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F32, a double edged sword?

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F32, a double edged sword?

Postby Dave M. » Thu Jan 14, 2016 1:24 pm

I received an F32 post doc fellowship from the NIH, which I am now finding is a double-edge sword. I list some basic pros and cons, even though there are probably many more of each. I am hoping that others can correct me on some of the cons associated with the award.

Pros:
1) Looks good on a CV.
2) Stable source of money.
3) Extra funds useful for travel.

Cons:
1) No salary top-up. My supervisor has to decrease my salary to the NIH stipend (cutting my pay by 1/2). From what I understand, money may potentially come from non-federal sources, but it's a murky area to get this alternative money.
2) No money as Co-PI on grants. May be an issue to even be listed as a Co-PI on a grant. An F32 requires 100% time. As I'm getting more senior as a post doc, I am finding it more and more important to show that I can obtain grants in order to obtain a faculty position. Ideally one would even bring money with them to a new position.
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Re: F32, a double edged sword?

Postby J.B. » Fri Jan 15, 2016 9:02 am

Forgive my asking, but the NIH minimum is $39,000. Are you telling me you were making nearly double that as a postdoc? That's a lot of money for a postdoc, there are PhDs in industry that don't make that much.

That being said, it sounds like the purpose of this was to help you down the line when you apply for a faculty position, which it absolutely will. I don't know that I've heard of postdocs being listed as Co-PIs on grants, was this a real possibility before in your group?
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Re: F32, a double edged sword?

Postby Dave Walker » Fri Jan 15, 2016 10:01 am

Dave M. wrote:I received an F32 post doc fellowship from the NIH, which I am now finding is a double-edge sword. I list some basic pros and cons, even though there are probably many more of each. I am hoping that others can correct me on some of the cons associated with the award.

Pros:
1) Looks good on a CV.
2) Stable source of money.
3) Extra funds useful for travel.

Cons:
1) No salary top-up. My supervisor has to decrease my salary to the NIH stipend (cutting my pay by 1/2). From what I understand, money may potentially come from non-federal sources, but it's a murky area to get this alternative money.
2) No money as Co-PI on grants. May be an issue to even be listed as a Co-PI on a grant. An F32 requires 100% time. As I'm getting more senior as a post doc, I am finding it more and more important to show that I can obtain grants in order to obtain a faculty position. Ideally one would even bring money with them to a new position.


Dave M,

I actually think it's a self-defeating attitude to speak of career choices as "double edged swords." Every decision we make has some pros and some cons. It's all about what you want to do in life, and what you do to get there.

We stress on this forum to think about your own career goals first and foremost. It sounds like your goal is to obtain a faculty position? In that case I would argue an F32 is extremely valuable, compared to someone who doesn't have one. I am 100% positive there are examples of postdocs with F32 grants who achieve a faculty position afterward. Wouldn't that be just a success, no pros/con lists needed? You could follow in their steps and be successful just fine.

I would like to address your cons to the letter, but I defer to the current and former academics here who have much more experience.
"The single factor that differentiates Nobel laureates from other scientists is training with another Nobel laureate." -- Sol Snyder
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Re: F32, a double edged sword?

Postby Phil B » Fri Jan 15, 2016 11:10 am

Dave,

You stated that you are getting more senior as a Post-Doc. I wonder if the K99 would have been a better funding mechanism and help to transition to a faculty position.
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Re: F32, a double edged sword?

Postby Dave M. » Wed Jan 20, 2016 12:25 pm

J.B.,
Yes, my salary was actually over $90k. I agree that it's a lot of money for a postdoc. I also would never want the NIH to offer that much to a postdoc (would prefer to avoid increased taxes or a reduced pool of F32 recipients). I also agree that an F32 will help down the line. Lastly, yes, it is really a possibility to be listed as a Co-PI in my current group and in my previous group.

Dave Walker,
Thank you for your response. I agree an F32 will help me obtain a faculty position. However, during my last faculty phone interview, I was asked if the F32 would bring the university any money or if I had any other grants that would bring the university money. Presumably, they didn't base their final decision solely on the answer, but both answers have to be a no from my understanding of an F32. I found the question quite frustrating, but with an increasingly competitive job environment, it seems like postdocs may increasingly have to compete with assistant and associate profs for the job. Unfortunately, they have numerous unfair advantages, especially with an ability to bring additional research funds with them.

Phil B,
a K99 funding mechanism would be wonderful. I did my first postdoc overseas, which was a great experience. By the time I returned, I was too far from my graduation date to apply for a K99 (unless they have changed the rules). It is also challenging to go straight from an overseas postdoc position to a faculty position in the U.S. (a whole separate problem). It would be great if there are awards, like the K99, that are appropriate for senior postdocs.
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Re: F32, a double edged sword?

Postby Craig B. » Wed Jan 20, 2016 1:06 pm

I've never heard of a postdoc with such a high salary--you seem like a real outlier. More often I hear of postdocs being paid below NRSA stipend levels.

Did you need to get your F32 to support yourself or could your PI pick up your salary again if you were to drop off of your F32?

I think your interpretation of F32 was correct--the money is a fellowship to you, the individual--but you were not spinning it correctly. The award is going to you and in the process you are freeing up PI/university resources by having the fellowship. In that sense you brought the university money.

If you have support from the university and your mentor to apply for R level or comparable grants, start submitting applications. If you get an award (a year down the road), you'll have to drop the fellowship to be a PI. As long as you're staying in the field to work off your payback agreement, there's no reason you have to stay a F32 fellow for the full 3 years.
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Re: F32, a double edged sword?

Postby Jerry B. » Thu Jan 21, 2016 1:56 pm

I believe you can apply for a K99 up to 4 years after completion of your PhD. If you really are that far into your career I would urge you put all of your efforts into finishing research projects, publishing papers, and most importantly, getting high quality job applications to the places you want to work. There tends to be a maximum period that hiring committees think post docs should last and after that start wondering why the applicant hasn't transitioned yet. This period is longer for academics (especially in the biosciences), but is still finite. The fact that you received the F32 says that you are talented and can write good proposals. Try to sell that to hiring committees when they ask about you bringing your own funding.
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