Monday, February 28, 2011

Quirky New Engineering Prof Seeks Passionate, Creative Student for a Professional Research Relationship

While I haven’t officially started at SnowU, I am essentially preparing when I do start. Aside from looking over class notes, preparing a new lecture, and lining up my proposal schedule, I need to find students. SnowU has been very good about identifying potential students for me and I will get a chance to pitch my research to new students before they generally make their decisions about a PhD advisor.

So this past weekend, I worked on a few advertisements about the first few projects I want to run. I initially started with the generic Background, Project Description, Responsibilities, etc. After writing a little bit, I took a break and then looked them over. There were two things that struck me upon rereading the advertisements: 1) these say nothing about my personality or about how I would run my group and 2) I certainly wouldn’t want to work for myself based on what I read.

I scrapped those and started over again. I started to go with ads that were essentially personals. One of the headlines for a laser project was Wanted: Cute Redheaded Laser seeks crafty Engineer for a Controlling Relationship”. I know it sounds cheesy but that’s certainly more eye catchy than Project Title: Control of Red HeNe Lasers. I thought those might get me into a little bit of trouble, so I started over again.

In the end, I settled on a format that shows a little bit of personality, a little bit of my quirkiness, and tells a little bit about what I expect from students, while still mentioning the basics like project description, etc. These are much more to my liking, while still be on the good side of professional.

When you were a first year student roaming the halls, what caught your eye on the bulletin board? If you didn’t have a specific advisor in mind, would you take a chance on “The New Prof”? I tend to think (and did so for my MS) students prefer to work with a well established Prof because they think that will help them in the long run. For my PhD, I worked for a new Prof, was still successful, but was almost in spite of my Prof. Is that still the current sentiment? Would you work for a Prof whose position advertisements start with Quirky New Engineering Prof Seeks Passionate, Creative Student for a Professional Research Relationship?


  1. I'm starting a PhD this fall and I've been thinking about this question for the last few months.

    For my MS thesis, I chose a new prof as my advisor. He turned out to be a bit quirky, very helpful, very nice, lacking a bit of depth and slightly sloppy with feedback. Overall it worked out very well for me because I got into a great school for PhD largely because of his awesome recommendation. However, I also thought that some stress could have been avoided if he'd been a little more efficient and involved in my work.

    Things I'm looking for from a potential advisor are, roughly ordered by importance: (1) depth in my area of work (2) should give feedback and reviews in a timely manner (3) preferably have a lot of contacts which and (4) a track record of successful students.

    I don't see why a new professor shouldn't be able to satisfy 3 out of these 4 criteria and if that happens and our research interests match, I'd be willing to work with him/her.

    Re. the poster/advertisement, I find it mildly humorous, but I don't think it would influence my decision one way or another.

  2. What are you scheduled to teach? Hopefully you'll be teaching some grad courses in the first few semesters. My recommendation is to wait a little bit and recruit students with whom you clicked and who have done well in your class.

  3. GMP: I have a senior lab/project class on solid mechanics and materials in the fall and a class of my own designs in the spring. I'm only expect to teach 1 and 1.

    That's definitely one of the things that I am looking for out of my grad class in the spring. However, I've already picked up one student who's passed the qualifier already, decent grades, and comes highly recommended. Gotta start somewhere!