Situation: I started my PhD (Pure Maths) in January 2018. My research interest lies on functional analysis but not on applied side. If possible, I would like to stay at academia as a Maths researcher or lecturer (or even better, professor).

Recently I came across a few conferences that I would like to attend. However, due to my scholarship terms and conditions, I am able to obtain financial assistance from the school only once per year. However, some of my peers attended more than one conference per year due to their prestigious scholarship.

Question: Would a Phd student with few conference attendances be at a disadvantage when applying for postdoctoral / tenured track position?

By conference attendance, I mean attend AND give a talk at conference.

  • Do any of the conferences you're interested in have problem sessions or research workshops where attendees can set up new research collaborations about specific problems posed at the conference? My perception is that many math conferences have those, and fairly uniquely relative to other fields? This may be a factor that doesn't come up in more generic advice. Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 15:52

2 Answers 2


The purpose of attending conferences when you are at the PhD level and post-doc level is not for padding your CV, although people still want to see you have presented at some international recognized conferences. The main purpose is to advertise yourself and your research and to network for what could be your next position. In fact it is possible to walk out of a conference with some kind of contact or verbal agreement that sets you up for your future job.

For professorship application I don't think just attending conferences will help you, rather they will want to see that you have been keynote or plenary.

  • OP is not asking about professorship applications - but about tenure-track (assistant professor in the US) positions.
    – Dawn
    Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 15:29
  • @Dawn I don't see anywhere that OP mentions the US, isn't professorship a position to be professor? Commented Apr 29, 2018 at 15:50

You don't state your country. My experience in the US and Canada in Pure Math is that financing from your program for a conference once per year is on the generous side of standard; I believe when I was a graduate student, we would receive such funding from my program once for the entire term of your Ph.D. However, I went to many more conferences than that as a student, thanks to funding from the conferences and from my advisor. If you are giving a talk at a conference, then it would be a bit unusual for the organizers to not provide you with funding (though every rule has its exceptions). Certainly when I've done conference organization, funding speakers has been my #1 priority for any money we have.

My experience is that going to conferences can be valuable, and I recommend that you do it when possible, but as other answers have said, they are not an important consideration for hiring committees. Certainly, it's quite normal for me to see postdoc applications with only one or two (or even zero) conference talks on them; I don't see that as a big issue. Focus on doing good research and when you see a relevant conference, request funding from the organizers or your advisor; self-funding is also a possibility, but I would only do it when the conference is really significant or the amount of money required is small.

  • In my field, it is relatively rare to receive funding from conference organizers even if you are presenting. The exception would be very small and specialized conferences.
    – Dawn
    Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 15:30
  • @Dawn Yes, what Ben Webster describes sounds standard for pure math (conferences are often funded by grants that include registration and housing and maybe travel for attendees), but it is the exact opposite of, say, expensive conferences in Computer Science. Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 15:41
  • 1
    @cactus_pardner Right - I am making this comment to ensure/emphasize that people who are not in pure math and look at this question realize that this may vary in their field.
    – Dawn
    Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 16:10

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