Friday, August 7, 2009

State of this Post-doc Address

Fellow recent graduates, doctoral candidates, noobs, and Americans,

The state of this post-doc is strong. (5 minutes applause and standing ovations.) Five (more minutes of applause, and standing ovations from 314±1 people).

Five months now have elapsed, and during that time we have had trials, and we have had tribulations, and we have had lots and lots of tea and cafés and desserts of all stripes and flavours. (5 minutes applause, laughs all around, and standing ovations.)

It's time to take stock. It's time to see from where we've come, and to where we've yet to go. (2 minutes applause, standing ovations from 314±1 people. The rest are looking nervous. Time to get serious.)

During this time, I have had to live with rejection: of two conference papers, both were rejected. But to one I applied reviewer comments, and dashed it off to another conference! (Word of its fate arrives at the end of this month.) The other collects dust, sometimes disturbed by an occasional glance because I feel sorry for that little piece of research that can't.

In between these rejections, I have learned the art of proposal writing. I might even say that the single most significant part of my post-doc is learning the art of proposal writing. If you give a man some fish, he won't eat tomorrow; but if you teach a man to start each paragraph with a Bang! --- figuratively hitting a reviewer square between the eyes --- --- repeatedly --- to make the first page compel, nay, impel, neyther, propel, a reviewer to keep reading, to embolden key phrases to allow multiple levels of reading, to be unabashedly boastful of one's accomplishments and significance, to convey it all with a tone of utmost urgency that borders on rapture literature, and to make it all comprehensible and convincing to an non-expert while to an expert not appearing ignorant and naïve, then that man will be angry at the other man picking the fish bones from his teeth. But come December, when the other man will have no fish, you will have a piece of mail that says 1) Congratulations! Free fish; or 2) This year we received a higher number than usual of excellent proposals ...

Aside from conference paper rejections and proposal writing, I have been looking for what to do come January. For this reason I have given research seminars at TELECOM ParisTech, France, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain, Deutsche Telekom Laboratories, Berlin, Germany, and Queen Mary, University London, and Cambridge University, U.K. In the fall I hope to visit research centers in Rennes and Marseilles, France, Edinburgh, Scotland, Limerick and Dublin, Ireland, Haifa, Israel, Modena, Italy, Aalborg, Denmark, and Porto, Portugal.

Before coming to the great country or France, I applied to professorship positions at three (3) institutions in the North America: University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, University of California, Irvine, and University of California, San Diego. All have been rejected. (Scattered applause from 219±1 people).

Since coming to France, I've applied to professorship positions at four (4) other institutions, but this time all are in Europe. The only one I have heard from is University of Aalborg, at Copenhagen. My friends. They have invited me for an on-site interview at the end of this month! (2 minutes applause, standing ovations from 314±1 people; some other scattered applause).

Aside from all this excitement, I have proposed to write two books for a particular scientific publishing company --- one of these derived from my dissertation. The response from them has been positive! But we have yet to work out anything more formal.

The next five months, the remaining five months of this chapter in our collective academic experience, will certainly bring more trials, and more tribulations, and we hope more tea and cafés and desserts of all stripes and flavours. (5 minutes applause, laughs all around, and standing ovations.)

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

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