Day: July 31, 2014

Start Date ASAP

When I was last hiring a postdoc, I had no problem waiting several months for the candidate I really liked. Sure, we all want the person to start the second the grant starts, but it’s understandable that it would unlikely happen that a good candidate  would have his previous appointment end simultaneously with the grant money appearing in my account. The postdoc had been awesome and recently became a PI.

Now, I have a student who is getting ready to graduate, but we are waiting for him to find a postdoc. The student is excellent, one of the best I have ever had. We were able to get the student a very unique and valuable semester-long opportunity, but he had to commit to be here for the whole semester and he did.

Lo and behold, very recently there emerged a postdoc opportunity with a group that had previously said they would not have the money, but now they do and they basically want him to start ASAP.

A couple of years ago, another colleague also pressured one my students to finish ASAP and come do the postdoc; the colleague was relentless in checking “Is he done yet? When is he going to be done?”As a result, the student didn’t finish some work that he had promised to do, and the work will likely never be completed.

I am not even angry, I know people need to move on with their lives. And this student has been great and productive.

I just hate the situation.

I don’t expect the corporate world to give a fuck about what the institution where their soon-to-be employee got their PhD degree and I, the professor who trained said employee, want or need because we were the ones having in place contingencies so the student would be able to eat and pay the rent while looking for a job. Companies care about their own bottom line, and for the most part a student joining a company is leaving academia for good. It would be best if the student didn’t have to burn any bridges in the process, but to many a big paycheck is worth a bridge or two.

But it really pisses me off when fellow professors, who really should know better, don’t give a $hit about the things that the student promised to do in the next few months; all they care about is that the new postdoc materialize at their institution and start working on their stuff ASAP. The arrangements that were in place to take care of the student for the next few months in the event of no follow-up position are of no consequence. Where is fuckin’ professional courtesy? Why are you putting the screws on another person’s student, making the colleague a monster who won’t let the student move on with life if they don’t adhere to your schedule, and forcing  the student to be a no-good promise breaker?

If I really like the applicant, I will wait for him or her a reasonable amount of time. There is nothing worse than a bad postdoc (except perhaps two bad postdocs), but a good postdoc is worth his or her weight in gold and can energize the whole group. I will wait several months for such a candidate. Better to have  a good candidate for 2.5 years than a mediocre one for 3. And I understand that there is another colleague at the other end of that transaction, one who has trained my candidate so well,  and that I should be respectful of both the candidate and the colleague and try to accommodate their arrangements.

But apparently I am alone in this attitude and selfish is the way to go.  And I cannot really blame the student for wanting to grab onto the opportunity.