I will finish my Ph.D. soon and am seeking a postdoc position. To this purpose, I am creating my page, hosted by my university.

Personally, I don't generally take pictures of myself and don't like to. There is a picture of mine (from 4 years ago) which I feel is fine, where I was hiking on a mountain, without my T-shirt. However, people won't see my nips anyway. I am a male, if this matters.

I wonder if such picture is fine in an academic page, especially for someone who is trying to get a job.

  • 53
    Get someone with a smartphone to take a clothed picture of you and use that.
    – GEdgar
    Nov 27, 2015 at 14:46
  • 18
    If you do keep the pic, don't be surprised if students photoshop you riding a bear and it becomes a meme Nov 27, 2015 at 16:14
  • 8
    @user568458 Sounds like a win-win to me.
    – user1103
    Nov 27, 2015 at 18:30
  • 6
    @RoboKaren I agree that it is related, but would disagree with the duplication because a) partial nudity is often significantly more culturally loaded than hair color, and b) hair color is intimately tied to facial appearance and more difficult to adjust than state of clothing.
    – jakebeal
    Nov 28, 2015 at 20:16
  • 2
    I do not think it is "unprofessional". :-) Nov 28, 2015 at 21:30

3 Answers 3


First, there is no rule that you need to have a picture of yourself on your professional webpage. Most people do, but there's no rule. It's nice to have some image that represents you (giving people's visual memories something to hold onto), but that could as easily be something from your research or anything, really.

Second, I would not recommend posting an image of yourself shirtless. Your page will be looked at by (hopefully) a lot of different people with radically differing cultural and personal backgrounds. Many of them are likely to have no problem with it, but some may. When you are in an early and vulnerable stage of your career, it is generally safer to choose a relatively conservative image. Please note that I am not saying: "You Must Conform!"---instead, I am saying that failing to conform can have a cost, and that you should choose whether paying such as cost is worth it to you.

Finally, there is a simple solution that will nullify the question of being shirtless: just crop the picture to zoom in on just your face.


While academics often struggle to separate their professional and personal lives, putting effort into separating out your professional webpage from your personal webpage is important. As a minimum, you should clearly delimitate what is professional and what is personal.

Within the framework of this question, I can think of three situations where you might go hiking:

  1. There are some academic fields where hiking is a “professional” activity (e.g., geology, anthropology, physical therapy, ...). In most of these fields, I believe, hiking without a shirt would be considered unprofessional. If my field involved a lot of hiking, I would include these on my professional webpage. That said, I would likely still not use one where I did not have a shirt on, even if the reason for not having a shirt on was professional.

  2. In the sciences, and maybe other fields, academics often go on “lab hikes”. This type of activity straddles the personal/professional boundary. I would not take my shirt off on one of these hikes and I would not put these photos directly on my professional webpage. I might add a prominent link (e.g., "lab outings") to the photos from my professional webpage.

  3. The final situation are personal hikes. These could still be with colleagues, but they need to be very close colleagues. The idea is that, in the case of a complaint (e.g., sexual harassment), you can “prove” the activity was not work-related. In these cases, hiking without a shirt is fine. Putting these photos on your professional website is a bad idea, but including a link from your professional website to your personal website is fine.

  • Does blogging count as too personal in my professional website and should be separated? Each post is well-thought and not to ranting.
    – Ooker
    Nov 27, 2015 at 17:14
  • 1
    @Ooker it is probably a new question, but if you are blogging about personal things, it is personal. If you are blogging about your field, it is professional.
    – StrongBad
    Nov 27, 2015 at 18:07
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    @StrongBad The boundaries can be pretty blurry, though, unless you work strongly at pseudonymity.
    – jakebeal
    Nov 27, 2015 at 18:33

Your appearance as a professional (which usually includes a collared shirt) will influence your ability to be taken seriously by many employers. If you are in a technical field, your web presence is of significant importance. And, as a post-doc, you may be considered temporary faculty. So, I highly suggest you shave, do your hair nice, and put some nice clothes on. Take a high-res photo with a white background (any wall will do) that you can crop to the shoulders up. You can use a photo like that for your webpage as well as other needs (e.g. if you get a post-doc, they may put your photo up on the wall next to the rest of the faculty photos). If your field of study is "outdoors", and a photo of you hiking is "work-related", I would advise you to also take an action shot (with your shirt on) of you doing work. However, if you are working at "tropical" university with liberal culture (e.g. in Hawaii) then a shirtless photo will not negatively influence you.

  • 1
    A small correction: postdocs are not generally considered faculty. They are, however, generally considered "staff" and "employee" and things like that.
    – jakebeal
    Nov 27, 2015 at 16:59
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    @jakebeal no that is what I meant to say. When I was a post-doc at a state university, we were considered "post-doctoral research faculty". I've never heard of a post-doc being called "staff".
    – f.thorpe
    Nov 27, 2015 at 17:53
  • We were called "temporary research associates" which were part of the overall department faculty. I think this is usually institution specific.
    – f.thorpe
    Nov 27, 2015 at 18:14
  • 1
    Post-docs are neither faculty nor staff but classified as "slave." They should always be seen in a t-shirt or sweater with the name of their university so that they can not run away.
    – emory
    Nov 28, 2015 at 15:33
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    @jakebeal: Postdocs in mathematics are generally considered faculty, certainly by mathematicians but also by the administration to varying degrees. (In fact many departments arrange for their title to be something like "Doob Assistant Professor" or "Szegő Assistant Professor" to help the university keep straight that they should not be treated like postdocs in other fields.)
    – Tom Church
    Nov 28, 2015 at 19:34

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