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How did you get your postdoc?


Amanda Labuza
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Amanda Labuza

After having lunch with several seminar speakers I am amazed at the variety of pathways they have taken to get to their faculty position. I’m curious others obtained their postdoc position. Did you cold email someone? Had you met your postdoc adviser at a conference previously? Did your graduate mentor introduce you? Other stories? I’m interested to hear! Any thing that didn’t work?

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This is a great question! I want to find a postdoc (after being away from the bench for a few yrs) and I am unsure how to go about it!

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Kimberly Raab-Graham

@labuza, I think the most effective way to match with the “right” postdoc adviser is through your graduate adviser. A single phone call or email means a lot especially when your adviser has a relationship with a potential postdoc adviser. I just sent out a few emails for a student of mine. It took me all of 3 minutes. Within a very short time he had a postdoc set up.

I personally have had postdoc’s cold call, seek me out at meetings, and come from labs who I’m friends with their graduate advisers. The personal interaction at a meeting or with the candidate’s postdoc adviser is important especially if your papers are submitted but not published. One idea that stuck with me was that I met a potential postdoc at SFN and then she sent me an invitation to linkin. A few weeks later I got an email from her seeking a postdoctoral position. I thought this was a really great strategy. She’s a joy to have in the lab. Good luck!

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I have another pathway called no Post Doc at all. I obtained my PhD in France and post doc sort of meant the day after you presented your PhD. In fact to be honest I had never heard of a postdoc until I started meeting American investigators at European meetings. Getting a PhD meant to be able to perform independent research. My only encounter with a postdoc was during a visit to the USA someone suggested that I interview for a postdoc position. So I gave it a try and was extremely shocked. According to what was said I was expected to join a team with research projects that had nothing to do with my interests and in fact was expected to promote the director’s career. No thanks not for me. Back in France I eventually got appointed to INSERM one of the agencies that funds scientists and medical research in France. The other agency is CNRS.
This was a tenure appointment and allowed me to pursue my research which I did.

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Amanda Labuza

Thanks for the feedback! It is nice to hear you have accepted post-docs who contacted you in different ways. Unfortunately, my mentor works mostly in muscle and I’m interested in neuroscience so not many of his contacts would make for good post-docs for me. I definitely always try to email people after I meet them at conferences.

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Amanda Labuza

I had no idea other countries didn’t do post-docs. I wish that was an option in America!

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Gabriella Panuccio

I think that getting connected to prospective supervisors via the current supervisor may be a good starting point, but it may also be something that eventually turns against us. Some supervisors are not committed at all to mentoring their students and helping them pursue an independent career, they only want to push theirs. As a result, some supervisors may propose an interview with some of their collaborators… To keep the collaborations open. It’s some sort of supervision by proxy, for which you may never start your independent journey. Of course this may also be a very positive aspect, because we are helped in networking and very likely we will pursue a research line that is very close to what we’ve been doing until that moment.
Personally, I have found my post-doc labs in both ways. At first, I was suggested to get in touch with a collaborator, but that position was not what I was looking for, because I wanted to make a field transition. Then, I took initiative looking for labs I may want to join, and eventually I was awarded a very prestigious and highly competitive fellowship from the European Union. Meanwhile, my prospective EU supervisor had forwarded to me the job post for a lab I really liked (I’m a personal super-fan of the lab head!), and I was lucky enough to be able to work there for 2 years before taking up my fellowship.
I think that choosing our next career move should be driven by our passion and independent thinking. I always asked myself “what do I need to do in order to reach my research goals?”. This 4-year field transition was demanding and challenging, and it costed me a lot in terms of publication record… But now I am in the process of getting all my results out at the end of a fantastic journey that was definitely worth embarking on.
At last, I wanted to start my own lab and pursue my research line. I applied for funding to become a PI and it went really well! This funding would have never been possible if I hadn’t followed my instinct and desire, making high-risk choices.
In a nutshell: follow your instinct and your desire and don’t allow others to draw your career path, making choices for you. Suggestions are always welcome, but it’s nothing wrong to decline them if they don’t suit your needs. You will never be let down.

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