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No faculty room at top uni's if you didn't go to one?

  1. Dec 26, 2008 #1

    As my name suggests, I'm a first year PhD student, specifically in engineering. I make this thread not because I am concerned about my future, but because I am a little vexed about a trend I noticed. I go to a well-respected university, and I chose it for less-than-academic reasons such as non-miserable weather and it's fairly cheap to fly home. Anyway, one of the uses of getting a PhD is for being able to teach at a university, so I was perusing the top few engineering schools and noticed that 95% or better of all the engineering faculty had degrees from Stanford, MIT, Berkeley or CalTech. This vexed me because I feel like those schools are way over-represented in proportion to how many of the best they actually turn out; It suggests that if you didn't go to those schools, you'll never have a shot at the most coveted faculty positions regardless of how great your research was.

    Like I said, this doesn't concern me much because my dream is to work at a fab at a company like Intel or TI, but I'm sure many of my fellow students are doing excellent work also and are striving to teach at the very best universities and they might not get a fair opportunity.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 26, 2008 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    I don't believe you. Plain and simple. 95% of the faculty from four schools?

    Let's look at Stanford, since they have their engineering faculty list on line and searchable.

    • Stanford: 99
    • MIT: 26
    • Berkeley: 43
    • CalTech: 13

    That's 181, which sounds like a lot. But they have over 900 faculty - so it's 20%. I believe your 95% number is a product of your imagination, not anything empirical. However, if you have evidence for it, post it, and I will apologize.

    It is true that the better schools are over-represented in terms of faculty. There are two reasons for this: one is that they are better schools, and can attract better students, who often develop to become better scientists, and thus are more attractive to faculty search committees. The second is even simpler: big schools tend to have large programs, and large programs graduate a lot of students. But the degree of over-representation is nothing like what you suggest.
  4. Dec 26, 2008 #3
    It is probably significantly easier for a moderately skilled candidate fresh out of MIT to get their foot in the door, but they have to earn a permanent position just like everyone else and the simple fact is that these top schools really do produce very good researchers.

    Quite frankly there's a lot more qualified people than spots, but if your friends really are as good as you think, then they will have a shot - the truth is though, most of us aren't and it's no great shame to not be a Stanford professor. It's too often carted out that top schools are actively discriminatory in their hiring practices to only select students from top schools - without evidence this is a pretty narrow minded and, ultimately, a self-defeating view if your goal is to work at a top school.
  5. Dec 26, 2008 #4
    quote for truth. what is the point of noticing such things? you're not going to give up if it's what you really want so why does it matter?
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