Tuesday, January 9, 2018

PUI professor job hopping

From the 2017-2018 open thread, an interesting exchange. From Anonymous (January 6, 2018 at 2:44 PM):
Any current assistant professors out there applying for PUI positions? I'm wondering how much mobility really exists in those positions. Does teaching a couple years (as an asst. prof, not an adjunct) help you move to a better school?
And the informed response from another Anonymous (January 7, 2018 at 8:38 AM):
I teach at a PUI and moved from another PUI when I was an assistant professor. There is definitely mobility in these cases. If you wish to "move up" the PUI school ladder, some of it will depend on what you have accomplished at your current position. Most likely, the schools that you are applying to will want to see that you have established yourself as an effective teacher and scholar and that you are contributing to the shared governance of your current institution in a positive manner. 
I would suspect that if you have at least one letter from someone in your department speaking positively about your teaching and research (with students) and a letter from outside your department discussing how well you work in committees that you will be good. Many search committees like faculty applications from other assistant professors because they have teaching experience and have mentored undergraduates in the research lab as well.
This would be another question that I wish that we had a better data around: how many professors move each year between schools? Which schools are more prone to movement (PUI or PhD-granting?) Do assistant professors move before or after tenure? More questions to be solved by the future staffers of the Chemjobber Institute of Advanced Scientific Workforce Studies... 


  1. I am Dr. Withoutajob and I approve this thread! The CIA-SwS has to get to the bottom of this. =), I hope my dorky humor is not considered spam, or hinders the research.

  2. I wrote a long post and it got eaten, so trying again.

    From the schools I've seen (mostly SLACs) and interviewed at this year, it seems like a reasonably portion of the faculty (30+%) had moved from another school pre-tenure.

    I think more common are people coming from non-TT (visiting) assistant professor positions. Assuming the visiting position was research active, it shows that you can (a) teach, (b) be on committees, and hopefully can also show you're a productive department member. It also shows you've experienced the environment and still want to be part of it, which I think is a pretty large worry- especially given comments in the job threads here of people who did multiple SLAC interviews and then decided they didn't want a PUI job but wanted to be at an R1.

    The advice I've gotten is that moves post-tenure are exceptionally rare, but that lateral moves pre-tenure seem reasonably common.

  3. The following all seem like not-entirely-uncommon reasons for an Assistant Prof. to move to a PUI:
    * R1 burnout
    * Resolving a two-body problem
    * Screwed the pooch on pre-tenure review (R1 -> PUI or PUI dropping down a tier)

    A VAP moving _up_ a tier among PUIs is a pretty rare occurrence.

    There's a special place in Hell for the folks who apply to both R1 and PUI jobs. Stop wasting everyone else's time and money.

    1. Resenting all of the competition? I can relate to that one! Hey, its the american way! Schools only want the very best!

    2. Why? I could see myself happy at an R1 or a PUI (or for that matter, in the right job in industry or at a national lab). I have a two body problem, so being flexible is really important. I tailor my applications appropriately, and don't send in my R1 packet to PUIs because I am well aware of the differences (having gone to a PUI for undergrad and having done a PhD and postdoc at R1s).

    3. My guess is the ire for people who only apply to PUI's as "backups", or won't take them if they get any R1 offer. Or plan on leaving as soon as they can get to an R1.

      It wastes the school's time and money, and prevents someone who would actually be a good long-term fit from getting the job.

      That said, I think a lot of PUIs bring it on themselves with what the focus on most in application review.

  4. PUIs come in many different flavors, and it sometimes takes a lateral move to land in an environment that suits you best. Some schools are PUI's in name only and are trying to start PhD programs left and right to get a Carnegie R3 or R2 designation. Such a place might not be a great environment for someone who wants to focus on teaching and maintaining a small and intimate research group. On the other hand, a faculty member at true PUI with limited research infrastructure might become frustrated with the slow pace of research and try to move to a school with more research aspirations.

    @Anon 8:20 am: I kind of resent the concept that "R1 burnout" is a reason to move to a PUI. This seems to imply that a PUI is a good place to coast through a career. Not so! Folks in my department (at a PUI) get about $150k in startup, 500 sq ft of lab space, and are required to get at least three papers and a major federal grant (NIH, NSF, DOE, etc) within four years. This might not sound like a very high bar from an R1 perspective, but it is quite challenging when you consider that you have no PhD students or postdocs to drive the research and you're likely teaching at least two full courses per semester. Faculty at PUI's face their own set of challenges that can make the work just as stressful and frustrating as R1's.

    1. Anon 915am

      EXACTLY. We can also tell when people just make R1 apps look PUI-like.

      I sit on search committees for a PUI chem program. I want someone who joins us for a *reason* - that reason being to do appropriately scaled but still-excellent research with undergrads and *train* them as proto-scientists....., not a frustrated R1 dropout/couldn't hack-it/not-quite-strong enough person!

    2. OP here: I also think this is why there's more mobility in PUI's. A passionate teacher-scholar might thrive in one "PUI" environment, yet struggle in another. R1's seem to be more homogeneous in the priorities imposed on faculty.

  5. Does the Chemjobber Institute of Advanced Scientific Workforce Studies need a consultant?