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Research assistant professor

PostPosted: Wed May 17, 2006 4:04 pm
by P.V.
Here is my situation.

I have completed 7 years of postdoc. And look forward to do 1 more year to complete my ongoing projects and get good papers to apply for independant faculty position.

My PI is moving to take up a division chair position in a university. And I have two options.

1) Continue as a postdoc for one more year(8 years in all).

2) Take up RAP position, thereby enable myself to write many NIH and private grant awards, and use that to leverage my applicatioins for an independent position.

My PI thinks that I should remain Postdoc for the following reasons.

(a) once I become RAP, I will have a lesser chance for getting K01 and equivalent grants than a postdoc.

(b) There is no difference between a postdoc applying for a faculty position or a K01 funded RAP, because RAP achievements are considered to be just dependent on the mentor.

(c) RAPs don't get R01 or R23 in the current NIH budget situation. Only independent new and senior facutly get these.

So, please let me know if you were a talented postdoc in this situation, and want to apply for an independent position in 1 year, what would you want to have on your CV, a behind the curve (8 year) postdoc or a dependent RAP?

Research assistant professor

PostPosted: Wed May 17, 2006 4:35 pm
by Rich Lemert
To be frank, I think both options stink. What do you expect to gain during the next year that will make you any more employable than you are now? You should have started looking for a permanent position a year ago, and probably would have been better off starting two years ago. You're dangerously close to being someone who has demonstrated they cannot function independently, and may have crossed over that line.

You appear to be seeking (eventually) an academic career. Unfortunately, though, your timing could have been better since the recruiting season is probably pretty much over for the year. Given that, I'd suggest you figure out which option will better able demonstrate your ability to work independently. (Since I have no familiarity with an RAP I can't comment on this.)

Research assistant professor

PostPosted: Wed May 17, 2006 4:59 pm
by Wendy
RAP gives you a chance to apply a grant, either intramural or extramural one. But you still work on your mentor's projects, train his student and postdoc and are supported by him/her financially. You may have your own project, but you must put your mentor as co-applicant in a grant application or put his name as co-author in all your publications produced from your independent project. He may support you to get a grant, but he wants to have some control of you or your grants. Your mentor will certainly not like you to be too independent on this position. In his eye, you are not different from a postdoc. If you are a very independent and ambitious person, this position will be miserable to take.

Research assistant professor

PostPosted: Wed May 17, 2006 6:13 pm
by P.V.
Thanks Rich and Wendy,

I agree, but unfortunately I am where I am, and I can not apply for the faculty position now. Based on current projects' promising results, I stand a good chance of getting faculty position after one year. The problem is what would be best for the intervening period.

Could you take a point by point approach to confirm or reject my PIs reasons a,b, and c to stay a Postdoc?

Research assistant professor

PostPosted: Wed May 17, 2006 6:22 pm
by Emil Chuck
Gut check time. Take off the boxing gloves and take a real hard look in the mirror.

I don't know whether anyone would hire a "flash in the pan" postdoc. You need consistent results and a publication rate. The fact you have stuck it out for eight years is NOT going to help you with your perception as an independent investigator. You have no proof that you could get reliable grant funding and can run your own laboratory. So far as I know, you gain no advantage as an RAP if you were to apply for tenure-track positions; it is even possible that some search committee members would consider you to have been judged unworthy of a tenure-track position since you "settled" for a non-tenure-track position.

One year of promising results will not overcome seven years of non-productivity. You really have to take a very solid look and completely change your strategy if you really want a tenure-track faculty position. You've already placed yourself in a big hole, and time is going to run out on you real fast. Even so, it does not sound like you could make it into the finalist pool in a faculty search; if your advisor doesn't think you're ready for a faculty position, guess what he/she would write in any reference letter or conversation about you to a colleague? There's something very wrong with your training, and you need to make some very tough decisions now.

Research assistant professor

PostPosted: Wed May 17, 2006 6:31 pm
by Derek McPhee
Given the description of your current situation in the earlier message I would put your chances at a faculty position after one year as close to negligible, promising results or no promising results - this is something you should have started to do at least one postdoc ago

Research assistant professor

PostPosted: Wed May 17, 2006 7:02 pm
by Andy Spencer

I agree with your PI and I lean towards agreeing with Emil on several points he makes. An RAP position will do nothing to help you in your goal of getting a tenure track position.

Good luck,


Research assistant professor

PostPosted: Wed May 17, 2006 7:33 pm
by D. John
P.V. said, "So, please let me know if you were a talented postdoc in this situation, and want to apply for an independent position in 1 year, what would you want to have on your CV, a behind the curve (8 year) postdoc or a dependent RAP?" Not to sound cruel, but what exactly are the credentials for a talented postdoc? The purpose of postdoctoral work is to obtain additional breadth and to gain independence. How have YOU accomplished this in 7+ years of postdoctoral work? Although you MIGHT have become the most independent investigator, ready to successfully take on the world of getting grants and acquiring publications, but in this business perception makes up 85% of whether or not you will be successful. You have spent way to much time as a postdoc, and need to get out right now.
I was a RAP a number of years ago. My position, while not TT, was a completely independent position. After two years, I decided to become an industry scientist.


Research assistant professor

PostPosted: Wed May 17, 2006 8:25 pm
by Beth

Just curious... There is a lot of talk on this forum about one's academic career being basically over after 7, 8, or "x" number of years postdoc-ing. But don't many of us know at least one faculty member who did more than one post-doc? Or someone who did a spectacular, if slightly longer, post-doc? I know that these are exceptions, not the rule... But many of you seem pretty harsh on P.V., and you don't even know what his/her publication record is, record of grant funding, or even discipline.

Research assistant professor

PostPosted: Wed May 17, 2006 9:33 pm
by P.V.
While I agree with all of you, I agree the most with Beth.

I stand guilty of not providing my identity or publication record, but in the intervening years, I have published one first author MCB, one sixth author Nature medicine, and four other author middle class publications. I have produced something every year. Because I am working on genetically modified mouse models, I have at least a modestly legitimate excuse of taking time in creating and characterizing them.

For last three years, I have held a mentored NIH grant worth 100,000/year. The project is nearing completion with positive results.

But as most of you might have judged by now, this record is not sufficient for getting a good faculty position, so I am waiting for three more first author publications in next six-eight months, for all of which, I have most figures ready, one is being communicated to a very high profile journal. Our lab is not stranger to high profile journals, so it is not a flight of fancy.

My PI is not offering me a faculty position, not because of his not-so-high regard about my capability, but because he will lead a department, where I would not at all fit in with my research focus. So, he can not do anything about it.

My reasons for considering RAP is because it will give me a fresh title in a long while, which will make my non-scieitific friends and family happy, while giving me a modest raise in the salary. In addition, I may land a R23 or private fund award, which reqire as their application criteria, a beyohnd-postdoc position, and if I get such an award, it can put me in a better place for landing a faculty position and beyond.

So, I would again like to re-focus the conversation on what should I choose (Postdoc or RAP) and not what are my chances of getting a faculty position, for which I believe I will come back to you again in 6 months.