Let’s assume you are writing a cover letter for a tenure-track position in the US in computer science. In the cover letter, you would like to express your affinity to potential research areas and your openedness to collaboration with the corresponding researchers. You do not wish to promise collaboration, since it always involves the other side. How to formulate it properly and concisely?

Here is a sample I found somewhere online (don’t ask me where):

At the School of GreatDiscipline at the ImportantCity College I would:

  • 〈irony〉 grab away your students for my useless projects 〈/irony〉

  • 〈irony〉 spend lots of your money without return 〈/irony〉

  • 〈irony〉 finally reduce the percentage of women down to zero 〈/irony〉

  • welcome collaboration with the researchers from the areas X, Y, and Z,

(Of course, replace the ironical parts by proper formulations.)
Here are some choices I considered:

[

  • be open to …
  • envisage …
  • favor …
  • promote …
  • facilitate …
  • offer …
  • welcome …

collaboration with …].

All of them seem not ideal to me; I’m stuck. Some of them might be even a poor choice. Any suggestion for an appropriate phrase?

Specializing the question
Who to address on the cover letter?,
let’s assume that you apply for a tenure-track position in the US in computer science, that the job announcement has no particular individual listed, and that Google/Bing/Yahoo led you to, say, “recruiting committee” (as opposed to “search team”). Then, which opening would be proper:

To Whom It May Concern

or

Dear Recruiting Committee

or

Dear Representative of the Recruiting Committee

or

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen

?

How about the punctuation after the opening? No punctuation, a comma, or a colon? I.e.:

〈Whatever opening〉

〈Whatever opening〉,

〈Whatever opening〉:

All are o.k. according to the broad English grammar, but, in academia things might be more special.

Specializing the question
Who to address on the cover letter?,
let’s assume that you apply for a tenure-track position in the US in computer science, that the job announcement has no particular individual listed, and that Google/Bing/Yahoo led you to, say, “recruiting committee” (as opposed to “search team”). Then, which opening would be proper:

To Whom It May Concern

or

Dear Recruiting Committee

or

Dear Representative of the Recruiting Committee

or

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen

?

How about the punctuation after the opening? No punctuation, a comma, or a colon? I.e.:

〈Whatever opening〉

〈Whatever opening〉,

〈Whatever opening〉:

All are o.k. according to the broad English grammar, but, in academia things might be more special.

After a PhD in Biomedical Engineering (focus on Imaging and Robotics) with a decent publication record and some prestigious fellowships, I took on an industry research position at a well-known company, where I’ve been for 1.5 yrs. Still, I’ve kept one foot in academia with the goal/hope of one day returning (for the usual reasons: opportunity to do longer-term research, publish, mentor, etc).

Specifically, I’ve been collaborating with a well-known PI from a different field (Neuroscience) who needed help with a “side-project” (applying machine learning and related techniques to complex neuroimaging data). The project has gone further than expected, and we are close to publishing a paper. I expressed interest in continuing this work and, to my surprise, he invited me to interview; it went well, and I’ve been offered a postdoc position. Furthermore, since he lacks computational expertise, he wants to set me up with a co-mentor who is renown in the machine learning field.

I’m looking for opinions on how risky it’d be to make this jump. My concerns are:

  1. Field change. While I’ve taught myself a range of computational techniques through this project (and through my industry
    job), my prior publications were not in this field.
    Neuroscience is even newer for me. Even assuming a productive postdoc, I worry about my
    competitiveness for future TT positions compared to people
    who did their PhD’s in these exact areas (what do I bring that they couldn’t bring?). I’m also concerned
    about my CV appearing disjointed.
  2. The mentorship situation, since the PI himself is not a computational expert. The people in the co-mentor’s lab are experts, of course, but I do not know them as well (yet).

Reasons this could be great:

  1. I get to do more long-term, basic research in an area
    in which I’ve always been
    interested.
  2. The main PI and I have worked well together, and he is genuinely interested in mentoring me, helping me apply for postdoc/early-career funding, establish independence, etc.
  3. If the co-mentorship situation works out as planned, I’ll receive great training from both sides.
  4. Hopefully by having a head start and being close to a paper
    already, I’d hit the ground running.

My options are pretty straightforward: Say no and continue my current industry job; say no and start looking for strong postdoc labs closer to my area of expertise (or another industry research position that prioritizes publications and longer-term research); or jump on board and swim!

TLDR: I’m “stuck” between two good options – terrible situation, I know. Still, I’ve been on the fence, as it’s hard giving up a permanent position in industry for a risky alternative. I’d like to know if my concerns are valid, and I’m curious what others would do in my shoes. Apologies for the overly long post, and thanks very much for the feedback!

I currently accepted a TT position in a Canadian university (let’s call it “Univ. A”). I have now a on campus interview (again for TT position) at a more prestigious US university (call it “Univ. B”). Now I have a dilemma, about whether to go on campus interview at “Univ. B”.

Pros of “Univ A”.

  • “Univ. A” faculty members were very helpful: they saved my position for a semester while waiting for me to gain the work permit (I am an Asian immigrant), instead of letting the dean to choose the next ranked candidate (Canadian hirings give priority to citizens and permanent residents).

  • They spent university money to help me work out the immigration documents, and now I am Canadian permanent resident. This allows me to move to any other Canadian university unhindered by immigration requirements (I almost had a TT job gone for this…).

  • I will have much easier access to funding, at department, university and governmental level.

  • Tenure process is simpler, and I could realistically get a shot for tenure in 3-4 years.

Cons of “Univ. A”:

  • No PhD program, and lower prestige, although I could easily co-advise PhDs from other universities.
  • Geographically isolated, 1000km to the nearest transportation hub, although flying between them is cheap and convenient
  • Salary is 12 months (like in Canadian universities).

Pros of “Univ. B”:

  • “Univ. B” is more prestigious than “Univ. A”, has a PhD program, and is better located geographically.
  • I have intensive collaborations with a junior faculty from “Univ. B”
  • Nominal salary might be higher, through take home salary would be the same as “Univ. A”, but this salary is 9 months (like in US universities)

Cons of “Univ. B”:

  • Funding is much harder to come by, and no sign of improvement in the current US situation (NSF grants are crazy competitive as for now).
  • Tenure not only is longer (6 years), but more uncertain due to the difficulty in securing funding.
  • Although this is an issue I would not previously consider, but since I almost had my TT job gone for immigration issues, the current US situation is not rosy, since H1B visas are under intense scrutiny… and I would have to relinquish Canadian permanent residence, while the US green card doesn’t seem to get any easier

Other considerations:

  1. “Univ. A” is a firm TT job, while “Univ. B” is just a campus interview (I am ranked last of 5 now, after skype interview, since I got the campus interview only after someone withdrew). Going to campus interview is no mean guarantee of offer, but will likely sour my relation with faculties of “Univ. A” since campus interview candidates is open information…
  2. I am unsure if after all what faculties of “Univ. A” did to help me, going to the interview would seen as “opportunistic” that will harm my ability to move to other/better places in Canada/US later (e.g. near tenure process)
  3. On a more personal note: I am dating a junior TT faculty at “Univ. B”, if I get the offer there, but relation turns sour, it may be quite a mess… If it works, I may try to join “Univ. B” later (moreover, getting NSERC grants would be easier than NSF grants, and quite a help for tenure process. Also I am much better networked in Canada than US, which could jumpstart my early career)

Apologies for the long post. I am not only unsure whether to go on campus interview at “Univ. B”, but also how to respond in a way not to burn bridges. Thank you.

Let us assume that a postdoc is applying for a tenure-track faculty position in computer science in an English- or German-speaking country. After submitting the application, the postdoc contacted certain faculty members of the target institution and gave them a heads-up about the application. Now, you are one of the contacted members. You work in the same field, but know nothing about the candidate; you have not cited his/her papers or vice versa, you’ve never chatted with him/her, and no senior person has spoken in his/her favor or against him/her. What is your usual approach towards the candidate’s request for attention? Here are some possibilities:

  1. That’s spam. You don’t know the sender and don’t have time to care; you move the letter to the trash bin and stay neutral.

  2. The applicant seems to be too weak, arrogant, or in despair so that he/she has to speak for himself (instead of his advisor); you decide to vote against him/her.

  3. The applicant’s area is near to yours; you decide to take a look at his/her application to find out whether a future collaboration is deemed possible.

  4. You copy-and-paste a boilerplate standard answer. (E.g. “Your research and teaching statements as well as your CV are very impressive! Unfortunately, I’m only very marginally involved into the hiring process. If the hiring committee asks me, I’ll bring their attention to your application.”) You really don’t wish to be influenced but get kudos in case the candidate gets the job.

  5. … (your experience goes here) …

(An aside: this question is different from How is the applicant's bringing attention to his/her own application viewed if you know little about him/her? : there, you know something, though little, about the candidate.)

Let us assume that a postdoc is applying for a tenure-track faculty position in computer science in an English- or German-speaking country. After submitting the application, the postdoc contacted certain faculty members of the target institution and gave them a heads-up about the application. Now, you are one of the contacted members. You work in the same field, but know nothing about the candidate; you have not cited his/her papers or vice versa, you’ve never chatted with him/her, and no senior person has spoken in his/her favor or against him/her. What is your usual approach towards the candidate’s request for attention? Here are some possibilities:

  1. That’s spam. You don’t know the sender and don’t have time to care; you move the letter to the trash bin and stay neutral.

  2. The applicant seems to be too weak, arrogant, or in despair so that he/she has to speak for himself (instead of his advisor); you decide to vote against him/her.

  3. The applicant’s area is near to yours; you decide to take a look at his/her application to find out whether a future collaboration is deemed possible.

  4. You copy-and-paste a boilerplate standard answer. (E.g. “Your research and teaching statements as well as your CV are very impressive! Unfortunately, I’m only very marginally involved into the hiring process. If the hiring committee asks me, I’ll bring their attention to your application.”) You really don’t wish to be influenced but get kudos in case the candidate gets the job.

  5. … (your experience goes here) …

(An aside: this question is different from How is the applicant's bringing attention to his/her own application viewed if you know little about him/her? : there, you know something, though little, about the candidate.)

Let us assume that a postdoc is applying for a tenure-track faculty position in computer science in an English- or German-speaking country. After having submitted his/her application, the postdoc contacted certain faculty members of the target institution and gave them a heads-up about his/her application. Now, you are one of the contacted members. You work in the same field, but know little or nothing about the candidate; you have not cited his/her papers or vice versa, and no senior person has spoken in his/her favor or against him/her. What is your usual approach towards the candidate’s request for attention? Here are some possibilities:

  1. That’s spam. You don’t know the sender and don’t have time to care; you move the letter to the trash bin and stay neutral.

  2. The applicant seems to be too weak, arrogant, or in despair so that he/she has to speak for himself (instead of his advisor); you decide to vote against him/her.

  3. The applicant’s area is near to yours; you decide to take a look at his/her application to find out whether a future collaboration is deemed possible.

  4. You copy-and-paste a boilerplate standard answer. (E.g. “Your research and teaching statements as well as your CV are very impressive! Unfortunately, I’m only very marginally involved into the hiring process. If the hiring committee asks me, I’ll drive their attention to your application.”) You really don’t wish to be influenced but get kudos in case the candidate gets the job.

  5. … (your experience goes here) …

Let us assume that you are a postdoc applying for a tenure-track faculty position in computer science in an English- or German-speaking country. After having submitted your application, you contacted certain faculty members of the target institution and gave them a heads-up about your application. The contacted members work in the same field but are not personally known to you. (An aside: it’s better if a senior person speaks in your favor, but, for the purpose of this very question, this choice is not available.) Now, how is your request for attention usually taken? Here are some possibilities:

  1. The contacted member doesn’t know the sender and doesn’t have time to care; he/she moves the letter to the trash bin.

  2. The applicant is too weak and arrogant so that he/she has to speak for himself (instead of his advisor); let’s ignore him/her.

  3. The applicant’s area is near to mine; let’s look at his/her application to find whether a future collaboration is possible.

  4. … (your experience goes here) …

In your opinion, what are the most serious common mistakes that continental European candidates for tenure-track assistant-professor positions in Computer Science in the US commit in their cover letters?

(An aside: before you lambast me, I clearly cannot expand on the parts of my cover letter, but I think that such a question need not be narrowed to my personal situation even further. I hope this question would help people like me.)

I am particularly interested in hearing from people who have served on search committees in CS in the US, or from applicants who have gone through the search process in CS in the US and received feedback. So if you fit either of these descriptions, please say so.

EDIT: narrowed down from application to cover letter.