Changing Disciplines

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Changing Disciplines

Postby Mark » Tue Jan 04, 2005 1:10 pm


I am near the completion of my PhD in population genetics but would like to pursue a career in neuroscience/neuroimmunology. I am concerned that I won't have any of the research skills upon entering either of these disciplines. Is it extremely difficult to make such a transition from one field to another and how can I convince possible employers to take a chance on me for either a postdoc or job position?

I look forward to any of your responses!

Changing Disciplines

Postby Park » Tue Jan 04, 2005 1:59 pm

Try Neurogenetics in the field of neuroscience.


Changing Disciplines

Postby Ken » Tue Jan 04, 2005 2:55 pm

I was in a very similar position several months ago. In fact, when they wanted to hire me for my current postdoc, I called to reiterate that I really, really don't know how to do the techniques that this position is going to require.
Were they SURE they wanted me for the position?

I was told not to worry. I'm in the process of learning the new techniques right now, and you know what, it isn't that difficult. Think about the techniques you already know how to do; would it be THAT difficult to teach another person (with a PhD) that technique?

Just make sure that they have people in place to get you up to speed, and switching diciplines is probably the best long term bet. You get a wider skill set for you next CV.
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Changing Disciplines

Postby Cheryl » Tue Jan 04, 2005 11:15 pm

This is the perfect time to change disciplines! My PI once told me that your graduate work is where you learn how to be a scientist; your post doc is where you show that you are a scientist. As Ken alluded to in his post, with the critical thinking skills you've acquired during your grad work you will be able to quickly assimilate the needed skills and knowledge in a new discipline during your postdoc.

I think a PI would value a bright and motivated postdoc with a fresh perspective. Research the labs you are interested in and approach the PI with you?re ideas for potential projects. Spend some time and write a statement of your research interests and a proposal of what you would like to do ? that will really get the PI?s attention.

That said, for your own personal comfort, you might want to find a lab that could also benefit from your background in population genetics. That way you wouldn?t feel totally out of your element and you could serve as the resident expert in an area that the PI is interested in learning about.

Good luck?..It?s a lot of work, but well worth it!
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Changing Disciplines

Postby Tang » Wed Jan 05, 2005 1:50 am

I¡¯m a medical B.Sc,pulmonary pathophysiology Master and a neuropharmacology Doctor.In my opoinion,what's important is thinking how to do an experimant,what¡¯s more important is thinking how to design a project,what¡¯s the most important is what to do to a discipline.The critical thinking skills are very essential for an academic scientist.If you have experienced thinking skills,just do anything you want to do.

Changing Disciplines

Postby Joana » Tue Jan 11, 2005 8:23 am

I am in a similar situation as Mark... Being a Biologist (Genetics) and finishing my PhD in Epithelial Physiology, I now want to engage in the field of neurodegenative/neuromuscular diseases. I find it quite difficult to fullfill the requisites of any Post-Doc position in the area. It does seem to be extremely difficult to make such a transition. I am currently reading some papers about the subject, but find it quite difficult to understand everything well enough so that I can come up with an idea for a potential project.
Does anyone have further suggestions for an approach to this problem?


Changing Disciplines

Postby Madison » Tue Jan 11, 2005 12:18 pm

I totally agree with Lynn's message. And I love the "your graduate work is where you learn how to be a scientist; your post doc is where you show that you are a scientist"!

I switched fields after my grad work - I wanted to get a different perspective, and broaden myself. Remember, being a scientist is not about the techniques you know how to do, it's about asking the right questions and coming up with creative ways to answer them.

The approach I took when contacting potential postdoc mentors was to tell them in my cover letter what I, with a diverse background, could bring to their lab, and what their lab could do for my scientific development. The PIs seemed to respond positively to this.

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