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I have been recently offered an interview for Asst. Professor at a mid-tier UK university.

I have completed my PhD from a top-tier (Oxbridge) university in the UK and had applied for this position without really expecting an interview call. At the start of the interview, I am asked to deliver a 10 minute presentation titled "How would you contribute to the research agenda in the Department?"

In my opinion, the question is rather asking "How would your research fit the department"? Please correct me if I am wrong.

The current situation is I have researched the department and find that the department has a research center but my research specialisms do not necessarily fit the research center. For example, my specialisms are financial investments and the school research center focus on cooperate finance. In this case, how should I address "my research fits well with the department". In addition, I am struggling to figure out the exact meaning how should I answer "contribution to their research agenda".

My current problem is that this interview is scheduled immediately (within 5 days), and this doesn't give me sufficient time to contact my former PhD supervisor(s) for their valuable advice.

My specific questions are:

How deeply technical should I go in the presentation slides for such an opportunity? (i.e. are details at the equation-level required and journal citations expected?)

What sort of answers do that expect? or Which aspects should I discuss in order to address this question? Currently, I can only think of some answers such as potential collaboration with potential staff or contribution to the next REF or etc?

Should I discuss my publications, conference participation, research pipeline or achievements so far?

Should I identify the grants that I shall be applying to (in particular, the specific EPSRC schemes that exist for early career researchers)?

Are there any other aspects that I may have completely missed here?

I am really sorry to be naive in asking a lot of questions here. This is a valuable opportunity for me and I'd like to give it my best.

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There are two ways to "fit" with a department. One way is to do similar things to what they do (and publish). The other is to complement their scope with something that is different enough that the overall scope expands.

If you know what they do, then you can decide which approach is better for you to take. The first implies collaboration. The second implies new opportunities for everyone.

Perhaps the techniques they use in their work will apply in some way to yours. And vice versa.

But to know what to say you need some idea of what they do and how they do it.

The stuff about grants and other things you mention can be used to fill in, but they explicitly want to know about "fit". Think about that, primarily. It would probably be a mistake to describe yourself as entirely independent of their threads.

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(This answer is based on a year of applying to mid-tier UK universities for a Lecturer position, getting two offers and accepting one of them a year and a half ago)

How deeply technical should I go in the presentation slides for such an opportunity? (i.e. are details at the equation-level required and journal citations expected?)

No equations are expected in a 10-minute presentations (I expect it takes at least 5 minutes to explain an equation out of the blue). They are asking for "elevator-pitch" type ideas and research directions. Try and sell two or three ideas as you would to an interesting research connection you just made at a conference.

What sort of answers do that expect? or Which aspects should I discuss in order to address this question? Currently, I can only think of some answers such as potential collaboration with potential staff or contribution to the next REF or etc?

Pointing out collaborations would be good (either with specific people or "this is how my expertise could be applied to some of the ongoing projects"). Pointing out some high-tier publications might be good. But, what they really want to hear is how you're going to bring money in. So make sure you couple each of the 2 or 3 ideas you present with a potential funding agency/call.

Should I discuss my publications, conference participation, research pipeline or achievements so far?

No need to discuss your research pipeline -- getting invited for this interview means they trust you on this. Discuss your publications in the sense that your proposed research directions need to come naturally from your previous work, and not "out of the blue". In such a 10-minute presentation, I would dedicate at most 3 minutes (I know, ugh!) for "about me" and the other 7 (or even 8) minutes on your proposals.

Should I identify the grants that I shall be applying to (in particular, the specific EPSRC schemes that exist for early career researchers)?

Yes. Yes. Definetely yes. This is mostly what they want to hear. They want you to put realistic timelines on your applications as well, and for them to get progressively bigger. You probably want to start with EPSRC New Investigator Award (plan to apply in 10 months for a project of an approximate duration of 1.5-2 years). Then, you might talk about how you're going to apply as a CO-I in collaboration with some department colleagues. And then finally, in 2-3 years you will submit a proposal for your first large (EPSRC?) grant as a PI.

Are there any other aspects that I may have completely missed here?

The focus on funding is much bigger than it seems you think it is from your question. You may also want to mention any industry relations or collaborations that you have. And, public engagement opportunities. You may also want to discuss how some of your project might actually apply to the real world/society if you get to pursue your research lines (= get funded).

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  • Thanks for your suggestions which are really insightful!! May 4 at 16:09
  • @Dr.NickHolmes Hope some of it helped -- I was fortunate enough that my (postdoc) boss laid all this out for me and even coached me a bit through my early applications. I see that you're new to Academia.SE so just wanted to mention that you can show your appreciation for the answers that helped you by upvoting any that were useful, and accepting the one that answered your question best.
    – penelope
    May 5 at 10:14

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