Career change after two post docs

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Career change after two post docs

Postby Jaya » Sat Apr 16, 2016 5:52 pm

I have completed four years of post doc work in theoretical and computational physics and am in a position to be applying for faculty jobs. I am nevertheless contemplating making a switch to working in computational neuroscience, and I have a three year post doc position lined up. I am quite excited about it for many reasons especially the high impact of the work especially compared to anything I have done before.
Is it a bad career move to make the switch at this stage? A lot of people have been advising me against it.
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Re: Career change after two post docs

Postby Rich Lemert » Sun Apr 17, 2016 8:47 pm

After four years as a post-doc, you've learned all you're going to be able to learn from others about how to conduct a research program. Anything more that you learn can only come about from your getting out there and starting your own program. Besides, somewhere in the next three years people are going to start wondering why you're afraid to go out on your own.

Please note that this does not prevent you from moving into a new area - if that's what you want to do. You just have to do things differently. Instead of finding someone to work FOR as a post-doc, find someone to collaborate WITH as a colleague. That way you'll be able to learn your new field while simultaneously establishing your own reputation.
Rich Lemert
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Re: Career change after two post docs

Postby D. Martin » Mon Apr 18, 2016 12:41 pm

Even when I will agree with Rich, I think your situation is a bit different in the sense you are changing fields. I have seen people doing a second postdoc (although one of the two postdocs was a short one) and landing an academic position. Moreover, in some sub-disciplines of biology your PhD will be 7 yrs and your postdoc other 6-7, so the total time is not too different (by the way, I do not know your field)
Also, even when collaborations can be the way to go, it is not easy to find collaborators when you are starting (at least it has not been for me in some sub-areas of my projects).
D. Martin
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Re: Career change after two post docs

Postby D.X. » Wed Apr 20, 2016 3:35 am


I'll put another angle. You've already done a 4 year post doc and I agree with what Rich says from a perspective of your ability to conduct a Research program and potential delay to go out on your own. Fully acknowledging that you want to do a field Switch.

My Overall question to you is, have you really evaluated seriously the prospect of doing an entirely new post-doc? At the end, you're at risk of having a 7 year post-doc experience and no gaurantee of a tenure track Position. You are at a potential risk for being a "life-long" post-doc with higher propability of being getting to one of them non-tenure track roles. Consider that you're looking at an Age and Stage issue. If circumstances fall in a way that you have no Options in academia at the end of this next post-doc, then you're a greater risk at not being able to launch an "alternative" career. So in this context despite your Overall interest, from a real-world life prespective, you are delaying your development, delaying your income potential and potential standard of living expectation (house, etc), delaying sufficent retirement planning, etc., and also impacting your competitiveness from an age perspective. So just consider those elements - in my experiences from others i've met, this sounds like a recipe for the perpetual post-doc and dissatisfaction with career choices in the mid to Long term.

I hear that Long postdocs as are 2 or 3 post doc Terms are common today, but why? for what? too high of a risk. Find something else in my opinion, nice to have scientific aspriations and fuel intellectual passions....that's great but be ready to accept the risks.

Personally, I don't know why anyone would even entertain or accept a Notion of a 7 year post-doc irrespective of any scientific interest in the context of risks involved. Bad business deal in my opinion. Especially in today's world.

Good luck with what you decide - certainly the world is a better place from People like you who do pursue thier passions for the betterment of knowledge...but...there is the real world, so long you've put real world living and your personal expectations for Standards of living and happiness into Balance...then fantastic.

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Re: Career change after two post docs

Postby Abubakar » Thu Apr 28, 2016 12:18 am


I think these advices are good for you. But the decisions lies with you.
Just to add to what they have said. I like to inform you about my personal experience about career change while facing the real challenges of the real world as mentioned earlier.
I was a resident doctor in Surgery with the intention of becoming Neurosurgeon. But while undergoing the training I discovered that the surgery routines was too difficult for me and was becoming very uninteresting for me because I am a very analytical person (Green personality) who is supposed to be in a very life scientific environment. So I had to take a hard decision to leave surgery for a Ph.D. molecular biology program. And in order to make sure I maintain an employment status I quickly completed an MSc Human Anatomy program with a distinction and secured an assistant professor position before venturing into full blown Ph.D. Molecular Biology program which I pursue on Part time basis. To cut story short today I have my academic career fully functioning and I have completed the Ph.D. Molecular Biology successfully.
So as you can see there is no one size fit all solution. Your situation is unique to you and you need to decide after listening to so many people.

Wish you all the best.

Dr. Abubakar
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Joined: Wed Apr 27, 2016 11:54 pm

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