The Nobel Laureate who is not a full professor

Donna Strickland (at right) was on Tuesday named one of the three winners of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics. Many have noted that she is the first woman in 55 years to win the prize. The BBC noted in a radio interview that Strickland is an associate professor at the University of Waterloo and asked why she was not a full professor. She said she never applied. She laughed when asked if she would apply now.

Link here.

It’s a lot of work to apply for full professor, in terms of compiling one’s dossier, writing a research and teaching statement, cultivating letter writers, and so on.  At many schools you might get a raise of say $1500 for the promotion?  Apply Canadian tax rates to that.  That could be accompanied by more administrative responsibilities, such as pressure to become department chair at some point.

Hail Donna Strickland!


Less job mobility too when you move up to full professor.

Really? Is that really different to be a tenured full professor and to be a tenured associate professor, in that respect. I was under the impression that it was being tenured (with the implicit assumption that if you change job, you will keep your tenured stature), and perhaps the salary you have (with the implicit assumption that your new university cannot pay you less that you were paid before) that can make for less job mobility, not the title associate or full.

Anyway, congratulations to her, and to the two other Nobel in Physics.

Most advertised jobs (in the US, >80%) are for junior faculty. That said, there are a fair number of jobs advertised for associate or full professors. If someone is associate but could go up for full, applying to both categories is an option. Not the case if you're already full.

But I suspect given her stature it's a DGAF situation, or a calculated attempt to avoid more service.

Wrong-- it is perfectly legit for a full at university X to take a job as associate at university y. Harvard, if you want to give me a job as an associate prof, even untenured, I'll take it! In fact, Assistant Prof is fine too. (I've been a "visiting" full prof there, but that's a completely different situation-- they didn't even pay me.)

"That could be accompanied by more administrative responsibilities, such as pressure to become department chair at some point."

This was a reason a professor went into retirement during my PhD. The guy simply did not want to be department head.

Might it explain a lot, if the smart people are the ones avoiding management positions in Academia? Or anywhere, for that matter.

Typically, the department chair has very little power, just more duties thatn a normal professor. In most small-ish departments, every full professor in turn is obliged to become chair, so there is no selection/anti-selection of smart people.

But the real power comes at the level of the dean, then the provost and the president. Here it is possible, as you say, that there is a selection against smart people, both a self-selection because those people are less attracted by those power positions, and an external selection because smart people may find it more difficult to access and keep those positions.
Cf Summers, president of Harvard, smart by any standard, fired for his famous remarks about variance, and his friend and dean of art and science, the great mathematician Dick Gross, who left soon after.

Summers was not fired for his remarks on variance. He was fired for lying to the Harvard faculty about providing favoritism to Andrei Shleifer after Harvard coughed up $22 million to end the federal suit against Harvard and Shleifer over his corruption in Russia.

As Socrates said, philosophers do not want to rule. One professor at my alma mater managed to avoid serving as chair by pointing to his disaster area of an office, which, along with his forgetfulness, proved his total unsuitability for an administrative position (whether it was a pose or real is subject to debate). Managing professors is like herding cats, and as already noted department chairs have relatively little power.

'such as pressure to become department chair at some point'

Or someone might want you to head one center or another. Or maybe even two at once. Some people find it easier to turn down such things than others, obviously.

Don't worry clockwork, no one is ever going to ask you to head any center.

Or ever pay me to write PR for one either. Just one of those personal steps to enjoying a much better world.

Yeah, when I think of Prior, I automatically think of the world becoming better...

Anyhow congratulations are in order for this accomplishment by a fairly obscure academic at a middle sized Canadian University. She is probably very interesting, and her seeming lack of ambition might bespeak the disinterested joy she derived from her work.

.5 “Pursuit of T5 [top 5 joiurnal] publications has become the obsession of the next generation of economists. However, the T5 screen is far from reliable. A substantial share of influential publications appear in non-T5 outlets. Reliance on the T5 to screen talent incentivizes careerism over creativity.”

I commented on this a few days ago. She never applied for full professor because - obviously - she was doing something far more important and in my opinion more worthwhile. Something that has won her the 1st Nobel for woman in 55 years.

So what's your opinion? Full professor vs. Nobel Prize? Careerism vs. Creativity?

Regardless, now she gets both doesn't she.

ROFLMAO. People used to ask why I never became a partner. Maybe we are related after all.

So she's physics smart, and common sense smart. Congrats x2.

I didn't apply for full professor until my younger colleagues pressured me to do so---they thought I was holding up the queue.

One of the profs on the higher-up review committee told me some time after I made Full that I had the thinnest dossier and the easiest positive decision that the committee saw that year. I got no raise, just more duties, so I didn't put effort into the dossier. On the other hand, a friend going up for Full in math this year will get a 15% raise, I think it is. Departments differ.

Waterloo is similar to most Ontario universities in that salary doesn't change at all with promotion to full professor. Since Canadians are less obsessed with empty titles than are people in many other countries (think UK), it is not surprising this Canadian-born academic didn't apply.

Her salary is a matter of public record and is easily found by typing her name and the word "sunshine" into Google.

Strickland is making about $125,000 a year in US dollars. It will be interesting to see if she stays at her present institution and how much she will now make.

She's in the big leagues now. I just read that she will be leaving the U of Waterloo and will tour with Jordan Peterson and Sam Harris.

Will Jordan Peterson burn out before his Patreon bonus exceeds the gains from a physics Nobel prize?

How many Nobel Prize amount equivalencies has the Chapp Trap House Patreon generated?

fake Ray Lopez. The #RealRayLopez doesn't even know who Peterson is...some social media conservative, boring.

I heard a clip about this on the radio the other day. Her dean said that she had only to submit a one-line application if she wanted to become a full professor.

"Donna Strickland -- Nobel laureate"

UC Berkeley has a perpetual shortage of parking spaces. A few are marked "NL" and are reserved for Berkeley's Nobel laureates.

The caveat is that even if you are a Nobel laureate, you don't get your own personal parking space. You merely have the right to park in one of the NL ones. If another laureate arrived earlier and took the one you wanted, you have to go find another NL parking spot.

Which is analogous to the parking situation that students face at Berkeley, UCLA, and USC (and probably other big universities in dense urban settings). The students have to pay for a parking permit. But that permit doesn't give them the right to a parking spot, it only gives them the right to drive in circles around the full parking lot, searching for an empty spot (or in really congested times, searching for a car that's about to vacate their spot).

I assume you mean the row of NL spaces near LeConte Hall. They are almost always all empty, except for the occasional maintenance vehicle. Nobel laureate faculty does not mean nobel laureate presence on campus.

I was looking for a parking space on the Warner Brothers lot once. I found a really conveniently located spot, but it had stenciled on it, "Mr. Eastwood." So I went and parked in the far-off garage.

Donna Strickland did not have her own Wikipedia page up until two days ago. I have a December 2016 version of Wikipedia (called Kiwix, it's a snapshot of Wikipedia and highly recommended if you're in the remote parts of the Third World, like I am, as it runs off your hard drive) and Strickland does not appear except as a passing reference she designed a laser pulse amplification method called "chirping" in 1985.

Bonus trivia: Donna Strickland has no patents, which does not surprise me (brainiacs disdain patents I've found, as it's just a hassle for them to go through the patent process, and besides they hardly get any money out of it, not unlike being a full professor as Donna says). There is however a person called Donna Strickland in the UK that has this patent application, traditionally fitting for a woman (if the shoe fits, wear it):

Auxiliary strap for slingback shoe GB Application GB2461361A Donna Strickland Priority 2009-03-26 • Filing 2009-03-26 • Publication 2010-01-06 The present invention provides a removable auxiliary strap with two ends, having a releasable fastener at each end to fasten to a slingback strap of a shoe

If I was cruel--and I'm not--and a troll--which I am--I would point out that perhaps Strictland's contribution to physics is lightweight and her win is a political statement to rebut claims that women can't do physics. Not unlike giving Yasser Arafat the Nobel Peace Prize (and he did nothing afterwards to justify it, unlike A. Sadat did before him). And not unlike the claim by GM N. Short--he's running for FIDE chess president now--that women can't play chess (he's been beaten by a woman GM named J. Polgar and other women throughout his career, and in mitigation Short is known to make provocative statements for shock effect, once stating when penning GM T. Miles' obituary that he slept with his girlfriend while she was with Miles--cuck, cuck--that was a low blow.

Bonus trivia: all three Polgar sisters--grandmasters all--were guest commentators in a chess tournament recently for the first time ever.

These days there are few solo geniuses. Most significant work is done in teams.

The Nobel Peace Prize has a number of strange winners (Kissinger, most notably to me). I'm not aware of any physics Nobels that have been similarly tarred.

Any person who can't get her sh-t together - "compiling one’s dossier, writing a research and teaching statement, cultivating letter writers, and so on" - probably doesn't deserve tenure either. And if she doesn't have any patents either, as Ray pointed out, then I am even more suspicious of her contributions.

What a collection of idiots.

It may well be that they are going out of their way to find deserving women, with many women having been messed over professionally and not in top positions. Indeed she got it for her work on "chirping," which she did as a grad student working with Mourou. That is indeed the sort of thing that has happened in the past with the woman involved not getting the prize or much credit, even when it turns out that what they did was centrally crucial, see Rosalind Franklin and the DNA prize, one of several such scandals.

From what I have read, it looks like she really was responsible for the crucial breakthrough on this idea/method, despite not having a patent for it or being a full prof. And this has been centrally useful in many important applications from laser surgery to industrial uses and more.

Ate you two idiots actually suggesting she does not deserve this? Are you completely ignorant of physics or unable to read?

BTW, also in Waterloo and associated with the university is the Perimeter Institute of Theoretical Physics, home of the leading skeptics on string theory. I spoke there once, and it is quite a fascinating place. Curiously I do not think she is associated with it, although I do not know for sure.

See my comment below. I couldn't find mention of her or the other two as potential winners, but my method was crude. Are you saying that in physics everybody knew that those three might well win the Prize one of these years? (Maybe that's right--I'm genuinely curious)

I need to use my gmail for comments.

Why the obsession with academic status. Look at 1988 co-laureate, Gertrude Elion, who was one of the winners for the medicine and physiology Nobel. Not only was she employed in the pharmaceutical industry but she didn't even have a PhD (Oh the horror of it all). She had a record in drug discovery that is enviable.

Interesting. Do you know if that's the last Science/Econ winner not to have a PhD or MD? Or, maybe, are there no MD's either?

needed for Blogger

I think we can also applaud the Nobel committee in physics this year : they certainly did their homework, by giving a part of Nobel prize to Donna Strickland, who was not very famous before but deserved it, and also they showed a clear sense of duty by giving another part to that French guy, Gérard Mourou, ignoring a controversy about a short music video he made 10 years ago where lab workers removed their shirts, including a woman. In the US, if the experience of the past few years is any guide, any award-giving committee would have chosen someone else.

Your attempt to tie politics to what should be a memorable commemoration is beneath you.

Did Donna Strickland deserve the Nobel Prize? The post is correct that it doesn't matter that she's not a Full professor. But in today's climate, we have to doubt the legitimacy of any Nobel given to a woman, just as we have to doubt the legitimacy of any Peace or Literature Nobel given to either a woman or a man. We know there's politics too.
I realized that one way to find out would be to see if Strickland has been mentioned by physicists as a potential winner, and by how many. They don't organize pools like economists, it seems, though, or at least googling doesn't find the pools. I did try googling mention of Strickland and Mourou and Nobel before 2018, and found no mention. Note that I couldn't find mention of Mourou either, though. And I didn't spend very long, because there are so many misdated webpages that turn up.

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