02 November, 2023
By David Murphy
Professor Mario Lanza is a man who cares passionately about his work, his colleagues and his students. He truly enjoys navigating the storm and stress of achieving excellence in his chosen field of materials science and engineering.
As Dr. Lanza continually looks to the future filled with advancements and innovations, he is also acutely aware of what it takes for early career researchers to take their first career steps. With his latest creation, students and professors can now navigate that well-trodden path with greater ease.
Lanza has been an associate professor of materials science and engineering at KAUST since January 2021. His work focuses on improving electronic devices, circuits and microchips using two-dimensional materials.
Like so many of his colleagues, he receives dozens of unsolicited weekly emails from students who desire to join his research group. He estimates that these emails expand into the hundreds after the publication of a job offer. Most of these emails follow a similar theme: a brief introduction, an outline of an applicant’s desire to join his group, an attached curriculum vitae with no established structure, and key information often buried under irrelevant, unwieldy details. Combing through and evaluating these CVs and offers is a lengthy and time-consuming task. As a result, researchers are deprived of precious time they could put toward more productive tasks, such as conducting research or teaching.
From hundreds to one
To remedy this issue, Lanza created and launched a sophisticated platform to help professors and universities find talented students, postdoctoral fellows, researchers, lecturers, teachers and faculty. Known as "Web of Talents," his platform offers a highly organized talent and job listings database.
Over 20 years ago, he conceived the idea of the platform. At the time, Lanza was a bachelor’s student who wanted to showcase his skills to potential employers but was uncertain of the best way to present himself. The idea was subsequently shelved while he studied for his master’s, Ph.D., and postdoctoral degrees.
However, the talent platform idea returned to him five years ago when he struggled to recruit suitable candidates for his research group; the idea rapidly became a reality due to Lanza’s daily email load. Over the past two years, he sourced expert software developers to program what he envisioned in what proved to be a laborious, yet enriching process.
According to Lanza, fifty percent of his goal with Web of Talents is to help people find jobs. The other fifty percent is to ease the lives of recruiters who complain they cannot find suitable candidates.
“I created Web of Talents, but I am also its first customer,” he emphasized. “This groundbreaking technology provides an unparalleled performance search engine for talented researchers and professionals in top universities and companies.
“The platform does not permit the input of unsolicited information and is especially suitable for scientists, engineers and mathematicians, but can also be used by professionals from many other backgrounds.”
Similar to LinkedIn, users can create personalized profiles that include their biographies, current status, educational background, language certificates, publications, etc. Students who utilize the platform benefit from the massive exposure of their curriculum, allowing them to be found by professors and receive offers.
Faculty can filter, screen and search for their ideal screen candidates under headings such as “publication impact” and “GPA.” Potential employers can also rank and filter videos so that the perfect candidate can be found from a vast pool of curricula in mere seconds.
“The system speaks for itself; one just needs to join to realize how user-friendly and powerful it is. While most candidates must supply voluminous information to apply for jobs, here they can do it with one click,” Lanza emphasized. “Moreover, they will also find a space for uploading key performance indicators that will help them rank higher.”
Spinning a worldwide web
So far, several top organizations and universities have begun to use Web of Talents. These include members who are working or have worked at Stanford University, U.S., Peking University, China, and The University of Manchester, U.K, among many others. Collective feedback thus far has been overwhelmingly positive.
“If you have not created a Web of Talents profile, connect and get one. Even if you are not searching for a job, you will be visible and may receive offers from professionals and companies who value your work,” Lanza concluded.