Friday, May 19, 2017

Picking up the phone, adviser-style

I would like to commend to you Lisa Jarvis' story that C&EN is running this week about the life of a new assistant professor at a research university. It focuses on Julia Kalow (Northwestern), Song Lin (Cornell) and Valerie Schmidt (UCSD.) I found this little tidbit rather wonderful from a #chemjobs perspective: 
And a new deadline loomed large. UCSD’s master’s students are generally focused on getting a job in industry, a career aspiration that Schmidt needed to help them achieve sooner rather than later. 
“Usually with a Ph.D. student, you have four or five years to worry about those things—to initiate the type of outreach to get folks employed,” Schmidt says. Now, just a few months into the job, she was already making calls and probing contacts from grad school for leads.
Nice to see Professor Schmidt picking up the phone. I wonder how it went for her students?

Probably one of those questions that new/prospective graduate students should be asking professors of all ranks is not only "where do your graduates go?" but also "how involved are you in the process of aiding me in getting where I want to go next?" 


  1. I thought this was an interesting comment: “One thing I realized is that having a good CV might just mean that they haven’t faced a lot of experimental obstacles,” she says.

    I do agree that failure is a better teacher than success (though I prefer the latter), it seems to me tough to capture on a CV.

  2. Nobody ever hooked me up with anything, and I think that became self-fulfilling after a surprisingly short period of years. "If he was any good, somebody would have already hooked him up."

    Really this could be done very much more efficiently at the department level, and nobody does that. But I work at a vocational school and it isn't rocket science. Step one is having an industry advisory board, and getting real information on who they are hiring and what skills they need them to have, and promoting various things they're doing. Step two is having a contact person who actually works with the students and connects them to employers, and advises them on how to relate their research/training to employable niches. AFAIK no department does this. Sometimes there's an 'industry relations specialist' who seeks out profitable collaborations, but they're working on behalf of the PIs and only incidentally for the students.

    Bottom line is it's easier to just say 'College is not a VOCATIONAL school!' and wash their hands of it.

    1. This happened to me as well. The best thing I got was a letter from my advisor that I could edit.

      Somehow there needs to be some pressure on universities to connect their work with jobs. I know to many PI's whose work really is no training at all for any kind of job.

      Its getting to the point where you are likely to get a better paying job from vocational school training (say in automated assembly, where you are running robots) that your standard PhD from a standard R1 university.

    2. I think there's been a divergence between academic and industrial practice to the point where industry no longer respects the PhD as a credential. Academia has endless subsidized labor and uses it as opposed to capital equipment. So ... Western Blots and SDS/PAGE on some poor kids resume, and he's trying to get a job in industry where they use the ELSIEMESS PROTEINATOR 9000. Dual workforces, no longer can someone move up without someone favored and popular 'picking up the phone', and this is stupid.

      In vocational education, it is necessary to beg, borrow, or steal something like the current industry equipment. You can't send kids out as 'employable' for 5-axis CNC machining when you train them on antique South Bend lathes and mills, that won't happen.


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20