Incoming theoretical physics PhD student in the US.

I hope to get into academia after my PhD.

When listing TA preferences, would it behoove my career goal more to list as my top preference a course that is being taught by to young "up and coming" hotshot postdocs in my fields? Or (as a theorist whose job prospects may increase by having some lab experience) would TAing a lab which enables more engagement with students be a better choice?

The course TA could potentially just be a grading job, which doesn't help my career objectives, whereas the lab experience and more experience with students would.


  • 1
    Normally a TA job is assisting in teaching - grading and leading smaller review sections of a large course. It doesn't involve research at all. An RA, on the other hand, assists in research. TA job is good for future academics as it gives a bit of a hint of teaching that nearly everyone does as part of the career, but it isn't research related.
    – Buffy
    Jun 30, 2020 at 18:48
  • Oh I know, sorry let me elaborate. Just the contact "in" that comes with communicating about the course with those postdocs could lead to research.
    – Lopey Tall
    Jun 30, 2020 at 18:53
  • 3
    Maybe. Tentative. Doubtful. There are probably more direct and productive ways to get an "in". I suspect that a TA job is there to free the post doc from the scut work they don't want to do so they can focus on their own stuff. A professor's job is to assist you, but a post doc is mostly there for their own career needs.
    – Buffy
    Jun 30, 2020 at 18:54
  • 1
    I'd argue that the choice should be TAing the class with the topic that is most closely aligned with your interests.
    – mlk
    Jun 30, 2020 at 19:41
  • 2
    As far as things worth considering with regard to TA assignments, these are like o(epsilon^4). Jul 1, 2020 at 18:21


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