1.1 Summary

1.2 Institutional Support

1.3 RAP vs. Postdoc

1.4 RAP vs. Assistant Professor

1.5 RAP vs. “Research Scientist” and similar positions

1.6 Current and past RAPs

1.1 Summary: A Research Assistant Professor (RAP) at TTIC is a fixed-term, non-tenure track faculty position. It is fully funded by the Institute, and focuses on research. TTIC RAPs are independent, eligible to be PIs or co-PIs on grants, have no compulsory teaching duties, and are able to co-advise students, serve on thesis committees, and host summer interns if they wish. The position is intended to help researchers in the beginning of their careers to build strong portfolios of research and to prepare for more senior/permanent research positions in academia and industry, but without the overhead and stress often associated with junior faculty positions.

TTIC seeks RAPs working on any topics relevant to the Institute’s core areas, covering the spectrum from application domains (such as robotics, vision, computational biology, speech, language, and graphics) to theoretical areas (such as algorithms, information theory, and learning theory).

RAPs interact with faculty, postdocs, and PhD students at TTIC and also have ample opportunity to work with colleagues at the University of Chicago. The RAP position is in many ways “the best of both worlds,” combining the research-focused, distraction-free nature of postdoctoral positions with the independence, flexibility and status of faculty positions. It is intended, and has been used by many past RAPs, as a launching pad for permanent tenure-track and industrial research positions.

1.2 Institutional Support: RAPs are provided an academic-year salary (as is standard for faculty of all ranks in the US), and may also supplement their salary with grant funding or visiting arrangements in academia or industry. In addition, RAPs get an initial computing budget and have access to substantial shared computational resources at TTIC. RAPs also receive an annual research budget to help with travel, equipment, visitor hosting, and other expenses.

1.3 RAP vs Postdoc: Unlike postdocs, RAPs are members of the TTIC faculty, both in title and in substance. The biggest additional differences between an RAP and a traditional postdoctoral position are:

(1) RAPs are independent. While each RAP is assigned a mentor who helps them make connections and ensure they have what they need to succeed, there is no supervisor and no assigned projects or topics. RAPs are free to set their own agenda.

(2) The RAP position comes with three years of guaranteed funding. There are no strings attached and no conditions on continuing availability of funds as is often the case with postdocs.

(3) RAPs are eligible to serve as PIs on grants, which is not typically possible in postdoctoral positions.

(4) RAPs can select and supervise visiting students. These students are funded by the research budget provided by TTIC, by external funds, and/or by sharing funding with other TTIC faculty members.

1.4 RAP vs. Assistant Professor: The main difference is that RAP is a fixed-term appointment (the full term is three years, although some RAPs choose to go on the job market for their next position and leave earlier). The RAP position offers many of the advantages and perks of a typical tenure-track assistant professor, but without most of the associated stress:

(1) RAPs do not have to teach. However, they can teach if they choose to. Some past RAPs have taught core TTIC courses, and others have offered courses of their own design.

(2) RAPs can and usually do work with students (at TTIC and at the University of Chicago), but are not expected to support them financially. RAPs do not serve as sole primary advisors for TTIC PhD students, but often are co-advisors.

(3) RAPs are not expected to raise extramural funds, but if they choose, they may be PIs or co-PIs on grant proposals, to both government agencies and corporate sponsors. Many RAPs do this to build skills in grant writing, to establish connections with peers and funding agencies, and to obtain additional funding for their work. In most cases, when an RAP receives a grant at TTIC and then accepts a faculty position elsewhere, the balance at the end of the RAP position can be transferred to the new institution, helping the newly minted tenure-track faculty hit the ground running.

(4) RAPs are not required to engage in internal service at the Institute, although they often choose to serve on thesis committees of students they advise, participate in the faculty hiring process, and get involved in other ways such as workshop organization.

1.5 RAP vs. “Research Scientist” and similar positions: Many academic institutions have non-tenure track positions, often with “research” in the title. These are usually “soft money” positions, with the salary and research budget tied to a specific project or topic and/or working with a particular team, and they often lack guarantees beyond a single year or less. In contrast, RAPs have a guaranteed salary and budget for three years and are fully independent in their choice of research topics and collaborators. More generally, while many traditional non-tenure track research positions are intended as a career track parallel to tenured faculty, RAPs are designed to be a fixed-term stepping stone position.

1.6 Current RAPs are listed on TTIC’s Faculty page. Previous RAPs can be seen on our Faculty Alumni page. Many of them have gone on to tenure-track positions in top academic institutions and to research scientist positions at leading industrial research labs.