Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Reflections on my 1st Postdoc

As regular readers of this (or followers of me on twitter - @phdgeek) will know, I've spent the last three years working as a postdoc at the University of Nottingham.  This is my penultimate day here as the grant we were hoping for wasn't funded (this wasn't a huge shock, it seemed hit or miss from the reviews).  So, I thought I'd take some time to review the things that went well and the things that I might have done differently.

Great Stuff

Supervisor - I really landed on my feet here, my PI's been great.  He's let me follow my own direction in the research but still been really interested in what's going on.  Also he's a pretty big name in the field (at least in europe) and I think that's been helping in the job search.

Papers - I only got one paper out of my Phd (there is another one floating around in the ether, but whether that ever get published is anyone's guess), so I really needed to get a few out from this postdoc.  Which I did - 3 research articles and a commentary piece.  I'm also still working on a further two articles, which when published will make a fairly respectable haul.

Conferences - I love conferences, I come back really buzzed about the work.  Plus, it's really important to get known and to talk about your work if you're ever going to get a permanent position! So it was really nice that the grant that I've been funded on had funding for three designated conferences a year, Popgroup, SMBE and a further one which I decided I wasn't interested.  This was great because it meant that there was no persuading needed, I could just go.

Travel Award - As well as the already funded conferences, I managed to get a travel award to go to Basel to the ECCB meeting.  Getting any money is great, it's not much, but it shows an independent attitude and that someone else thought your research was interesting enough to fund you talking about it!

Less Good Stuff

All the other things - My PI has done a remarkable job of shielding me from all the other things academics have to do and just letting me get on with research, and it's been really productive.  But sometimes what you actually need is for someone to send all the other stuff your way - paper reviews, admin stuff, project students, teaching - just so that you can get the experience of doing those things and having a huge work load.  I'm happy I didn't have to do all that in this postdoc, but where ever I end I next I really need to start doing it.

Money - One of the things about being a computational biologist, who doesn't tend to even work with big datasets, is that it's hard to find things to spend money on.  In my next job I've definitely got to start ramping up the rate at which I ask for small grants, travel grants etc.

Learning about my new field - I've been allowed to take my research in the direction I wanted, as mentioned before.  The problem with this is that I was new to the field of evolutionary genetics and had several big gaps in my knowledge.  I haven't felt the need to fill these in order to get on with my research and now I feel like I have a huge amount of reading to do to catch up.

So those are my thoughts on the postdoc.  Anyone else got any postdoc/phd regrets, things you'd do differently or things that were awesome and you'd like to persuade everyone else to do them to?

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