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What is the standard time for a Postdoc?

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What is the standard time for a Postdoc?

Postby Paul » Mon Jan 10, 2005 5:20 pm

The post by Madison in the about faculty recruiting thread caused me to think...

"3-4 years is the standard time in postdoctoral training for new faculty. If you're a postdoc longer than this, your chances of getting a faculty position go down dramatically."

I'm sure this may be true for yeast or worm or some other fast system... but people working with mouse (people I know in postdoc and in new positions) tend to take 5 to 7 years to finnish a postdoc...

So my question is... what do you think the normal times are for differnet systems?

For you new grad students... I hope this info will help you pick your lab.
Paul
 

What is the standard time for a Postdoc?

Postby Dave Jensen » Mon Jan 10, 2005 6:49 pm

Hi Paul,

Great post -- I'm curious to see what people think.

I've never seen much difference between the discipline, niche, and postdoc years for industry employers. Hiring managers and HR people tend to lump people with more than 5 years of postdoc experience into the "lifelong academic" category. It becomes VERY hard to job search with more than five years of postdoc, if you are targeting industry.

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What is the standard time for a Postdoc?

Postby Emil Chuck » Tue Jan 11, 2005 1:40 am

In my personal opinion: If at all possible, limit the amount of time in postdoctoral training to less than 5 years, ideally 3 or 4. The reason isn't so much that there is a "standard time", but that your eligibility for Career Transition grants (such as American Heart, NIH, Burroughs Wellcome) has a time clock where the limit is 5 years post-Ph.D. After that, no matter how productive you are, you cannot apply (such as it was the case for me) and you are doomed to non-tenured staff scientist positions forever... (just kidding) :).

It's not fair to those people whose projects take 5 years to complete, but your productivity and viability as a scientist really is time-sensitive. Your track record as a scientist is your ticket to the next level, and the more you can show that you are a "good" scientist, the better. Now that doesn't mean publishing a paper every 2 months, but I guess the expectation is that you should be leaving, breathing, thinking, eating, and sleeping about your work and how you can accelerate your project to be productive.

At least when it comes to where I am, most postdocs expect to be done with their Ph.D's within 3 years (though some people will take a second postdoctoral position). The sole exception at least that I have found according to my sample at Duke is that engineering postdocs expect to take 2 years before moving on (from my analysis of Sigma Xi Postdoc Survey results at my institution).

Of course, I think in the absence of recent efforts to provide institutional support for the "career postdocs" by trying to limit "postdoctoral fellow" status for no longer than 5 years, I think the general consensus would be that the average length of time it would take a person to go from minted-Ph.D. to permanent faculty position (if that is your goal) has crept up to 6 years. I'm sure others who have the real data can contradict me if the data support something else.
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What is the standard time for a Postdoc?

Postby Kevin Rogers » Tue Jan 11, 2005 11:56 am

This is in reply to Dave's post:

I have 5 1/2 yrs post doc experience. As I did my Phd in 3 yrs (which is standard in England) this is not as bad as it sounds.

However I am now job searching in the US - so I guess it will be an issue. Is it something I should address in my cover letter ?

Would you advise againist working in a university as a staff researcher at this stage for fear of getting 'trapped' in academia forever due to such labels being applied ?

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What is the standard time for a Postdoc?

Postby Madison » Tue Jan 11, 2005 12:09 pm

Hey Paul,
Just throwing my $0.02 in. I think the system you work in doesn't matter at all when faculty selection committees look at your CV. I work with a mouse model system and use knockouts, as well as in vivo cell expts, confocal, and biochemistry. I started applying for faculty jobs this past fall - the end of my 3rd postdoc year. I have had 17 requests for 1st interviews, 4 for 2nds (so far), and have 2 offers (as of Jan 11). I withdrew 12 of my applications because my travel schedule is just too overloaded. I still haven't heard from 11 schools, and i've had 5 rejections. If you plan to stay a postdoc longer than 3-4 years (so you need to apply at the end of year 2 or 3), you will be seen on the job market as a slow starter, and be less appealing to hiring committees. Everyone assumes that more results quickly is an indication of increased quality.

Yes, your project with mouse work may take longer to see results, but you have to take responsibility for choosing to do this type of project. Sorry if this sounds harsh, but it is reality. You have to select your postdoc lab very carefully, and design your project so that you get out of it what you need to move on (ie hot paper, quickly). You have to decide how long you want to postdoc, how many papers you want to have out when you apply for jobs, and design your project and expected papers BEFORE you start work. You have to have a plan, and stick with it.

Some things will fall through, of course. I planned to have a career transition award when I applied for jobs. I didn't get the Burroughs Wellcome (and I'm still a bit upset about that), but because I planned ahead for that possibility, I also applied for an NIH K22 and got it. You have to be the master of your own destiny - don't let a PI "give" you a project. You should give a project to your PI, and then follow through by creating a good one and getting it published in a high-level journal. It only takes 1 top notch paper (Cell, Science, Nature, 1st author, without other people on it) from your postdoc to make you very attractive out on the market - trust me, this is my situation.

My advice is to choose a postdoc in an established lab at a top school, design your projects so you have 2-3 normal papers or 1 real hot paper published by the end of your 3rd year, and stick with your plan to accomplish your goals.
good luck
Madison
 

What is the standard time for a Postdoc?

Postby Dave Jensen » Tue Jan 11, 2005 12:50 pm

To Nick -- You are a bit on the cusp, and with an aggressive campaign you should still make it through OK. I've seen people with 6-7 years of postdoc really struggle.

I'd advise against anything else "academic" unless you have mixed goals. If it is industry you want, focus on getting your foot in the door,

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What is the standard time for a Postdoc?

Postby Park » Tue Jan 11, 2005 1:39 pm

Madison:
This is a great post. I am looking for postdoct right now and will follow those suggestions.

By the way, is there any difference between doing Postdoct NIH and top univeristy in terms of applying to facutly job or industry job latter?

Park
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What is the standard time for a Postdoc?

Postby Ken » Tue Jan 11, 2005 3:18 pm

How does the postdoc being in industry affect this discussion?
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What is the standard time for a Postdoc?

Postby Dave Jensen » Tue Jan 11, 2005 3:38 pm

Ken,

To a person seeking an industry career, a postdoc at a company is a plus in that they will consider this "industry experience" when reviewing you for a job. I think that ANY hiring manager would seriously wonder why somone would be in industry postdocs for more than 3-4 years. After that, more postdoc'ing would be a major negative.

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What is the standard time for a Postdoc?

Postby Madison » Tue Jan 11, 2005 3:51 pm

from Park: "is there any difference between doing Postdoct NIH and top univeristy in terms of applying to facutly job or industry job latter?"

I think most people who hire would see postdocing at the NIH pretty much the same as postdocing at a very good, but not top rate, university. I think industry people view the NIH as very academic, and not equivelent to doing a postdoc in industry.
Madison
 

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