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I'm a recent PhD (~7 months since I started my postdoc with my PhD adviser) in plasma physics/engineering with multiple conference presentations and 5 first author papers resulting from my PhD in journals such as Plasma Sources Science and Technology and Geophysical Research Letters. My letters were written by my PhD adviser, 2 members of my PhD committee and a senior colleague in Europe. They are all professors and have thousands of citations in their field of research and are established colleagues with degrees from US’s top engineering schools. At least 2 of them are associate editors of popular journals on plasma physics. I have applied for 11 R1 institutions in the US with tenure track faculty positions in astronomy, theoretical/computational plasma physics, and mechanical and aerospace engineering. I thought the fact that my background is fundamentally related to research topics pursued in different departments justifies applying for a range of departments. All of the schools have rankings (reputation) better than my own school which itself is a popular public R1 school in the US. Up until now I have received out-right rejections from 4 of them and I was wondering if it's time to move on from my faculty applications and look for available postdocs?

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    It's not uncommon for rejections to be sent out only after the position has been filled. It's also unfortunately common for institutions to not send out any rejection notifications. You could be out of the running for all 11 of these positions and just not know it yet. Feb 18, 2022 at 4:44
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    I'm sorry to say but the number of recent PhDs that get faculty positions at research universities is vanishingly small in most fields. The very few that do probably did not get them through a regular job application but were rather invited to apply.
    – quarague
    Feb 18, 2022 at 16:39
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    @quarague I've come to this realization as well. Even my own recommenders went through multiple postdocs before becoming a faculty. I'm concluding that experience in research seems to be the most important and inevitable factor simply because due to the high number of applicants all other factors seems to be more or less uniform and therefore, choosing the most experienced applicants seems to work!
    – Newbie
    Feb 18, 2022 at 16:51
  • Five first author publications from your PhD is outstanding. It's a really good record. But I'm afraid that alone will not get you a faculty position. You will need to do something else. Feb 18, 2022 at 22:01
  • @AnonymousPhysicist Thank you for your feedback. Currently I'm applying for postdocs with established scientists other than my adviser. Though I have no logical reason, I personally feel that a short postdoc experience with nobody but my PhD adviser is not going to stand out either.
    – Newbie
    Feb 18, 2022 at 23:33

2 Answers 2

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Apply to every job for which you are not completely unqualified and that you would be willing to take if it was the only job offered to you. You can worry about what decisions you have to make if you get an offer and you are still waiting to hear back from places you prefer.

You should have been looking for available postdocs already, simultaneously with your search for a tenure track job. Of course if a potential postdoc mentor wants to know, you should be open about your tenure-track applications. It's reasonable to back out of a postdoc if you later get a tenure-track offer.

Once you make an application, it's out of your hands. Forget about it until you hear back or have a decision to make.

(I am giving advice from the perspective of a field where many highly qualified people don't get any job, because there are more highly qualified people than jobs. For us, 11 applications is a laughably small number.)

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    Back in the early 1970's it was necessary to apply for hundreds of jobs (over a few years) to find anything at all. And what you found was disappointing. The market was then, as now, just terrible. Then is was the completion of he moon mission. Now it is a variety of things, including COVID but also political attacks on science.
    – Buffy
    Feb 18, 2022 at 15:06
  • Thank you for your answer. The 11 were ones that 1. I could write a custom research statement for and 2. I could see myself actually contributing to their department's research in a new field that was fundamentally similar to the already pursued fields for possible future collaborations. I guess I should've not been as picky cause I was not in such a position at all!
    – Newbie
    Feb 18, 2022 at 15:07
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I am in a similar situation so here's my experience (note that I am in an engineering discipline). Out of around ~40 applications sent out, I've had 4 interviews (over zoom) and 2 rejections. No invitations for any on site interviews as of yet. My advisor says that top schools will want to have offers out by end of march/april, so they want to have all the on site interviews done by the end of march at the latest (so, invitations for on-site interviews need to go out by early to mid march). Of course it's also going to depend on the school and field.

So, at least in my experience, some schools may be in the "early-ish" phase, but it may be a bad sign if you haven't heard back from anywhere at this point.

You probably want to also apply for postdocs regardless of the outcome of the faculty searches, so it's definitely not a bad idea to look around in any case.

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  • Thank you for sharing your experience. I agree that it’s a bad sign that none of the R1 schools have asked for interviews. Thank you for the timeline you provided as well. Good luck!
    – Newbie
    Feb 18, 2022 at 3:23

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