Junior/Senior Faculty Breakfast
So you have your PhD (now or sometime in the near/far future)…
Suppose that you are offered a position assistant professor somewhere (perhaps
somewhere far away).
What can you expect? How is the relationship between junior and senior faculty?
Here are some guiding discussion topics and questions:
• Initially PhD research may just be something you do to get a PhD.
Many PhD students become emotionally attached to their research topic and
wish to continue that research line after the PhD.
How realistic is that when looking for a faculty position? (Senior faculty, please
provide input here…)
• When offered a position (assistant professor / lecturer) what is most important
for you: the university/department, the senior staff you will be working with,
junior colleagues you will be working with? Do you investigate how much
research freedom you will (not) have?
• How different is the attitude of senior faculty to junior faculty versus PhD
students? What do you expect when you move up to become junior faculty?
Have you considered the different management styles of senior faculty?
(Some are “bossy” and others are more “facilitating”.) Do you expect to
become “friends” with senior staff? (Are senior staff members friends of each
• How do you think you will become senior faculty (other than be getting older)?
What is needed to become “visible” to the academic community as an expert
in your field? (How do you do that when you research the same topic as your
boss?) How do you gain experience in teaching and in setting up new
courses? How do you feel about teaching something outside your own
• Are senior faculty just old, no good any more as researcher, becoming (bad)
managers because nobody else wants to do that and it makes them look
important? Do you hope to never become such a senior faculty member?
• If you are hoping to get a faculty position in the group where you are doing
your PhD, what would you do to “move up” in the ranks not just on paper but
also in reality?
• How would you decide between a post-doc position and a junior faculty
position? Given the choice, why would you opt for one or the other? Which do
you think is going to benefit you most in the long run, and why?
• Question for senior faculty: what was your PhD thesis topic and what is your
research area now? How did it become so different (or did it?)?
Below are some comic strips to illustrate some of the issues in being post-doc or
junior faculty versus being senior faculty (full professor)…
Things to worry about…
Should you start out with a post-doc or not?
Things *not* to worry about…
Either they don’t matter, or there’s nothing you can change about it…
Don’t ever think you will have more free time once you get your PhD…
or that you will have more time to spend with your girlfriend/wife…