About Phds.org

PhDs.org was originally created with the help of a number of students while I was an assistant professor in the Math Department at Dartmouth College. The site was made possible by the generous support of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and a Burke Research Initiation Award from Dartmouth College. I have continued to run the site on my own since moving to Microsoft Research and subsequently to a consulting career.

The goal of the site is help students to prepare for the changing demands of today’s job market and to provide a voice for early career scientists.

From the Vox of Dartmouth , Feb. 1-14, 1998, Vol. XVI, #15

New Website Assists Students in Finding Grad Schools and Jobs

There is plenty of talk about the need to refocus graduate education in science, particularly the need to redress the current “glut” of young people with doctorates who are unable to find work in their fields. G. Davis, assistant professor of mathematics, would like to inspire some grass-roots action.

Using the tools and technology of his profession — mathematics and the Internet — Davis has begun an interactive web site that brings together, in new ways, tools that graduate students can use to find jobs and that potential students can use to select graduate programs. As editor of the site, www.phds.org, Davis has culled the literature on science education and science policy to provide a site visitor with a thorough grounding in the history and market forces that have shaped the nation’s science and science education policies. The site also includes links to excellent resources on networking, writing a curriculum vita, interviewing and writing grants.

The software that runs the site, written by Jun Shen, ’98, allows visitors to contribute new material. Michael Pryor, ’98, is exploring statistical techniques to analyze the way visitors use the site so that new visitors can be steered toward the content most relevant to their individual interests. An on-line dialogue about the future of science and science education- in the form of a moderated email discussion – is in the works.

“What we’re creating is a public space,” Davis says. “We’re trying to create a resource that the whole science community can contribute to, a resource that will enable them to think about graduate education in a new way.”

Davis is involved in efforts to reshape science education policy in a number of arenas. In December, he was one of 17 young scientists and mathematicians participating in a House Science Committee-sponsored roundtable discussion on the future of research and education. The meeting is part of a congressional initiative to overhaul long-range U.S. science and technology policy. In March, Davis is organizing a workshop with the Commission on Professionals in Science and Technology that will coordinate efforts to gather data about post-graduation employment patterns for Ph.D.s. He hopes that such data will lead to publicly available departmental “report cards” that disclose such information as attrition rates, time to degree, and placement rates for each department’s graduates.

“Graduate school is a risky investment — there are no guarantees,” says Davis. “Public disclosure at least lets prospective students make more informed decisions.”

Moreover, he argues, this type of accountability would provide graduate programs with incentives to keep pace with the sweeping changes taking place in the market for Ph.D.s.

The National Research Council performed a detailed evaluation of graduate programs in 1994, providing data on 20 different criteria for each program. “The way the NRC data are presented focuses students’ attention entirely on the perceived scholarly quality of the faculty,” he says. “Other important qualities, such as the Dartmouth math department’s low student-to-faculty ratio and its commitment to training effective teachers, are missed.”

The web site lets visitors assign a level of importance to each of the NRC criteria and then generates customized program rankings . “This allows potential students to devise their own criteria – a small program, for example, or one that has been successful in graduating a high proportion of women in fields where women are underrepresented.” Davis says he will be keeping a record of these personalized rating systems, and will share his results with the NRC.

– Nancy Serrell

Credits

Past webmasters, software developers, and database gurus:

Albin Jones, Dartmouth College Ph.D. ’99
Adam Clayton, Dartmouth ’00
Jun Shen, Dartmouth ’98
Michael Pryor, Dartmouth ’98
Dave Santoro, Dartmouth ’98

Funding

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
Walter and Constance Burke Research Initiation Award, Dartmouth College