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What is the standard time for a Postdoc?

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So I'm already ruined?

Postby Emil Chuck » Thu Feb 24, 2005 3:07 pm

I'll echo the sentiments about not being too depressed about the negative statements made here.

That said, there are some realities if you look at what trends predict success. As much as you can, figure out the factors that resulted in what you perceived was a less than satisfactory fellowship period. Then make sure that you do everything possible to correct it for your next position. And certainly take more responsibility with what happens this time. (At a point in the future when I can discuss things off the record, I can share my experiences both good and bad... it won't be here.)

The other thing is with your next postdoc, make sure if you are truly worried that bench science won't be the life for you, do whatever you can to educate yourself and begin gaining network contacts and experience in other areas.
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So I'm already ruined?

Postby Andrew » Thu Feb 24, 2005 5:36 pm

I did 5 years of postdocs with three different PIs until getting a job in industry. It is commonly assumed that if you haven't gotten a job by then, you wanted to be a professor. So a lot of people won't give you a chance. You have to be persistent. Once you get that first job, no one will care what you've done as a postdoc.
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So I'm already ruined?

Postby Baoloa » Fri Feb 25, 2005 6:44 am

My own feelings about long postdocs is that they are, deliberately or not, supported by existing faculty.
The money is obviously there - otherwise the postdocs wouldn't even get paid. No one benefits from these long postdocs except for PIs who get an extremely highly skilled workforce, and need only pay them little in terms of money or scientific credit.
The answer is clearly a down-sizing of the average size of research groups and the creation of more tenure-track positions.

Paul
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So I'm already ruined?

Postby John Fetzer » Fri Feb 25, 2005 9:40 am

The marketing can be varied, but emphasize your more diverse talents from the second position. If you are asked about it or think it is an issue, use it as a selling point. If the job is in one region, such as Texas or California, you can say you had prospects in a region that is very different, like Minnesota or New Jersey (or vice versa). You do not even need to explain what that ,eans because the person probably either made that decision or has images of the other regions (this works in Europe, too - people there still have their national and regional biases).

Have some ready answers. Make the post-doc duration a non-issue.

John
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So I'm already ruined?

Postby Emil Chuck » Fri Feb 25, 2005 10:37 am

Paul said: "My own feelings about long postdocs is that they are, deliberately or not, supported by existing faculty.

The money is obviously there - otherwise the postdocs wouldn't even get paid. No one benefits from these long postdocs except for PIs who get an extremely highly skilled workforce, and need only pay them little in terms of money or scientific credit.

The answer is clearly a down-sizing of the average size of research groups and the creation of more tenure-track positions."

Creation of t-t positions is just not going to happen given how "cherished" these spots are. Even if you created more positions, the standard for what constitutes "tenure-track"-quality researchers is going up, and the expectations to make tenure are ever increasing, including the ability to get very good grants, excellent publications, and international recognition.

My own personal opinion is to stop making the postdoc position one that is not otherwise a bona fide employed position. Provide a timeline and some standards for promotion of postdoctoral scientists into staff scientist positions (research associate to research scientist). The fact is that the timeline for all things academe is increasing (PhD to postdoc to staff scientist), and that's not a good thing.

I always wonder and want to ask anyone in academic administration: what would you consider a benchmark of success for an academic department or school: if all their assistant professors got tenured? if all their postdocs got hired into their department? if their associate professors with tenure remained to become full professors or distinguished professors or administrators? I have my doubts as to these answers because clearly there is no effort to mentor anyone properly.
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Question on postdoc length

Postby Ellen » Fri Feb 25, 2005 10:58 am

Dear All,

I am 1 year into an 18 month postdoc contract. As funding for the next period is not yet confirmed, I am scouting arround looking for other jobs. I have an interview coming up at a very good university for a 3yr postdoc and I am unsure how that will affect my chances of acedemic employment in the future (as that will be 4.5yrs and over 5 since the end of my PhD).

My present employer is encouraging me to apply for additional fellowship funding and stay here subject to current funding continuing, but there is still a qustion mark over this. This would give me experience of grant applications etc. but the university is not exactly well known! However there is amply oportunity for publications but probably not independent ones.

The interview is for a project of the PI's making and while I am sure there is added scope to do do additional work, I have found that postdocs don't really give you a lot of time to do additional research.

Obviously I haven't got the job yet, but should I get it I wanted to ask whether people think I should stay where I am (for probably as long as I want - whole project 5 years) or go for the/an other position with a set duration. I enjoy what I do, but there are drawbacks of being at a small, relatively unheard of, institution. I have every intention of staying in academia and so feel that getting experience of grant applications and running my own projects is important. Have i just answered my own question?
Thank you,
Ellen

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Question on postdoc length

Postby Emil Chuck » Fri Feb 25, 2005 12:22 pm

Please don't take my advice as word from up-above; it's just my opinion.

If you're applying for a postdoctoral fellowship grant, the question is not so much on how well known your institution is but how well supported you will be to carry out your work. Is your sponsor well-known? Are there enough opportunities at your institution to conduct your work and become effective? What is the status of mentoring and training at your institution? You can probably tell how successful you will be in getting your grant at your current institution by seeing how many other people/postdocs at your institution have been awarded similar grants. THAT alone should tell you how worthwhile your "grant-writing experience" will be.

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So I'm already ruined?

Postby Patrick » Fri Feb 25, 2005 2:20 pm

"I have my doubts as to these answers because clearly there is no effort to mentor anyone properly."


I think this goes to the heart of the problem of why the postdoc period has gone on for many years for some of us. I feel completely that I was used as a highly trained tech during my first postdoc. Certainly I can be blamed for not pushing harder or demanding more attention but shouldn't the PI have some responsibility to help you develop as a scientist? That idea has been lost along the way somewhere. I was never encouraged, and in fact was actively discouraged from writing a grant, going to meetings, collaberating with others, or even developing my own ideas. In the end the biggest thing I can be blamed for is staying far too long in a bad situation. I think it is of the greatest importance to find a lab where mentoring is at least given a small amount of attention. Unfortunetly it is easy to say that but in my observations it seems that the number of PIs who look at postdocs as junior colleagues and not as hired help are few and far between. What do you do if you need a job and don't have years to search for the perfect mentor. I think the whole system of academic research has crumbled and it is the people at the bottom of the chain that suffer the most for it.
Patrick
 

So I'm already ruined?

Postby Emil Chuck » Fri Feb 25, 2005 4:50 pm

I only speak for me, and not for any other organization with which I am affiliated regarding postdoctoral advocacy. (So I hope I don't completely go off and offend anyone by the blanket "no" statement. I'm just venting.)

The answer to Patrick's observational question (Certainly I can be blamed for not pushing harder or demanding more attention but shouldn't the PI have some responsibility to help you develop as a scientist?) is to me a "yes" but more than you and the PI are to be cited for the failure to mentor. Certainly the PI has a lot of things on his/her mind as he/she tries to get to the tenure promotion. That said, it's publications and grants that determine success as well as ability to demonstrate collegial importance in the field. I don't know whether being a "mentor" rates that highly. It's not like people are coached on how to mentor; there's no pop quiz/certification/mentoring training as there is for ethics and blood-borne diseases/radiation/animal welfare training. What's the incentive anyway?

The fact that so many people in postdocs consider their PI's as mentors... maybe they are good, but all of them?

Yes, we as postdocs share the blame if we like being "comfortable" with working in the lab and not being challenged ahead to become independent. There are disincentives to writing your own grants (if it's an NRSA anyway), but one should still try to remain sharp, and the PI should help keep the creative fountain flowing. But if the PI himself/herself is told that it's not that important to mentor (or maybe more appropriately, is NOT told that it IS important) by his/her peers... there's a problem.
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So I'm already ruined?

Postby John G. Hoey, Ph.D. » Sat Feb 26, 2005 12:12 pm

Dear Patrick:

As if there hasn't already been enough said on this post....here I go with my own experience. Two postdocs totally 4 1/2 years for me. I've now held one academic position and three industry jobs. Don't worry too much about your current position; you will be fine. The path is a little different for each one of us. However, most of us eventually get somewhere.

John G. Hoey, Ph.D.
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