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I recently graduated with a PhD in biology and I'm staying in the same lab as a postdoc for a year. I need to look for postdoc positions elsewhere soon, so I need to update my CV. My CV from undergrad lists my undergrad honors, including Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude, highest departmental honors from my first major, and valedictorian in my second major.

Now I wonder if the undergrad honors are still relevant, because I didn't feel like they meant much to my performance in graduate school, because except for the highest departmental honors which requires research, the other honors come from grades, while grades no longer matter so much in graduate school and beyond. Research is very different from classroom learning. OK, Phi Beta Kappa also requires going beyond one major and learning a foreign language, but to be honest, to this date I'm still not sure if joining PBK is worthwhile.

I suppose the PI's would look at publications and presentations instead. I published in Nature and the paper is widely cited. I have also been invited to give seminars, which I think are more relevant and impressive than the undergrad honors. So I wonder, are undergraduate honors still worth mentioning on my CV after graduate school? Thanks for your suggestions!

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  • I've left my undergrad stuff on my cv since I thought it was relevant when applying for teaching jobs at undergrad liberal arts schools. Probably not so important but it seemed relevant to me.
    – jdods
    Jul 6, 2023 at 14:03

5 Answers 5

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Maybe. They certainly belong on a cv, but what you submit with your postdoc application might be closer to a resume. See the difference here.

That academic site does suggest the full cv for a postdoc. Your cover letter should of course speak to your particular fit/value at this particular lab.

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By the time you finish your PhD, there should be relatively few references to undergraduate experiences on the CV, but you can include some of this information in the lines where the bachelor's degree is listed.

E.g. -

B.S. Biology (Hons) & Chemistry (Valedictorian), Name of School, summa cum laude, 2014

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It depends, but it can be worth it! I'll give you a related example: in my program a lot of students took the bachelor's degree and only very few continued with the master's (of course, mostly people with good performance continued). This resulted in 20% of master's students getting honours, while for the bachelor's it was just 7%. In this situation showing the honours on the bachelor (and possibly mentioning the statistic) is a much more significant qualification

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In my opinion the CV should be brief (max 2 pages) and must highlight your most important academic achievements. PIs don't have time to read pages filled with small details about your education and undergrad experience. You will be invited for an interview if your profile stands above the others. A lengthy and excessively detailed CV may simply be ignored and trashed. So, what do PIs check first?

  • Where you did your PhD (if in a prestigious institute and under well reputed supervisor).
  • What you publishd (a Nature paper is awesome! Congratulations).
  • If you won any scholarship or grant (there's always a high demand of postdocs able and willing to acquire funding for their own salary).

What is less important, but still worth mentioning? If you still have some space left in this 2-page CV you are welcome to include a honors and awards section, where you can list the prizes and acknowledgement you obtained, starting from the most recent (undergrad honors at the end). I also try to mention my talks at international conferences (selected from abstracts or invited). This basically shows that you are capable of communicating your data in front of a broad scientific community. I always advise against listing the poster presentation. Nobody really cares if you made a poster.

This is my recommendation. Good luck with the job search.

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It sort of depends.. The more mature you become in your career, the less relevant the older stuff becomes. At the same time, hiring committees are strange beasts and while Mr X might not give a toss about something, Mrs Y might and vice versa about something else.

I will give you an analogy. In Math, we have math olympiads and that sort of things. Personally, I really don't care if someone was on a high ranking Putnam team or got a medal in the IMO. However, I have sometimes sat on hiring committees with colleagues who do care. When applying for a tenure track position, you're competing with anything from 50 to 500 others, so if that info gets you a second look from one committee member, good. That's not what will get you hired, but it might mean someone wants to defend your application a bit and that might land you on the long list.

So I would recommend leaving the info in. But make it short, as someone suggested.

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