Princeton University professor posts CV of his failures


When we compare ourselves to successful people, it’s easy to assume that they’ve got some sort of success gene that the rest of us don’t have. But the truth is that people who are “successful,” have failed at just as many things as the rest of us–they just know how to get up, brush themselves off, and try again…and again…annnnd again.

To prove this point in a powerful way, Johannes Haushofer, an assistant professor of psychology and public affairs at Princeton University, shared a resume that lists his failures rather than his achievements.

To be clear, Professor Haushofer has a lot of achievements, including getting a B.A. from Oxford and a PhD from Harvard, winning a wide variety of coveted fellowships, getting papers published, and acquiring teaching positions at MIT, Harvard, and Princeton. But he’s also experienced a whole lot of failure and rejection, as this CV shows.

“Most of what I try fails, but these failures are often invisible, while the successes are visible,” he wrote. “I have noticed that this sometimes gives others the impression that most things work out for me. As a result, they are more likely to attribute their own failures to themselves, rather than the fact that the world is stochastic, applications are crapshoots, and selection committees and referees have bad days.”

As Haushofer points out, he’s not the first person to do this, nor is it his original idea. He was inspired by a 2010 article written by Melanie Stefan, a lecturer at the University of Edinburgh. Now that his CV has gone viral, however, it’s inspired other people all over the world to share their own resumes of failure, to remind people that rejection is all just a normal part of the process.


Most of what I try fails, but these failures are often invisible, while the successes are visible. I have noticed that this sometimes gives others the impression that most things work out for me. As a result, they are more likely to attribute their own failures to themselves, rather than the fact that the world is stochastic, applications are crapshoots, and selection committees and referees have bad days. This CV of Failures is an attempt to balance the record and provide some perspective.

This idea is not mine, but due to a wonderful article in Nature by Melanie I. Stefan, who is a Lecturer in the School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Edinburgh. You can find her original article here, her website here, her publications here, and follow her on Twitter under @MelanieIStefan.
I am also not the first academic to post their CV of failures. Earlier examples are here, here, here, and here.

This CV is unlikely to be complete – it was written from memory and probably omits a lot of stuff. So
if it’s shorter than yours, it’s likely because you have better memory, or because you’re better at trying things than me.

Degree programs I did not get into
2008 PhD Program in Economics, Stockholm School of Economics
2003 Graduate Course in Medicine, Cambridge University
Graduate Course in Medicine, UCL
PhD Program in Psychology, Harvard University
PhD Program in Neuroscience and Psychology, Stanford University
1999 BA in International Relations, London School of Economics
Academic positions and fellowships I did not get
2014 Harvard Kennedy School Assistant Professorship
UC Berkeley Agricultural and Resource Economics Assistant Professorship
MIT Brain & Cognitive Sciences Assistant Professorship

This list is restricted to institutions where I had campus visits; the list of places where I had
first-round interviews but wasn’t invited for a campus visit, and where I wasn’t invited to
interview in the first place, is much longer and I will write it up when I get a chance. The list
also shrouds the fact that I didn’t apply to most of the top economics departments (Harvard,
MIT, Yale, Stanford, Princeton, Chicago, Berkeley, LSE) because one of my advisors felt they
could not write a strong letter for them.

Awards and scholarships I did not get
2011 Swiss Network for International Studies PhD Award
2010 Society of Fellows, Harvard University
Society in Science Scholarship
University of Zurich Research Scholarship
2009 Human Frontiers Fellowship
2007 Mind-Brain-Behavior Award (Harvard University)
2006 Mind-Brain-Behavior Award (Harvard University)
2003 Fulbright Scholarship
Haniel Scholarship (German National Merit Foundation)

Paper rejections from academic journals
2016 QJE, Experimental Economics
2015 AER x 2
2013 PNAS, Experimental Economics, Science, Neuron
2009 AER
2008 Science, Neuron, Nature Neuroscience, Journal of Neuroscience, Journal of Vision

Research funding I did not get
2016 MQ Mental Health Research Grant
2015 Russell Sage Research Grant (two separate ones)
2013 National Science Foundation Research Grant
2010 University of Zurich Research Grant
Swiss National Science Foundation Research Grant
2009 Financial Innovation Grant
International Labor Organization Research Grant
3ie Research Grant

2016 This darn CV of Failures has received way more attention than my entire body of academic

Physicists discover the Majorna Particle, originally predicted in 1937, which is simultaneously matter and anti-matter

Since the 1930s scientists have been searching for particles that are simultaneously matter and antimatter. Now physicists have found strong evidence for one such entity inside a superconducting material. The discovery could represent the first so-called Majorana particle, and may help researchers encode information for quantum computers.

Physicists think that every particle of matter has an antimatter counterpart with equal mass but opposite charge. When matter meets its antimatter equivalent, the two annihilate one another. But some particles might be their own antimatter partners, according to a 1937 prediction by Italian physicist Ettore Majorana. For the first time researchers say they have imaged one of these Majorana particles, and report their findings in the October 3 Science.

The new Majorana particle showed up inside a superconductor, a material in which the free movement of electrons allows electricity to flow without resistance. The research team, led by Ali Yazdani of Princeton University, placed a long chain of iron atoms, which are magnetic, on top of a superconductor made of lead. Normally, magnetism disrupts superconductors, which depend on a lack of magnetic fields for their electrons to flow unimpeded. But in this case the magnetic chain turned into a special type of superconductor in which electrons next to one another in the chain coordinated their spins to simultaneously satisfy the requirements of magnetism and superconductivity. Each of these pairs can be thought of as an electron and an antielectron, with a negative and a positive charge, respectively. That arrangement, however, leaves one electron at each end of the chain without a neighbor to pair with, causing them to take on the properties of both electrons and antielectrons—in other words, Majorana particles.

As opposed to particles found in a vacuum, unattached to other matter, these Majoranas are what’s called “emergent particles.” They emerge from the collective properties of the surrounding matter and could not exist outside the superconductor.

The new study shows a convincing signature of Majorana particles, says Leo Kouwenhoven of the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands who was not involved in the research but previously found signs of Majorana particles in a different superconductor arrangement. “But to really speak of full proof, unambiguous evidence, I think you have to do a DNA test.” Such a test, he says, must show the particles do not obey the normal laws of the two known classes of particles in nature—fermions (protons, electrons and most other particles we are familiar with) and bosons (photons and other force-carrying particles, including the Higgs boson). “The great thing about Majoranas is that they are potentially a new class of particle,” Kouwenhoven adds. “If you find a new class of particles, that really would add a new chapter to physics.”

Physicist Jason Alicea of California Institute of Technology, who also did not participate in the research, said the study offers “compelling evidence” for Majorana particles but that “we should keep in mind possible alternative explanations—even if there are no immediately obvious candidates.” He praised the experimental setup for its apparent ability to easily produce the elusive Majoranas. “One of the great virtues of their platform relative to earlier works is that it allowed the researchers to apply a new type of microscope to probe the detailed anatomy of the physics.”

The discovery could have implications for searches for free Majorana particles outside of superconducting materials. Many physicists suspect neutrinos—very lightweight particles with the strange ability to alter their identities, or flavors—are Majorana particles, and experiments are ongoing to investigate whether this is the case. Now that we know Majorana particles can exist inside superconductors, it might not be surprising to find them in nature, Yazdani says. “Once you find the concept to be correct, it’s very likely that it shows up in another layer of physics. That’s what’s exciting.”

The finding could also be useful for constructing quantum computers that harness the laws of quantum mechanics to make calculations many times faster than conventional computers. One of the main issues in building a quantum computer is the susceptibility of quantum properties such as entanglement (a connection between two particles such that an action on one affects the other) to collapse due to outside interference. A particle chain with Majoranas capping each end would be somewhat immune to this danger, because damage would have to be done to both ends simultaneously to destroy any information encoded there. “You could build a quantum bit based on these Majoranas,” Yazdani says. ”The idea is that such a bit would be much more robust to the environment than the types of bits people have tried to make so far.”