My institution does not provide website support for individual PIs, so many of the faculty in my Department only have our barebones University-maintained faculty page. This page simply includes a photo, one block of text for education/training and research interests, and a link to our Google scholar profiles. Needless to say, this minimalist approach is neither eye-catching nor appealing, and it represents a tremendous missed opportunity when it comes to recruiting new students or demonstrating credibility to reviewers and program officers.
I have tried several times during the course of my pre-tenure career to develop a website for my research group, so I could have a catchy, graphical showcase for our research, our accomplishments, and our facilities/instrumentation. The last time I had done any website development was writing HTML in Notepad during the dial-up era, but many universities require newer formats, and the software for using these formats is considerably more complicated. Even with downloading templates from the web, I still spent hundreds of hours (that could have been more productively spent writing papers and proposals) trying to figure out how to make a nice-looking website and made absolutely zero progress.
As the Spring 2019 semester was winding down, I decided I was going to hire a professional website design company to create a website for my research group. My approach was to Google the phrase “Research Group Website,” to identify the websites I liked, and to find out which company was the most commonly used one for the good-looking websites. Academic Web Pages was far and away the company that produced the most websites that were attractive, eye-catching, informative, and yet still retaining clean and uncluttered functionality.
I had the pleasure of working with Sarah Boyd, and she did a tremendous job working with me through all of the stages of the design of my research group website. She spent a considerable amount of time with me going through the various logos that had been designed by professional artists until we found one that suited my tastes. Being a scientist means that I am often quite OCD by nature, and this was especially true for what I wanted from my website. Sarah was the consummate professional in all of our interactions and was extremely accommodating for all of my revision requests. She was also very understanding of how busy someone’s schedule can get during proposal-writing season, and she was always happy to work around that.
All of my colleagues are envious of how attractive my research group website is, and more than one of them have contracted Academic Web Pages for their own research groups. I especially urge all pre-tenure faculty to do this as early in their independent careers as possible – the payoff is tremendous, and it is worth every penny!
Andrew G. Tennyson, PhD
Department of Chemistry and Department of Materials Science and Engineering