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What are Search Committees Looking For

Module by: Rice ADVANCE. E-mail the author

Summary: This is a conversion of a presentation given at the Negotiating the Ideal Faculty Position Workshop given on October 14-16, 2007. This presentation was compiled by Seiichi Matsuda, Chemistry; Kathy Ensor, Statistics; Joff Silberg, Biochemistry; Jennifer West, Bioengineering; and Ken Whitmire, Chemistry.

Applying for a Position

  • “Cold” applications
    • Usually need to have connections to the department
  • Responding to an advertisement
    • Consider level and areas requested
  • Solicited applications
    • Be sure to present at the most relevant conferences. Hopefully this visibility will lead to contacts with hiring departments

The Application

  • Cover letter
    • Summarize your qualifications and interests
  • Curriculum Vitae
    • Academic credentials
    • Research experience
    • Publications
    • Honors, awards, grants, etc.
  • Research interests statement
  • Teaching interests statement
  • References
  • May include reprints/preprints

-Some variability in details and format between fields.

-Get feedback on your application package from a mentor.

Research Statement

  • Remember that the search committee members may be in areas peripheral to your research
  • Describe two or three research proposals
    • Usually one that is related to your prior work that is clearly feasible
    • One or two projects that demonstrate your ability to think beyond your current work

What to Include

  • Statement about the problem
    • Key unanswered questions in field
    • How will your work contribute?
  • Description of research plans
    • Break into specific aims
    • Include figures
    • Be both creative and realistic

Teaching Statement

  • Describe your philosophy towards teaching and experiences that led to this
  • Discuss courses within the core curriculum that you could teach
  • Propose development of a new course

What to Emphasize in your Application

  • Find out about the department/school
    • Importance of teaching vs. research
    • Areas of interest/growth
  • May want to customize your application materials for different positions
  • Brag about your successes!

What is Makes an Application Stand Out

  • Varies between departments/institutions
  • Strong publication record
    • Most important factor!
  • Exciting research plan
    • Creative and innovative while also feasible
  • Great reference letters
    • Evidence of innovation, creativity, hard work, etc.
  • Interesting and innovative teaching plans
    • Highlight your experiences and capabilities
  • Other experiences
    • Experience writing a grant, etc.

Recommended Reading

  • Making the Right Moves: A Practical Guide to Scientific Management for Postdocs and New Faculty
    • Howard Hughes Medical Institute
  • At the Helm: A Laboratory Navigator
    • Kathy Barker, Cold Spring Harbor Press

Compiled by

Rice ADVANCE

Seiichi Matsuda, Chemistry

Kathy Ensor, Statistics

Joff Silberg, Biochemistry

Jennifer West, Bioengineering

Ken Whitmire, Chemistry

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