Friday, February 17, 2012

Importance of a second postdoc for tt?

Alright. I'm conflicted and confused and going to turn to whoever is listening for guidance.

How important is a 2nd postdoc to securing a tenure-track research position?

I've amassed more years in my first postdoc stint than I had originally planned (thanks to some generous funding from the NIH) and I am now struggling with the next phase of my career. I applied for lots of jobs, but with nary a nibble I'm forced to reconsider my strategy.

This will be my 5th year as a postdoc, and quite frankly I,m not sure that I want to be a postdoc much more. Family obligations also factor into my struggling with this decision. While I am well  paid (at least I think so) due to my grant, I can't guarantee that I'll be paid as well should I join someone else's lab. Add to that the fact that I'll be ineligible for many of the mentored grants (cut-off is 5 years post degree), and I'm beginning to see this as less and less appealing....

The only problem is that I want to be a professor. I love research, mentoring, and teaching. Yeah, committee service sucks, but I can deal with it.

Why won't someone just give me a chance? Maybe if I change my name to Jeremy Lin I'll get a chance to shine....

Because that's all I need. A chance. An opportunity. And I'll fukking blow your mind....


  1. I do not know the answer to this but I hope you get that chance...and soon!!!

    1. Me too :)

      I know it'll all work out for the best, but sometimes it's so damn frustrating that I don't yet know what the best is....

  2. Hey, just found your blog. Good stuff. You sound a lot like where I anticipate I'll be in 4 or so more years (I'm just into the second year of gettin' my postdoc on).

    I've always assumed a second postdoc before applying for a TT job, but then again I'm on a 3-year contract in the UK where there is much less financial flexibility with research money than in the US.

    When you say you've "applied for jobs" I presume you mean just TT jobs, or postdoc jobs as well? I recall it not being all that difficult to obtain a postdoc a year or two ago when I first graduated, but I've heard it's pretty rough out there at all levels...

    I look forward to reading your blog, good luck with the TT job search!



    1. Glad you came to check it out and I'm even more excited you like it! In the US we sign 1-yr renewable contracts as postdocs. While this does lead to incredible freedom, it also leads to a lot of uncertainty each year.

      Fortunately, I received a relatively prestigious 3-yr grant in my second year (hence my 5+ years in this lab).

      As for jobs, I was only referring to TT jobs. Postdocs are relatively simple to get, but they usually depend on the PI having a grant to support you.

  3. I don't have a dog in this fight because I didn't do a postdoc in the first place and I am not a research professor. However (even though we are in different fields), I believe that a lot of postdoctoral training would be very beneficial in securing a TT position as a research professor. I imagine it is very difficult to think about moving on to a different postdoc (same song, different tune), but it may be the catalyst to get your job search really moving forward. I think it would be beneficial to do your 2nd postdoc at a different institution and with a slightly different area of focus than what you are currently pursuing (just to make you a little more marketable in the future). Good luck!

    1. I think I've pretty much resigned myself to my fate (should my K99 not go through and I not get any TT interviews).

      Two good things: 1) There are many great universities within a reasonable commuting distance (1 hour). 2) It will give me a chance to expand my research toward something I wanted to do anyway. In retrospect, my lack of experience in this particular area may have hurt my job prospects.

      So, even though I know I'm just trying to put a positive spin on things, I really think it might be best for me...

  4. Hey Dr. Dad, I recently experienced this situation. For my first post-doc, everything was a wreck, but I was able to salvage some experiments toward the end of my post-doc. Then, after my first child was born, I was told that my position was no longer available. Luckily, I was able to secure a second post-doc, and everything has been going smoothly. So, depending on your situation a second post-doc is helpful, especially considering the current funding climate. I have some friends on their third since not tenure-track jobs are available or the requirements are very competitive (i.e., need to bring in R01 funding). Since you are passing the 5 year mark, you will not be eligible for some K awards, but depending on the institute and K mechanism, you might be able to swing it. Regardless of your current level, the biggest thing is to publish, publish, publish! Just keep trying!

    1. Publishing is the problem for me. Until this year I was the only one working in the lab, so everything fell to me. Buying reagents, fixing equipment, writing grants, generating data, writing papers.

      Unfortunately, my day became somewhat prioritized in that order which killed my productivity (2 co- and 1 first author in 4 years ain't that good). I'm hoping that with my new focus I'll get 2 first and a few co-authored papers out (in addition to a review I'm writing) in the next year, which will help a ton...