Tax Returns; Academic Pedigrees; and Genealogy

February 9, 2006 at 10:15 pm Leave a comment

I have stayed here long enough that for federal tax purposes I am considered a US resident alien by the IRS. Which means I will get back more from my income that was withheld. And what a big jump – over 500%. Woot!

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A graduated fifth 5.5th year (and a close friend) gave up a lucrative job offer from a semicon giant (whose line of microprocessors I think many of you readers are currently using to access this page) to take up a lowly paid post-doc position at 1/3 the salary offered by the former. For someone with a strong intention to stay on in academia, this is nothing to be amazed about. Afterall, it is not easy to get simultaneous offers from these two Technische Universität; one on the east coast and the other on the west. He chose to head west, weather being one of the main factors.

What is surprising (to many grad students and possibly undergrads) though, is how closely knit (and small) the post-PhD circle of schools/research institutes new assistant professors tend to hail from. This applies across majors.

It is a pyramid. For engineering at the undergrad level, there are about 30 institutions in the US with a relatively strong reputation. But this number shrinks by half at the PhD level. If you want to secure an academic position, even a top-10 school ain’t gonna be enough. Many (including my profs) suggest either going to one of the top 5 for the post-doc or just head out to industry and leave academia.

The other major factor is whom you know. This becomes very important if you happen to be in a program that is not that highly ranked.

Additional readings if you want more (not exhaustive obviously):

Focus on Academia and related hiring
1. Pecking Order
2. The Academic Caste System: Prestige Hierarchies in PhD Exchange Networks
3. PhD Circle in Academic Economics
4. Applying for Admission to Economics PhD Programs
5. Grad School: Does it matter where you go?

General views on rankings and prestige
6. University Snobbishness: All Are Not Made Equal
7. Ramblings on the educational divide

The good (US) schools in a majority of disciplines are more or less the same.
8. Her list (for math).

9. Real life examples.

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This site is cool. Not surprising that medical doctors were the first chemists (long before chemistry came into its own as a discipline). The German influence is strong, and I am somehow linked to Liebig in the academic family tree. The earliest person I can trace to hailed from Padua.

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OK, time to head back to my writing.

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