Famous prof, large group vs. New prof, small group

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excel
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Famous prof, large group vs. New prof, small group

Postby excel » Sat Mar 01, 2008 9:32 pm

From the point of view of doing well in graduate school research as well as doing well in post-PhD job search, which is the better option, do you think?

Joining a well-known prof's (large) group may let the student take advantage of his connections and the high prestige associated with his lab. On the other hand, the prof may not keep a close eye on his work, and may not be familiar enough with his work to advise him effectively or to recommend him strongly in post PhD job search. Joining a relatively new faculty member's (small) group may ensure enough attention from the advisor, but would the advisor be able to effectively support his post PhD job search?

Please feel free to assume that the graduate programs in question have strong reputation.

I believe that the answer to this question may play a role in the choice of graduate schools among some of us. I certainly expect it to be a factor in my choice of graduate school.

calphys
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Re: Famous prof, large group vs. New prof, small group

Postby calphys » Sat Mar 01, 2008 9:57 pm

One thing I would be a little worried about with a brand spanking new faculty member is that (if they're an assistant prof), theres a chance that they would be denied tenure sometime while you were in grad school with them. Meaning they would no longer have a job at your school. Likewise, if they got denied tenure after you finished, that would pretty much remove your strongest recommender from the equation for future jobs.

Just a thought.

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Helio
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Re: Famous prof, large group vs. New prof, small group

Postby Helio » Sun Mar 02, 2008 12:24 am

From my experience I would recommend to hear around how the prof is and how he/she is, esp. the current grad students. I have made very bad experience with "highly recommended" professors (read lab was complete chaos). Then I would decide. Older profs usually have sense of what they are doing, but then you have the hacking order.

VT
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Re: Famous prof, large group vs. New prof, small group

Postby VT » Sun Mar 02, 2008 12:51 am

Will current grad students say anything bad about their dept or Prof? This may sound stupid, but I always feel like grad students are gonna say good things about the dept and Profs. I may be wrong.

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Helio
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Re: Famous prof, large group vs. New prof, small group

Postby Helio » Sun Mar 02, 2008 12:57 am

VT wrote:Will current grad students say anything bad about their dept or Prof? This may sound stupid, but I always feel like grad students are gonna say good things about the dept and Profs. I may be wrong.


From my experience, no. I asked the guys what they think and they were all more or less fed up. Sadly, I realized this after my stint with that prof. Even the post-doc did not have anything even mildly good.... makes you wonder why he quit after 6 months.

VT
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Re: Famous prof, large group vs. New prof, small group

Postby VT » Sun Mar 02, 2008 1:25 am

Jeez, I hope that was not Wisc. This is my only good offer so far, and I do not want to hear anything bad about this school, and so far, I have heard only good thing about them. 8)

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Helio
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Re: Famous prof, large group vs. New prof, small group

Postby Helio » Sun Mar 02, 2008 1:39 am

No it isn't and the group is basically chinese/taiwanese students only....

schmit.paul
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Re: Famous prof, large group vs. New prof, small group

Postby schmit.paul » Sun Mar 02, 2008 4:22 am

calphys wrote:One thing I would be a little worried about with a brand spanking new faculty member is that (if they're an assistant prof), theres a chance that they would be denied tenure sometime while you were in grad school with them. Meaning they would no longer have a job at your school. Likewise, if they got denied tenure after you finished, that would pretty much remove your strongest recommender from the equation for future jobs.

Just a thought.


This is a very important factor. There is a student at my school who's a year or two away from finishing his Ph.D. work and his adviser just failed to make tenure and will be departing from the university soon. There is talk about whether he may continue to pursue the same work under a different adviser in a closely-related field of research, or work from a distance with his current adviser, or some combination of both. Either way it's a logistical mess. Younger prof's tend not to be quite so dogmatic and committed to their preferred approaches and may be able to offer some fresh perspectives on various research topics while remaining very open-minded, but there is a lot of inherent value in working with a senior faculty member with lots of connections in the field and more experience and expertise than you could hope to draw off of in 5 years. But keep the younger prof's close to you, you may just write a paper with them some day!

One other thing to consider is that assistant prof's tend to try extra hard to impress the university enough to make tenure, and you could very well find yourself becoming just another cog in their academic machinery, a means to an end for their own professional success. This isn't anything bad or wrong on their part, they're just particularly distracted with the pressures of the tenure process, and you may find yourself inadvertently in the crossfire. This could result in doing lab work which is more important for them than for your own professional development, and that could lead to a sub-par grad school experience. So I think consider everyone but lean toward experience unless there's a good reason not to do so.

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Helio
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Re: Famous prof, large group vs. New prof, small group

Postby Helio » Sun Mar 02, 2008 1:27 pm

schmit.paul wrote:
calphys wrote:One thing I would be a little worried about with a brand spanking new faculty member is that (if they're an assistant prof), theres a chance that they would be denied tenure sometime while you were in grad school with them. Meaning they would no longer have a job at your school. Likewise, if they got denied tenure after you finished, that would pretty much remove your strongest recommender from the equation for future jobs.

Just a thought.


This is a very important factor. There is a student at my school who's a year or two away from finishing his Ph.D. work and his adviser just failed to make tenure and will be departing from the university soon. There is talk about whether he may continue to pursue the same work under a different adviser in a closely-related field of research, or work from a distance with his current adviser, or some combination of both. Either way it's a logistical mess. Younger prof's tend not to be quite so dogmatic and committed to their preferred approaches and may be able to offer some fresh perspectives on various research topics while remaining very open-minded, but there is a lot of inherent value in working with a senior faculty member with lots of connections in the field and more experience and expertise than you could hope to draw off of in 5 years. But keep the younger prof's close to you, you may just write a paper with them some day!

One other thing to consider is that assistant prof's tend to try extra hard to impress the university enough to make tenure, and you could very well find yourself becoming just another cog in their academic machinery, a means to an end for their own professional success. This isn't anything bad or wrong on their part, they're just particularly distracted with the pressures of the tenure process, and you may find yourself inadvertently in the crossfire. This could result in doing lab work which is more important for them than for your own professional development, and that could lead to a sub-par grad school experience. So I think consider everyone but lean toward experience unless there's a good reason not to do so.


You might also get dragged along, as it happened to the senior grad student of the group i was describing. Then again you prof may get lazy after getting tenure, so there is also that option.

excel
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Re: Famous prof, large group vs. New prof, small group

Postby excel » Sun Mar 02, 2008 7:01 pm

Yes, selecting a well-established advisor certainly seems to be the safer bet, especially from the tenure point of view.

A counter point may be that...if a student's work significantly enhances the reputation of the new prof's group or his/ her bid for tenure, then that prof will probably provide strong professional backing to the student for the rest of his/ her career. And, all famous profs were new profs at some point of time; some of the new profs would ultimately go on to become famous and important. However, this may be wishful thinking, unless supported by tremendous self-confidence and confidence in the new prof's potential.




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