Career Guidance

A comment I made at a meeting yesterday that I think is worth reproducing out of context:

A big part of making it from junior faculty to tenure is deciding which bits of unsolicited contradictory advice you're going to ignore.

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Even though I didn't make it all the way, I figured that one out pretty quickly. It was bloody obvious in my case. My first year at Vanderbilt, several faculty members pulled me aside to talk to me about the department and my future, and it was clear that they viewed me as a political football who might be useful in advancing their own agendae. This was the year when my department was a huge, dysfunctional mess, mind you.

Even before I arrived at Vanderbilt, I had one astronomer telling me that what I did-- you know, that stuff that just got that Gruber prize thing-- was the "worst sort of astronomy," and he asked me if I would do any "rigorous" science if I came to Vanderbilt.


A comment I heard after getting tenure was that I had ignored ALL the advice given to me by senior colleagues from P&T during the pre-tenure phase.
I think that is accurate, in terms of research direction and priority of efforts, and my strategy for applying for funding.

My graduate advisor's wife spelled out faculty hiring to me once: "To you, it's a job. To them, it's politics."