College Math Teaching

May 1, 2013

Job Candidates in Today’s Math Professor Job Market: take a second post-doc?

Filed under: academia, calculus, editorial, research — collegemathteaching @ 9:02 pm

This American Mathematical Society blog post is interesting:

This is a post that requests comments and advice from the readers. The issue is the following: Student X finished her PhD in mathematics at a highly-ranked university. Upon graduating, she was able to get a three-year postdoc position in a math department that emphasizes research, so that everything seemed to go well so far. As she was finishing her postdoc and searching for jobs, she had a couple of interviews but nothing very promising and then it was March and X had no tenure-track job offers. However, she had an offer to do a second postdoc at a different university for 2 more years. Question #1: Is it a good idea to do a second postdoc if her plan is to get a tenure-track faculty position? In the absence of another option, obviously X took the second postdoc offer. She thinks that, at the end of her second postdoc, getting a faculty position at a highly-ranked research university will be very difficult. She also likes teaching and has done some teaching as a postdoc; however, she thinks she should take action and get involved in activities that will appeal to undergraduate institutions and liberal arts colleges where teaching is emphasized more than the research (although research is also important). Question #2: Is this a good plan and, if so, what type of activities should she get involved in as a postdoc so that her file looks attractive to undergraduate institutions the next time she applies for jobs?

I teach at a 11-12 hour load “teaching institution” that has a modest…but real..research requirement. You are expected to publish but obviously not in Annals of Mathematics. 🙂

Two thoughts:
1. We teach a LOT of calculus (mostly for engineering or business) and we’d expect a solid record of teaching success in calculus. We don’t want to hire new problems. Stuff in “course development” probably isn’t necessary; there is time to grow into that when they join our department.

2. We also have that modest research requirements; we expect new faculty to be excited about mathematics and be willing to tell us what they are doing. And if someone doesn’t publish (or submit stuff) in a post-doc situation, given the lighter load and division I resources and seminars, etc., then they don’t have a chance of publishing at place like ours.

So I’d say: take the post-doc, get some research done, and have experienced faculty watch you teach calculus so they can give a nice reference letter.

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