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Good enough for a postdoc

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Good enough for a postdoc

Postby C. Hino » Wed Feb 25, 2015 11:12 pm

Dear forum,

I would kindly appreciate your view on this. I am currently a male grad student in neuroscience (not at a top 10 school). On my resume I have 13 papers (11 first author) but no first author papers in journals with Impact Factor > 5. I primarily do fMRI and EEG work (mostly data analysis) so it is a bit easier to publish than it would be if I was a bench researcher. I also have won an NRSA award. I will be 34 years old by the time I graduate.

Based on this information what are my chances of obtaining a good postdoc in a a reputable lab in neuroscience (preferably neuroimaging)? Thank you.
C. Hino
 
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Re: Good enough for a postdoc

Postby Dave Walker » Thu Feb 26, 2015 12:04 pm

Hi C. Hino,

If you network enough you can land a postdoc anywhere. (As a data point, I had zero publications at the end of my PhD and was able to get 4 respectable postdoc opportunities.)

It sounds like you are focused on metrics, which is a bad way to start searching. There is no such thing as a "top 10" in the sciences, like in undergrad or MBA/law degrees; a "good" school depends heavily on what you want to do with your career. Additionally, if you are worried primarily about the name of the school you do your postdoc in...you may have your priorities misaligned.

I recommend making a list of the PIs you would like to work for. Apply any life restrictions you may have (location, family) and then check your network. (Data point: I asked my PI who he might recommend I work with in a specific geographical area.) See if you can get a recommendation to the best looking labs. If you can't, you can simply reach out the PI and talk to them.

Whatever your CV looks like, you can use it to your advantage. Don't focus on high impact factor, but on your ability to research, write and publish. Be proactive, think of ways your imaging research can help your future PI.
"The single factor that differentiates Nobel laureates from other scientists is training with another Nobel laureate." -- Sol Snyder
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Re: Good enough for a postdoc

Postby WG » Thu Feb 26, 2015 12:40 pm

To add on to this discussion, how important is the kind of postdoc you do if you think that you might leave academia? I have noticed that some colleagues have gone on to positions where they are doing research that is not too far removed from what they did in their PhD. Others have branched out to other areas (albeit something where their skills were transferable). How risky is it to venture into something where you might have to learn new instruments etc especially since one does not have that much time at postdoc level. Also at the end of the day, you want to have something to show for it. If you want to make sure you keep both doors open is it better to stick with the tried and true--not venture into new areas?
WG
 
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Re: Good enough for a postdoc

Postby Dave Walker » Thu Feb 26, 2015 1:25 pm

WG wrote:To add on to this discussion, how important is the kind of postdoc you do if you think that you might leave academia? I have noticed that some colleagues have gone on to positions where they are doing research that is not too far removed from what they did in their PhD. Others have branched out to other areas (albeit something where their skills were transferable). How risky is it to venture into something where you might have to learn new instruments etc especially since one does not have that much time at postdoc level. Also at the end of the day, you want to have something to show for it. If you want to make sure you keep both doors open is it better to stick with the tried and true--not venture into new areas?


This is a tough question to answer broadly because everyone's case is different: how sure are you you want to leave academia, how much time would you wait, where would you like to live, what do you want to do when you leave, etc.

The best advice is to learn as much as you can about yourself. When you are so confident that you can say 1) I want to be a senior scientist 2) working in a DMPK group 3) in California, it will become clear what you need to do. In this example, you might want to work in the Bay Area, or find a PI whose postdocs have gone onto DMPK-like careers.

In my humble opinion the problem seems to come from looking at a postdoc as a 5 year engagement, which makes you want to work really hard for 4.5 years and then start job hunting, again, for the last 6 months. At which point you are mostly postdoc hunting again, only more tired and jaded because of it.



Dave
"The single factor that differentiates Nobel laureates from other scientists is training with another Nobel laureate." -- Sol Snyder
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Re: Good enough for a postdoc

Postby Yandorio » Thu Feb 26, 2015 8:58 pm

Neuroscience postdocs are a dime a dozen.
Getting a Professor job is a whole different story.
I've done four postdocs in Neuroscience and and published
consistently for 15 years and am jobless. Neuroscience is way
too popular and everyone's jumped on the bandwagon and when
you get to my stage there are no jobs. If you do get a Prof
job, tenure is difficult. If you do get tenure, the grant
is about 90% rejection rate.
My advice, get a Pharm degree or MD...or a Physician's Assistant
degree. Those degrees are translating into jobs *much* better than
Neuroscience PhD's. Don't get me wrong, Neuroscience is fascinating,
but the statistics these days are daunting. Most people are leaving
the field, after the PhD, to the best of my knowledge.
Yandorio
 
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Re: Good enough for a postdoc

Postby WG » Fri Feb 27, 2015 12:31 pm

The best advice is to learn as much as you can about yourself


Thanks Dave for your response. I have certainly learnt a few things from talking to different prospective P.I.s and researching different career paths. I'm not yet at the stage where I can confidently make the kind of statement you used in your example but I think I'm getting there.

In my humble opinion the problem seems to come from looking at a postdoc as a 5 year engagement, which makes you want to work really hard for 4.5 years and then start job hunting, again, for the last 6 months. At which point you are mostly postdoc hunting again, only more tired and jaded because of it.


This paragraph also sums up what I have been seeing recently. There are a few postdocs that I have seen advertised as 3 or 4 years. From a funding perspective I suppose it's good(if someone wants to stay that long). But I think that the fact that postdocs are now getting longer is contributing to what you describe.
WG
 
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