The Floor is Yours

July 12th, 2007

It’s time for a little experiment. Allow me to apologize in advance for being so cryptic in this post, but I want to observe how the discussion here proceeds without any interference from me.

In the last several weeks, a number of people have brought to my attention a fascinating story relating to careers in academia. Not since the SSS have I heard people voice such strong opinions on a subject that falls squarely in the arena of scientific culture and politics. I believe the story merits discussion and analysis, just because it is so atypical of “standard operating procedure.” Who knows? Maybe the SOP is changing?

Anyway, since this story seems to be well known to the community already, I thought that you all could have first crack at it without hearing my opinion first. I’m sitting this thread out…at least, to begin with.  To start the discussion, I’ll throw out a single word and the guidance that it is a story that has not even been tangentially discussed on this blog before today. Keep the discussion civil, but feel free to voice your opinion. Be sure to use proper grammar, especially if you have no idea what’s going on and are just leaving some random insult directed at me.

Now, the word: Princeton.

Previous Comments

  1. slanderer Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 7:26 am I have no idea what you are talking at despite “this story seems to be well known to the community already”. Anyway I am happy that the story may reinvigorate my interest in your blog.
    BTW, why donot you give any update about SSS?
  2. slanderer Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 7:29 am BTW, I have very bad opinions about Princeton, mainly because my Guide is from there.
  3. Bad Cop Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 8:31 am OK, just so I’m getting this clear, is this the alleged “Corey’s grad student/post-doc wanted a faculty position NOW, damnit!” story?
  4. slanderer Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 8:59 am #3,
    Can it be called a ‘fascinating story’? I think that is very common.
  5. eugene Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 9:02 am Yeah, I forgot that that place was in New Jersey. Those guys are pretty good at pulling the wool over your eyes and making you think it’s not in New Jersey and “we are all wonderful and have a great chemistry department”. And then you’re like, “wait a minute, I remember that something was seriously wrong about this place…”
  6. chm Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 9:05 am I think this is about the “Paul alleges there is some controversial affair going on and in fact he is waiting what comes up” story.
    Nice try Paul.
  7. TotallyMedicinal Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 9:14 am Is Dave MacMillan the secret love child of Jackie Kennedy and Ernie Colvin?
  8. Retread Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 9:31 am Academia is the last feudal system left standing
  9. joel Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 9:43 am One of the cameramen from Ice Road Truckers flunked out of Princeton and moved on to a brilliant education in film at NYU. He also came up with the idea for the “Pot-Cam” in my favourite series, The Deadliest Catch. I think Blake (the captain of the Maverick) is a real turd and I cheer when he misses his crab quota.
  10. Bad Cop Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 11:29 am #4

    I didn’t call it a ‘fascinating story’.

  11. ZAL Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 12:10 pm Could someone be so kind to explain me what are you talking about (or at least post a relevant link)? You know, it’s not funny when everybody talks about something and you seem to be the only one that does not have a clue (sadly, it happens in real life too, which is maybe the reason why I spend so much time reading chemistry blogs)!
  12. bad wolf Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 12:27 pm I think they’re talking about famed blogger Carmen Drahl accepting a position with C&E News. Man, that chapped my hide too.
  13. excimer Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 1:00 pm I have no idea what’s going on, either. Spill it, Paul.
  14. eugene Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 1:00 pm “You know, it’s not funny when everybody talks about something and you seem to be the only one that does not have a clue”

    Naaaah, I bet 95% of us don’t have a clue, which is why people are making stuff up. You should try it, it’s pretty fun. It’s the same as when you’re at a meeting and someone talks to you about some complex catalytic asymmetric protocol using molecule names like Quinuclidine and Quinoxaline that you forgot what they meant (even if you ever knew it in the first place). All you have to say is: “I’m going to try a deactivated diene in the future with my system” and walk away quickly. Try to avoid eye contact.

  15. Elwoodcity Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 1:35 pm Add me to the list of people who don’t know what’s going on. My understanding of Princeton is that they have some good new faculty, and some good new facilities. Is that really a story worth gossiping about? I may be wrong, but that is the impression Carmen left me with.

    I did hear that there was a love child involved in the decision of a certain professor to move from the left coast to the wilds of New Jersey, but that isn’t really new news.

  16. DZ Squared Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 1:43 pm I think it is that their recent offers to the Berkeley duo have been turnved down.
  17. Mitch Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 1:58 pm Absolutely no clue what this post is about.
  18. Dude Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 2:06 pm The “star system” of financial reimbursement that has become so prevalent in sports and CEO pay will grow in academic circles as well. Schools seeking to improve their departments in a hurry can try to poach an established “superstar” professor (few in number) with sweetheart deals. Example: Princeton.
    Government grant money has stagnated, but the endowments of the big schools continue to grow. For those professors hitting money trouble, the financial benefits that can come with offers to move can be tempting.
  19. eugene Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 2:10 pm I think that this is some psychological experiment that somebody told Paul to do. They want to gauge our reaction and see what kind of rumours will spread about an otherwise normal place among an anonymous community of scientists. They also want to note down when the first post was made that exposed their plans. For the record, it’s this post.
  20. Darksyde Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 2:26 pm Princeton (with all due respect to the researchers who are there) increasingly feels like the place where medium-sized names go and slowly disappear into the background noise.
  21. Ψ*Ψ Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 2:38 pm Just glad I’m not the only one who has no clue what’s going on.
    *insert random insult directed at Paul*
  22. Bad Cop Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 2:41 pm #15 – of course the Baby Daddy thing is news! Bring it on!
  23. Elwoodcity Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 3:04 pm Could this really be what this is about? Who knows more details about why the biggest organic hire at Princeton in the last year left a pretty sweet position where he was? It’s not like Princeton is even a lateral move.

    Aside from the name, which you probably know already,I have nothing else to add that isn’t hear-say.

    Random insult: Paul occasionally spells his own name incorrectly.

  24. Doubja Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 3:13 pm This is even more retarded than the ending of the last episode of the ‘Sopranos’. Who like the guessing game? Just bring on the rumor.
  25. Elwoodcity Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 3:30 pm Well Paul?

    I have a new game. Let’s try this again with a new word.

    Now the word: Pudding

  26. ZAL Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 3:34 pm I came to the conclusion that either Chm (#6) or Eugene (#19) are right, so I will not comment anymore until the truth will be revealed by the evil manipulator hosting this blog.
  27. Jose Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 3:37 pm I’ll go with #19. Sounds too contrived to be anything else….
  28. excimer Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 4:03 pm I feel so used. So used. Oh well, <random insult> Paul likes to drink his own urine.</random insult>
  29. Paul Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 4:44 pm Wow. No one is even close. Just because I think (know?) some of you readers are holding back, this thread’s going to stay open for a little while. If nobody comes forward, I’ll post the news and some views next week.

    Also, I swear there is a bona fide story here; I’m not just messing with you.

  30. Kutti Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 4:47 pm Maybe Paul just wants to see how many comments he will receive for the most meaningsless post in the history of his blog – and so far, he is doing pretty well ;-)
  31. Mitch Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 4:58 pm “for the most meaningsless post in the history of his blog”. No I think he is going for the most meaningless post in the field of Chemistry Blog postings. Although Ψ*Ψ’s recent posting will be tough competition:…..istry.html


  32. Nameless Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 5:00 pm Totally off topic Princeton-wise, but did you hear that F.A. Cotton passed away due to complications from injuries sustained in a fall? A fall that was caused by his lover’s husband pushing him down the stairs? That’s the buzz around here, but no one wants to ask people who might actually know. Is it just baseless defamation of the character of a, well, character?
  33. Kutti Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 5:10 pm @Mitch: Ok, you´re right *g*

    By the way: I´ve also heard an interesting rumour today…

  34. Paul Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 5:10 pm While this post is small and meaningless now, I liken it to an acorn. Hopefully, some of you will open it, care for it, and poop on it such that it will grow into a mighty oak.
  35. Hap Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 5:26 pm 15: I thought that previous discussions of MacMillan moving to Princeton had cited relationship issues as the cause.

    32: I would have figured the local authorities would be kind of interested in that, being roughly murder (2nd, 3rd degree, whatever – pushing an 80-year old man down the stairs could reasonably be anticipated to kill him or lead to his death), and if the police thought that had happened, obstruction of justice charges might loosen the lips of anyone with potential information. People might be embarrassed by the trial, but less embarrassed than by jail time, I would think.

  36. Darksyde Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 5:33 pm I think J. J. Thompson’s plum pudding model was based on fraudulent CRT data. Also, he misreported p values by fitting his model to the wrong statistical distribution.
  37. excimer Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 5:53 pm Mitch, I am going to make a giant poster for you that says “don’t be a dick” on it in big pink letters and it will follow you around wherever you go. Making the poster is easy. Having it follow you around wherever you are 24/7/365 will be Nobel-worthy. You’ll see.
  38. Bad Cop Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 6:01 pm #32

    I heard the “Cotton conspiracy” too, and from an impeccable source (no, really). I understand that it was not necessarily the husband of his lover that did the deed (allegedly) but perhaps the spouse/siggo of a colleague…?

  39. Paul Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 6:12 pm Wow. I was about to call bullshizzle on that comment but it appears that the police are actually investigating Cotton’s death as suspicious. The ChemBark news van is being ordered to drive from Princeton, NJ to College Station, TX to cover this story. Did C&EN pick up on this?…..418039.php

  40. Mitch Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 7:16 pm Excimer. That would be awesome! My colleagues would probably appreciate that too.


  41. Taitauwai Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 9:08 pm Ψ*Ψ, U wanna try my famous Death by Chocolate? I am baking this weekend. Will only send it to Paul after he tell me what’s going on here… :>
  42. eugene Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 9:21 pm Apparently it’s not as good as Al Cotton being offed. But hey, To be offed by a jealous husband/boyfriend in old age is a lot better than boringly dying from natural causes. Although, if I were him, I would have preferred the offing off to be in my nineties, not in my seventies, unless I developed some seriously painful health conditions of course. Then people could say the following about me: “Truly, eugene’s death, like his life, was extraordinary”.
  43. anon Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 9:36 pm Is this about Toste turning down their offer?

    Or Chulbom Lee not getting tenure?

    Neither seem very controversary worthy. At least from what I have heard of the two situations.

  44. Nameless Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 9:37 pm This is why I ask. We have a former student of his here, but it would be inappropriate for me to ask – we only talk about inorganic chemistry. I knew that there was an investigation, but have heard little in the blog-o-sphere.
  45. Paul Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 9:38 pm Nope and nope. What I have in mind is not exactly a controversy.
  46. Anonymouse Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 9:47 pm Send it yo one of us and then we can spill the beans in a future post!
  47. organic1 Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 10:32 pm Greg Fu to Princeton
  48. Anonymous Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 10:59 pm Rumor is that Princeton is luring a young Jacobsen student directly out of grad school. It sounds like they have forgotten that they are a chemistry department, not a chemical engineering department, where this sort of move is (or used to be) common.
  49. slanderer Says:
    July 12th, 2007 at 11:05 pm Who is that lucky guy #48
  50. The Mysteries of Princeton « Closeted Chemistry Says:
    July 13th, 2007 at 1:11 am […] The Mysteries of Princeton Over at ChemBark, Paul is allowing us, the chemical blogerati, to talk amongst ourselves about some interesting news coming out of Princeton. This talking amongst ourselves at ChemBark is not unusual. However, this time, Paul has deliberately left off mentioning specifically what the story is. He’s left a few clues, behind, the main one being the word ‘Princeton’. The cryptic nature of the post has resulted in the voicing of some interesting ideas as to what the story of interest is, as well as bringing to light some interesting findings regarding the death of F. A. Cotton.  I’m inclined to agree with the poster who suggested that Paul is gathering data for a study of the propogation of rumors throughout a scientific community (but that’s not to say I won’t being reading ChemBark more religiously now, just to see if the real story is uncovered). […]
  51. Ψ*Ψ Says:
    July 13th, 2007 at 2:09 am #37, great idea.
    Until it happens, Mitch, don’t be a dick.
  52. Paul Says:
    July 13th, 2007 at 2:55 am Re: #9 by Joel: I also love Deadliest Catch. You’re right about Blake. Sig and the crew of the Northwestern are my faves.
  53. Darksyde Says:
    July 13th, 2007 at 3:24 am Princeton gets rid of its chemistry department and folds the staff into “biology” and “physics”.
  54. Mitch Says:
    July 13th, 2007 at 3:54 am But it is so difficult…


  55. Dude Says:
    July 13th, 2007 at 7:23 am 48 – If that’s it, my question is: so what?
  56. eugene Says:
    July 13th, 2007 at 10:23 am Chulbom Lee got denied tenure!? Sweet. Now someone else can get a good Princeton research prof for cheap(er).
  57. Hap Says:
    July 13th, 2007 at 10:24 am 48: I guess if they want to do that, it’s their prerogative, but it doesn’t seem like the best idea. I don’t know if Cummins did a post-doc, but I didn’t think so, and his career has gone well, but others I’ve heard of (who were really smart) didn’t work out as well.

    35: I didn’t mean the police would question the poster referred to (I assumed that his wife was trying to protect herself from embarrassment – which doesn’t necessarily make sense anyway).

  58. Jose Says:
    July 13th, 2007 at 11:44 am One very conspicuous exception- Scott Denmark! No postdoc, and he’d rip the head of any bat in sight. (well, maybe except Toste).
  59. Albert Says:
    July 13th, 2007 at 1:18 pm Every time someone mentions Princeton my first thought is Carlton Banks.


    I loved that series!

  60. Anonymous Says:
    July 13th, 2007 at 1:51 pm Princeton is hiring a fresh grad student out of the jacobsen lab who happens to be the fiancee/wife of an incoming poached professor :-P

    c’mon paul, spill the beans!!

  61. aa Says:
    July 13th, 2007 at 2:03 pm “One very conspicuous exception- Scott Denmark! No postdoc, and he’d rip the head of any bat in sight. (well, maybe except Toste”

    Interesting as well that SED did not get any papers during his doctoral studies at ETH… obviously got a good recommendation from Eschenmoser, and as his research has proven, must have interviewed with some very strong proposals.

    Another prof who did not postdoc, and has done some very nice work so far: Keith Fagnou at Ottawa (direct arylation)

  62. Dave Says:
    July 13th, 2007 at 4:14 pm Also David Liu (Schultz phD, no postdoc)
  63. Kyle Finchsigmate Says:
    July 13th, 2007 at 5:24 pm Princeton is hiring people without post-docing? Holy shit. Maybe my dreams of just getting hired as an Emeritus professor CAN come true.

    I had better bone up on my “walking around with a cup of coffee in my hand while staring blankly into space” skills.

  64. anon Says:
    July 13th, 2007 at 5:29 pm I don’t think a hiring without a postdoc is a big deal. It’s not like they are guaranteed tenure — it’s a temporary position anyhow (albeit one that costs the school a fair amount of money).

    UC-Berkeley hired someone this year who was a spouse of a faculty member. And even better, she postdoc’d for him! But hey, if UCB wants to hire her, good for them.

  65. anon Says:
    July 13th, 2007 at 5:33 pm The answer to who the hire in question is can be answered thanks to this page:…..may07.html

    Now the question is (for me at least)… who is she married to?

  66. anon Says:
    July 13th, 2007 at 5:36 pm I should point out… post 65 by me was speculation. Just by Googling. I still don’t think this is a big deal, but am curious as to who it is that got the job.
  67. Anonymouse Says:
    July 13th, 2007 at 6:01 pm…..MsdVisit=1

    Doyle’s dad is a prof at Columbia and her Mom is provost at U Penn. She grew up in Princeton when Ma and Pa were both professors there.

  68. Anonymouse Says:
    July 13th, 2007 at 6:06 pm Also, I just read today in the journal within a journal “Synform” that Charles Mioskowski, French professor at Strasbourg died last month. I hdn’t heard anything about that nor can I get anything off Google.
  69. Albert Says:
    July 13th, 2007 at 6:17 pm Ok, here’s my absolutely fantastic answer to this enigma: Paul secretely works for the CIA and this is an encrypted message to the government or whatever organization is behind Chembark.

    What Paul has discovered is that Osama is not hiding himself in some hole in Pakistan, but, with beard and hair cut, is working at Princeton Chemistry Department as caretaker of a minor building. (which, in your shoes, I’d clear rather quickly…)

    I came to this conclusion and began straightfowardly to look for other truths Paul might have reveiled in his posts. I’m happy to announce that: Elvis is alive and works at a baker’s in Montana; JFK was killed by an alien that these days has assumed the aspect of Al “I wanna save the planet for U” Gore (the man can’t have get so fat in such a short amount of time) and that last year, during the final match of the world cup, Materazzi provoked Zidane’s headbut saying his Porsche had much more gizmos than that of the Frenchman.

    You all know the terrible truth now.

  70. MJ Says:
    July 13th, 2007 at 8:49 pm They’re finally hiring a few p.chemists after the mini-exodus of faculty from a few years back? That would be news.

    Otherwise…I got nothin’.

  71. eugene Says:
    July 13th, 2007 at 9:03 pm #69

    Well, that would explain why Osama has been missing from the Al-Qaeda videos that I watch religiously lately. (Nothing to worry about here, by the way. Just a chemist watching some Al Qaeda videos; nothing would go wrong: trust me…) Yeah, it’s only been that Al-Zawahiri guy saying ‘death to America’ and ‘kill Paul Bracher’ lately. Based on that, I figure that Osama could indeed be in the USA. And working at PRINECETON.

  72. Milkshake Says:
    July 13th, 2007 at 9:49 pm I don’t know the detail but I think it must have something to do with the Turkish, Scottish and Cuban mafia bunding together to settle the old score with Czechs. Sames is not the last victim – Lubos Motl, a controversial high-profile physisc professor was just booted out of Harvard. There can be no doubt now – they are after us. Everything fits now, just tell me the details and I can make it fit.
  73. slanderer Says:
    July 13th, 2007 at 10:38 pm I am fully convinced (considering Paul’s ‘righteous’ nature) that #48/60 is on the target.
  74. slanderer Says:
    July 13th, 2007 at 10:45 pm #55 Dude = Jakub Jurek
  75. eugene Says:
    July 13th, 2007 at 11:06 pm Lubos Motl got kicked out of Harvard!? Oh my god, it is a conspiracy against Czechs, milkshake you’re right… Oh wait, Lubos Motl was a bit of a loon outside of anything having to do with theoretical physics (information gathered from reading his blog). I guess that may have had something to do with it then.

    But hey if someone wants a really good physics prof who’s insane for cheap(er), look no further.

    I have to say, looking back on this thread, it’s really these blank threads that bring out the worst in me. I’m sure I would be much more civil and cordial if I actually knew anything. I blame all of this on Paul (and Lubos).

  76. Darksyde Says:
    July 14th, 2007 at 2:38 am MacMillan? Huh? Wow, am I actually capable of deductive reasoning and “reading” “between” “the lines”?
  77. TWYI Says:
    July 14th, 2007 at 2:55 am It’s something to do with John Nash, isn’t it?
  78. Felix Says:
    July 14th, 2007 at 7:58 am To make sure I am not messing up grammar, just one short sentence: Paul sucks!
  79. bechamel Says:
    July 14th, 2007 at 2:52 pm No, no, no, you’re all wrong!

    J.J. LaClair finagles a tenured position at Princeton!

    I’m so on it.

  80. excimer Says:
    July 14th, 2007 at 4:05 pm I misread #79’s “finagles” as “fingers” and thought that was the best LaClair comment ever
  81. AC Says:
    July 14th, 2007 at 9:36 pm If we ignore for a moment that this girl is getting a faculty position with enough papers to count on one hand and that her parents are big shots at other Ivies, I think the most controversial point is that she’s getting the offer after losing a year of her PhD by transferring from Stanford to Harvard. Since when did four years of research merit a top faculy offer? Or has Dave MacMillan actually succeeded in converting Princeton to the UK system?
  82. Captain Catalysis Says:
    July 15th, 2007 at 10:32 am Kit Cummins did no postdoc, and a four-year PhD. Things have worked out pretty well for him. I have yet to count his publications from grad school.

    Caltech is already advertising the hiring of a current grad student–in 2009.

    This type of shit happens all the time, and is No Big Deal.

    The chemical blogosphere will get another juicy scandal on the order of the whole Columbia thing, but it can’t create one out of nothing.

    At least Tenderbutton would post unsubstantiated rumors immediately, followed by a healthy dose of conjecture and slander. He even had the decency to label those posts as “slander.”

  83. Paul Says:
    July 15th, 2007 at 11:30 am Captain Catalysis: I’m going to jump in since you’re distorting things here.

    1) The person whom Caltech has hired for 2009 is going to do a postdoc. Yes, chem departments sometimes have people “lined up” before they’ve started a postdoc. Still, it is not something that I would call common. In chemistry, it has become increasingly rare for grad students to be hired without the expection of their completing a postdoc.

    2) I did not imply this item was a “juicy scandal.” It is, however, an interesting story concerning hiring practices. If you and others want to read into things that are not there, that’s your problem. Don’t blame me.

    3) If you want to view this item as an unsubstantiated rumor, go ahead, but I assure you, the veracity of item is without question. These hires do not “happen all the time”; they are a “big deal”.

    4) For something to fall into the category of “slander”, it has to be untrue and malicious. This story is true, and my take on it is devoid of malice. I have never published anything libelous on this blog. I will continue to cover stories that I consider interesting in a truthful and candid manner, allowing *anyone* who pleases to come here and comment on the coverage. Name another news medium in chemistry that can say the same.

  84. Captain Catalysis Says:
    July 15th, 2007 at 1:36 pm I meant no insult, even though you invited it in the post ;)

    1) and 3) There are undoubtedly more examples of faculty hires of this type. Being lazy, I just went with the two that I knew off the top of my head. Others have mentioned more. I have neither the time nor the inclination to research exactly how common they are. The Cummins thing was a direct refutation of #81’s point about four-year PhD’s with minimal publications (and an elaboration on #57’s comment). After a minute on SciFinder, it looks like, at the time of his hiring, he had three papers with Wolczanski from his undergrad years and three with Schrock. Knowing nothing of this woman, I can’t say if she’s one of those Insanely Brilliant People, nor whether her impending hire is of the same type as the CalTech one.

    2) and 4) I didn’t mean to imply that you posted either slander or unsubstantiated rumors. Indeed, you did the exact opposite–said nothing and let the comments speak for themselves (although there is a commenter with the handle “slanderer”). I just find “gossip and slander” more entertaining. The lack of slander and unsubstantiated rumors speaks well for the potential longevity of your blog.

  85. Wavefunction Says:
    July 15th, 2007 at 1:43 pm While getting a faculty job right after grad school is very rare and admirable but not unknown, the really amazing and unique story of degree-to-faculty transition I have heard is of John Milnor at Princeton, who was offered a faculty position even before he finished his BS degree in math. Really something (Milnor apparently solved a long standing math problem in his freshman year, thinking it was a homework problem)
  86. Bubba Says:
    July 15th, 2007 at 1:44 pm Another extraordinary example that springs to mind is Freeman Dyson, who got recruited at the Institute for Advanced Study by Robert Oppenheimer without finishing a PhD.
  87. Retread Says:
    July 15th, 2007 at 2:20 pm Nope ! The all timer is Saul Kripke who worte significant papters in logic and philosophy at an early age. When the Harvard faculty got in touch with Mrs. Kripke, she replied that she thought he ought to finish high school first.
  88. Shrug Says:
    July 15th, 2007 at 2:28 pm Ugh. I was a philosophy minor; the predominant reason why I wasn’t a major was because I took epistemology. That stuff not only hurts my brain, but does it for no conceivable gain for society. (The only field in which I believe philosophy is still relevant is cognitive science, and really, as a materialist, I’m pretty sure hard science will push it out the door eventually as well.)
  89. Paul Says:
    July 15th, 2007 at 2:56 pm OK, thanks Captain.
  90. Pd2dba3 Says:
    July 16th, 2007 at 11:09 am Get back to work nerds.
  91. Pd(OAc)2 Says:
    July 16th, 2007 at 11:59 am Good call Pd(0)-

    The discussion about the Jacobsen grad student getting an offer at Princeton are 100% speculative. I happen to know this person and she is by a gigantic margin one of the brightest and most impressive students/chemistrs I have ever met (and I’m too shabby myself, have more papers than can be counted on one hand, etc). For those on here who do not know her I suggest you get over the jealousy and get back to work. Step 1) count your own papers instead of those of others. Step 2) stop wasting your time talking about people you don’t know on a silly time-suck blog.

  92. Paul Says:
    July 16th, 2007 at 12:25 pm You’re “too shabby” yourself?

    Why, may I ask, are *you* wasting time reading this “time-suck blog”? And if you’re going to waste time writing comments, waste a couple of extra seconds proofreading them.

  93. Phlogiston Says:
    July 16th, 2007 at 12:40 pm D. Evans was hired directly by UCLA from his Ph.D. with Ireland at CalTech. He wasn’t aware that it was an interview when he went to UCLA to give a chalk talk.
  94. Anonymous Says:
    July 16th, 2007 at 1:51 pm Paul,

    You claim that you have hard facts relating to this “story” but you are obviously more than happy to sit back and let the rumors multiply and even border on slander. Frankly I’m surprised at this point that no one has accused the person in question of having some rich uncle who donated a building to the Princeton chemistry department.

    Not only do you know Abby personally but you’re a senior grad student in her department. Set an example, take down this post, and apologize to your colleague.

  95. Paul Says:
    July 16th, 2007 at 2:15 pm Thanks for posting. I appreciate the sentiments of your comment.

    I have legitimate (analytical, non-personal) comments to make about the culture of our field relating to this story, which is certainly newsworthy. The fact that this post has generated so much discussion testifies to this point. If other people take the discussion to areas that I never intended we go, then that’s the way it is. That’s the risk I take in starting discussion; I’ll live with the consequences. I am not going to claim to provide an open forum for discussion then start censoring comments because they rub me the wrong way.

  96. Pd(OAc)2 Says:
    July 16th, 2007 at 2:19 pm reply to #92:

    paul, you’re right. was too hasty in post. if do ever post again will make sure the posts are, “NOT too shabby” so that they match the poster. may even capitalize where appropriate but no time now…

  97. Anonymous Says:
    July 16th, 2007 at 2:28 pm Paul, you do not have the moral high ground here to which you lay claim. You did not merely open a discussion about academic careers and the merits of a post-doc before an assistant professorship. Instead, you went fishing for more information on a rumor you heard and gave people a forum to dispense potentially harmful and untrue speculation once they figured out to what rumor you were referring.
  98. Paul Says:
    July 16th, 2007 at 2:33 pm I’m clearly not going to convince you otherwise. If you stand behind your opinion so firmly, why do you post anonymously? Let us see if you have any conflicts of interest.
  99. Darksyde Says:
    July 16th, 2007 at 4:21 pm Paul, you are a genius.
  100. TJ Says:
    July 16th, 2007 at 4:26 pm Hmmmm….
    1> Scott Denmark was absolutely brilliant at MIT, maybe the best undergrad Course V major in the past 50 years. Woodward himself took notice and offered a position in his group for SD’s grad school and recommended Eschemmoser . SD went to ETH with Woodward’s personal blessing.

    2> It would be totally implausible for Al Cotton to have had a lover, since , among other things , nobody loved him and vice versa . Just my opinion .

  101. Milkshake Says:
    July 16th, 2007 at 7:30 pm 2> This reminds me: Why lawyers never get AIDS – Nobody loves them.

    I also think it is a great display of righteousness when an outraged anonymous commenter claims the high moral ground for himself and demands an apology…

  102. Captain Catalysis Says:
    July 16th, 2007 at 8:07 pm 94:

    Princeton could use an international airport!

  103. slapshot Says:
    July 16th, 2007 at 9:24 pm 1) “Unorthodox”
    The idea that Princeton, with Dave MacMillan now at the healm, would play by the same boring rules as other departments is very silly. DWCM has never played by those rules and has always done well for himself. If he’s now pushing Princeton into the 21st century when excited people ready to do awesome research can take on faculty jobs — good for him. If it’s Sorenson… that’s great too. They really missed out on the new chem bio prof Harvard hired last year and, esp if Toste said no, need to take decisive smart steps to turn themselves into a top department. Not sure if this new hire is the step their taking but wouldn’t surprise me one bit. Also — I would be willing to bet big money that given how hard they’ve all been working at Princeton to turn their department around, they wouldn’t hire anyone who wasn’t GREAT regardless of who their uncle or cousin was. Airports notwithstanding, that would not make any sense at all.

    2) Proposals
    Evaluating a potential prof candidate solely on the available info (published papers and rumors) is also very silly indeed. The most important thing for a department are the ideas the incoming new person brings to the table — the awesome, new, outside-the-box chemistry the person proposes to do. If someone is eager and ready to the mental work of a prof coming out of grad school — they better get the chance to it before they realize they can take their brains and jump ship to a hedge fund. Talk about bad for science. Seriously, why waste time in a post-doc running more columns and learning how to run a gel or a laser if you don’t need to do that to do your chemistry???

    3) The person in question.
    I don’t know for sure but have heard from friends at Harvard and Stanford that this person is absolutely stellar scientifically and also that she’s super nice. Really, based on the amazing things I’ve heard I wasn’t surprised to see the link above to the Princeton seminar series page. But… that’s just a seminar. To get an offer you have to have much more than a couple of JACS papers and good talk. You have to be brilliant, see (2).

    All in all, I think we can all agree that we have no idea whether this rumor is true or not. Personally, I hope it is because it seems silly to keep walking down the path we’re on now– the one where no one actually starts working on their own ideas until well into their 30s.

  104. eugene Says:
    July 16th, 2007 at 11:20 pm “Seriously, why waste time in a post-doc running more columns and learning how to run a gel or a laser if you don’t need to do that to do your chemistry???”

    Well, what if you’re hoping to do it in another country? It would be great to be well rounded and learn about another culture before the rat race really has to start.

    Plus, you have to do your part to make sure the system of chemical research as we know it doesn’t collapse all around us in a flaming heap of formerly great professors. Think of it like the army. It’s only 1-3 years depending on your division and the fatality rate is very small. And some industry jobs only take fine, upstanding citizens who have done postdocs and served chemistry well.

    That’s why I see people who haven’t done post-docs as draft dodgers. And all the rest are chemical patriots. Or cowards. But then again, I’ve been breathing a bit too much ether from the column today, so I could be seeing a lot of things.

  105. Darksyde Says:
    July 17th, 2007 at 3:02 am I think, Eugene, you are allowed to skip a postdoc if your graduate career was legitimately hellish and filled with exploding grenades and scientific pitfalls.

    There is something to be said for cutting your teeth on nearly impossible problems and not have everything fall into your lap either through luck or genius.

  106. gocards27 Says:
    July 17th, 2007 at 11:51 am an analogy:
    professional sports (in america).

    no doubt many of you will have objections to this post. it is simply an opinion; nothing more. that said, what makes this situation any different than the transition that an amateur athlete makes when deciding whether to forego college and turn pro (besides the money)? lebron james and kobe bryant did not attend college. the are (arguably) the two greatest players in the NBA. could they have learned anything by attending even a year of college (except perhaps humility)? doubtful. conversely, there are a number of amateur athletes that have attempted to make the jump straight from high school to the pros and have failed miserably. barry (”baroid”) bonds and adam “pacman” jones DID attend college and have made some very poor decisions.

    i do not (personally) know the chemist in question — that said, it is difficult for me to deny that this person can be nothing less than brilliant. further, it is difficult for me to belive that princeton (dave macmillan) or harvard (jacobsen, etc) would support such a decision unless they believed the same. in the future, the arguements that people are posting (i.e. lack of publications, etc) will seem irrelevant if we are dealing with the next dave evans or scott denmark, etc (even IF they published a ton during their PhD). phil baran did his postdoc with K.C. nicolaou. would he have been any less successful had he gone straight from corey to scripps? i doubt it.

    bottom line: kudos to princeton for taking a chance — just as the cleveland cavaliers took a chance on lebron james and the pittsburgh penguins took a chance on sidney crosby. only time will tell if our chemist will be the next dave evans or the next j.j. laclair (who DID a post-doc, lest we forget).

  107. eugene Says:
    July 17th, 2007 at 12:21 pm How the hell did the Penguins take a chance on Sidney Crosby!? !!!??? No, you answer that right now!
  108. Giagan Says:
    July 17th, 2007 at 12:34 pm 107 – As far as I know, Crosby did not do a post-doc.
    I suppose that makes him another draft-dodger (so to speak), in your words (104).

    How’s that ether?

  109. Hap Says:
    July 17th, 2007 at 1:35 pm There seem to be more examples of profs without postdocs that do well than I realized.

    In my undergrad there was a really smart professor who became a professor without a postdoc, and it worked out…not well. The problems that he focused on were hard and fairly crowded, but I don’t know if that’s why he didn’t succeed. He had students (and I don’t think he drove them away), and so I don’t think he was unable to recruit or keep people. I don’t know why it didn’t work out.

    If the woman being hired is really smart with good ideas, then she has a good chance to succeed, but there are other factors at play. I don’t know how interpersonal relations work – being nice might help her, as long as people don’t abuse her for it or take advantage. I would assume than running a group takes a lot of people-management skills different from graduate school (though maybe not, if she was really good she might have been like a pseudo-post-doc anyway). Being married to someone who knows the other professors and the environment would help, but a lot of the people-management issues no one else can help with. These are issues that a post-doc might help, depending on where it is taken. On the other hand, the people issues are hard to know beforehand – if you know a person doesn’t play well with others, you can see that there might be a problem, but playing well with others as a graduate student is different than doing so as a professor. Since the issues are hard/imposssible to know beforehand, the school has to guess based on what they know.

    I guess it seems unusual to me, but there isn’t anything wrong with it – it’s just that hiring a professor without a postdoc seems to have a higher risk for failure, and probably for nonscientific reasons. It would seem to require more than the usual level of support for the school – but if they can provide it, then it could work out really well for everyone involved. If support is lacking, though (trying to hire talent cheaply), then it could work out badly.

  110. Phlogiston Says:
    July 17th, 2007 at 3:38 pm Hap

    It’s highly unlikely that post-doc experience does much to develop inter-personal and management skills. It’s more of a time to get your proposals together and think about funding. It’s truly amazing the diveristy of management skills represented in academia. There’s the slave driver and the sweet talker. Both have their attributes, much like house breaking a puppy. No matter where and what background a new prof. comes from, it is a learning process. Some combination of getting the right students (luck) and trial and error eventually lead to a well run lab.

  111. eugene Says:
    July 17th, 2007 at 3:55 pm Crosby did do a post-doc. The Canadian hockey farming system does not require players to go to college. However, there is a minimum age before they’ll take you into the NHL. You have to be 18 to be drafted. American players play at their respective colleges, but Canadians play in the Canadian Hockey League. In fact, Crosby was denied doing a post-doc one year early, and had to play in the pre-Canadian Hockey League for an extra year. His eventual post-doc in Rimouski lasted two years, during which time he won the world juniors with Canada.
  112. Retread Says:
    July 17th, 2007 at 4:52 pm I think I put this in the wrong place earlier today

    Perhaps Princeton has a very long institutional memory. First look at post #55 in “Big Plans at Princeton”. Then look at Paul Schleyer’s CV on his web site. You will note that he graduated from Princeton in ‘5l, became a Princeton instructor in ‘54, got his masters from Harvard in ‘56 and his PhD in ‘57, 3 years after his position at Princeton (assuming his CV is correct). Neither Princeton nor Dr. Schleyer nor his students did badly under this arrangement.

  113. gocards27 Says:
    July 17th, 2007 at 5:06 pm #111 –
    touche. though in my opinion, a stint in the canadian hockey league does not a post-doc make. anyways, from what i hear, crosby spent most of his time in the CHL posting mindless verbiage on the ever-expanding junior canadian hockey league blogosphere.
  114. eugene Says:
    July 17th, 2007 at 5:34 pm Yes, he may have done that. But he also posted very impressive numbers and managed to win the Juniors with his team. He’s had great success afterwards as well. This is all very reassuring for all of us here on the chemical blogosphere. At least he didn’t pull a Lindros and write his own autobiography at 18.

    There is no way that the Penguins were taking a chance on Crosby when they picked him first overall. Unless by chance you mean having to choose between him and Ovechkin.

  115. Herman Blume Says:
    July 17th, 2007 at 7:16 pm Paul,
    1) A correction #106: Phil Baran did his postdoc with Corey and his PhD with KCN, not the other way around.
    2) Not to denigrate the spouses of faculty but the hiring of a spouse on the faculty is relatively common. Columbia (Kaufman/Reichman), Caltech (Barton/Dervan), UPenn (Murray/Kagan), Berekely (Michele & Chris Chang), now princeton. I am sure if Harvard let women on the faculty, they would pick their wives first.
    3) This thread is the most fasciating thing I have read this year. Thomas Pynchon doesn’t even compare.


  116. Herman Blume Says:
    July 17th, 2007 at 7:24 pm Paul,
    One more thing: when speaking about your collegues or people in your profession, they should always be refered to as “brilliant”, “amazing”, “genius”. Never under any circumstances are you to be honest, and admit that these people are just that, people. Human beings with the same flaws and shortcomings that we all have. They are not perfect, they are fallible; just like the rest of us.
    I am not trying to be sarcastic, although it kinda sounds like I am.


  117. Anonymous Says:
    July 17th, 2007 at 7:43 pm Herman (and Paul),

    A few corrections to #115. Barton and Dervan were not married when she came to Caltech; the dept expressed interest in her science and a desire to steal her from Columbia pre-Peter. Also, the person in question with respect to Princeton is not married to a chemist (in Princeton’s Dept or any other).

  118. Paul Says:
    July 17th, 2007 at 7:53 pm Thanks for posting. You can address corrections to the people who made the errors (e.g. “Sidney:” or “#55:”). It’s less cool to address these comments to others, because it implies that someone posted incorrect information or typos when they did not.
  119. anon Says:
    July 17th, 2007 at 7:55 pm So her husband is Jakub Jurek? And he is a chemist? Why have I not heard of him? Or is the information about the husband having anything to do with this incorrect? I’m confused about what role her husband (if any) has to do with her hiring.

    And on the subject of husband-wife combos hired at the school: Chistina White and Marty Burke are another.

  120. Paul Says:
    July 17th, 2007 at 7:57 pm Just so everyone is clear: he’s not a chemist!! Google is a wonderful thing, people.
  121. Paul Says:
    July 17th, 2007 at 7:59 pm Also, I have no idea what he has to do with this, either.
  122. anon Says:
    July 17th, 2007 at 8:02 pm Okay, thanks for clearing that up. For some reason, I thought someone stated with certainty that post #60 in this thread was correct. So the whole poached professor thing from another department totally was confusing me.

    But that is good, because the discussion can relvolve around the whole no-postdoc issue and not worry about hirings based on significant others (which is also an interesting topic).

  123. Herman Blume Says:
    July 17th, 2007 at 8:22 pm My fault. I mis-read another post. Its less relevent now…
  124. Milkshake Says:
    July 17th, 2007 at 9:09 pm Paul, this is a complete mess – I now demand to be informed who is getting what (and what has been provided in return). Please draw a complete diagram, with arrows pointing in the correct stone-casting direction.
  125. eugene Says:
    July 17th, 2007 at 10:00 pm Now now, milkshake. It’s like that saying, “Don’t cast stones at glass houses because they are easily breakable”. At least, I think that’s how it goes… And something about being stuck with the glass house repair bill.
  126. Miranda Says:
    July 19th, 2007 at 10:28 am Just thinking about this Princeton news from a female point of view. Surely, it would be much more attractive for a qualified woman to get an offer right out of grad school and shave off 2-4 years of a post-doc (eliminating much stress from the upcoming tenure track vs. having kids dilemma), rather than wait out a few more years to hear back from one of the top 5 schools. (Not trying to imply here that the offer would not be attract to males, but I have a feeling that there are more men out there who would be willing to wait it out through a post-doc.)

    Perhaps another issue here is that Princeton was banking on the fact that a woman would be much more likely to accept such an offer? If that is the case, will we be seeing more offers of this type favoring females in the future?

  127. Anon Says:
    July 19th, 2007 at 7:20 pm She is a bright girl and very qualified, but I wouldn’t say she’s THAT much more qualified than half the grad students at Harvard. I think this is much less of a “female” thing and much more of a “mom and dad have a huge in at Princeton” thing. Not that I blame her; if she has that advantage, why shouldn’t she use it? After all, family name is the way leaders of nations have been chosen for millenia… kings, queens, emperors, and even our own President!
  128. Retread Says:
    July 19th, 2007 at 8:48 pm Anon — look at post #8
  129. David Reichman Says:
    July 20th, 2007 at 1:56 pm Dear Paul,
    I think it is fair to say that faculty members from around the country read science blogs from time to time, and I am no exception. The times I do visit this site I usually find it fair and enjoyable. However I am disturbed by this
    particular thread. As is often the case, it is filled with gossip, much of which is inaccurate. However, in this case it is also unfair and hurtful. I feel this way not because I know both Abigail and Jakub, having taught both of them as undergraduates at Harvard. It is also not because I know them to be very bright. It is because the tenor of the thread often seems to be directed at actively painting the picture that some special circumstances are involved in this case. While this may well be the case (I do not know the details) I do know that the circumstances already brought up here are not related. There is a tone that suggests that a hire is being made to an unqualified person, yet the facts do not support this. In this sense I agree with post #94. I don’t think this is libelous, but I do think it is irresponsible.

    a)It is not so rare an occurrence that someone is hired without doing a postdoc.
    Mike Fayer, Steve Boxer, David Liu, Scott Virgil, Kit Cummins, Stuart Schreiber (I think), Dave Evans, Scott Denmark, Dana Dlott, John Katzenellenbogen, and Paul’s advisor, to name a few, did not do postdocs. Sometimes this works, sometimes it does not. Some schools are more comfortable with this. Some are not. At such an early stage, it is generally the case that the young scientist has a very thin publication record. You may say that many of the above names are from an earlier generation, however nearly ever year that I have been involved in faculty hiring, there is serious consideration of at least one candidate who is at such an early stage. One bases their judgment on the proposal, the letters, and the spark that the candidate shows. A hire is never a sure bet, not should it be.
    b)No one gets a job offer because one’s parents have positions in high places.
    c)There have been strange comments in this thread concerning married hires. This is more and more common (as I think it should be). Simply look at UIUC’s faculty: there are 3-4 married couples in that department alone. We have come a long way from the days where someone like Maria Mayer, a Nobel Prize winner in physics, could not get a job at the same university as her husband due to “nepotism rules.”
    d)There are posts that refer to the person in question as a “girl;” there is a post bringing up the fact that Berkeley has a married couple where the junior professor (female) was the postdoc of the more senior member (interestingly no one brought up the fact that the same department has an entirely analogous couple where the genders are reversed). These things are unnecessary.

    Let’s be fair and not cut someone down before they start.

  130. eugene Says:
    July 20th, 2007 at 4:38 pm So… what I want to know is “is Paul screwed yet?”. And the second question is of course, “is the barbecue at Paul’s still on for Boston ACS?”. Don’t worry buddy, I can hook you up with some good bulletproof vests.
  131. Paul Says:
    July 20th, 2007 at 5:41 pm Prof. Reichman:

    Thank you for taking the time to join the discussion and especially for choosing to sign your name to your comment. The quality of the analysis on ChemBark certainly benefits when those with the most experience with the research and social climate of our field participate in the discussion and lend their name to their ideas.

    While I hesitate to use the same phrase over and over again because it could make me seem insincere, let me say that I truly appreciate the sentiments expressed in your comment. Whether or not certain subjects in our field are fair game for public discussion is not a black and white matter. Weighing both sides, I made a judgment call to start the discussion and many people would have decided differently. I “get” their side, and remind everyone that there are indeed subjects for which I refuse to allow ChemBark to become a platform for discussion. In this particular case, I believed the story was a fair topic for discussion, interesting, and worthy of analysis. I still do.

    I have hesitated to write a reflective “wrap up post” on the issue because I didn’t want to be perceived as fanning the embers of a discussion that elicited such strong emotions among readers. That said, I want to address all of your concerns (and those of other commenters) in as candid a manner as possible. Writing such a wrap-up is probably the best route to moving past what has been an interesting, instructive, and trying event in the short history of my time with ChemBark. While writing such a post will allow me to “defend” myself to a degree, it will also provide an opportunity for me to take my licks regarding creating a venue for discussion like ChemBark and encouraging “taboo” discussion on news. I will try to make this post as comprehensive as possible and to address all of the concerns raised in the comments. I hope to have it posted by Sunday night.

  132. excimer Says:
    July 21st, 2007 at 2:08 am Can ChemBark rebound from criticism by tenured faculty? Film at eleven.

    But seriously, I have a beef: this conversation stopped dead in its tracks once David Reichman showed up. Why is that? Fear of getting caught? Blogs imitating life? Maybe I’m just naïve, but I thought the idea of blogs was, in part, the egalitarian discussion of ideas. If comments stopping dead in its tracks after someone with pull in a department of some renown decided to make his opinions known is mere coincidence, I would be surprised. Instead, I am disappointed.

    But I’ll bite at Prof. Reichman’s comments:

    a. there is serious consideration of at least one candidate who is at such an early stage. I wish you could elaborate on this, because the hiring process for people who aren’t involved in it can be a black box of sorts. How many are hired straight out of grad school? And, furthermore (since few people have brought this up but it seems to be more common than people let on), how many graduate students are hired under the condition they do a postdoc? My undergrad advisor was far more stark in his views on hiring faculty: #1 on his list was pedigree. Working for someone who can get your foot in the door is absolutely crucial, he said. It is hard to find an exception to that in top departments.

    b. I’m sure it helps, though. To say there is no nepotism in academia is little more than a whitewash job of the morals of faculty. Even just being the kid of some famous parents surely must help one’s chances of getting a job, regardless of the kid’s abilities and attempts at distancing themselves from their parents’ legacy. It’s not something one openly talks about- the very idea that someone was hired for being related to someone important is repugnant to all parties, to say the least. That doesn’t mean it never happens. Your absolutist stance on this implies you might be clouding logic to defend this new professor.

    c. [married couples in departments] is more and more common (as I think it should be). I disagree with that “should be” part. And since you gave a school that I am intimately familiar with as an example, I should explain my position with a hypothetical. Let’s say you hire a married couple as faculty in the same department as assistant profs. One of them does amazing research, gets lots of high-impact papers out and is well on their way to becoming a leader in their field. The other is, put lightly, less successful. When they are up for tenure, it is obvious that one deserves tenure and the other does not. This, I imagine, puts the department in a difficult situation, because the school is in a town where the only thing around is the school. If the department denies tenure to one, both will leave (or separate, which will undoubtedly be a source of much enmity for the professor who stays). What does a department do with such deadweight? An inequity in quality is always a possibility- and in some cases, an unfortunate reality. If this is a method for hiring more female faculty, it’s not a very good one. (btw, UIUC’s organic division’s latest assistant prof hires are far from inequitable- both groups are churning out good stuff.)

    d. I don’t know anything about that, so I got nothin’.

    I’m kind of annoyed that noone else besides Paul was willing to say anything after this. Are we afraid someone will pull the plug, Trost-style?

    And, for that matter, I’m not trying to be an asshole to Prof. Reichman, just because noone else will. He brings up many points that should be discussed.

  133. Mitch Says:
    July 21st, 2007 at 3:36 am Paul said he would write a wrap up post, I was just waiting for him.


  134. Slanderer Says:
    July 21st, 2007 at 4:32 am I second eximer’s view.

    Lesson from the history: Both spouses cannot simultanously be OUTSTANDING (in an intellectual field) for a long time.

    Success of a marriage heavily depends on the inferiority (and consequently the supporting nature) of each in their spouse’s expertise. Since no GREAT can simply supportive all the time, the eventual outcome will be a seperation or mediocrity of one (or both).

  135. David Reichman Says:
    July 21st, 2007 at 11:42 am Hello,
    this will be the last comment I leave here on this topic. Let me just respond to Eximer’s comments/questions.

    (a)One first needs to understand that it is true that when someone is given an offer right out of graduate school, they almost always do a postdoc. I make no distinction between those now rare cases where a postdoc is not done, and those where an offer is given and delayed for a few years. Why? First, the information used in making the hire is identical. Second, in my experience the post-doc is not forced on the young scientist. It is choice-usually strongly encouraged, but not required. Cases like this are not SO rare these days. More commonly, candidates who have not done a postdoc may be interviewed. We did it this year at Columbia. I interviewed at Stanford and Chicago before I got my PhD. It is not the norm, but it is just not so unusual. When you factor in seminars that are informal fill-ins for interviews used as an early look at someone before a postdoc is done, then it is even less uncommon. Still, the typical new professor is someone who first interviews during his/her postdoc. My point was that this kind of thing (alone) should not be a juicy topic for debate.
    (b)You are 100% wrong about this. Sorry. It is not a moralist stance on my part. This comment is simply something that any professor would laugh at (ask one), and not that uncomfortable, “I am hiding something” kind of laugh. One day, you will probably laugh at this too. Departments do not hire anyone to please anyone else-they act as “selfish” entities within a university. This does not mean that some form of “nepotism” does not occur: many departments are more likely to hire their own students, and some powerful faculty members may favorably and successfully lobby for their own students/postdocs. However NO CHEMISTRY DEPARTMENT HIRES SOMEONE BECAUSE THEIR MOTHER IS THE PRESIDENT OF ANOTHER UNIVERSITY OR BECAUSE THEIR PARENTS USED TO BE FACULTY MEMBERS IN A UNRELATED DEPARTMENT.
    (c)As interpreted I also agree with you. “As it should be” was not well worded on my part. What I meant to say was that more and more women these days are viable, qualified faculty candidates, and that many of them are married to scientists. As such, their consideration for faculty positions should be viewed with an open mind, and the hiring of couples should be reasonably considered. This was not done in the past. You are correct that this brings potential complications into play. However, it is not always a compromise, and UIUC is not an entirely isolated example. Berkeley has at least 4 married couples on their chemistry faculty. In the three senior cases (I exclude the case discussed previously because it is too early to tell) both partners are excellent scientists that enrich that department.

    Ok-that’s all. My intention was not to threaten or “pull the plug.” Feel free to disagree, discuss, or whatever you like. I had simply come across the thread in question and didn’t like it, so I wanted to voice my opinion.

  136. eugene Says:
    July 21st, 2007 at 12:47 pm Excimer, no, the thread didn’t die because D.R. commented on it, for me it was sort of dead after about post 70 or 80. For sure it was dead already after about post 100 and not even D.R. made me want to say something substantive. It wasn’t fear. After all, we are sort of anonymous so we can say stupid things. Although I try not to. Saying anything more on the issue was like beating a dead horse to me. Plus it was Friday, so if your reaction worked and you’re celebrating at happy hour, it’s not a good idea to write long posts due to inebriation issues.

    Even my department is thinking of hiring someone straight out of grad school. It’s the new ‘in’ thing. Get over it.


    From what I’ve seen, this is 100% true, although I don’t pay attention 100% of the time. Thanks.

  137. excimer Says:
    July 21st, 2007 at 7:28 pm it’s not a good idea to write long posts due to inebriation issues.

    Hey, it worked for hemingway and fitzgerald. I didn’t really get a chance to give my opinion on the matter until now, and I retain my apprehension regarding faculty comments.

    However, harry potter calls…

  138. Anonymous Says:
    July 21st, 2007 at 11:15 pm I agree with D. Reichman on most of his comments. Although I don’t know the candidate, I am assuming that she must be an outstanding chemist because Eric Jacobsen thinks highly of her and he is an excellent scientist.

    I do think it is surprising that she is going out without a postdoc but perhaps she is mature enough to do it and do well. I wish her success. I know from experience that my friends who went straight out of grad school to interview (from both Chemistry and ChemE backgrounds) had very little clue what they wanted to do for a research program.

    I don’t think the situation has anything to do with family connections and I don’t see the issue with gender. In fact, all chemistry departments need more female faculty members. I think it is PATHETIC that departments have so few women as faculty.

    Reichman, you have to come to grips with the fact that you can’t sit back and evaluate your psyche. To say that faculty make decisions about hiring that are not influenced by family, good looks, a hot bod, and so on is naive. Unbiased is not a human attribute.

    Let’s change the subject for a moment and talk about some really hot gossip. What about the Tour de France? Can Vino make a comeback? Is he going to try to shatter Rasmussen in the Pyrenees? Any predictions for the 2nd TT?

  139. Anonymous Says:
    July 21st, 2007 at 11:18 pm Post 134. You are wrong. The sciences are full of examples that are contrary to your point. I don’t bring them up here so that they can become a crosshair for your loose cannon. I can think of a half-dozen cases in which both spouses are in chemistry.
  140. eugene Says:
    July 22nd, 2007 at 1:23 am “Hey, it worked for hemingway and fitzgerald.”

    Has it now? I would be very surprised if those two wrote while completely wasted. Maybe a glass of wine, but certainly nothing approaching the Spanish bus trip before the fishing vacation in ‘Fiesta’, or the hazy/drunk New York City scene in ‘The Great Gatsby’. In fact, the narrator of the Great Gatsby was not a drunkard. And although we must always be on guard when juxtaposing the author and narrator (the eternal debate in English 101 that differentiates between the Bs and Cs), it is safe to say that ‘drunk’ was not a quality of Fitzgerald the writer. I do not agree that prose is best written when blasted out of your mind.

    I assume Ms. Rowling would agree with that last statement. But, I’ll have to wait for your review.

    Oh, and stop baiting you anonymous person:

    “Reichman, you have to come to grips with the fact that you can’t sit back and evaluate your psyche.”

    D.R. is not going to comment anymore, so address all you foolish quips and ill thought of comments to the peanut gallery (regular posters).

  141. joel Says:
    July 22nd, 2007 at 11:26 pm post #141!
  142. Metastable Says:
    July 22nd, 2007 at 11:47 pm This interesting string of comments (much more interesting with Professor Reichman’s involvement) brings up a very important question: what is the point of a postdoc? Many scientists (named by Professor Reichman and other above) have had incredibly successful careers without one. And, it certainly is not the norm in many other disciplines (economics is one that rapidly comes to mind).

    It seems to be a protracted holding pattern for future scientists, consuming their more creative years. A case could be made that it allows the young scientist to gain experience, but is another 2-3 years working in someone else’s lab really all that valuable? And, is the research environment that much more complicated than 20 years ago, before the postdoc became a “requirement.”

    Debate amongs yourselves.

  143. Paul Says:
    July 23rd, 2007 at 12:20 am OK, there’s no way I’m getting this post up by the morning. There’s too much left to say and too much other stuff to do. Rest assured, it’s coming, and it will be the next post.  Don’t let that stop any of you guys from talking about things, especially the point Metastable has raised.
  144. excimer Says:
    July 23rd, 2007 at 2:25 am My take on postdocing, in terms of getting a faculty position: it fills in the holes grad school left, especially in the letters of rec. If you want a top faculty position, you almost have to work for a known leader in your field. I’d be interested in seeing how many graduate students get faculty positions after getting a PhD from a newer, untenured faculty member, without a postdoc. Here, almost everyone got a PhD or postdoc’d with someone famous. If you didn’t, then a postdoc is necessary to get your foot in that door. There are other reasons to do postdoctoral research, but if you want to climb the ivory tower, best to climb the rope dangling from the top.
  145. TwoCreeks Says:
    July 23rd, 2007 at 10:27 pm In Paul’s Defense…

    Professor Reichman said he thought this thread was disrespectful. A thread is a sequence of responses to an initial posting. This particular thread contains many disrespectful and stupid comments. It also contains many reasonable, thoughtful, and informative ones. I believe we have benefited from the later because Paul allowed the former to be expressed. Would we have heard from Professor Reichman had he not been provoked?

    A reasonable person could have predicted that the responses to Paul’s initial post would include many nasty things. A reasonable person also could argue that such a prediction is an incitement—not a deterrent—to discussion. To expose prejudice is not to condone it.

    ChemBark is now as high a profile chemistry blog as they come. It got that way because it’s fun, it’s often insightful, and it’s always honest. When we disagree with sentiments expressed by visitors we need to be careful not to let our criticism of their comments transform into criticism of a forum that allows those comments to be heard.

    Calls for Paul to apologize are off target.

  146. Jose Says:
    July 24th, 2007 at 4:05 pm Re #132,

    How much of a role did Trost play in the demise of tenderbutton? My assumption (and that is all I have) is maybe a significant one?

  147. eugene Says:
    July 24th, 2007 at 5:15 pm It was because all of you guys signed up as “Kentucky Colonel” and made fun of him non stop. Even big professors have egos, you insensitive jerks. :)

    Seriously, I doubt many professors (especially Trost) read chemistry blogs. Or, at least I like to pretend that. For the benefit of my sanity and the staving off of paranoia.

  148. Darksyde Says:
    July 24th, 2007 at 6:22 pm Post #139, you are wrong. All of the successful married dual-PI scientists I know work on orthogonal project-foci, or are in a situation where it’s somewhat obvious that one is in the shadow of the other. I can think of one example (without naming names of course) where both are superstars, but the rumor mill is that there’s marital infidelity going on. And I can think of an example where marital infidelity did go on, and the couple are no longer together. I guess there are just a lot of married couples at my institution.

    Resource-sharing is often very possible still. There are a pair of biologists at my institution where one works on cell export and the other works on cell import (clever division of focus, that). They share lab space, lab techs, consumable goods, but not grad students or postdocs. From speaking to people in the labs, the word is they never talk to each other at work, even ride to work separately, and keep their private lives very separate from their professional.

    One might imagine a couple of chemists where one of the couple a synthesist and the other is a mechanist.

    Things are much easier relationship-wise when the couple are at different institutions. I once heard of a math couple where the woman was the more brilliant of the two but being that the times were different she was denied tenure on account of her sex, but the man — who was a tenured faculty, hired directly out of his PhD, at the slightly more math-prestigious institute down the street — gave the other department an angry phone call berating their misogyny. A case where sleeping with the right person set things right.

    Everything that I have said must be taken with a grain of salt, for the plural of anecdote is not evidence.

  149. excimer Says:
    July 24th, 2007 at 6:31 pm The plural of anecdote is the ChemBark comments section.
  150. anon Says:
    July 25th, 2007 at 12:36 pm Paul, is the article coming soon?

    We’re anxiously awaiting…

  151. Paul Says:
    July 25th, 2007 at 10:17 pm Yeah, sorry about that. I’m busy, but working on it. It’s already long. Really long.
  152. Paul Says:
    August 2nd, 2007 at 12:05 pm Thread closed. The discussion has moved here.

One Response to “The Floor is Yours”

  1. Sukkhjeephak Says:

    That’s way more clever than I was exgcteinp. Thanks!

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