I’m a computer scientist at the point in my postdoc where I will have to decide soon whether to apply for faculty positions this fall or go to industry, in the US/Canada/UK/maybe Europe.1

But I’ve also recently come to the realization that spending half of my waking hours fervently wishing I had been born a girl could be a sign that maybe I should be doing something about that.

My situation is such that I doubt I would be able to really “pass” anytime soon, if ever. Even if I went all-out on transition immediately – which I’m not sure I’m ready for anyway – I can’t imagine that I wouldn’t be quite obviously physically trans at interview time and at least for a while afterwards.

I’d be fine presenting male through the faculty interview process and so on; my dysphoria is not particularly acute, and I have not yet started on hormones or anything. But I am certainly not willing to wait until tenure! I’m old enough already. (~30, but losing hair fast….)

Transition will obviously make life harder either in industry or in academia. But assistant professorships are not like normal jobs. Getting students, perhaps getting grants, perhaps teaching, and probably a million other things will all be harder in the midst of transition. It would also be combining two quite stressful experiences at the same time, and early-stage assistant professorships are not necessarily the most friendly job to the possibility of required medical absences / etc.

By contrast, my assumption is that a job as a researcher at some tech company will only provide the “usual” amount of discrimination and inconvenience, with probably better capability to handle potential medical issues, much more financial support for a potentially expensive process, and maybe fewer people I’ll need to convince I’m a real person. A greater portion of these jobs are also going to be available in a major liberal city with the support structure for this process (and near my existing social networks for support).

And yet, ideally I think I’d want to be on the faculty market anyway.

So: how infeasible is transitioning as an early-career faculty member? Should I abandon this path for now and go to industry research instead, and maybe come back to it after a few years?

I’d particularly love to hear from anyone who’s been in a similar situation, or to be pointed to examples of academic scientists who’ve transitioned before being well-established in their careers.

(This seems to be the only relevant question on the site, but is broader, and the examples of trans academics there seem to have all transitioned after already being quite established [except Lynn Conway, who (a) did this in the 60s/70s and (b) had to completely restart her career in “stealth mode”]. There are also a few on workplace about related situations for “normal” jobs, but I’m looking for academia-specific thoughts.)


1 I don’t really want to do another postdoc; I’m in the second year of my current one, with a professor who’s relatively prominent in my subfield, and though it’s been great I can’t help but think that a second one almost anywhere else would be seen as a “step down.” Doing multiple postdocs is also quite rare, though not unheard of, in my area. My current position is “term-limited” before another faculty cycle comes around.

Imagine you are minding your own business when you receive an email from someone who claims to have discovered the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. He provides some “details” about his theory, then says he wants to meet you and / or arrange a time for a phone conservation to discuss it. What should you do?

The only thing I’ve seen is this 1983 article by Underwood Dudley about what to do when the trisector comes. Dudley says not to examine the trisector’s proof, and also not to direct the trisector to the proof that trisection is impossible. Instead one should send computer-generated results showing that the trisection is imperfect. Problem with this is that it only works for questions that can be attacked by computers – there was a recent question here on Academia SE challenging conservation of angular momentum which this won’t work for.

What are some general guidelines for dealing with these situations? Re: ignoring the crank – one can ignore emails, but what if he goes calls or visits in person?

I’m a first year Master’s student that works under the supervision of my thesis chair. At first, I was really excited to work with my chair because she is known as one of the nicest people & best profs in the department. However as time went on, those rose colored glasses have come off and I have seen her for who she truly is.

While I by no means dislike the woman, I have felt extremely dissatisfied working with her as she has canceled countless meetings, made empty promises, and never follows through. She told me she’d help me with my speech for my very first poster presentation but never did. She told me she’d help me set up my poster and be there for me, but never showed up until right before I was about to start presenting. She promises me thesis edits will be made within a certain time frame but always falls through with no email to explain.

My thesis is a branch off a multi site grant study and I’ve had to be in personal contact with the head of the grant because she has not been present although the head of the grant is also relying on her. I’ve done all the preparations for the data collection although she could have definitely helped if she wanted to.

Because there’s been a lull in my recruitment; instead of focusing on that, she’s trying to get me to do her dirty work for a former project that has nothing to do with me. Although her former thesis student has already graduated and been accepted to a PhD program, she’ll still prioritize that student over me by helping that student publish her thesis.

She’s not transparent at all and never gives me her opinion (even on things that do matter), so I often feel alone in making decisions. She also doesn’t know how to talk to people. Just last week, out of the blue, she told me she is moving to another state for another job offer in about 2 months but has made no real attempt to help me decide how to deal with my thesis… it’s all non novel ideas (like start over) lip service disguised as help. I guess my point is–despite my dissatisfaction, she has NO clue I feel this way and would be quite surprised if she ever found out.

I’m wondering if I should fake it long enough and even get her a card/buy her going away lunch to ask her for a recommendation letter before she leaves?

I know it sounds conniving and that’s normally not like me, but I am very frustrated with her and feel like that’s the least she could do for me, considering she’s screwed me over multiple times already in the 4 short months we’ve been working together. I could really use one from her since I’ve worked for her the longest so far, and people are telling me that’s what I should do.

It is frequently mentioned that PhD students are employed in Europe (e.g., The Netherlands, Scandinavia, etc). I still don’t understand how this affects a PhD program?

What is the difference when one enrols as a PhD student in the US or have a work contract in The Netherlands? Is there any specific difference in responsibilities, expectations, freedom, etc?

Please make a tangible comparison rather than listing various possibilities. If a student enrol for a PhD program in the US or in The Netherlands, how will his work and life be different?

For the first time, I had to review a revision of an academic paper (I have already reviewed several other papers, but they were all rejected after the first round). While the authors had clearly improved the paper (after the first round, major revisions were requested by the editor (and myself)), several major issues mentioned in the first round of reviews were still not (or not correctly) addressed. Furthermore, due to the improvement in writing and structure, the paper was easier to read, and I was able to identify several flaws or strong limitations that I did not report in the first round. Consequently, I, again, recommended major revisions (while I hesitated with rejection due to the major flaws).

After having submitted my review, I received the reviews of the two others reviewers. To my surprise, both were positive (1 line comment such as “Issues have been addressed and I have no further comment”) and the editor requested minor revisions.

In view of this, I am wondering if I have misunderstood how I should review a paper after revision as I did not make a real difference between round 1 and 2. Therefore my question is how far can/should we go in reviewing a paper? If at each round, improvements are made but new flaws or mistakes are spotted, should we stop mentioning them at some point?
This process might be theoretically infinite. Furthermore, as an author, I know that several rounds of reviews are exhausting and stressful so I do not want to be “that reviewer” (the one who is too picky and who completely slow down the publication process).

In some European countries, PhD programs are free. As I understand, PhD opening depends on the research funds of the supervisor. In other words, PhD research is funded by a national agency or EU.

Some countries offer the programs for free and an international student in the UK should pay about $20,000 per annum?

In addition to the research cost (which is funded through the same routes), a PhD student has other expenses for the university, which is provided by the tuition fee in the UK, while in countries with free PhD programs, the governments provides the supports (correct me if I am wrong).

My question is: Why/how such governments support PhD education of international students? And if it is reasonable, why isn’t it the case in the UK?

The situation maybe a little bit unusual, and I am asking for your opinion.

I have taught an undergraduate course on differential geometry of curves and surfaces last Fall semester. One of the students in my class, whom I think is really bright, told me that he found the proof of a certain well known theorem is a little bit hard to understand. We had some discussion on it, but I was quite busy so I wasn’t paying too much attention on it, so we didn’t get any good conclusion.

Recently I was revising my lecture notes and I was reminded of his question. Then he and I found that no fewer than three books (two textbooks and a research monograph) give wrong proofs of that theorem. We are quite satisfied with what we found, and his question was settled. Then he asked whether we should write a paper on this issue and submit it to some undergraduate research journal, like Involve. At first I didn’t think it was a good idea because finding a mistake of a proof of a theorem in three books isn’t really a big deal, and I told him we could send an email to the authors of those books about the mistakes. But then I think his idea might not be as bad as it seems to be because, essentially, when an undergrad can find some mistakes in well-known textbooks that (it seems to me that) nobody can find, it means something to me. My concern is I don’t know even if we are talking about an undergraduate research journal, do the editors think it’s certainly not worth a try or the opposite?

On the math side of that theorem, those three books use the same techniques but with different assumptions (or you may want to call simplifications). However, the proof in each of those books have different mathematical mistakes (i.e., not just some simple typos). So far we only found one textbook which gives a correct proof. The other books which contain a correct proof of this theorem are either too sketchy/wordy or those books are research monographs.

Since I have no experience on writing a paper based on the “discovery” of this nature, any comment is welcome. On one hand I think it’s something to an undergrad student and on the other hand, I am not sure about what the editors think.

Thank you.

I am a 4th year Ph.D. Student. After submitting my first paper 6 months ago, I have been continuing that research. I have a lot of new methods and results, and I am almost ready to start writing again.

How do I know if I should split my research into two papers or write a single comprehensive paper? If I choose to split, how do I decide where best to split the two papers?

Without going into too much detail, I have a method that explains the causes of a fairly well studied phenomenon. I can show that there are four distinct causes of this phenomenon and explain the relative importance of each cause in different situations. If I split my research into papers 1 and 2, the conclusions of paper 1 may seem vague and inconclusive. If I combine my research into a single paper, it may be quite long and rambling. I want to choose a path that minimizes both of these problems.


My mental model for the situation is a tipi. Some of the concepts in that I need to write about have to lean on one another for support, like the tent poles of a tipi. If there are not enough concepts (or tent poles) the rest of the concepts fall short of a real conclusion; The tipi will fall over the first time there is a strong wind. There are clusters of mutually supporting concepts that I can split off into separate papers, but I have a few unique ways to divide these concepts into clusters. I suspect that any of these individual clusters will be less stable and robust that all of the concepts built into a single paper, but maybe I am just being a paranoid perfectionist.


How can I frame my dilemma to help me make this decision? What question should I ask myself to find the right balance?