Thursday, January 22, 2009

Assistant Professor

I am an Assistant Professor.

I would like to ask the powers that be (either at CMU or in the world at large) to change the title "Assistant Professor" to something that sounds a little more...important? Maybe "Young Professor?" I'll even take "Professorling."

After I gave a keynote talk at a conference for CTOs and CIOs of large corporations, a very nice gentleman asked me this: "You seem to have accomplished a lot; why are you only an assistant to a professor and not an actual professor?"

For those of you who don't know this, let me set the record straight: (at least in the United States) Assistant Professor is the job title given to professors when they start their tenure-track job at a university. It does not mean we are an assistant to a real professor. It just means we have been a professor for less than six years.

Mom: I swear, I'm a real professor.

Boss: In case it's not feasible to change this general title within the university, another way to fix my particular problem is to simply remove the word assistant from my own title.


  1. I second your proposal for a less confusing name.

    On the other hand, consider yourself lucky for being an assistant professor in the states.
    In many other parts of the world, assistant professors do have to work "like" an assistant to senior faculty in addition to doing their own job of being a real professor.

  2. Better might be to simplify the system to just Apprentice and Master Professors. You become a Master after defeating another Master in single combat.

  3. The CMU chemistry department has a Lord Professor of Chemistry, which has to be one of the best titles ever.

  4. or you could always pay to endow a chair for yourself. I'd chip in $5 if you could be called the Pwn Professor of Computer Science.

  5. I've always wanted to endow my own chair and be: Luis von Ahn, the Luis von Ahn professor of computer science.

  6. What do they call you then if you are the 2nd graduate assistant to the assistant professor - the 2nd assistant of the assistant?

  7. There is a famous joke about "administratium", the most important element of bureaucracy. It has one proton, four neutrons, eight vice neutrons, 20 assisitant vice neutrons...

  8. Too bad they won't take a note from industry. You could have Professor and Senior Professor. I'm sure there's a third level that I don't know.