Friday, January 18, 2013

Pedigree Matters

FSP has been having a fake CV writing contest, with several hilarious examples. Go vote

I am on a search committee right now, and it has become apparent yet again how important pedigree (where and with whom you did your PhD and postdoc) is in academic applications . In fact, near as I can tell from how my fellow committee members evaluated applications, pedigree it is probably *the* most important thing on your CV. Yes, sad but true. Pedigree also strongly correlates with the publication venue of your papers: at least in the physical science fields I am familiar with, GlamourMag publications are a strong reflection of who the lead senior author is, not necessarily of the junior candidate's potential; yet, when we evaluate applications, they are treated as if they measure exactly the latter. 

So here is a CV face-off. Assume we have two candidates for a faculty position. The candidates have very different but somewhat typical pedigrees. The department to which these were sent is conducting a very broad search and let's assume that it's not a problem that these two haven't had lengthy postdocs (the latter assumption is in order to reduce the number of differing pedigree variables between candidates. Also, I kinda ran out of steam with funky paper and coauthor names). 

How do you perceive each candidate's record and potential? 

What I am very interested in is how high N (the number of publications of the second candidate, the one with a weaker pedigree) has to be for the search committee to a) even give candidate 2 a second second look or b) for candidate 2 to be considered as strong as or stronger than candidate 1. (There is a poll below, of course).


Candidate 1: 

Ulysses R. Precocious


2008-2012  PhD, Awesome Coastal Institute of Technology; advisor One Whose Nameeveryoneknows
2012 - present Postdoc, same group as PhD

Awards and honors:

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship 
Awesome Coastal Institute of Technology (ACIT) Graduate Fellowship 
Fellowship from the ACIT Society of the Precociously Precocious


1. U. R. Precocious, Otherdude1,..., Otherdude15, O.W. Nameeveryoneknows, "Superduperaleuper study using very expensive equipment and lots of liquid helium," Nature Progeny 88, 121212 (2012).

2. Otherdudette1, Otherdude2,..., U. R. Precocious,..., I. M. Seniortheorist, O.W. Nameeveryoneknows, "Asking a very deep question that shakes the foundation of the field, but the paper is a bit too specialized so it isn't exacty GlamourMag material," Prestigious Society Letters 999, 777777 (2012).

3. Otherdude2,...,  U. R. Precocious (4th author),..., O.W. Nameeveryoneknows, "We are kicking everyone's butt with how creative this $hit is," Nature 777, 77777 (2011).

4. Otherdude7,  U. R. Precocious,..., O.W. Nameeveryoneknows, "You bet we are onto something big," Nature Progeny 86, 222222 (2010). 

5. U. R. Precocious, Otherdudette1,..., O.W. Nameeveryoneknows, "Good stuff, but not as hot as the stuff we usually crank out," Prestigious Society Letters 997, 111111 (2010).

6. U. R. Precocious and O.W. Nameeveryoneknows, "Nameeveryoneknows feels this journal is beneath them but Precocious insisted they publish this result somewhere so Nameeveryoneknows finally said OK to get Precocious off his back," Reputable Society Journal 123, 456789 (2009).


Candidate 2: 

Smartkid Unawarehowmuch Pedigree-Matters


2008 - 2012  PhD, Decent State University, advisor Inhis Field Wellrespected  
2012 - present Postdoc, same group as PhD

Awards and honors:

2012 Most beloved TA 

2011 Most beloved TA
2010 Most beloved TA
2009 Most beloved TA


1) S. U. Pedigree-Matters and I. F. Wellrespected, "Solid result in Wellrespected's field of expertise,"  Reputable Society Journal 130, 456789 (2012).

2) S. U. Pedigree-Matters, Otherdude, and I. F. Wellrespected, "Another solid result in Wellrespected's field of expertise, totally conceived by Pedigree-Matters,"  Reputable Society Journal 129, 987654 (2012).

3) S. U. Pedigree-Matters and I. F. Wellrespected, "Pedigree-Matters and Wellrespected couldn't believe they managed to get past the finicky reviewers at PSL without another protracted battle," Prestigious Society Letters 997, 135791 (2012).

4) New B. Gradstudent, S. U. Pedigree-Matters, and I. F. Wellrespected, "Yet another solid result, Pedigree-Matters advised terrified and clueless New B. Gradstudent,"  Reputable Society Journal 129, 024680 (2012).




N-1) S. U. Pedigree-Matters, Otherdudette1,..., I. F. Wellrespected, "Should have really been a PSL but Wellrespected didn't want to waste any more time on appeal and transferred to RSJ; getting cited like crazy now,"  Reputable Society Journal 124, 123456(2009).

N) S. U. Pedigree-Matters, Othergradstudent, Otherseniorcollaborator, 
and I. F. Wellrespected, "Pedigree-Matters's first paper; he lovingly gazed upon it for days upon publication, laminated a copy," Reputable Society Journal 123, 456789 (2009).

How large should N (the number of publications of candidate 2) be for candidate 2 to be competitive with candidate 1? free polls 


Anonymous said...

Oif - As someone applying to postdocs from a large state school with a well-respected advisor, this is really depressing... And so true in my particular field of science. As near as I can tell (obviously I don't have access to everyone else's application packets), the only difference between my CV and those who are getting the prestigious postdoc fellowships (in many cases) is pedigree.

Anonymous said...

I'm in Europe and I think here we look at things very differenly, as we get applicants from many different countries and so there is no way to establish pedigree in the way that it's seen in US (from what I gather from various academic blogs).

For me, there would be two issues with the CVs:
- in both CVs, the candidate has a postdoc in the same place where he/she did the PhD -> to me that is a problem, as it shows that there is little breadth of experience and the person might be stuck in the culture of the lab he/she did the PhD in. In each case, I would rank higher any other applicant that has moved for a postdoc.
- the first CV wins over the second CV not because of the pedigree, but because of awards. For me, research awards win heavily over teaching awards, especially such that are given by students (I presume that is what is meant by "most beloved TA").

But, YMMW with field and country, so this is just one opinion.

GMP said...

I left both candidates with the same advisor for postdoc so as not to add another pedigree variable. Besides, I am finding that at least in my field it is no longer taboo to see postdoc at the same place as PhD, although in those cases we expect to see no gap in productivity. I think this is a good thing, because expecting people to move for postdoc discriminates against people who are partnered with anyone other than a stay-at-home partner; I can fully understand that the significant other would not want to leave a good job just to be uprooted in a couple of years. Postdocs are very hard on couples and families and the expectation to move selects preferentially those who are unattached.

The second candidate having won teaching awards 4 years in a row was a way for me to convey that the advisor was probably not that well funded, meaning the student had to TA. So it's a sin of the father that the student had to TA and the student apparently did a good job, so I don't think he should be penalized for winning the affections of students.

Now the research fellowships. As the first commenter said, a lot if these fellowships are really strongly dependent on pedigree. For instance, candidate 1 has two fellowships from his institution; obviously one has to be enrolled to qualify. The third is from the NSF, but even these are hardly based on the students' merit exclusively -- sure, the student's GPA has to be great, but the strongest applications have a research proposal that are the chip off the ol' advisor's larger proposal.

Bottom line is that pedigree permeates multiple facets of one's record -- all facets, I would say. It certainly affects those we feel we dispassionately use to evaluate merit, and that's where the problems lie. Smart, capable people who are not clued into how important pedigree is -- which includes the vast majority of students, both foreign and domestic -- make a subpar decision at PhD enrollment time, or don't do well on the GREs and don't get into the top school, and that means they can usually kiss their subsequent academic career goodbye almost irrespective of how well they actually do during their PhD. (Depending on the field, you can salvage your pedigree to a certain degree during the postdoc, but if you can't move, then that's apparently another demerit.)

Anonymous said...

Having served on several search committees, I agree that pedigree is, unequivocally, the most important factor. This is why I always advise students who are serious about going into academia do do their PhDs and postdocs at the "best" places and in the "best" labs they can.

In my opinion, however, there are a few things that can trump pedigree. The first is working with a brand-spankin-new professor. If your work is the key bit of work that makes someone's reputation, you're almost guaranteed a faculty position (if that newbie was at a top institution, and then they likely became famous, so this is sort of related to pedigree). The second is the quality of the work. Everyone expects someone in a famous lab to get a glamor fellowship and to publish in glamor mags. But if they are one of 20 authors on each paper, it appears that they are just a cog in the machine. If someone in a solid but not stellar lab turns out several important manuscripts and is one of only a few authors (better yet, the only co-author of the PI), then it is easy to assess their (obviously important) contribution to the project. The last factor is the ever-elusive "fit". When the search committee is looking for something in particular, if Dr. Precocious is barking up a different tree while Dr. SU Pedigree-Matters is right on target, then pedigree won't matter so much.

Alex said...

I guess my only qualm about the less-pedigreed person is not the lack of pedigree (I try to be egalitarian), it's the idea of 20 papers (or whatever) in Reputable Society Journal and not a single one in Prestigious Society Letters. I'd start to wonder if there wasn't a single piece of work in there that could be combined with some other work to make something splashy.

Mind you, I didn't make Physical Review, I mean, Prestigious Society Letters, as a grad student or postdoc either, but I also didn't put out 20 papers and get a TT job at a top research university. If somebody has 20 papers or whatever, I'd be a bit dubious if every single one went to the exact same tier. Lack of variability is not normal!

GMP said...

His paper 3) is in PSL.

Alex said...

Ah, missed that.

I guess there are two different questions: How many papers would it take to outweigh the lack of Glamour papers in my eyes, and how many in the eyes of others? In my eyes, it wouldn't take that many more. But I suspect my required number is lower than others, and for some, no amount of RSJ papers will suffice.

For me, the fact that this person is very productive and also a good TA means they would be just fine in a department that values a balance of teaching and research. Once a productivity threshold is crossed, what we'd really want to know is if any of the co-authors are undergrads.

Anonymous said...

Oh, god, I AM candidate 2, and I hadn't realized how much my pedigree mattered until I started submitting papers from my current postdoc at A Big School with a Superbig Name. Even though Dr. Name isn't on the papers I've been submitting from my PhD, my corresponding address seems to make the review process at big fancy journals seem practically a breeze since the teeth pulling I had with my 10+ society pubs.

So, to summarize, damnit.

JaneB said...

I got the worst of both worlds - a Big NAme U which is assumed to have given me political advantage and a supervisor who although very well respected in the field is totally lousy at networking and (sweetly but cluelessly) refused to be on any of his grad students' papers because 'you guys did the work and solo papers look better'... which almost certainly meant it was harder to get them accepted... so hiring committees assumed I'd had a leg up I hadn't had, if that makes sense?

GMP said...

There is a nontrivial percentage of people who feel that there is no way publications alone can offset the lack of pedigree.

My question for these readers is: is there anything or any combination of features in one's CV that could offset the lack of pedigree? Or is everyone who's ever gone to a non-elite school screwed no matter what they do?

The thing is -- candidates 2 do get jobs, not at the rate at which candidates 1 do, but it's certainly not impossible. I wish we could discuss a bit more what it would take for someone who's a strong believer in pedigree to give a candidate with a week pedigree another look.

Alex said...

To play Devil's Advocate, it isn't clear whether people are saying "Publications can't overcome lack of pedigree in how I will judge them" or "Publications can't overcome lack of pedigree in how others will judge them." One might have an egalitarian attitude, but have the cynical observation that from faculty rosters it is pretty obvious that pedigree matters.

My own pedigree preference, right or wrong, is simple: At some point, whether as a grad student or postdoc, I want a person who was either in a highly-respected institution, highly-respected department, or highly-respected group. I'm even OK with a person who just did their MS in one of these environments, or just spent a few months in one of these environments as part of a collaboration. I have a colleague who got his degree from a mediocre-ranked department but did most of his research at a national lab with good facilities and lots of interesting and productive people. I know top-tier people in low-ranked departments.

What I want is somebody who, at some point, was in an environment where things are done at a very high level. Does that make sense? If your advisor is highly-respected in the field (not necessarily Nobel-caliber, just respected for having high standards), that's enough for me. If your advisor is nothing special, but your department is highly-ranked in the field, that's fine, you were still around really good people. If your department itself is nothing special, but other departments in related fields are highly-ranked and have interactions with your department, that's fine.

I say this because there are some lessons that you only learn by being around really driven and creative people, even if just for a short while. So, I guess I do want pedigree, but I define it pretty broadly.

Anonymous said...

Interestingly enough in my field good pedigree is starting to be seen as a potential red flag.

If you published 6 solid papers in a mediocre environment clearly you got some talent and will be able to do good research in the future. If on the other hand you published more or less the same number of papers (though in more prestigious venues because your supervisor is Prof "SuperStar") how do we know you can actually do any quality research on your own?

There is in fact a well run West coast lab with lots of great publications whose graduates are now (in)famous for being unable to produce when hired elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

"I think this is a good thing, because expecting people to move for postdoc discriminates against people who are partnered with anyone other than a stay-at-home partner; I can fully understand that the significant other would not want to leave a good job just to be uprooted in a couple of years. Postdocs are very hard on couples and families and the expectation to move selects preferentially those who are unattached. "

Really? Being uprooted for one or two years is easy if you are unattached, eh? Being alone in the world and having to build a new social network as an adult, knowing you may have to move again in a year or two, to a unknown location, is easier than being having a long distance relationship for a time with a supportive partner? This is biased and total b.s.

GMP said...

Really? Being uprooted for one or two years is easy if you are unattached, eh? Being alone in the world and having to build a new social network as an adult, knowing you may have to move again in a year or two, to a unknown location, is easier than being having a long distance relationship for a time with a supportive partner? This is biased and total b.s.

No one said it's easy for the unattached, go and reread the comment first. I just said that the unattached don't have to consider whether the partner wants to move or not and that the nomadic style is hard on families. And what, families magically have an easy time forming social networks wherever they move? Give me fucking break.

I love how you think " having a long distance relationship for a time with a supportive partner" is an awesome solution. You seriously have no fuckin' clue, do you? I can tell you from living alone with my oldest kid, but apart from my husband, for the first two years on the tenure track that it sucks balls. There was nothing in my life at that time that made it different than a completely single mom, other than that I could talk with my husband on the phone in the evening if he weren't too grumpy. (He hates phones. And talking in general.) That life had all the downsides of living as a single mom, without the freedom to go anywhere or meet anyone. It would have been much, much easier if I had been single those two years, I would have been mobile and could have socialized with other single faculty. This way, I was neither single and mobile, thus fit for the singles scene, nor was I married with kids, which would perhaps qualify me for hanging out with couples (although, after 8 years here, we still have no couple friends. "... having to build a new social network as an adult" is not magically easier for married people).

If anything, your misguided notions of how it is to live alone while partnered long-distance are "biased and total b.s."

Alex said...

I think we need to be careful in how we discuss family situations in academic careers. It is easy to (mistakenly or otherwise) come across as saying that people without (circle all that apply: spouses, kids, etc.) have it easy. My wife and I don't have kids, and there are complicated reasons for that. (Basically, health issues that go beyond fertility.) Once in a while people tell me point-blank, in person, quite directly, that I have it easier without kids. Well, if this is easy, I don't want to know what difficult is. I won't pretend that kids are easy, because they aren't, but walk a mile in our shoes before you assume that this is easy. I look at parents and I feel the most profound envy.

Perhaps I enjoy certain career advantages, and perhaps that compensates in some small way. I freely admit to pride in the students and new knowledge that I send forth into the world, and I imagine (probably mistakenly) that this pride bears some faint resemblance to the pride of a parent, knowing that there are people whom you shape in some important way, and ideas that you into the world. I have an old mentor, childless but cared for in her old age by countless students whom she mentored over decades. They are her family, her gift to the world. I have been to celebrations for old professors of advanced age, and I've saluted them and sat among other students of theirs and felt like they are, in some sense, my brothers and sisters. I know that there are family-like aspects of this. So perhaps my career as a mentor of students and bringer of ideas still has a family-like aspect to it.

But I'd trade all of that to see a little one grow up. Fingers crossed that the health issues don't stand in the way of adoption.

Anonymous said...

"thus fit for the singles scene"

Oh yeah the singles scene. lol. Yep. We are talking nerdy adults here right? How long does it take a nerdy adult to find any kind of scene in a new place? And why do you assume the new single post doc (or faculty) even has time to explore these supposed singles scenes, including finding out who is available for hanging out, and making the time for clothes shopping and grooming (especially if they are looking for a partner) while getting established in a new place and a new job. You had the company of your child and a husband to check in with, to eventually rejoin yet you think it would have been "easier" if you were alone. I am *not* saying one is easier, but you seem completely ignorant about the loneliness and stress of adults who transfer to far away places who have no friends and no one to check in with grumpy or not. It is insulting to be told we have it easier, which IS what you said.

GMP said...

but you seem completely ignorant about the loneliness and stress of adults who transfer to far away places who have no friends and no one to check in with

AHAHAHAHAHA! Are you fuckin' kidding me? I am an immigrant in this country, I know all about being a "lonely and stressed out adult transferring to a far away place." Do you think I was born with a husband and kids?

The thing is I know -- from personal experience -- about being single and lonely, and I also know about being in a long-distance relationship while being a single parent. You don't seem to have personal experience with the latter, or you would never assume it's such an awesome option. It is not. It sucks. Phone calls are grossly overrated.

Having a kid is awesome, but it's not all hugs and kisses. Being a single parent means me having 103 fever and puking my guts out with the flu, to which the doctor says "You can't keep fluids down? Go to the emergency room." Well thankyouverymuch, but I can't, because there is no one to take care of my kid.

But I am done with the misery olympics. This thread has been derailed enough.

Here, Anon, you win:
Anon at 4:44 and 8:39 has it harder in life than anyone else, and is more lonely and more overworked than anyone else.

Anonymous said...

I think the discussion is somewhat misguided in only looking at CV and not looking at letters.

A strong, detailed recommendation from Prof. WellRespected vs a yet-another-student recommendation from Prof. Famous would be a big factor

GMP said...

Anon at 9:24, this is an excellent point, letters are very important. However, many (most?) places don't even ask for letters until after the first cut has been made. I believe the CV is the most important document for making the first cut.


Anonymous said...

"Do you think I was born with a husband and kids? "

I have been following your blog. Moving to a new place when you are very young, energetic, healthy, and when it is *much* easier to fall into social networks, even for immigrants and misfits, is not what we are talking about, is it? You have been married a long time.

"or you would never assume it's such an awesome option"

When did I say it was an awesome option? All I said was it was not worse than being single. You are the one who seems to think being married and having kids is a terrible disadvantage.

"But I am done with the misery olympics."

Interesting, you are the one here who keeps whining about her situation and saying the single people are carefree and not held back when it comes to moving to an undetermined place for an undetermined time since they have no ties, responsibilities, etc.

And it's NOT a competition. You are the one who stated that "unnattached" people had an advantage. Apparently it even affects your evaluations of CVs of job applicants. I am saying that while the grass always appears greener, there are advantages and disadvantages to both situations.

GMP said...

You have pulled quite a few things right out of your a$$ in that last comment, but I don't want to engage any more. Think what you will.

you are the one here who keeps
whining about her situation

No one is forcing you to read my whining. When a blogger annoys me, I stop reading.

Anonymous said...

Okay maybe you aren't judging the CVs- you are leaving that variable out, (even though many feel a variety of experiences at different institutions is important). The point is you are not considering that there are other reasons besides a working spouse that might make it difficult to pull up roots every year or two, and that it is difficult for everyone, especially after undergrad-age. There is no reason for any one group to feel discriminated against. It's sad that you feel that you would have been better off without your kid and your husband's phone calls. You are not even considering the reality of the "unattached" candidates. As just one possible example, maybe a 30+ woman is worried about her biological clock, and now faces several years of this post doc limbo. Is that really a better situation, just because she is currently "unattached"? (I guess that's a rhetorical question since you have checked out, but one I wish people would think about a little more).

GMP said...

I don't think moving is easy on anyone ever. The whole point of the original comment that enraged you is that unattached people don't have to consider the partner's (or kids') needs or wants when they are deciding to move for work. It was a response to the commenter before that (Anon at January 18, 2013 at 8:21 AM), who said he/she would discriminate against those who haven't moved, in that anyone who changed places after the PhD would be at an advantage over both fictitious candidates of the main post. Of the people I know (not faculty applicants, but people I know reasonably well) who stayed at the same institution for a postdoc, all did so for family considerations; also, women seem much more likely to make this choice to accommodate their male partners. My original point was that it's a good thing not to prejudice against people who don't want to move.

I didn't start "who is having it harder or easier when they move," you did; you brought "long-distance relationship with a supportive partner" as a viable choice, which really pissed me off. You have no idea how much it sucks. All I am saying is that I know people who can't move often make the choices they do for family reasons, and I am happy people seem to be accommodating such career choices. I don't think it's easy having to move all the time, and some fields are especially horrible in how many or how long of a postdoc they expect. (Btw, my kid's godmother is my friend from college, a woman who moved 3 times in her early-to-mid 30's until she found a suitable position, so I know a little bit about that situation and the biological clock ticking from her account, and I don't dismiss that very real issue. She is now happily settled with a fellow scientist whom she met in her late 30's at the university where she has a permanent position.)

And please don't twist my words about my family. There are career considerations and there are family considerations, and they are often very much out of sync. Family always wins, but that does not mean I am happy that I always have to choose (whereas a man in my shoes would not have to make many of the choices I do) or that I am not aware of how those choices affect my career. That does NOT mean I wish I didn't have my family; I hate it when people imply that: once you have a family you are never supposed to be anything but gaga non-stop, because there are people who wish they had it but don't. That is very unfair, because having kids, while wonderful and rewarding, also implies personal and career sacrifices, and expecting that once you are a parent you are never supposed to utter frustration is a tall order. I am always very aware that having a family came with professional sacrifices and, being an ambitious person, I am not always happy about it. I wish I could have both the family I always wanted and the career I always wanted, but I can't. I have the family and a rough approximation of the career. Maybe that makes me greedy. But it is what makes me whine.

(Btw, does any male blogger ever get told that he whines? It strikes me as a female-only insult, like being hysterical, too emotional, PMS-y -- men don't get served those either.)

Anonymous said...

I never said you or anyone should always be gaga about having kids. And the whining comment was a response to you saying to me "
But I am done with the misery olympics. This thread has been derailed enough.Here, Anon, you win:
Anon at 4:44 and 8:39 has it harder in life than anyone else, and is more lonely and more overworked than anyone else." I did not just come along and accuse you of whining and claim I had it worse! I was only responding to your comment " Postdocs are very hard on couples and families and the expectation to move selects preferentially those who are unattached. " It sucks for lots of people (and not as much for others)to have to move around with no stability at this crucial time of life. Now it seems we agree, for the most part, good.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to come out and say that the Anon(s?) are being too hard on GMP here. I am an early-30s woman moving for postdocs, doing the long-distance relationship thing. It's easier being a long-distance wife than a long-distance mom, with or without the kid on your geographic side. I'm basically living out here as a single person. Anon, what you want is a hug.

I've made some of the choices that involve trading pedigree for family. I expect that in the next two years I have a 25% chance of staying in academia because making these choices has derailed a lot of things. Journal editors treated me like shit when I tried to submit papers from the teaching college I was at. They're much nicer when notes come from my new email address, but it might be too little too late.

Anonymous said...

"Anon, what you want is a hug. "

Well apparently I'm being moderated because GMP is terribly upset, so I suspect she needs a hug more than I do. btw the woman I described is not me. That was just one of many examples. And a hug, really? How more condescending can you get, as if to illustrate my point. yes, single people cannot have real problems, real ties to the community like a wife and mother can. If they don't want to be uprooted in their 30's every two years they are being babies and just need a hug! Married people with children on the other hand are to be taken seriously, they have real problems. This is exactly the attitude I've been talking about. It's dehumanizing.
This is how you see single people, and yet you are outraged when one single person doesn't agree sympathy for your victimization which has been stated in relative terms to "unattached people" themselves (when saying you are discriminated against compared to single people). And GMP insists on portraying me as saying single people have it worse. Why is it so hard to simply agree it's an individual case by case thing?

GMP said...

Well apparently I'm being moderated because GMP is terribly upset, so I suspect she needs a hug more than I do

Don't flatter yourself. Moderation is turned on automatically on each post after it has been up for 48 hours, so as to avoid spam comments, which tend to target older posts. Anyone posting after 7:42 AM on Sunday (including the comment you are responding to) gets moderated.

And you may be a jerk to me, but not to my commenters. Nobody is dehumanizing anyone, so chill. Actually, in this thread, you are the one who has been the least willing to take the words of others in good faith.

Why is it so hard to simply agree it's an individual case by case thing?

Of course it's a case by case thing. But let's not pretend there are no patterns, even if they don't cover 100% of the relevant population.

EliRabett said...

Eli wants to see their research plans and figure out how their plan and needs fits into the place they are applying.

inBetween said...

Wow, this comment thread went way off throw in a different line if argument I read CV 1 wih a jaded eye. I have seen too many students of awesome advisor get too much credit, publish stuff in super awesome journals that didn't really merit it, and essentially ride the adviser's coattails. I say that CV 2 looks equal if not a little by better. It is a lot harder to publish when you are teaching so much & don't get the publishing advantages of having a big name adviser.

GMP said...

Thanks Eli and inB for putting the thread back on track!

InB, that's my opinion as well. A person who has shown that he/she performs very well in less than ideal conditions is likely a very strong faculty candidate. Being a prof takes a fair bit of grit.

Eli makes a great point about the research statement and fit. For instance, in this search, we have decided not to interview one stellar candidate because, from his research statement, it was clear that we simply don't have the type of facilities that he would need to do his work (this goes beyond a few pieces of equipment, i.e. it's not something a startup package could take care of). He is an amazing candidate, and I am sure whoever hires him will be very lucky. Unfortunately, it won't be us.

Alex said...

Eli raises an interesting point. And what if well-pedigreed person's research plan is "I know all the tricks for doing the stuff that made my mentor famous, and I will do similarly Glamourous stuff"? Do you ding the person for lack of independence, or do you say "We can bring in somebody who knows how to do that hot stuff that brings in grants! Sweet!"?

Anonymous said...

@Alex: I would personally ding this person for lack of independence. The hot stuff they are doing now will not be hot forever; what will this person do then, once his bag of tricks are exhausted?

pyrope said...

I agree with inBetween - big name advisor could be seen as a crutch as much as a good pedigree issue. If big name advisor says the student is independent and a big thinker then that will grant more significance to the CV.
However, I do think that nepotism and the known quantity of those big names definitely skews the interpretation of letters of reference (at least, in my experience). If big name says the candidate is amazing, that counts more than unknown saying the candidate is amazing. But, same is true of any reference (big name or not) if known by any of the search committee.

Anonymous said...

"There is in fact a well run West coast lab with lots of great publications whose graduates are now (in)famous for being unable to produce when hired elsewhere."

Inquiring minds demand to know who this is. Leave the PI's last name as an anagram, we'll figure it out.

Anonymous said...

Isn't what one's trainees go on to do a significant part of what makes a scientist a superstar? Thus making coming from a superstar's lab a definite boon since you know this person has produced high quality independent scientists in the past? I guess that would bias against new investigators...

Anonymous said...

From my experience, students coming from big-name labs have a big-name crutch. I've had better luck with graduates that make due with an "inferior" surrounding cast.

The pedigree versus publication argument is just another part of the academic politics that I despise, and is part of the reason why I left a tenured position and moved into a higher-paying job in industry.