The following question has generated some controversy regarding whether it is on-topic. (Edit: The question was subsequently moved to Math Overflow, having been closed here.)

What areas of pure mathematics research are best for a post-PhD transition to industry?

The argument that it's on-topic is that it's related to the advising of students, in this case Ph.D. students. Here are some other possible questions about student advising:

  • What should an undergraduate math major do to prepare for being an actuary?

  • Is it better for a potential biology major to take AP Calculus or AP Statistics?

  • Are there certain courses that an undergraduate student should take before applying to graduate programs in operations research?

  • Is there any reason for a math Ph.D. student to do a postdoc if they eventually want to teach at a small liberal arts college?

See also several other questions that have been asked under the "advising" tag. So my questions are:

  1. Are questions about student advising generally on topic?

  2. If so, is there anything in particular that makes the linked question different?

Note: As quid points out in the comments to the linked question, the following meta thread is also related:

Posting employment questions (about math jobs)

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The question has been removed by the author. I think that I was too hasty in my request to close it and I regret that. :( $\endgroup$
    – Roland
    Commented Apr 2, 2014 at 0:03
  • $\begingroup$ The OP has moved it to Math Overflow. $\endgroup$
    – Jim Belk
    Commented Apr 2, 2014 at 0:06

3 Answers 3


I also think that questions about advising students should be generally on-topic, but, as pointed out in other answers, they may be on-topic also on MO/MSE or on academia.se.

The difference is the emphasis of the question. I had the impression that the wording of this particular question made it an ideal candidate for academia.se, but of course I can be wrong here. It is difficult where to draw the line. I would like to have this site concentrate more on the teaching profession, and academia.se to concentrate more on advice concerning academic life, career paths, etc., but, again, there is no clear line between these.

The question was also rather broad, the answer may depend heavily on the location of that particular student.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Generally speaking (especially since our site is new and small) we should not be too concerned to find the "best" site for a question. We mainly should focus on the problem if it fits here or if it does not fit here. Put differently 'There is a better site.' is not a reason for migration (technically or informally). The question needs to be off-topic here on its own merits, to put it on hold as such; pointing out other sites is only an additional (later) service we provide. [I admit the official text for migration with 'belongs to' is a bit misleading.] $\endgroup$
    – quid
    Commented Apr 2, 2014 at 7:59

Here's my attempt at a solid dividing line to help with the closed question:

  • If the question is about advising students, it can go here.
  • If the question is about mathematics, it should not go here.

I am trying to draw a line between these two similar questions:

  • "What mathematics courses form a good sequence for a new math major?" should be on-topic here.
  • "What mathematics courses are most relevant to a student interested in biology?" should be off-topic here.

The reason is because the second question asks for an assessment of different areas of mathematics. It is a question about mathematics. In contrast, the first question asks for an assessment of different educational paths for a student. It is not a question about mathematics.

The referred-to question is a question about mathematics, not about advising. A related but on-topic question might be

  • How can I advise advanced students to keep industry positions in mind, in case they decide not to go into academia?
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I can understand the distinction you want to make and I agree that OP likley should have rephrased their question a bit from the version that was asked on MO. But on the other hand it seems to me by intent and for all practical purposes the question under discussion is not only related but really equivalent to a question following your example question. So the difference seems mainly formal to me. There is some merit in insisting on such formal things. But suggesting an approporiate rephrasing ccould be an alternative to a vote close in such case. $\endgroup$
    – quid
    Commented Apr 2, 2014 at 8:05

I think that advising and counseling students is part of the informal education professors are providing and this site should help to improve this kind of education as well.

Thus, I think that questions on giving mathematics related advice to students is, generally speaking, on topic.


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