Thursday, January 21, 2010


This is the time when many young people are fretting about their applications, be they for undergrad admission, PhD admission, or academic jobs. (At the same time, marginally older people are happy to be done with recommendation letters.)

First of all, I wanted to suggest that you channel the energy (or, should I say, agitation) of this moment into positive directions. My interview spring was also when I came up with some pretty neat ideas and wrote 4 FOCS papers.

Second of all, I wanted to share an anecdote that I heard during my job hunt, which may or may not help. As the story goes, a department chair comes back after the break and finds a couple of hundred applications sitting on his desk. He looks at the pile, shakes his head, and promptly commits half of them to the recycle bin. He then announces that, "This university does not need unlucky people."

If you doubt that this could be true, let me offer statistical evidence from my wife's hospital: on her year, the doctors that got jobs were Maria, Miriam, Mariam, and Milos. (Evidently, the secretary had sorted the pile before putting it on the chair's desk.)

Amusingly, their workplace also offers the best illustration of a hash function collision that I have yet seen. They have three Romanian doctors which go by Mira, Mira, and Mera (hash codes for Mirabela, Miriam, and Merima -- all exceedingly rare names in Romania).


Anonymous said...

Oh! I see, that's why you got a job "M"ihai

Anonymous said...

The unlucky thing was really funny :)

Emi said...

De asta nu mai sunt dr buni in Ro, pt ca Mira, Mara, etc au emigrat.

Anonymous said...

Looks like you still haven't reconciled with the cruel reality that you did not get an academic job that you thought you deserved.

Mihai said...

This most certainly did not happen to me, since I got unofficial feedback from many universities.