How to contact a PI about a post-doc?

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How to contact a PI about a post-doc?

Postby WY » Tue Mar 08, 2005 1:22 am

Hello all.

I am at the point in my graduate career where I am beginning to look for a postdoctoral position. I have found several potential labs which piqued my interest.

How do I go about contacting these PIs? I consulted my PI, but I would like to know which techniques worked for you.

I was considering sending an envelope containing a CV, cover letter describing which current lab projects are of interest, reprints of recent publications (the 1 or 2 most related), and contact info.

I wish to expand beyond the field I currently work, so I haven't had an opportunity to meet any of these PIs in person.

Thanks in advance for your comments,
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How to contact a PI about a post-doc?

Postby Ken » Tue Mar 08, 2005 8:38 am

I might get some disagreement here, but I found when I was in your position only a year ago, that simply sending my cover letter and CV by email was remarkably successful for academic postdoc postions. I can only remember one person who didn't reply at all, and everyone who did reply was open to meeting with me.

My suggestion is to make your cover letter outstanding. There isn't much room to look good on a CV; you're only going to look as good as your education and publications, and there isn't much you can do about either of those now. But, your cover letter, if well written and directed at the particular person, is going to be what elicits responses.
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How to contact a PI about a post-doc?

Postby Madison » Tue Mar 08, 2005 11:25 am

4 years ago I also contacted potential PIs by email. The body of my email was my cover letter, and I sent my CV, in .pdf, as an attachment. I see nothing wrong with attaching 1 paper (your best), but it's also not really necessary. I think you will get a better response by email than by snail mail.

Lots of people change fields for a postdoc (I did), this is common; don't worry about it. Use this as a strength for why you would be a good addition to their lab. Tell them that because of your experience in X, you can bring breadth to their lab. In exchange, you would get Y from training in their lab, which would help you get to Z (your career goal - you do have one, right?)

Just make sure you tell them what you can do for them. good luck! I'm sure things will go great.

How to contact a PI about a post-doc?

Postby Emil Chuck » Tue Mar 08, 2005 11:36 am

There's no one way to contact a PI, so I'll suggest something different.

Call the person. Tell him/her that you are in the process for looking for a postdoctoral position and have found the work in his/her lab conducive to your research goals. Ask whether there are any positions available and what he/she would like as material to help him/her consider your viability as a postdoctoral scholar in the lab. Then send him/her your cover (thanking him/her for the conversation and restating your professional goals), your CV, a paper, and a contact for your PI or other committee members as a reference.
Emil Chuck
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How to contact a PI about a post-doc?

Postby Paul » Tue Mar 08, 2005 11:41 am

Hi Russell,

As Ken and Madison are suggesting, a good, well written cover letter will get you a long way. It should include the basic "three" of science...What, Why and How. "What" you are looking for, "Why" you are the right person and "How" you would be successful.

Breaking this down a little, the first paragraph is usually an explaination of the position you are interested in applying for or being considered for and, perhaps, an explaination of your interest for that investigator. Second should come a paragraph that details your experience, interests and acheivements. Briefly highlight some of the "features" of your CV...for example "I have published X peer reviewed papers in the last Y years, including one published in The Journal of Great Work". The third paragraph should explain how you would contribute to the investigators lab. This is a bit of a selling exercise and should make clear how your experiences and interests tie in with the work he or she is doing.

Good luck,


How to contact a PI about a post-doc?

Postby WY » Wed Mar 09, 2005 11:03 am

Thanks for all of the insightful comments. They are greatly appreciated.

I am in the process of composing an outstanding cover letter and the suggestions provided are very helpful.

Wish me luck.

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How to contact a PI about a post-doc?

Postby Kevin » Thu Mar 10, 2005 8:25 am

I would just like to point out one thing that is totally missing from the above suggestions: try to get some sort of funding. Find a fellowship that you can apply for, and consider writing a draft of a research proposal that is aligned with the work of the prospective PI who interests you. You can find out if the PI is even interested in having a postdoc in principle, and then say, "well, great, here's a sketch of a proposal I would submit to XYZ for a fellowship. Perhaps you can give me some criticism and a little guidance."

Be independent, and try to get your own funding, then you can join any lab you want (pretty much). I know it's generally hard to get a fellowship without support from the PI (in Canada, though, you can get one all by yourself). Try to apply to a couple fellowships, some might think you're crap, but others won't. Even if you don't get the fellowship, the fact that you tried should endear you to most PIs.

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