Top Schools Wooing Grad Student

Rising Faculty Star: Alison Farmer (Inside Higher Ed)

Alison Farmer, a fifth-year graduate student in astrophysics at Caltech, was all over the Astrophysics Rumor Mill this winter; she received fellowship offers from MIT, Berkeley and Harvard.

Q: When you are as sought after as you are, do universities engage in a bidding war? Salary? Graduate assistants? Lab facilities? What kinds of things are being offered and what did (or might) put someone over the top?

A: The bidding war is quite intense and stressful! I received lots of phone calls from distinguished professors telling me why their institution is the best choice for me. Duration of position is one area in which institutions compete. Office space and research funds are also negotiable. It is very difficult to decide between the top few universities in terms of academics. In the end I chose the Society of Fellows at Harvard because there I will have the opportunity to interact with academics from all subjects, not just scientists. Also, moving away from my advisor will give me the chance to work more independently and work with new people.

I hasten to point out that this experience is not typical.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Tig says:

    It took me three reads to figure out she was not a fifth grader. I am quite sure the threat of snow has fogged my thinking processes.

  2. And judging by her webpage she’s cute too.

  3. Mark Hasty says:

    I hasten to point out that this experience is not typical.

    Speak for yourself!

  4. I hasten to point out that this experience is not typical.

    Yeah James, speak for yourself. I once had one of the NOVA community colleges offer me $1,500 to teach a course. Do you have any idea what you can do with that kind of money?

  5. Kent says:

    And judging by her webpage she’s cute too.

    De gustibus non disputandem est.

  6. cirby says:

    She’ll probably end up working on deep-space radar telemetry with Samantha Carter…

  7. David Harris says:

    Well, she better make up her mind. Today’s National Signing Day!!

  8. McGehee says:

    Kent, he said “cute,” not drop-dead gorgeous.