Subscribe

Forum

Disappointinig postdoc experience

Welcome to the newly redesigned Science Careers Forum. Please bookmark this site now for future reference. If you've previously posted to the forum, your current username and password will remain the same in the new system. If you've never posted or are new to the forum, you will need to create a new account.

The new forum is designed with some features to improve the user experience. Upgrades include:
- easy-to-read, threaded discussions
- ability to follow discussions and receive notifications of updates
- private messaging to other SC Forum members
- fully searchable database of posts
- ability to quote in your response
- basic HTML formatting available

Moderator: Dave Jensen
Advisors:   Ana, PG, Rich Lemert, Dick Woodward, Dave Walker
Meet the Moderator/Advisors

Disappointinig postdoc experience

Postby M.J.P. » Wed Apr 19, 2006 11:15 am

Well it's a little too late for me to post this question, but I decide to post it anyway so perhaps others can learn from my "mistake".

I am currently finishing up a postdoc at a major university, working under a well-established and recognizable name in the field. Before I accepted the offer, I made it very clear to my advisor the nature of the project that I would like to work on, and the type of training I would like to receive that would facilitate entering the next step of my career, i.e. entering the biotech/pharma industry. I also applied and was awarded an NRSA fellowship; the work I described in my proposal would have given me the type of training I desired. However, when I first started in the group, I was assigned to a very different type of project. I didn't say anything at the time, because my advisor gave me the impression that after my first year, I would be able to work on my NIH proposal. Also, since I was trying to establish a good relationship with my advisor, I decided to do as he asked without complaining too much. Given his stature in the field, I was also a little intimidated.

As I began my second year of postdoc, it seemed less and less likely that I would be able to work on my proposal and received the kind of training that I had hoped for. The project that I've been working on does provide me with good training, but not really what I had initially asked for. I tried to talk to my advisor about possibly starting to work my proposal or related projects, but he basically said that he wasn't really interested in my proposal, and that he needs me to stay on the current project.

So basically for the last two years I ended up working on something completely different from what I set out to accomplish as a postdoc. I wouldn't call it a complete waste of time, but it certainly has been a very disappointing experience. What makes it worse is that the training I had initially asked for would have made it a little easier for me to obtain the type of position I'm currently seeking in the industry.

I apologize for writing such a long message. My question is: What should I have done before getting into this situation? Should I have talked to my funding agency about this?

M.J.P.
 
Posts: 6
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:29 pm

Disappointinig postdoc experience

Postby Radin » Wed Apr 19, 2006 11:22 am

why don't just quit your lousy postdoc job and apply to medical school, optometry school or pharmacy school?

Most big-name PI's manage their labs like a plantation and use their postdocs and grad students like indentured slaves.
Radin
 
Posts: 23
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:28 pm

Disappointinig postdoc experience

Postby Rich Lemert » Wed Apr 19, 2006 11:46 am

In an effort to provide a more constructive answer ....

When you were in your initial discussions about joining this group, you probably should have written a "memorandum of understanding" that you and your PI would both sign. This would cover at a minimum your understanding of the project that you would be working on and how the funding for that project was to be handled (both where the money was coming from and where it was going). If you were willing to work on his projects as needed, this memorandum would also address the circumstances under which this could happen and the restrictions that would limit how much time you would have to spend on that work.

I don't know how much help your funding agency would have been on this issue - it depends on the details of your grant, I imagine.
Rich Lemert
Advisor
 
Posts: 2603
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:28 pm

Disappointinig postdoc experience

Postby Bill L. & Naledi S. » Wed Apr 19, 2006 11:58 am

Hi M.J.P.,

I should point out that you did many things right: Discussed your goals with your PI, and found funding. I think where this might have turned out a bit differently is that after it became clear 6 months in, 9 months in, that your PI was not going to live up to your understanding of your agreement (you contribute to his/her lab, after first year you switch and start working on your project), that you didn't start seeking a new postdoc.

I don't think this is easy - the power dynamics between PI and postdoc, concerns that it 'might not be better' in another lab, getting a reference, inertia, hopes that things will get better, other factors keeping you where you are, like a lease, family, etc., all serve as barriers to making a change.

But as soon as you realized he was not interested in your project, and you realized the skills you needed to pursue your career choice, I think you should have considered other options. I think this is where Emil's link to the article about "being responsible for your own career" comes into play.

That said, I'm sorry about your experience. It sounds frustrating.

Bill L. & Naledi S.
Bill L. & Naledi S.
 
Posts: 156
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:28 pm

Disappointinig postdoc experience

Postby Dave B. » Wed Apr 19, 2006 12:21 pm

"Most big-name PI's manage their labs like a plantation and use their postdocs and grad students like indentured slaves. "

Unfortunately I have to agree with C. Uba (it is, however, a relief to hear that I'm not alone in my opinion of big-name PIs). I would leave your current position as gracefully as possible...maybe contact the Provost of the university before doing so, however, and describe to him/her what has happened during your time at the school.

Good luck
Dave B.
 
Posts: 18
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:28 pm

Disappointinig postdoc experience

Postby Dave B. » Wed Apr 19, 2006 12:25 pm

Rich Lemert wrote:
"When you were in your initial discussions about joining this group, you probably should have written a "memorandum of understanding" that you and your PI would both sign."

To that I ask: what are the chances that the PI would have hired M.J.P when he/she was asked to sign this "memorandum of understanding"? I think the PI may have laughed at the prospect and just moved to the next post-doc (i.e., cheap labor) candidate.



Dave B.
 
Posts: 18
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:28 pm

Disappointinig postdoc experience

Postby M.J.P. » Wed Apr 19, 2006 12:29 pm


Thank you for all your feedbacks. I agree with the previous reply, that perhaps the better thing to do was to find a new postdoc as soon as I began to realize what was going on. Unfortunately my PI kept giving me the impression that I would eventually get to work on my own project, up until the beginning of my second year. By then I was only a few months away from the fall job recruiting season. In addition, with the NIH fellowship, I was always under the impression that it would be difficult for me to change advisor (after all my current advisor was my sponsor).

Thanks again for all the comments.

Mike
M.J.P.
 
Posts: 6
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:29 pm

Disappointinig postdoc experience

Postby Rich Lemert » Wed Apr 19, 2006 1:19 pm

So what if the PI did laugh at MJ for raising the issue. If that was the case, it would be a huge red flag for MJ to consider going some place else.

Remember, you are not going through the post-doc to further your PI's career. You are doing it to further your own career! If more people would keep this in mind, a lot of the problems we see discussed here would evaporate (see EC's thread on "taking charge".)

As Ann Landers (or maybe her sister) used to say, no one can take advantage of you without your permission.
Rich Lemert
Advisor
 
Posts: 2603
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:28 pm

Disappointinig postdoc experience

Postby Emma » Wed Apr 19, 2006 1:38 pm

Dear M.J.P:
I am sorry for you situation. I have a friend who experience exactly the same thing. before she joined her lab, she made it very clear to her boss what she wants to learn. But once in the lab, all the projects assigned to her is for her bosses needs. After trying to communicate with him without any change, she left the lab after a year.
Emma
 
Posts: 38
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:28 pm

Disappointinig industrial experience

Postby A.Gee » Wed Apr 19, 2006 3:21 pm

Unfortunately this is also happening to me, albeit I am in industry. I find it really strange that one gets hired only to provide that extra pair of hands and not because of the extra edge that the person brings due to his/her special skills and passion in certain fields. It's easy to say "you should talk to this and this" because it takes two to tango and at the end of the day, your boss has the final say. All I can say is that I am looking at other options where my skills will be appreciated. Good luck!
A.Gee
 
Posts: 26
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:29 pm

Next

Return to Science Careers Forum

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: David Lathbury and 14 guests