Job opening : Chair at the Hamilton Institute

Vijay Subramanian passed along this job opening in case readers know of someone who would be interested…


The Hamilton Institute at the National University of Ireland Maynooth invites applications for a Chair position starting in Summer 2013. Appointment will be at full professor level. Exceptional candidates in all areas will be considered, although we especially encourage candidates working in areas that complement existing activity in the mathematics of networks (distributed optimisation, feedback control, stochastic processes on graphs) as applied to smart transport, smart city data analytics and wireless networks.

The Hamilton Institute is a dynamic and vibrant centre of excellence for applied mathematics research. The successful candidate will be a leading international researcher with a demonstrated ability to lead and develop new research directions. A strong commitment to research excellence and a successful track record in building strategic partnerships and securing independent funding from public competitive sources and/or through private investment are essential.

Informal enquires can be directed to Prof. Doug Leith (, Director of the Hamilton Institute. Details on the Hamilton Institute can be found at

Further information on the post and the application procedure can be found here.

The deadline for applications is 11th Feb 2013.

Approaches to the research statement

It’s job season again and I am revising my research statement. I was pretty happy with the last iteration of it, but as things change I might need to find a new story for my life. As I get farther along, it has become a bit harder to cram all of the things I’ve worked on into a single consistent story. There are even some grad students I know who have worked on several distinct things and they probably have the same problem. There’s a tension in the research statement between coming up with a coherent story and accurately representing your work. There are a few generic ways of handling this, it seems.

The omnibus. You can write many mini-stories, one about each of the major projects, and then have a section for “miscellaneous other papers.” This approach eschews the overarching framework idea and instead just goes for local internal consistency.

The proposal. Instead of talking about all of your work (or mentioning it), you propose one research direction and give short shrift to the rest. This has the advantage of letting you write more fully about one topic and provide sufficient context and exciting new research directions, but then again you’re mis-representing the actual balance of your research interests.

The tractatus. You develop some principles or philosophical underpinnings for your work and then try to connect everything you’ve done to these and explain your future work ideas as further developing these themes. This approach goes for consistency above all else. The advantage is coherence, and the disadvantage is that some projects may have to get strong-armed into it.

I am sure there are more varieties out there, but on the whole the research statement is a weird document — part description, part proposal. You can’t make it only about your existing work because that’s looking to the past, but you can’t make it a proposal because the reader is actually trying to learn what you are interested in.

Postdoc job openings

Some people have told me about postdoctoral position openings that are opening up, and I figured I’d repost some of them here as they come along. Of course, there are other places to post announcements, but I find that postdoc opportunities are a bit harder to advertise/hear about. I think a lot of systems EE people applying for academic positions right out of grad school tend to put off applying for postdocs until they hear back about their faculty interviews — I’d tend to say this is a mistake:

  • If your graduation date may be a little flexible, pinging someone early on (e.g. in the fall) about possible postdoc opportunities can be a good plan. NSF grant deadlines are in the fall, and so they could write a postdoc position into a current proposal.
  • Of course you’re going to apply for faculty positions, and the people you’re talking to about postdoc positions know that. However, if you get to May and haven’t talked to anyone about postdoc options, you may find that those positions have filled up.
  • Don’t think of a postdoc as a “fallback plan” (akin to a “safety school”) — it’s an opportunity and a chance to make a strategic decision. Do you want to switch areas or learn about something new? Do you want to dig deeper into things you’ve already been working on? Do you want a springboard to get a job in a specific country? Do you want to build closer ties to industry? Do you want closer mentorship?

I went to a panel at Allerton once on “whether you should do a postdoc” starring (among other people) Aaron Wagner and Todd Coleman, I believe. Everyone was very enthusiastic about doing a postdoc. Everyone on the panel had faculty positions lined up for after their postdoc and deferred their start date to do that postdoc. This is the best of all possible worlds but is pretty unusual, so don’t count on it.

This is all dodging the issue of whether or not you should even do a postdoc. That might be a topic for a different post (or a debate for the comments) — I know people have strong feelings on both sides. I tend to think our system is broken or veering into brokenness.

However, more information is more power, so if you have a postdoc announcement (details are helpful) and want me to post it here, please do send it my way. You can also try to post to the IT Society website.

In the somewhat, but not too distant future…

I have accepted an offer to join the Toyota Technological Institute at Chicago this fall as a Research Assistant Professor. I’m excited by all of the opportunities there; it’s a great chance to dig deeper into some exciting research problems while learning a lot of new things from the great people they have there. It’s in Hyde Park, which is a great stepping stone for future career opportunities

the job market : so many applicants

I just got a rejection from the CS department at Brown, and they sadly neglected to Bcc the recipients, so I now know that they rejected 362 people in one fell swoop. Just glancing through the addresses I recognized several of the recipients. I think, based on my limited expertise in privacy-preserving algorithms, that this is pretty much satisfies the Dinur-Nissim definition of blatant non-privacy: if there are n applicants, I have reconstructed n - o(n) of them, since I can’t imagine that they would interview more than o(n). Ok that was a little more nerdy than I intended. I do think that they deserve a wag of the finger.

Update: I just got a followup saying that the sender “would like to recall the message…” Alas, no.

Update 2: Another followup came in saying to “please ignore and delete” the previous message. Does this mean I still have a chance?!? (Again, alas, no).

CISE is hiring

I got this in my email:

NSF’s Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) seeks candidates for the position of Deputy Assistant Director. The incumbent participates with the Assistant Director in providing leadership and direction to the staff and activities of the directorate and in coordinating activities with the Directorate’s senior managers. The Deputy Assistant Director also serves as a key assistant to the Assistant Director in all phases of the Directorate’s activities and programs.

The full ad is here.