and benefits.

For me, the offer made belonged to the first category. It was a bad place for me because I couldn't see my research thriving there, the teaching load was way more than I expect for me to be a productive researcher, and the institutional research profile was mediocre at best. The offer was mediocre at best ( mediocre compensation, almost no startup, and shared research space).

Although it was clear to me that the offer on the table belonged to the first category, I still consulted all of my mentors for deblirations. All of them offered the same advice that I had in mind. So I think I made an informed decision to turn down the offer.

The other interviews that I went to ( 4 in total) didn't put an offer on the table. I am hoping that future will tell that I made the right decision !

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

I have an Offer ... Yayyyy !

It is with great pride, I am announcing that I have an offer on the table. It is a R2 university with a small department. I am happy that at least I have made it to the ivory tower and some one thinks that I am good :D

I still have to hear from the other departments that I have interviewed with, and I would certainly be interested in knowing if they are going to make me an offer. I will be interested in joining those departments more than this one, because they are more prestigious research-wise and would be good for me in the long run. I don't know if I will take the current offer or not; time will tell.

But for now I am not thinking about other things and am celebrating about my first ever faculty job offer !  Yayyyyyy !

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Bad Talk

I spend a lot time thinking and practicing my talks, be it for a conference or an interview. I also give a significant thought to the outline of my talk, the presentation and ordering of the slides and other things (such as fonts, colors etc). I do this for two reason. One that I want to present my work in a good way that people can understand. The other reason is that it is respectful to be prepared for the people who came to listen to my talk, taking time out of their lives.

Recently, I happened to attend a talk which is opposite to what I have stated in the paragraph above. It was suppose to be a big event with over 1000 people attending (online and in person). This particular speaker was up in the schedule with a big shot (who gave an excellent talk by the way) from the field. However,...

The slides were messy, they had an awful dark color and the slides mostly had text only. Even the text was not properly arranged and/or justified. He didn't even knew the examples in the talk. It was obvious this particular person had made no effort to give a useful talk.

What do you do when you encounter such a talk? I can think of several possibilities:

1) Leave the room and stay out till this person is done
2) Stay in the room and pretend to listen while you are working on your laptop
3) Stay and listen, and then blast the speaker with various questions to make him know that you did a poor job
4) Stay and listen, and ask insightful questions

I opted for number 2. However, I did observe people practicing 1, 2, 4. Unfortunately, no one went for option 3 and I didn't had the energy to do it...I wish I had !

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

12 Months of FR

The rules are simple and had been done by other people here and hereThe rules for this blog meme are quite simple -- post the link and first sentence from the first blog entry for each month of the past year. So here we go.

January: None

FebI think the adrenaline from yesterday has wearied off today. 

MarThose of you who have been following the blog know that I have been invited for a on-site visit and interview at New University (NW).

AprSo, I heard from the head of the department yesterday, and he told me that they are not interested in supporting my area of research

May: None

JuneI have a draft of K99 that I had completed 2 months ago. 

July: None

Aug: None

SeptRecently a friend of mine left academia in favor of an industrial position. 

OctI went to another interview for a faculty position. 

Nov: How long does it take you to start conversation over the email using the recipients first name ?Is it after a single email, after two ?

Dec: Recently, I declined a request for an on-campus interview.

Look pretty funny to me :P