Roles, Ranks, and Promotions


As with all positions at UMBC, everyone involved in CSST is either in a faculty role or a staff role. Staff roles vary greatly across the university. Faculty roles are defined more narrowly, and detailed in the UMBC Faculty Handbook. Most positions within CSST are faculty roles.

Roles and Ranks

The following roles exist within CSST:

  • Senior Research Scientist/Engineer – This role reflects a rank parallel to Full Professor. In addition to the qualifications required for Associate Research Scientist/Engineer, incumbents have demonstrated a degree of proficiency sufficient to establish an excellent reputation among regional and national colleagues. They will have demonstrated the ability to contribute to scientific/engineering work through the ability to lead or significantly contribute to the proposal of large projects or many significant complimentary smaller ones. While timing will vary, advancement to this rank within CSST corresponds to a body of accomplishments equivalent to at least fifteen years of productive growth as a scholar beyond that expected for the completion of a PhD.
  • Associate Research Scientist/Engineer – This role reflects a rank parallel to Associate Professor. Incumbents have extensive successful scholarly experience, and the ability to propose, develop, and manage manage small research projects or key parts of large projects. While timing will vary, advancement to this rank within CSST corresponds to a body of accomplishments equivalent to at least ten years of productive growth as a scholar beyond that expected for the completion of a PhD.
  • Assistant Research Scientist/Engineer – This role reflects a rank parallel to Assistant Professor. Incumbents have a doctorate and are qualified to direct the work of others, such as postdocs, grad students, and technicians. While timing will vary, advancement to this rank within CSST corresponds to a body of accomplishments equivalent to at least five years of productive growth as a scholar beyond that expected for the completion of a PhD.
  • Postdoctoral Research Associate – These roles are intended for early career researchers who have completed a doctorate and who are growing in their independence in preparation for roles such as Assistant Research Scientist/Engineer, Assistant Professor, or similar roles in any sector (academia, government, industry, non-profit).
  • Faculty Research Assistant – Per the Faculty Handbook, this is the only faculty role available for members of the faculty who do not hold doctorates. Within CSST, this category is used in two distinct ways:
    • Faculty Research Assistant: Specialist – Incumbents are in potentially permanent roles conducting supervised research and often hold a master’s degree.
    • Faculty Research Assistant: Postbaccalaureate Research Assistant – Incumbents are in roles meant to last one or two years and are conducting closely mentored research in anticipation of graduate school or some other position which will benefit from this experience as a trainee.
  • Visiting Roles – These roles are analogous to the faculty roles above, but have shorter-term “visiting” status. incumbents will sometimes (not always) have primary affiliations with other institutions.
  • Director of the UMBC Observatory – CSST supports the UMBC Observatory, under the leadership of the part-time role of Director of the UMBC Observatory. This role advances student and public engagement in CSST’s research themes. This will sometimes entail building new bridges between CSST, the campus community, and the broader public.
  • ESRA Roles – CSST is supported by the Earth & Space Research Administration (ESRA) unit, which manages business activities for CSST and UMBC’s other NASA-oriented centers. Roles within ESRA include the Director of ESRA (who reports to the UMBC Vice President for Research), Executive Administrative Assistant, Business Manager, Business Specialist, Staffing Specialist, and Administrative Assistant. Unlike the roles above, these are all staff roles not governed by the faculty handbook.
  • Director of CSST – This position reports to the UMBC Vice President for Research, serves as the supervisor of the CSST faculty (analogous to a department chair), serves as the UMBC lead (the site PI) of the CRESST cooperative agreement, and coordinates with the Director of ESRA regarding their management of the business activities of CSST.
  • General Guidelines
    • All members of the CSST faculty are encouraged to discuss their professional development in general, including promotion plans, with the Director of CSST on at least an annual basis. In support of these ongoing conversations, as with all members of the UMBC faculty, the CSST faculty are required to update their records in the Faculty Annual Report system on a yearly basis. This annual reporting will be proactively coordinated (by the Director of CSST and by ESRA) starting with the annual deadline in 2021. For more details, see here.
    • It will usually take at least five years at a given rank before enough accomplishments have been demonstrated to constitute a promotion. Accordingly, CSST faculty should request consideration for a promotion no sooner than two years after their last rank promotion or date of hire (unless they were hired after having served in an equivalent rank). An individual should request a promotion no sooner than 12 months from their last promotion request. Promotion prospects can be discussed informally with the CSST director at any time.
    • As with all UMBC faculty promotions, final decisions are made by the Provost, who draws on input from a promotion committee and the source materials (CV, letters of support) upon which the committee based their decision. With CSST promotions in particular, additional input may be solicited from NASA civil servants, from the Director of CSST, from CRESST Central leadership, and from the UMBC Vice President for Research.
    • At every stage of the process, all involved will be mindful of potential biases and of the need for consistency within CRESST, within CSST, and within UMBC
    • A CSST Promotions Committee will be formed each university fiscal year (July 1st to June 30th). This committee will be recruited by the Director of CSST, who will not serve on the committee. When possible, it will include:
      • One Senior Research Scientist from within CSST
      • One member of the UMBC faculty whose primary appointment is in another of UMBC’s NASA-oriented centers
      • One member of a UMBC degree-granting department
      • One scientist from the CRESST Consortium
      • Others, as needed, in order to provide a balance of research prospectives and a manageable workload
  • Process
    1. The applicant for a promotion provides a draft detailed CV and a draft personal statement to the Director of CSST for initial review.
      • The detailed CV should include:
        • Full education and professional background
        • An exhaustive list of research outputs, including all publications, external presentations, patents, and any other scholarly outputs.
        • An exhaustive list of administrative roles (e.g., roles supported by NASA tasks; this does not include “professional service,” as described below)
        • An exhaustive list of formal roles in research funding (e.g., as PI, Co-I, or Senior Personnel)
        • An exhaustive list of supervisory, mentoring, teaching, and outreach activities (e.g., supervising projects at Goddard, serving on PhD committees)
        • An exhaustive list of professional service roles not falling under the above categories (e.g., serving in a leadership role in a professional society, as a journal editor, organizing a conference)
        • Any honors (e.g., fellow of a professional society)
        • Any additional professional accomplishments or products that would provide the committee a more complete picture of the applicant’s readiness for promotion (e.g. non-research activities like writing news releases, outreach activities, etc.)
      • The personal statement should be 3-5 pages. It should highlight relevant accomplishments, describing the current state of the applicant’s research portfolio, and the future directions planned for the applicant’s research portfolio. If a significant volume of programmatic duties have limited the applicant’s bandwidth for direct involvement in research, this point should be made explicitly and these programmatic duties should be described in a commensurate level of detail.
    2. The Director of CSST reviews the CV and personal statement to ensure compliance with the above, providing feedback as appropriate to the applicant.
    3. The applicant provides the CSST Director with a (non-draft) detailed CV, (non-draft) personal statement, and the contact information for three people who may or may not be asked (by the CSST director) to provide letters of support. Preferably, at least one suggested letter writer will not be a close collaborator of the applicant.
    4. The Director of CSST solicits letters. At least one letter will be solicited from the set of names provided by the applicant; other letters will also often be solicited. These letters, the CV, and the personal statement are then provided by the Director of CSST to the CSST Promotions Committee
    5. The CSST Promotions Committee will then make recommendations (individually and, if they so decide, as a group) to the Director of CSST.
    6. The Director of CSST will share these recommendations, combined with additional commentary from the Director of CSST, with the Vice President for Research (VPR), who serves in a role analogous to the dean of a college in this process.
    7. The VPR reviews all materials and provides them, along with a recommendation, to the Provost’s Office for a final determination.