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It gives me the impression that an 'endowed' (named) postdoc is more prestigious than ordinary postdoc (e.g. grants postdoc). My question is how important it is compared to other factors (e.g. publications, the brand of the university, etc) if one wants to find a TT position in an R1 research university.

'endowed'(named) postdoc: for example, Ritt assistant professor in Columbia, Dickson instructor in UChicago

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  • What is your geographical location? What do you mean by "endowed" vs. "grants"? This is not a distinction I've heard of in my European experience. Is your field mathematics and statistics, or do you want statistics on this issue?
    – user108403
    Jan 29, 2020 at 10:34
  • @artificial_moonlet +1, I'm also confused with what does "endowed" mean here.
    – null
    Jan 29, 2020 at 14:47
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    @artificial_moonlet Thanks. I am in the US and I've updated some examples. Jan 29, 2020 at 21:20
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    @Buffy I think at least a lot of people regard the Ritt assistant professor as a post-doc, since it is a three-year non-tenure track position. Some people combine it with NSF postdoctoral fellowship. Sorry for the confusion, but I am just taking in this sense. Jan 29, 2020 at 21:30
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    @Buffy I think most people in mathematics would regard the Ritt asst. prof. as a postdoc, as they would any other three-year non tenure track position. These are the most common type of postdoctoral position in the US for pure math. In some places they are not classified as postdocs according to the institution’s internal classification system (for the purpose of benefits, unionization, visas and similar admin issues), but at least informally everyone refers to them as postdocs.
    – Dan Romik
    Jan 29, 2020 at 22:27

3 Answers 3

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Very few postdoc positions are endowed, and most of those are at universities that are already very good. As a consequence, the practical implications of being on such a position are relatively small: If you get one, you're pretty much by definition already at a good university, and the delta in prestige is pretty negligible.

What matters are (i) your publication record, (ii) which institutions you've been at, (iii) your letters of recommendation (all not necessarily in this order). What kind of postdoc position (endowed, grant-funded, teaching-supported) you had is not a relevant decision criterion in my experience.

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  • I'll also point out that many "endowments" are really just grants from private individuals who want to see their names attached to something in academia. But the advice here about what matters is certainly correct. Actually, some of those endowments are from pretty terrible people, trying to buy a bit of respectability. But that is mostly ignored.
    – Buffy
    Jan 29, 2020 at 14:45
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Can you say what gives you this impression? Because I’ve been around for a while and have never heard anything like what you are describing (in fact I’ve never heard the word combination “endowed postdoc”, so although I get what you’re referring to, I think it’s best not to use this term).

If I had to guess, I think you’re conflating prestige with practical matters that are unrelated to prestige. Getting teaching experience is somewhat important for people who want to get a TT position at a good US (among others) university. But that has nothing to do with prestige, who the position is named after, or where the funding for it comes from. For example, an NSF postdoc is considered more prestigious than most of the postdoc positions you’re referring to as endowed, and, while it comes with reduced teaching responsibilities, is not mutually exclusive with having them. Other prestigious postdocs that don’t meet your definition of “endowed”, and don’t have teaching duties, are postdoctoral fellowships at places like MSRI and IAS. Anyone considering between such a position and another one that does involve teaching would need to carefully weigh their options based on many parameters, including prestige, the teaching experience they will be gaining, and various other things. In many cases it will not be an obvious choice based on a simple rule of the form “position X is always better than position Y”.

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  • Thanks for the clarification! It may not be a question with a definite answer, but I want to ask how important is the prestige compared to other factors for people who want to get a TT position at a good US university. More specifically, I am talking about the prestige coming from the position (named postdoc, NSF fellowship, etc) but not the institution. Jan 29, 2020 at 21:56
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    Ok. Well, there isn’t any prestige that comes from a named postdoc as a general rule (although specific ones, like the Miller Fellowship at Berkeley, might have prestige, but in that case I doubt that prestige would be related to the property of being named), so I still disagree a bit with the premise of your question. Anyway, once we correct that small issue your question becomes a reasonable one, but not one that I feel I personally can say much about. Maybe others can comment about this though.
    – Dan Romik
    Jan 29, 2020 at 22:20
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I am not aware of a prestige difference. At the institution where I was a postdoc, however, I have noticed at least three practical differences:

  • As a named postdoc, I was employed by the University and thus, in particular, had health insurance. At least one NSF postdoc during my time was, IIRC, classified as a contractor and had to rely on his SO (who was working in the industry) for health insurance.

  • As a named postdoc, I taught 3 classes per year, as opposed to NSF postdocs teaching 2 classes.

  • As a named postdoc, I got $55K per year, as opposed to (IIRC again) $53K for NSF postdocs.

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  • The health insurance issue is bizarre -- NSF postdocs are paid by the university, not NSF, just like postdocs paid from any other source. They are treated like regular employees. They should get the same health insurance -- heck, we even bill NSF for fringe benefits that include health insurance... Jan 30, 2020 at 4:12

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