Monday, May 20, 2013

C&EN: Is it wise to do multiple postdocs?



My short answer: no. 

11 comments:

  1. Yeah, ok, it's not wise to do multiple postdocs, but what is someone supposed to do if they can't find a job, and they have to move on from their first postdoc? Just keep looking? I doubt anyone plans to do multiple postdocs.

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    1. "I doubt anyone plans to do multiple postdocs."

      I agree entirely.

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    2. Actually I came to the states from england, having finished my phd in 3 yrs age 25. I fully intended to do multiple postdocs. I did not feel experienced or mature enough to be managing a research group. Im in my 3rd postdoc, and in the process got a really wide range of experience with many different projects. Im now the same age as many of my US/european colleagues with a 6 yr phd + 1 postdoc.

      Now I dont want to do any more postdocs, but its been fine with me until now. In fact, I havent yet applied to any non postdoc jobs seriously until now.

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  2. But will doing a second (or third) postdoc get you anywhere or be of any benefit to you? (I ask this while acknowledging the unfairness of the situation to people who are pondering 2nd/3rd postdocs.)

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    1. Snarky answer: It will be worth $35k-$50k benefit to you, which is enough to eat and live for two more years.

      More thoughtful answer: Professionally, the answer is maybe... Perhaps the person takes a postdoc to learn additional skills that would be valuable to an employer. I would argue that a productive postdoc with some publications and another respected person to vouch for you is a benefit. In my job search, I had interviewers tell me I was going up against people with long/multiple postdocs and that put me at a disadvantage.

      Make no mistake, I am not arguing that doing multiple postdocs is a good situation for anyone. The fact that this is a topic of conversation at all speaks to the state of the job market, but when/if any corrective action takes place, it will not come in time to have an effect on the people considering multiple postdocs right now.

      -Anon from above

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    2. "Snarky answer: It will be worth $35k-$50k benefit to you, which is enough to eat and live for two more years."

      Thats not snarky at all... with the job market in the terlet, wtf are we supposed to do with our massive amounts of training? If youre in chemistry, done a PhD (not from the NUMBER ONE school), youve already screwed up good, so dont worry about it. Train for something else in the background and be prepared to bail on chemistry/science/research.

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    3. If you aren't going to be allowed to win the game, don't play it. Cut your losses and move on.

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  3. It depends, I know an outstanding chemist with a degree from Moscow Uni who got a postdoc with Knochel in Europe, then Nicolaou in Singapore. He worked like a dog there and got several excellent papers but then did another postdoc with Lipshutz in US. Finally he landed a senior position at Dow R&D and is very happy there. I think it would be better if he could get a job after the first postdoc but being in Europe or Singapore (or even at a mediocre group in US) would make it very unlikely that he would be even interviewed at Dow

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  4. With industrial research being the way it is these days, you won't be doing the fun research you were trained to do in most places these days anyways. The second postdoc is another chance to get to do real basic research because DuPont isn't what it was 20 years ago. I was really angry at the guy on the video who said that "the reality is, you're not going to get the academic job you're looking for" so I didn't comment for a while until the anger subsided. I'm doing a second postdoc now because my first one had a time limit from the institution and now that I got married and the wife has to finish her job, I can't really move out of the area. But I like the freedom of academic research a lot more for now since I've got some major cash saved up from this ridiculous scholarship that they gave me by mistake, and I'm not too worried about the bills. Plus, sometimes you need to do a second postdoc even if you have lots of glamour magz pubs as first author if your first postdoc and PhD advisor didn't have the pedigree credz, or you need to broaden your skillz even more, and you want that professor job.

    And Paul Houston, that smug, well-paid and entitled... (not angry... not angry... it must have been his voice tone probably). Geez, the academic system relies on poorly paid postdocs to do the research, and then you go and shit on them by saying there is something wrong with them if they are stuck in multiple ones and/or want to continue to do interesting chemistry, in the current job market.

    Me and the wife are actually starting to get interviews for academic jobs now. And some in better places than Georgia Tech (well, the wife at least). In the second postdoc.

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  5. I'll put my two cents in. I did two postdocs and then finally (and luckily!) landed an academic position. The Paul Houston segment was a bit annoying because that type of thinking occurs both on the academic AS WELL as the industry side. I spent one year in Europe for a postdoc. I won't go into the details, but I came back to the US for a second postdoc that lasted 4 years. I had gone out for the academic search in year 2 (2008-9) of that postdoc and had several interviews but didn't get an offer. I felt bad about that and decided maybe I should also be interviewing for industry jobs as well. I went on a couple industry job interviews that summer and was told both times that I was "too academic". Wow. So, at some point in the postdoc situation you are not-wanted either academic or industry community! Acadmics don't want you because you spent too long in a postdoc (and therefore must not be good), and industry doesn't want you because you are now too "academic". Luckily my postdoc boss allowed me to stay another year and I was able to get an academic job the next go round.

    With the job situation how it has been the past 5-6 years, a job is a job. At least a postdoc keeps money coming in and keeps you in the technology game so you could migrate to a new job.

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  6. Hey hey hey come on guys, this is purely the US system. No one is pretending a 3-year standard PhD gives exactly the same experience as a 5/6-year standard like in the US. There it is good only to do one postdoc. Here (in the UK), it's obviously not.

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