postdoc in Europe vs US?

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postdoc in Europe vs US?

Postby J. W. Larkin » Tue Jul 21, 2015 10:49 am

I'm a nearing the end of a PhD in the US. Over the past year or so I've decided that my long term plan is to get a faculty position. I'm looking to do fairly big field switch as a postdoc. I have some good contacts/leads (but no offers yet) for postdocs in both Europe and the US. Many people have urged me not to do a postdoc in Europe as it is purportedly much more difficult to get a faculty job coming out of Europe than coming out of the US. What do people think of this? Some points that may be relevant: I'm willing to do a second postdoc in the states if it's necessary to get a job after being in Europe, and I'm potentially willing to take a faculty position outside the US. I appreciate any of your thoughts.
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Re: postdoc in Europe vs US?

Postby John D. D, » Tue Jul 21, 2015 1:44 pm

European culture is different - there is much less self-promotion. Positions are pretty scarce and reserved for those over there. If you go, bring your own money/grant (the US has access to much more research funding than Europe), be very reserved and not dominant (which Americans already have a reputation for), and don't expect to get a faculty position over there. With these caveats, it can be a great experience. If anything, I would think it would make you stand out in the States when you come back, if you do good work, and publish papers as a team over there. The positive thing is when you come back, you'll have access to some great European post-docs who will want to work with you over here.
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Re: postdoc in Europe vs US?

Postby Ana » Sun Jul 26, 2015 4:03 am

University labs are fairly international places so you won’t find much of the cultural differences John refers to. Academia teaches you to self-promote anyway, so that is the dominant culture in labs just like in the US.

I think the main difficulty if you want a faculty job back in the US would be the reduced network due to the distance. You can limit that by making sure you travel each year to 2-3 of the large conferences in your area. Realize that it is the network, not the physical proximity, that makes the greater difference, and work on it.

I think the critical points to make a postdoc successful are two, so I would advise you to go where you can get the best out of these two, wherever it is:
(a) a PI who is willing to support you professionally and be your champion, not your boss or competitor,
(b) a project that will open many possibilities so that you can get grants to take it further and use it to support your future faculty research plan (your supportive PI should understand this and be willing to let you take the project or part of it because s/he knows that’s what you need to build your lab)

For a faculty TT position yo most likely need 5+ years of postdoc so your plan of doing one postdoc in Europe and then revisiting and potentially doing one in the US sounds perfectly fine.

My advise is to get the lab with the right people (mainly your PI), and a project that will help you get to the next step. Only you will know where you find that lab.
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