Life after the ph d how to land the post doctoral fellowship of your dreams
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“Life After the Ph.D.” How To Land the Post-Doctoral Fellowship of Your Dreams. Donna H. Korzick, Ph.D. Chair, Intercollege Program in Physiology Department of Kinesiology The Pennsylvania State University October 29, 2008 – GWISE Seminar Series. Landing a Post-Doctoral Fellowship….

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Life after the ph d how to land the post doctoral fellowship of your dreams

“Life After the Ph.D.”How To Land the Post-Doctoral Fellowship of Your Dreams

Donna H. Korzick, Ph.D.

Chair, Intercollege Program in Physiology

Department of Kinesiology

The Pennsylvania State University

October 29, 2008 – GWISE Seminar Series

Landing a post doctoral fellowship
Landing a Post-Doctoral Fellowship…

  • The Search

    • Is post-doctoral training really necessary?

    • Finding a good mentor and research environment

  • The Interview

    • Preparation for you visit: homework

    • During your visit: listen and ask questions

  • The Follow-Up

    • After your visit: homework

    • The Negotiation: salary, moving expenses, etc

  • The Decision

How Long Does a Post-Doctoral Experience Last?

2 – 5 years

Usually in one place

Years 1-2: learn new techniques (tools in the toolbox)

low risk project handed to you

Years 3-5: high risk project

make the project “your own”

find YOUR niche

Remember: Your #1 competition will be your Ph.D. advisor, find your niche

How and where do you find post doctoral positions
How and Where Do You Find Post-Doctoral Positions?

  • Advertisements: Science, professional society publications/list serves

  • Word of Mouth

  • Academia?

  • Industry?

  • Government?

Is post doctoral training really necessary
Is Post-Doctoral Training Really Necessary?

  • You betcha…if you want to land a job at a ‘Research I’ institution

  • Probably not…if you ‘just want to teach’ at a small liberal arts school

  • Yes… if you’re remotely leaning towards continuing on in science

  • Yes…if you want to write your ticket and determine your own fate

Preparing for the interview
Preparing for the Interview

  • Get an itinerary beforehand (communicate with the secretary/administrative assistant)

  • Do your homework

    • Become familiar with the individuals on your itinerary

    • Perform a literature search/know their research

  • Have you been asked to give a seminar?

    • Obtain information on the type of room in which you will be presenting (large vs small group)

    • Know your audience and plan ahead

Preparing for the interview cont
Preparing for the Interview, cont.

  • Dress professionally!

  • Speak professionally!

    • Keep your guard up; now is not the time to reveal negative information about your advisor or university

    • Address those with whom you meet as “Dr.”

    • Let your personality shine through without being too casual or too pretentious

During your visit
During Your Visit

  • Listen carefully

    • To what is said and unsaid

    • Be attentive

  • Ask questions of current trainees

    • examples

      “What is an average day like in the lab?”

      “ Do you meet with Dr. _____ often?”

      “What kind of projects are you working on?”

Questions You Should Ask Any Potential Post-Doctoral Mentor

  • Where will you fit in the general scheme of the lab?

  • To Whom will you report?

    your mentor?

    some middle-management flunky?

  • How much freedom/flexibility will you have?

  • What is his/her vision/goals for you?

Questions You Should Ask Any Potential Post-Doctoral Mentor, cont.

  • Low Risk vs High Risk Projects – make them articulate this plan

  • What is their philosophy on training post-doc’s?

  • Other career development issues:

    • Publishing

    • Grant writing

      individual NRSA

      transition awards (NIH KO1, AHA SDG)

The Seminar Presentation? cont.

  • You may or may not be asked to give a seminar.

  • You will present your thesis work. Make sure you get permission from your current mentor.

  • Know your audience! Will it be formal or informal?

  • Don’t take credit for that which is not yours!

  • Don’t use “cutesy” fonts like comic sands!

The Dinner: Social Do’s cont.and Don’ts

  • Keep your guard up! Now is not the time to weigh in on departmental politics or share negative information about your current mentor – keep it positive.

  • If you consume alcohol, no more than one drink!

  • Plan ahead to ask questions, silence is painful:

    -cost of living?

    -popular housing developments?

    -community recreational services

    -reflect on your day, ask appropriate questions from prior interviews


The Follow-Up: cont.

After Your Visit

  • Thank you letter

    - avoid overly effusive language

    - be honest with a timeline for your decision

  • Talk to previous trainees about “what it’s really like”

    - get names from potential mentor

    - what they tell you or don’t tell you means alot!

  • Get input from your current mentor

  • Get input from senior investigators in the field about the mentor/laboratory

How Do You Negotiate An Offer Once a Mentor has been Identified?

  • Things you should eventually ask about/expect:

  • - “When and How”do you ask for this stuff?

    • - Moving Expenses

    • (this can be done by asking to start your salary one month earlier if moving expenses are not customary)

    • - Guaranteed two years of support

    • NIH Stipend: $38,000 (0 years experience)

    • - Supplemental Pay: cost of living?

    • - Full Benefit Package

    • - Travel to at least one meeting/year

The Decision: How Do you Select the Perfect Post-Doctoral Mentor?

  • Follow Your Heart!

  • Environment/Resources

  • What is his/her reputation

  • Big Lab vs Little Lab? Lots of pressure vs less


  • Pedigree goes a long way and opens doors!

  • Talk to people at meetings – What kind of reputation

    does he/she have?

Korzick’s Words of Wisdom Mentor?

  • Good post-doc’s write their ticket….

  • Take advantage of every and any opportunity that comes your way – you’ll never have that much freedom again!

  • Publish Publish Publish

  • Get your own NRSA

  • Get a career development award to take with you!

  • Demonstrate independence and creativity every chance you get

  • Always do MORE than you are asked

  • Don’t be afraid to do something different – nothing is permanent!

Career Development Resources from the American Physiological Society: