Min's Job search page

I wrote this page while still having access to Columbia's servers. Since 2005 the Columbia account I maintained ceased to exist, so I had to retrieve this file from the Internet Archive. Links on this page won't work

(this section last updated: Fri Jan 25 23:11:27 EST 2002)

Welcome to my page on my job search hunt in 2002. I was a sixth year Ph.D. student at Columbia University in our Computer Science department's Natural Language Processing group. I was looking for a academic faculty position in computer science, information science and linguistics. I have applied to schools in and outside of the US.

I've created this page as a resource for others to examine. There many places on the network that contain interesting information about how to find a job, but very few mention things about interdisciplinary job searches, in information science, linguistics and computer science. Which is why I hope you have arrived at this page.

Table of Contents

(this section last updated: Fri Jan 25 23:11:27 EST 2002)

My Story

(this section last updated: Mon Jun 3 15:16:00 EDT 2002)

This year (2002) has been my job hunting year. This year has also marked a historically bad year in the US research job market, due to the recession in the economy and problems with consumer confidence with the September 11th tragedy. Hundreds of researchers in industry laboratories have been laid off as a result of large companies needing to find immediate cost-cutting techniques. They have needed to sacrifice earnings in the future (indeed if there is a future for some of these companies) to be able to make ends meet in the immediate financial quarter.

Ph.D. students in computer science like myself, specializing in a smaller, less sought- after field of Artificial Intelligence, have traditionally not have had too many problems finding jobs. The search space has been traditionally divided into jobs in academia as well as jobs in industry research. As noted, this year, circumstances have practically eliminated the latter as a possibility. The bulk of the researchers that have been let go from industry community are mostly in fields that do not have direct or immediate commercial viability. The result is that not only that there practically not industry jobs, but that graduating students like myself are additionally competing against one another, but also against veteran industry research leaders.

There are some differences that stand out between graduating students and research members who are now back on the market. In my opinion, graduating students have anticipated the job search process for a much longer time and are much more prepared for the ordeal. In contrast, while industry research has been a slowly sinking ship for the past 1 year (since mid 2001), layouts come suddenly and ill-timed for doing a proper job search in the academia. Industry researchers tend to be more senior, further along in their family paths, making repositioning somewhere new often times required of academia very difficult.

In favor of industry researchers is the fact that they often have an excellent track record of research. In cases where some of them are willing to take the pay cut to be an assistant or associate professor, the bang for the buck is there and more concrete, in comparison to newly minted Ph.D.s who have only a very short track record.

In the remainder of this essay, I will review my experiences with my job hunting, rather than give an overview of the process, since there are abundant sources that have the process well documented if one has the time to investigate them. Warning and disclaimer - these are my personal opinions, don't take they as factual...

Rutgers SCILS

I received my first job interview from Rutgers' School of Communication, Information and Library Science (SCILS). My research is a bit more interdisciplinary than more of my colleagues in Computer Science, and thus a Library Science school also fits rather well with my research interests. The library science community does their hiring earlier in the year than computer science departments (for that matter, so does the linguistics community, which I also tried to apply for). SCILS has an extremely good reputation in the scientific community, especially in the library science community as well as in the information retrieval community.

University of Massachusetts at Lowell

I also had a chance to visit UML, which is about 40 minutes north of Boston. Strangely enough, in face of the economic recession, Lowell was not badly hit and was continuing to grow at a rapid pace. In the face of this planned expansion, facilities from another adjacent department were being requisitioned to feed the growth. Surprisingly to me in the face of decline of the US economy, the university was growing by a planned 4 faculty slots this year when its existing faculty was about 25 or 30. A large percentage growth, and planned to change the face of UML from a primarily teaching university to one of high research stature. As such, the tenure process at UML is changing. Many senior faculty were preparing to retire and new hires expected to change the focus to research. As such, research is the primary focus for tenure here and teaching treated of secondary importance.

DePaul University

DePaul is primarily a private endowed, teaching university in downtown Chicago with a total of 7 different campuses. The CTI school serves a very large student body: over 800 undergraduates and over 2000 master's students seeking additional education. Teaching is the more prominent component of life here, with research being secondary. The tenure process hinges on demonstrating solid teaching skills with some amount of research and service also being prominent. With such a large population of students and a burgeoning faculty of 80 faculty, student advising is a prominent portion of the service component. It is a currently a flat hierarchy of 70+ junior faculty reporting to a single dean, but as the faculty is expected to grow past 100 in the next two years (they were hiring 14 slots this year), it is apparent that the school's structure may have to change to accommodate the expanding faculty size.

National University of Singapore / Nanyang Technological University

These are two different national universities that serve the city-state of Singapore. NUS is more of a interdisciplinary university, consisting of nine schools, including sciences and humanities. NTU is located about 20 minutes away, in a much larger area and has less of an urban campus feel (although Singapore being only about 20 miles wide at its largest extent, doesn't really ever feel like rural country land). NTU concerns itself primarily with engineering sciences. Singapore's education (indeed most aspects of life) are heavily controlled in the big picture by the government, through the Ministry of Education. This has direct ramifications in the allocations made for university. Citizens and expatriates are admitted to the university on the basis of the Ministry's target workforce requirements. With that said, while NUS and NTU have historical differences and serve slightly different constituents, it is actually fairly difficult to differentiate the two institutions in terms of their research and teaching foci as two different universities serving Singapore. NUS is probably the more prestigious university, but NTU serves a larger Ph.D. student population than NUS. The interview process in Singapore also differs from US institutions a bit, so I think an explanation is helpful. At NUS, I was given a two day interview with individual meetings with faculty for the first day and the first half of the second day. At NTU, the process was abbreviated to a single day. Both had a standard seminar presentation as well as a "board of selection" interview, which is a bit different from the US process. The seminar presentation was slotted for one and a half hours which turned out to be really 45 minutes to an hour of presentation time and the rest for questions and slack time. Following the presentation was a board of selection interview, which is the formal interview with a committee including the Dean(s), covering aspects that are usually discussed with the chair of the department or with the deans, but perhaps a bit more formal. Singapore's interviewing schedule doesn't seem to work on the US spring semester clock, so openings for qualified individuals are held year round. Singapore's tenure process differs from the normal US ones, where renewable 3-year appointments are typical and tenure has a lesser importance. The tenure clock, if applicable, works after 6 or 9 years so there is less pressure. Still, Singapore's universities seem to be heading more to the US system, migrating from the UK system. For example the entry rank has changed from "lecturer" to "assistant professor".


In the end, I did receive a number of offers and decided to go to the National University of Singapore, and will start there in the Spring Term of 2003. Many factors influenced me to take their offer; I'll see how it pans out in the future. Drop me a note if you are in the Singapore area...

For now, you can find my 100% public C.V., research and teaching statements (all in .pdf), and a sample cover letter (also .pdf) frozen from 2001. Needless to say, don't copy this stuff and use it verbatim. Use it to get an idea of what you want to say; what is valuable for you to say.

Also a nice stupid 100-line perl script to make writing personalized mass mailing easier to do. filterByBracket is a simple perl script to filter certain lines out of a text file so that you can get different versions written quickly. Now if only I remembered to write my letters in LaTeX, it would have been really easy to put together everything.

Local Links

(this section last updated: Fri Jan 25 23:35:21 EST 2002)

I organized a local department meeting for CS and EE students on finding jobs in academia and in industry in October 1999. I hope that this becomes a local tradition at every department. Junior and senior faculty both gave back to their students by handing tips down to their students: Junior faculty on their job search, and senior faculty on the local recruiting process.

Eleazar Eskin, a fellow friend and student, also organized a student colloquium in which five graduating students gave short talks on their research as prepatory talks for their job search. This talk was attended by department faculty to give hard questions to the student to prep them for the *real* job talk.

A number of resources were created as a result of this meeting. You can get a copy of these resources only if you are local to CUCS. I must extend a very warm round of thanks for the local Columbia University Computer Science faculty for their abundant cooperation and support of this program that has helped me immensely. Hopefully, those of you who are looking at this page from external university have as cooperative faculty as we are blessed to have here (of course, I'm biased in this regard).

Resources from the Job Search Colloquium

Our local copyroom copier (in the Mudd building) has stored in mailbox #5, scanned copies of the handouts I made for attendees of the job search talk. You can get a copy of them by selecting them from the mailbox and simply printing them. There's no password on the this copier mailbox.

CV repository

The CV repository contains a number of CVs from local Ph.D. students here at CUCS. It is located at /misc/info/phd/cvSharing. It contains a number of CVs, cover letters, research statements, teaching statements and the like from students looking for job search in 2002. It also contains a number of other CVs from other institutions were found public on the web. N.B. Please do not distribute this resource to people external to the CU CS department. The shared CV are provided by the student with the caveat that they are only made available locally. If the students wanted to make their C.V.s publically available, they would have posted it on their web page, like I have.

(this section last updated: Sat Jan 19 00:31:39 EST 2002)

External Links

(this section last updated: Sat Jan 19 00:31:39 EST 2002)

Overall rankings. Needless to say these are pretty useless for specific numbers, and the information should *definitely* be taken with heavy doses of salt (please remember to drink some water)...

Salary guides are also very helpful in helpful the potential peon (er, I mean assistant professor) in the negotiation phase of the search. These guides also give you an idea of which schools are relatively ranked, similar to the ranking sites above. If you have more links for other fields, send them my way. Of course, these links are obviously going to get dated, but do a web search on the organization and you'll find what you are looking for. Many disciplines are required to report these statistics for government purposes, of course you can take advantage of this.

Other links

Min-Yen Kan <min@cs.columbia.edu>
Created on: Fri Jan 25 23:10:11 2002 | Version: 1.0 | Last modified: Thu Jun 24 18:11:35 2010