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Publication record while at grad school

  1. Mar 10, 2005 #1
    How important is it to publish papers while in grad school? I'm starting to look for post doc positions but I haven't published that much. Is this going to be a black mark against me? Thanks
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 10, 2005 #2

    Monique

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    It should be more about the quality of your publications, not the quantity. Some projects are just difficult to get publishable results with..
     
  4. Mar 10, 2005 #3
    There have been faculty members at my university who received their PHD's w/o publishing a single paper. You must publish if you are a post-doc or a professor however.
     
  5. Mar 10, 2005 #4

    ZapperZ

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    Based on my experience within physics, if you want to land any decent postdoctoral position at a respectable institution, YOU MUST have already a track record of publication. In fact, I do not know of any postdoc who did not have a few publications under their belt already by the time they graduated. I certainly would not hire a postdoc without such demonstrated ability, considering how many graduate students are already publishing their work before they graduate. Not only that, I also would like to know if the candidate has already presented his/her work at various conferences (this implies that the student already has something substantial to present and means that it warrants a publication). As a postdoc, you will be required to give talks and presentations quite often. A postdoc is not a position where you are just learning such skills - you are expected to hit the ground running.

    Take note that at some schools, you are required to show at least one published peer-reviewed publication as a requirement for a Ph.D. These schools use this as proof that your research work is a new and important work that earns the caliber of a doctoral degree.

    Zz.
     
  6. Mar 10, 2005 #5
    I don't think I was very helpful with my earlier post. I knew of one professor in our Molecular Cell Biology dept who did not publish while getting her PHD at Caltech. She of course did excellent work during her postdoc and became a professor. Publications are important in graduate school but I think doing well as postdoc will overcome whatever lack of papers during graduate years. I've often been told by my professors that you learn to become an independent researcher in graduate school.
     
  7. Mar 10, 2005 #6

    Monique

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    What I wonder, is it really necessary to have a PhD to apply for a postdoc position? What if you already have enough experience, have already published your own work, have already presented your work at big conferences alone?
     
  8. Mar 10, 2005 #7
    I think that really depends on the field that you're in. I know of one graduate student in our chemistry dept who got an offer from Harvard as soon as he finished. But that is definitely the exception not the norm. In engineering, it is a lot easier to go straight into academia. A friend of mine just finished his PHD last year and is now a prof at Cornell (28 year old prof no less).
     
  9. Mar 10, 2005 #8

    ZapperZ

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    Unless you have unbelievable credentials, an excellent pedigree (your mentor was a Nobel Laureate), and a string of publications in PRL, Science, and Nature, getting a prestiguous faculty appointment at high-powered schools in physics is almost impossible without a postdoctoral experience. You need to keep in mind that a postdoc work isn't just confined to doing work in that field. This is where you also start writing research proposals, doing administrative work (you'll be in seminar comittees, that comittee, etc.) and essentially start learning what it takes to become a working physicists beyond just physics. Just look at the job opening ads in Physics Today - most faculty positions at prominent schools would like someone who has a "proven" track record, especially in knowing how to get research fundings.

    And I can speak first hand that in terms of appointment at a US Nat'l Lab, where there can be hundreds of applicants for just one position, a postdoctoral experience is a damn fine credential to have.

    Zz.
     
  10. Mar 10, 2005 #9

    Monique

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    Sure, the postdoc experience is very important since there you have to do your own thing. I was talking about becoming a postdoc without actually having a PhD degree (but with the credentials).
     
  11. Mar 10, 2005 #10

    Monique

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  12. Mar 10, 2005 #11

    ZapperZ

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    By definition, the name "Post Doctoral" fellow requires one actually has completed a Doctoral work. I'm not implying one has actually gone to a commencement, get on stage, get that folder or roll of paper, and then walk off. I personally have not encounter anyone taking up a postdoc appointment without either about to finish a doctoral work, or already have one. Have you?

    Zz.
     
  13. Mar 10, 2005 #12

    Monique

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    Having a PhD means that you worked hard and defended a thesis, showing academic ability. It is also possible to show academic ability without the title.
     
  14. Mar 10, 2005 #13

    ZapperZ

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    I'm sure it's possible. It's also possible to produce 3 papers in a year of the caliber of the photoelectric effect model, special relativity, and brownian motion. But how likely is this to occur? How many Freeman Dyson's are there walking around us?

    Zz.
     
  15. Mar 10, 2005 #14

    Dr Transport

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    I never published while I was a graduate student, I didn't go try to get a post-doc because I was heading into industry. Still have never published a word and am doing quite well. I know a bunch of people who published as grad students, they still have not gotten either a post-doc or a faculty position. Most are working temp type jobs. Connections are as much a key to landing a decent post-doc as a publication record.
     
  16. Mar 11, 2005 #15

    ZapperZ

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    Thanks for bringing it up, Dr. Transport, because I should have made it clearer that if you are pursuing the post-doc avenue, then you are certainly heading into a career in either Academia or research work at a Nat'l Lab. Post-doc experience is often unnecessary for industrial career (although for private research labs such as Bell, IBM, and NEC, it is still a factor). It is why I described some of the added responsibilities that a post-doc sometime has to take on, such as writing research grant proposals, etc. that academic institutions and the likes would want you to know already.

    Zz.
     
  17. Mar 11, 2005 #16

    Dr Transport

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    Even in industry we write grant/contract proposals. I have written no less than 5 per year in the each of the years I have been in industry. I get funding for about 75% of the contract proposals I write, some years are better than others.

    If you go the academic route, you may be more satisfied with your work from an intellectual point of view but in many cases you'll be working for many years in an uncertain environment and you'll be old and gray before you get a permanent position. Sure, my company could walk up to me and tell me to leave, but industrial salaries are much higher and I can weather a year or so without a job, I hazard a guess and say that there are not too many post-docs out there who could do that.
     
  18. Mar 11, 2005 #17

    ZapperZ

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    Well, a postdoc is never meant to be a "permanent" position. In fact, many nat'l Labs hiring postdoc requires that one must have graduated within 3 years of applying.

    When I graduated, I had the option of going into industries (I interviewed at Applied Materials and Xerox) or pursuing academic/research career. While I think that I could have survived in industries, I knew deep down inside that I would be happier in this line of work, even if the pay is considerably lower, and the track to job security longer (take note, however, that in many schools, one is usually up for tenure after as little as 4 years as an assistant professor. Furthermore, job benefits such as medical coverage, etc., especially for Nat'l Lab employees are significantly more generous on average than industries). So that's why I slaved for almost 3 years as a postdoc, but it was the most rewarding and most professionally productive period of my life and I would do it all over again.

    Based on my experience and people that I have talked to, if one is pursuing a similar career path, then unless is one is a genius and a freak of nature like Einstein or Dyson or Feynman, etc., then most of us mortals do need postdoctoral experience to ensure a better chance of landing a position in a more prestigious and competitive institution. And considering how bad it can get when one looks at the situation elsewhere, especially in Germany, I don't think things are that bleak in this line of work.

    Zz.
     
  19. Mar 11, 2005 #18

    Dr Transport

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    I was advised by my advisor not to publish any of my work. There was a disagreement between me, my advisor and the funding agent. We were correct and showed proof, the funding agent didn't believe the logic behind the calculation and subsequently decided not to renew our contract. If I had published the work, we would have had to acknowledge the contracting agency so it was decided not to publicize the work. It was too late to change thesis topics so I went on from there and decided not to try to pursue an academic track. I wasn't afforded the opportunity to work in a govt lab, so that is the reason why I went straight to industry.
     
  20. Mar 11, 2005 #19

    ZapperZ

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    Not to dismiss the situation you were in, but don't you think that you were in a highly unusual situation? As in my responses to Monique, I think I've always tried to answer questions such as these (and in almost all of my advices and recommendations) based on what I believe to be a common, "average" situations. I certainly would not give advice to someone by using an unusual anecdote, for this would give the impression that this is what most people have to go through. I've strived to present situations in my current essays that represents the most common occurences that a physics student would face, rather than what an absolute genius, or an unusually unluckly student might encounter.

    If we survey faculty members in "good" to prestigious schools, or staff scientists at various Nat'l Labs, you would be hard pressed to find someone who did not have a postdoc experience. Based on this, if someone were to ask me "Should I get a postdoc if I want to purse such a career track?", I would be highly irresponsible to point to an unusual situation and say "Look at Freeman Dyson, he didn't have a postdoc. In fact, doesn't even have a Ph.D! And look at him now! So that proves you don't need one!"

    I don't think this is the picture we want to paint as being "normal" or "common".

    Zz.
     
  21. Mar 11, 2005 #20

    Dr Transport

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    I do not think it was an unusual situation, matter a fact, I saw it more than once in my graduate career. Funding agents are vain individuals, they EXPECT to be listed as co-authors for nothing more than sending money to a university.

    My situation may not have been the norm, but it wasn't an isolated incident. It has happened to more than one theoretician/computational physicist I know. The common thread in this is that none of them affected went on to do a post-doc or obtained a faculty position or national lab position. They all ended up working in industry.
     
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2005
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