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I recently finished my PhD in the Spring of this year and after taking some time off I have been on the job hunt looking to get into industry or a government position. One of my publications ended up being a collaboration between a few different groups, and one in particular was led by a Nobel Prize winning chemist. I didn't have any direct interactions with this person. I just happened to do my data analysis and writeup for the paper and sent it over to the first author.

Seeing as most people, even in our field, don't recognize every Nobel Prize winner's name in publication histories, would it be a faux pas if I name dropped this scientist in my resume or specifically mention that I collaborated with a Nobel Prize winner? I'm proud of the accomplishment (even if it was a bit of luck by circumstance) but I'm not sure if it just comes off as name dropping and snooty rather than highlighting my experience.

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    If I read this application, chances are it would neither hurt nor help. Commented Sep 9, 2022 at 9:55
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    Normally the list of your publications would name all of the coauthors for each publication. Did you have in mind doing more than that? Commented Sep 9, 2022 at 17:34
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    Ask yourself: if you were asked to elaborate on your interaction with this notable chemist, would you feel ashamed to admit it was only indirect, or if not ashamed perhaps now cognizant that it was pointless to say so in the first place? Commented Sep 11, 2022 at 0:52
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    @MichaelHardy I have listed the co-author in my publications section, it was suggested to me by some friends and family to mention in a highlights section of my resume that I collaborated with a Nobel Prize winner. I have a line in my resume stating "Collaborated with research groups both at my home university and elsewhere resulting in another two publications". It was suggested I add a line saying including a Nobel prize winner. I'm definitely leaning against that after reading the other comments, but I appreciate the extra perspective from everyone Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 2:40
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    @Tom You are probably right, but anecdotally I have ran into quite a few chemists that didn't know the name offhand. Most likely it is a big minority, but it was sizable enough that it gave me the impression that a portion of the population just doesn't keep up with every winner Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 2:42

6 Answers 6

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You wrote that you didn't interact with this person and want to write on your CV that you collaborated with them. That seems ethically very questionable to me.

If I understood your description correctly you have a scientific paper that has both you and the Nobel prize winner on its author list. You can and should put that paper on your CV (including the author list). But if there was no interaction between the two of you I wouldn't put anything more than that.

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    I'm a bit confused (both by the question and this answer) because, to me, collaborator and coauthor are basically the same. You can collaborate indirectly on a project. If I had a section on my CV listed "collaborators", then I would list all coauthors (+ ongoing collaborators). Though I don't really know what the OP is proposing...
    – Kimball
    Commented Sep 10, 2022 at 5:02
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    @Kimball I understood that this was a paper with a large number of authors, essentially multiple groups all chipping in. Of course there were people between any two groups actively working together but not every person in every group interacted with every other person in all the other groups.
    – quarague
    Commented Sep 10, 2022 at 5:24
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    I agree with that, but I don't see why you need to directly interact with someone to consider them as a collaborator. I have been part of three different 3-author papers where two of the authors never interacted directly, but I think in my field they are still considered as collaborators (e.g., for grant reviews, letter writing, ...) Maybe there is another distinction in fields with many large-author papers?
    – Kimball
    Commented Sep 10, 2022 at 9:10
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    @Kimball to widen the perspective, have a look at the number of authors per discipline (a phdcomic, but accurate). Some collaborations such as LHCb, CMS, ATLAS have 1000+ authors on their papers. Collaborators and coauthors is not quite the same, not in the context of interactions.
    – Mayou36
    Commented Sep 10, 2022 at 14:46
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    Thank you for the feedback. I was leaning towards not directly mentioning this but a few friends and family members were suggesting I include it in my highlights section as I have a bullet point that says "Collaborated with research groups both at my home university and elsewhere resulting in another two publications", but I wanted to ask people in the community instead. I will continue to simply list the coauthors and leave it as is. Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 2:48
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If I would read in an application that the candidate worked together with a Nobel Prize winner, I would google the Nobel Prize winner (out of curiosity) and ask the candidate how was working together. I'd be disappointed to hear that you did not interact with each other. It would hurt your application, as I would start to wonder which facts in your CV are similarly stretched.

Just name him as one of the co-authors in your publication list. Usually, this list is not relevant for industry or public-service jobs, unless you should conduct research with the exact same topic.

Save this for some fun or anecdotal part of the application: If you are asked for some special thing in your last job, you can mention you have a publication with a Nobel Prize winner (who has this? cool), even though you did not really interact with him. Or if you are asked for a weakness, you could mention that you like to brag about your paper with a Nobel Prize winner, but you did not really interact with him. When delivered right, it might stick with the interviewer, but in a charming way.

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    I don't believe this is so. You don't need to interact directly with someone to establish yourself as his/her collaborator. This is well known to most academia personnel, and the recruitment panel.
    – Dilworth
    Commented Sep 10, 2022 at 18:10
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    @Dilworth The collaboration with a big name implies, that you were thought something or at least learned something above the average collaboration. If you did not interact, you are a collaborator, but your employer would not profit from this collaboration.
    – usr1234567
    Commented Sep 10, 2022 at 19:10
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    No, this is not the intent of working with a big name. The point is to witness impact and perceived importance of result and standing within the community. Having a joint paper with leader in the field is a clear indication that one work is not "esoteric" or completely "uninteresting", and shows solid standing in the community.
    – Dilworth
    Commented Sep 11, 2022 at 17:16
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    You must have very good reason to write to someone if the applicant did not put them in the referee lists ... that person being a Nobel prize is probably the silliest reason you can find.
    – EarlGrey
    Commented Sep 12, 2022 at 7:14
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    Thank you for the feedback, I was unsure about including it but it had been suggested by a few friends and family members. I think I will take your advice to heart and if I mention it at all it would be in a cheeky interaction with the recruiter. Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 2:54
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after taking some time off I have been on the job hunt looking to get into industry or a government position.

None of the two sector's recruiters would be impressed by your publication with a Nobel Prize winner. Maybe if you were giving private lessons, there would be some rich parents (that do not understand anything, not even how exactly they became rich) caring about that.

On the other hand, in academia, a publication like that may be the one high impact publication that opens the door towards professorship (the Nobel Prize winner being co-author helping indirectly).

I feel you are trying to play the game "let's not say I collaborated with a Nobel Prize winner, but let's point to the fact I have the coauthorship in the paper and let's try to imply I collaborated with a Nobel Prize winner, so I am not lying, and it's the other person inferring that from my talking".

Well, sorry but half a lie is still a lie, even worse if you are trying to deceive someone.

Put yourself in the shoes of the receiving end. What would you think?

My opinion is that since you did not win the Nobel, such a remark will be ignored, but it may also be a rewarding technique. A gullible enough person may be impressed by such an anecdoctal fact and you will jump a couple of steps in the career ladder.

However, you should be smart enough to recognize the technique is rewarding because to put this technique in game, you need to have some insecurity (how do I stand out) leveraging on your ego (I did not collaborate with the Nobel Prize winner directly, but given the chance I would have been able to, so I can say that I did).

Plain and blunt, enjoy your ego and throw away your insecurity without silly tricks. Say that the Nobel Prize winner collaborated with you, not the other way around. Why risk with a small lie, when you can have success with a big lie?

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Name-dropping is just as obnoxious in an academic context as anywhere else. Most of the time people find this to be obnoxious because the name-dropping is gratuitous and has no relevance to the subject under discussion. In the case at issue, what exactly is your theory of the relevance of the Nobel prize here --- is it somehow the case that this person's prize-winning research on a different paper somehow rubs off on you due to a later academic collaboration on a different thing?

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    The idea was that my quality of work was good enough to be on the same paper with somebody who is a leader in the field. But I take your point to heart, it is obnoxious and I will nix the idea. Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 2:57
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    That is fair enough, but I think the quality of your work is better demonstrated through more direct methods. Here the quality of such indirect evidence is very slim in comparison with the negatives of name-dropping.
    – Ben
    Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 9:52
  • "...just as obnoxious in an academic context as anywhere else..." There are exceptions to obnoxiousness ubiquity, e.g. Erdős number number and if you will, Bacon number
    – uhoh
    Commented Oct 9, 2022 at 0:14
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"would it be a faux pas if I name dropped this scientist in my resume or specifically mention that I collaborated with a Nobel Prize winner?"

Say you are shortlisted and interviewed and they ask "what was it like working with Prof. X?" what would you say? I suspect if you just said that you had never actually interacted with them, just made a contribution to a paper that they also contributed to, I suspect that would be (i) a somewhat underwhelming anecdote and (ii) give a bad impression as it suggests that you may have been trying to mislead them into thinking that it reflected well on you, when really it was just good fortune rather than an accomplishment.

Having said which, I suspect many mathematics CVs mention Erdos numbers (mine is proof that not everybody with a finite Erdos number is a mathematician ;o) you could say your Prof. X number is zero?

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    I don't think that's correct. You don't need to collaborate directly with someone to establish yourself as his/her collaborator. This is well known to most academia personnel, and the recruitment panel.
    – Dilworth
    Commented Sep 10, 2022 at 18:09
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    @Dilworth There is nothing in what I wrote that suggests they didn't collaborate with the prof, just that it wasn't an accomplishment on their part or something that reflected positively on their ability. If you have nothing interesting to say about it in an interview, it probably isn't a good idea to mention it on a resume/CV. I've "collaborated" with eminent scientists in this way, I wouldn't expect a recruitment panel to find it worth mentioning. Commented Sep 10, 2022 at 19:24
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    @Dilworth and Dikran, thank you both for your feedback. The idea was that my quality of work was good enough to be on the same paper with somebody who is a leader in the field. There obviously was some luck involved, but I was one of a few people that could have actually done the analysis that I did. However, I see how this could be considered in bad taste to mention it outside of my authorship list so I will nix the idea for now. Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 3:04
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    @DikranMarsupial Thank you for the advice. I will take it to heart Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 14:04
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    @Dilworth Very inappropriate here to try to continue a comment discussion that's already been cleaned up. Comments are meant to be ephemeral, if there is valuable information there it should be added to the answer; if there's a difference of opinion it's better to add your own answer. You've already done this, so stop commenting.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Sep 14, 2022 at 14:22
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It depends on the context.

Yes, add the name: If you are going to send your CV around the globe, with institutes and communities that may not know the Nobel Prize Laureate you've worked with, then yes, you can definitely add in your research summary, and also in your CV something like: "Worked with leaders in the field such as X". This shouldn't hurt.

No need to, but wouldn't hurt much anyway: If your CV is to be sent narrowly to people who already know this Nobel Laureate, there's no need to emphasize this, though I wouldn't think it would hurt your chances anyway.

Comment: Other answers here mention it to be of "bad tase", "obnoxious", and so on. This may be the case, but it is irrelevant to the question whether it is an effective practice.

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    "Worked with leaders in the field such as X". strongly implies a direct interaction, more strongly than "collaborated with", but even that is pushing things. If the OP is going to mention this, I would simply stick to the facts and say that a Nobel laurate was a co-author of one of their papers, or that they were involved in a collaboration with a Nobel laurate, neither of which implies a direct interaction. If someone views this as "obnoxious" then it may be "effective" but not in a positive way, which is I suspect what the other answers are pointing out. Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 5:24
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    Again, as explained explicitly in my answer, the collaboration with the leader in the field intends to prove importance or relevance of some of the results of the candidate. It has nothing to do with the "innate capabilities" of the candidate himself/herself. As for the precise phrase "collaboration", "worked with" etc. it doesn't matter, but indeed better to be modest about.
    – Dilworth
    Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 17:30

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