Conferences are not really about the talks, they're about socializing and gossip. Who's having an affair with whom? Who's been drinking too much? It's for answers to questions like these for which we brave jet lag, find others to teach classes for us, endure conference food&hellip.
Well, not quite. Poets and artists might gossip about such things, but scientists are on a higher plane, of course; we're beings of pure reason, are we not? The questions that concern us tend to be more of the form "Who's deserted University X for University Y?" & "Who's been spending weeks holed up in his room thinking about Conjecture Z?". And while I'm sure there are those of you who want to know more about the various research addictions triggered off by Razborov's proof of Bazzi's theorem, jobs news is probably of more general interest.
So here's what I've learned in the past week:
Emanuele Viola → Northeastern
Andrej Bogdanov → Chinese University of Hong Kong
Nisheeth Vishnoi → LRI, Paris
Neeraj Kayal → Microsoft Research, Bangalore
Brent Waters → University of Texas, Austin
Shang Hua-Teng → University of Southern California, Los Angeles
[Lance's Note: Rahul Santhanam → Edinburgh]
I rely on commenters to make good the omissions.
It certainly seems as if there's been more movement than usual on the job scene since STOC. The grad students and postdocs I've talked to seem pretty apprehensive about the market for next year, and with fair reason, I think. The market hasn't been that great for theory in the past couple of years, in any case, and the financial crisis seems likely to lead to funding cuts and more hiring freezes.
Perhaps there is some cause for optimism in the increasing number of postdocs available? The improvement in the NSF situation in the past couple of years means that more faculty in North America are able to hire postdocs. The emergence of Microsoft Research, Cambridge and the new Center for Computational Intractability in Princeton certainly won't hurt. But while having more postdocs around is good for our field, it might not be such a good thing from the point of view of the postdocs themselves. First, there is the intrinsic transience of the position - I had very good research environments in my postdocs at Simon Fraser and Toronto, but I never escaped the feeling of being in Purgatory. Second, there's the fact that job applications and interviews are very time consuming - it's hard to be productive when you know your entire future career might depend on how well you can advertise your research. And do we really want theoretical computer science to become like theoretical physics, where it's normal for graduating students to expect a postdoc apprenticeship of 6-7 years before they can find a permanent job?
For theorists not intent on getting a job in North America, the situation might be a little better. There are increasing opportunities in Europe and especially in Asia, as recent job news indicates. In general, the best attitude might be to be realistic about your prospects and to use the competitiveness of the market as motivation for your research.