Post-Academic Career

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Post-Academic Career

Postby Joe » Tue Dec 14, 2004 3:24 pm

I would like to thank everyone for all their helpful advice. I wasn't criticizing the forum when I suggesting that reading the posts could discourage someone. I wanted to convey my feelings about the PhD-level employment situation in the biological sciences, which I feel is rather depressing. I don?t really know of too many other fields of work where someone has to work so long, ~10 years or more, in order to get a full-time job with benefits. I know that a Ph.D. doesn't entitle me to a job, but it should provide me with more then a license to look for a job. The simple fact is that employment in the biological sciences will continue to be difficult to find as long as PhDs are overproduced.

As far as I am concerned, I will probably leave science and do something else. This is not to say that I don?t love science. I have been somewhat successful publishing a few papers from my graduate work. However, I have decided that it is no longer acceptable to me to stake so much of my future on only the possibility of getting a permanent job. I?d rather invest my time in more education or an alternative career that is less risky.

Post-Academic Career

Postby Dave Jensen » Tue Dec 14, 2004 3:25 pm

Hi Mark,

In some ways, both pieces of advice are OK. It's fine to have a top academic postdoc if you want to go to industry. Hiring managers know the best labs, and they come from academia themselves at one point. They'll recognize why you chose the lab, and that Principal Investigator. It's better than a cheazy small biotech company "postdoc" in which you are simply a cheap pair of hands. Seriously. many small companies don't know what a postdoc really should look like.

So, the best advice is always to go for the BEST POSTDOC you can land, whether it is in industry or academia. Comparing two equivalent postdocs, you'd choose the industry one if you were selecting industry as your final goal, because that would be considered "industry experience" and bump you up the ladder for advancement quicker, and give you more interviewing opportunities. But, I'd still take a top-class academic postdoc if I wanted an industry job and couldn't find an equivalent postdoc in industry.

You generally can find companies that have postdoc programs through your networking efforts. Also, HR people are OK to contact and ask "Do you have a postdoc program?" Remember, the tiny companies will always say "sure" and then hire you as something that really wouldn't broaden your horizons in any way,

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Post-Academic Career

Postby Iva » Wed Dec 15, 2004 5:20 pm

Hello all,
I am relatively new to this forum and I have been finding it very useful. I like others, and especially Mark, can understand the dilemma of industry postdoc vs academic postdoc. Having graduated from a top university this year with my PhD in neuroscience, I spent months contemplating whether I should leave academia all together as I was pretty sure that a faculty position was not for me (trust me, that was hard to tell my PhD advisor, let's just say he hasn't been very supportive). I was curious to find out more about the industry as I knew very little about it. I had a couple of postdoc offers at the best neuroscience universities but scoped out a postdoc in industry and landed one at a top pharmaceutical company. Now as a scientist by training, I can say that the work I do now may not be as challenging as that which I would have done in academia and that can be frustrating. But I have learned to focus on the real reason why I am here, to learn more about pharmaceuticals and get some experience. Had I chosen the high-calibre academic postdoc, I would be stressed to publish in highly ranked journals, and find myself in the same position I was in just a few months ago.... wanting to crack into industry somehow. Now some may argue about the quality of the postdoc, but I believe the postdoc is a time for further training in the direction you want to go.... not a time to prolong the inevitable. I am quite happy with my decision as I am learning so much, including the business aspect of pharmaceuticals. This experience is giving me a clearer picture of where I want to head.

Post-Academic Career

Postby JB » Thu Dec 16, 2004 6:51 pm

I too have recently started an industrial postdoc at a top pharmaceutical company. To be honest, I didn't get my PhD from a top school, but it didn't seem to matter all that much. Don't get discouraged by some of the things posted here about attending top notch grad school being the only way to get into industry (don't get me wrong -- the advice here is great). Personally I disagree, although I'm sure it makes it easier. Almost all big pharmaceutical companies have postdoctoral programs. Contrary to others, I didn't even network to get the job, I guess I just got lucky (although there was a fair bit of hard work associated with that luck). Applying for jobs on the internet may not be the most efficient way to land a job, but after applying to 5 I got an interview, and landed the job. So my only piece of advice it to not give up and keep trying, if it is what you really want you can find a way to land that industry job you want.

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Post-Academic Career

Postby Afsar » Wed Dec 22, 2004 9:01 am

This is my first posting to the forum. My situation is quite similar to Joe - I'm completing my PhD in micro from Australia. Compared to USA, academic postdoc jobs are very limited here in Australia. There is not many options for industry postdocs either. I haven't lost my passion for science yet, but right now building a science career seems to me a far difficult challenge to face. When I started my PhD, I was thinking getting PhD would be the biggest hurdle to cross - now getting a first postdoc becomes more difficult than PhD. Not many postdocs are become successful enough to ensure a permanent position at the end. On the other hand, I have seen many good labs in Australia are struggling due to the lack of grants (by 'good' labs I mean the labs with substantial publication records). Getting a research grant in Australia is far more difficult then in USA. Surviving as an academic is, therefore, not even an easy job. Many students,at the start of their PhD, don't even realise the path ahead . If the research career in Australia remains so struggling all the way, I guess not many students will be attracted to it in the future - not a good sign for sciecne at all. These are just my personal opinion and thoughts.
Currently I'm looking for a job in USA as well. I would like to share with someone who is applying to USA or already got a job there.

Post-Academic Career

Postby Lin-Chien » Sun Dec 26, 2004 4:47 am

I am just about to start my PhD in New Zealand. New Zealand is worse than Australia in science field, both in academia and industry. I am wondering what takes to get a permenant position in academia in USA when my PhD degree is not from USA. How can you define a successful postdoc which will lead to a permenant position?? Will productivity, the network and the skills be the essential elements? How about the "big names" of PI and the university?? Are these more critical when I want to stay in academia?

Post-Academic Career

Postby Bill L. & Naledi S. » Mon Dec 27, 2004 12:51 pm

Hi Lin-Chien and Afsar -- We've worked with a number of postdocs who did not get their PhD's from "big name" universities and who moved on to faculty positions in the US. Some of these overcame the added challenge of being non-US citizens. As I think about the commonalities from among those folks, here are a few themes in order of what I think made them successful:

1. Publication record. If the postdoc got published in Science, it didn't matter where their PhD came from, nor how small their "good old boy network"... and they still would have landed interviews.

2. Flexibility. Not all of these successful postdocs ended up at Harvard. Some of them were willing to go to non-big-name research universities, or to teaching positions at primarily undergrad colleges/universities.

3. Lab choice. Earlier in this thread someone said they couldn't believe some people enter grad school with no thought about the next step. I would apply the same logic to choice of postdoc lab...don't just pick the first that comes along. Make sure you select PI's who will help you meet your goals...they have good names, or are cranking out publications at a furious rate, or have a great track record of being helpful in the job search process, etc.

4. Network. Related to #3...Many postdocs' networks have helped make up for less stellar pub records and less-prestigious "pedigree". These can be built directly through your PI, through people you meet at meetings (try to attend a meeting a year or more!), by reaching out to faculty in other labs/at other universities for collaborations. These networks take years to build so don't wait until your 3rd/4th year of postdoc to start!

5. A certain dose of luck...some postdocs have entered their postdocs pursuing the thing that's most interesting to them, then four years later found that that's the new hot thing and there are more positions available than they expected.
Best wishes--
Bill L. and Naledi S.
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Post-Academic Career

Postby Carlysle » Mon Dec 27, 2004 10:02 pm

Landing academic jobs in the US is not the easiest thing to do and often requires at least 2 post-docs. In each of these situations--Australia, New Zealand, or the US--the job situation depends on where the bottleneck is. So, you can certainly get the post-doc, but it will not entitle you to a job at the end. But then again, if one faces these obstacles now, you may want to really think about future prospects for jobs. Being a perpetual post-doc on a meager salary anywhere without any kind of reward (position) at the end may be a sign.


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