Thursday, March 14, 2013

Postdoc Prestige

Question from a reader:
In your experience in faculty search committees, with respect to hiring an assistant professor, are postdoc positions at national laboratories (e.g. Sandia) viewed with higher regard, equal regard, or lower regard when compared with a postdoc at Prestigious University?
In my experience, all other things being equal (even though they never are), these postdocs would be held in equal regard. I say that mostly because national lab postdocs are certainly not held in lower regard, and I can't think of why they would be held in higher regard.


qaz said...

In my experience, the university (company, national-laboratory) that a postdoc comes from is entirely meaningless. The PI one worked for, however, is not meaningless at all. Who the postdoc worked with trumps completely where the postdoc worked.

At the point of hiring to faculty, the number of potential people working in a field is so small (even being generous with a large field there are maybe a hundred faculty working in any given field, most fields there are a few dozen) that we would go by PI not by university.

And the postdocs actual publication record trumps all of that completely anyway.

a physicist said...

I concur with FSP. I've been on many search committees in my department and I've never seen the location of the postdoc position mentioned as an advantage or disadvantage. Which is almost unusual when I think about it, given the number of other things that seem to be a factor (even if they shouldn't be).

Anonymous said...

I am a biomedical scientist and thus national labs are less prominent in my field but not unheard of, and I guess NIH intramural would be similar. For our department, the thing that trumps everything is what you accomplished. Your publications, the quality of your work, your research plan, and the letters you receive are all that counts--I know great scientists who trained at all sorts of places.

Mark P

Tinkering Theorist said...

I've heard of someone (interviewing in academia while a national lab postdoc) being asked "why did you decide to leave the national lab" as though they had planned to stay there forever, in contrast to academic postdocs who presumably planned to go to academia. I think this is rare, though. I should mention that my experience is it's a slight to moderate negative if you appear to have randomly/suddenly decided to go to academia and haven't been planning it for years. So, to the extent that some people think that postdocs at national labs are primarily a pathway to full time positions at national labs, it could be a slight negative or an extra question to answer. In real life, it depends highly on the national lab whether postdocs are expected to stay. This is the case at some, but at others, if you wanted a permanent position it would be easier to just apply for it directly without doing a postdoc.

EliRabett said...

Eli has heard this from post docs at a national lab esp for positions at R1s.

Anonymous said...

If you're planning to teach at a PUI, someone from a national lab would probably be at a disadvantage.