8

Typically, well-prepared undergrad math students have summer REU advisors, masters and PhD students have thesis advisors.

What do new math PhDs - postdoctoral researchers have at the university they land at? Do they also have a research advisor, or are they pretty much on their own, while they teach classes, publish papers and apply to tenure-track positions, before their post-doc contract expires?

  • 4
    There is usually a supervisor. Think of a postdoc as an internship.... (Disclaimer: applied math/CS) – Fábio Dias Aug 31 '16 at 21:34
17

This varies greatly, depending on the type of postdoctoral position. Some postdocs are funded by a specific grant. Then they have a supervisor, namely the PI on the grant. How formal the supervision is can vary, but someone is at least nominally in charge of the postdoc, and there's an expectation that the postdoc will do something relevant to the grant.

Other postdocs are hired by the department or a mathematics institute, rather than a particular PI (this is especially common in pure mathematics). Often the postdoc is assigned a mentor, but what's involved in the mentoring relationship can vary. It could consist of collaborative research, serious professional guidance, or just chatting occasionally.

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    In mathematics, "visiting assistant professor" positions in which the new PhD is responsible only for teaching courses are quite common. Some people refer to these as post-docs even though they're very different from the traditional model of a post-doc in which a new PhD does research within a specific research group under the supervision of a PI. Someone in this type of position might have a mentor, but they might also be completely on their own in terms of research. – Brian Borchers Aug 31 '16 at 23:32

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