Monday, 12 May 2014

Post Phd Story

While perusing twitter the other day I came across a post by Jacquelyn Gill asking about people's post Phd stories.  There are a lot of "why I left academia" stories and you inevitably hear about the superstar stories, but there are a whole lot of us in the middle who never tell their post Phd stories.

So here's mine, take what you will from it.

I did my Phd at the Brighton & Sussex Medical School, and I liked what I was doing there, but I couldn't see myself staying on for a Postdoc (I don't think my supervisors could either...), the topic was fine, but I wasn't really excited by it towards the end of my Phd, and my main supervisor & I used to rub each other up the wrong way.

I had 3 years of funding, so as the three years drew to a close, I started to look for another job.  I was writing up at this point, but I was still quite a way from having the thesis finished.

I applied for a couple of jobs, one at Nottingham University, where I wasn't shortlisted and one at the National Genetics Research Laboratory in Manchester.  It was a 'Clinical Bioinformatician' job (I wasn't really sure what that was, when I got the the interview it turned out it was pretty much a made up job title...) creating tools and teaching bioinformatics for the NHS.

I was offered the job, I took the job, and I moved to Manchester.  For ~ 6 months I was working at NGRL during the day and doing my thesis at night.  Having had no experience with patient centred bioinformatics/genetics, I didn't know how I would take to it.  It turns out, it's not really my thing.  I'm definitely more a blue skies researcher type. However, it was a great job to have while I was writing up my thesis (BTW, it's totally possible, to write up with a new job.  It's not fun, but it's totally possible).

A few months after I'd passed my viva, I decided to start looking around to see if there were any postdoc positions which might be more my style.  I wasn't going to just apply for anything as I was fairly happy in the current job.  Almost immediately, a job came up at Nottingham University (different PI and campus to the last job), I went down for an informal chat before applying and it seemed like a great position.  The PI encouraged me to apply, I did, and I was offered the job.

Three years has gone by since then and I'm now in a second postdoc at Rutgers University in New Jersey.  I'm trying to find either my own money or a lectureship and it's hard.  But I left academia once and came back, so I know that this is the life that makes me happy.  Maybe I'll leave again if things don't work out.  But right now I'm sticking it out.

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