PhD supervisor not even an associate professor?

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Is it career suicide for a Phd student to have an older supervisor (50s) who isn't even an associate professor?

Note I'm looking at doing a Phd in maths.
 

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  • #2
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That really is not a lot of information you've given us.
 
  • #3
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What more information do you need? I guess main point is, is it suicidal (career wise) to have a supervisor who isn't a leader in their field?
 
  • #4
Choppy
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It's a flag if the supervisor doesn't have a permanent academic position - not "suicidal" (not sure why it's necessary to be so dramatic) though.

Concerns that you might want to look further into:
  1. What experience does this person have in the field in the first place? Has he or she published in it?
  2. Does the supervisor have funding for the project?
  3. What are the odds this person will leave over the next 4-6 years?
  4. How many previous graduate students has this person graduated? (Being the first isn't necessarily bad, but you will be a guinea pig.)
  5. Who else will be on your supervisory committee? This can be a big thing. If the supervisor is inexperienced, its nice to have someone/others on your committee who have been around the block a few times to point out any pitfalls your supervisor may not be aware of.
  6. What connections does this person have for afterwards?
 
  • #5
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For example, something I've seen happening is somebody doing research in applied mathematics and having a supervisor who works in industry. The usually have a second (more distant) supervisor who is tied to the university though. So no, in that sense it is pretty normal I think. So we really need you to elaborate a lot more.
 
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  • #6
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It's a flag if the supervisor doesn't have a permanent academic position - not "suicidal" (not sure why it's necessary to be so dramatic) though.

Concerns that you might want to look further into:
  1. What experience does this person have in the field in the first place? Has he or she published in it?
  2. Does the supervisor have funding for the project?
  3. What are the odds this person will leave over the next 4-6 years?
  4. How many previous graduate students has this person graduated? (Being the first isn't necessarily bad, but you will be a guinea pig.)
  5. Who else will be on your supervisory committee? This can be a big thing. If the supervisor is inexperienced, its nice to have someone/others on your committee who have been around the block a few times to point out any pitfalls your supervisor may not be aware of.
  6. What connections does this person have for afterwards?

Let's say they have published in the field but not a lot (hence why not a professor).

But let's say they are have a permanent job but just not an expert in the field.

Would it be a bit rude to ask the supervisor about their connections before even starting a Phd with them?
 
  • #7
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For example, something I've seen happening is somebody doing research in applied mathematics and having a supervisor who works in industry. The usually have a second (more distant) supervisor who is tied to the university though. So no, in that sense it is pretty normal I think. So we really need you to elaborate a lot more.

I was thinking of doing it in pure maths.
 
  • #8
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You mean cosupervisor/copromoter?

If someone is not a professor, she/he isn't allowed to supervise a promotion. What country are we talking about?

And indeed, if that person doesn't have a permanent position, there is the risk she/he leaves.
 
  • #9
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You mean cosupervisor/copromoter?

If someone is not a professor, she/he isn't allowed to supervise a promotion. What country are we talking about?

And indeed, if that person doesn't have a permanent position, there is the risk she/he leaves.

No just supervision of Phd students.
 
  • #10
Choppy
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Would it be a bit rude to ask the supervisor about their connections before even starting a Phd with them?

I wouldn't put it that way, but it's a good idea to sit down with a potential advisor and discuss details of the PhD. You need to find out what this person's expectations are of you, for where the project will go, what milestones you will be expected to meet, how much independence you will have, etc. Remember that at the end of the day, it's YOUR PhD, not your supervisor's. So you'll be doing the work. The supervisor's job is to make sure that you stay on a reasonable path. Anyway, part of this conversation should also include expectations for after the project as well.
 
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  • #11
Dr. Courtney
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I think it is appropriate to ask what the odds of them remaining at their current institution are until you graduate and what shall become of your thesis research should they leave before you are finished.

Most institutions have practices to take care of grad students in these situations, but there are occasions where grad students get shafted, especially if an assistant prof gets denied tenure and it is an ugly breakup.
 
  • #12
ZapperZ
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I still say that there is A LOT of stuff we still don't know here.

First of all, for background information for those who may not be familiar with US academic system (assuming that this is from a US institution), a new academic staff often enters a tenure-track position at the Assistant Professor level. Then, after a specified period of time, the department will evaluate if that person will receive tenure. If he/she does, he/she will be promoted to an Associate Professor. This is essentially a "permanent staff" position. A full professor position is another promotion when the department performs another evaluation and deems that this person deserves the senior position, and the university agrees.

Anyway, back to the issue. While this person may be in his or her 50s, did this person just started out in academia? This is because I don't know of anyone who has been denied tenure, but continues at the same school as an Assistant Professor. When was this person hired at the Assistant Professor level? If he/she is new, and has research funding, that is often the person you want to work with because he/she tends to be very active, and still very enthusiastic about the research field.

So, without knowing this, without knowing if he/she has funding, etc... etc., there's very little one can offer besides unfounded speculation.

Zz.
 
  • #13
Vanadium 50
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The OP doesn't seem to want to explain the situation, even when asked directly. Given that this is the same person whose backup plan was to be the next Einstein, I am wondering if the whole thing is hypothetical. In which case it's hard to give an answer better than "it depends".
 
  • #14
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this is the same person whose backup plan was to be the next Einstein.

Isn't that every mathematician's backup plan? :p
 
  • #15
radium
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Just as a general comment, I think the tenure situation depends on the school. For example at my department/university in general and some others I've heard about, it's especially risky to work for someone without tenure because these institutions are known for having very low tenure rates. Basically, people are hired with the expectation they will not get tenure. It's still hard to get it anywhere, but from what I've heard most places hire people they think will have a decent chance.

One reason to risk it would be if other people in the field are really impressed with the professor. One established professor said that if you are able to work with a person who is a "rising star", your may "rise" with them.

I don't think the latter is relevant to the present situation, but if you want to be the next Einstein, you're going to need an advisor with a lot of connections. I have a few in mind who fit that description and obviously they are more than tenured having won many awards and have endowed chairs, etc.
 
  • #16
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Closed pending moderation

EDIT: several off topic posts have been removed and the thread will remain closed
 
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