Repost: Increasing your academic visibility

Apr 25 2011 Published by under [Education&Careers]

Originally posted last summer, but relevant now for people starting up next fall and people who are relatively new.

One of the key things every new PI has to do when you start a new lab is to get the word out. You gotta let people know where you are and what you are working on, which is why doing the conference circus circuit is really important early on. But, there is a lot more one can do and I'm really starting to see the benefit of one major thing.

When I first got to Employment University, my department asked me to take on the seminar series. At the time it was a bit hodgepoged and disjunct so I think they expected me to invite a couple of people here and there and call it a day. I had, however, been in charge of a seminar series as a grad student, so the task wasn't particularly daunting and I quickly realized I could use it to my advantage.

I sent out a request within the department for suggested speakers, and as per expectation I only got a few. That gave me freedom to pretty much ask anyone I wanted to see give a talk. I made a list of all the heavy hitters in my field within my geographic "sphere of invitation" and started working through it. I knew I was going to do the seminar series for at least two years, so I was able to spread these talks out so it wasn't blatantly obvious what I was doing.

In the process of hosting some big name folks to the department I have had the opportunity to not only increase interest in my filed within my department, but also get on the radar of some key people from other institutions. This is paying dividends both at conferences when I get the opportunity to catch up with these people and meet friends of theirs, but also because people tend to return the favor and invite you for a seminar at their institution.

More recognition + more invited talks + more interesting (for me) talks in my department = win. It can be a pain in the ass sometimes, but coordinating the seminar series can have huge up side if you use it to your advantage.

5 responses so far

  • You're a sly motherfucker. Nice tactics.

  • Jim Thomerson says:

    Good idea. I have found that other graduate students and young PhD's I knew as a graduate student and young PhD have been a most helpful element.

  • Namnezia says:

    Excellent advice. I was also put in charge of my departmental seminar series which I used to my advantage, although I did get yelled at one year for way overspending the budget (how was I supposed to know that plane tickets from California were that expensive?).

    One piece of advice for new PI is that make sure that if you invite a seminar speaker to include your meeting trainees in the visit. Partly thanks to this, when I was a grad student and postdocs I got to meet lots of bigwigs in the field. And these connections have proven invaluable later both for finding a postdoc mentor, getting a faculty position, getting tenure letters forming collaborations, etc. So if you are a grad student or postdoc and there's a seminar speaker that seems interesting, try and wiggle some time in their itinerary to meet with them, or at minimum get yourself inited to the lunch or dinner.

  • Anonymous says:

    I took for granted as a grad student that I could always get on a visiting speaker's schedule if I wanted to, and I took advantage of the opportunity often. The meetings were always one-on-one, never with my advisor. Now I realize that's not how most departments do things, which I believe is a *huge* mistake. They should be treated like full colleagues, and the majority will rise to the occasion.

  • Anonymous says:

    "[Grad students] should be treated like full colleagues."

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