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A train to Tenure April 7, 2008

Posted by dorigo in personal, physics, travel.

I am sitting on an EuroStar train to Rome right now, and I am thinking at all the time it took me to get here.

Rome is not my final destination: it is rather Frascati, a bit further South, where the headquarters of INFN are located. INFN (for Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare, the italian national institute for nuclear physics) is the organization which hired me in 2005 with a 5-year contract. In November that year I passed a national selection (a tough one at that) for 16 positions as HEP researcher which had been made available in a dozen different sections throughout Italy: for the first time INFN had radically changed the selection rules of their scientific personnel, centralizing the admission tests in order to avoid the usual misdemeanors that so frequently happened every time a position was to be filled at one site.

I got first place at the exam, and that was a satisfaction for me -there were about 200 candidates-, but the result of winning it was not, as in past INFN selections, a permanent position as a researcher, but a mere 5-years contract. INFN swore back then that they had already decided these temporary positions would be changed into tenured ones as the first chance arose; but guess what?, it turned out that they could not keep their word to the full.

I am now given a chance to obtain tenure, but that may only happen by passing one further selection exam -formally, not different from other selections: I had to send in a copy of all my publications (a bit less than 300 papers), a detailed resume, certifications of all sorts. In truth, it should be just a formality: a colloquium where I explain what I have done during these last three years as a contract researcher. Nevertheless, it really amounts to one further exam. Somebody will have to judge me and decide whether I am fit for tenure or not.

Of course, I am quite relaxed and I have not even read back the summary of these three years (which I sent with my application three months ago) to prepare for the colloquium. The trip to Frascati will not be unpleasant: just a bit boring, maybe.

This whole affair is obviously a matter of some embarassment for INFN, and since INFN is my employer, I should probably refrain from commenting further. And so I will, but I will only add that my first day as a post-doc, with Harvard University, was October 1st, 1998. It took me about 3500 days to catch this train.



1. TomW - April 7, 2008

Good luck Tommaso!

2. Jon Lester - April 7, 2008

In bocca al lupo!


3. Matteo Martini - April 8, 2008

Hi Tommaso,
I am curious so I would like to ask you just a small question, totally unrelated from the topic.
I hope you will not mind..

About how many hours a day you spend in preparing your blog?

I think it is incredibly well done, and I assume all this herculean effort (writing such detailed and comprehensive posts almost every day) should take a lot of time.

Sorry for the derail from the topic, and keep up with your good work!!


4. Nikita Nikolaev - April 8, 2008


3500 days is long enough for anything, even something very small, to be magnified to enormous significance, not to speak how much this one must. I truly wish you that this train has nice handrails with a firm grip.

Hopefully, I will catch a similar train sometime and somewhere, too.

5. dorigo - April 8, 2008

Hi Jon, Nikita, thank you for the encouragement. Nikita, the good thing about the true wishes that one makes is that they have the strong tendency of becoming true. So I am sure you will catch your train one day. Only, be sure it is going where you want it to go.

Hi Matteo,
I think “incredibly well done” is a bit over the top, but I appreciate the compliment… In any case, it takes me about one hour a day to keep this thing going. If you do it regularly, you become very time-effective in producing blog posts, and some may even be meaningful.

Cheers all,

6. Tripitaka - April 8, 2008

Incredibly well done sounds about right to me… wasn’t it Peter Woit who reckoned this site almost made it sound as though HEP was still exciting!

7. dorigo - April 9, 2008

Well, Tripitaka, I can only say I am flattered… Maybe I make HEP look exciting without too much effort because I really think it is!


8. dorigo - April 9, 2008

Hi Tom,

a belated thank you… Your comment was grabbed by the spam filter!

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