by PhilipJ on 3 December 2006
PLoS Computational Biology seems like lists as much as I do. This time around in Ten Simple Rules for Selecting a Postdoctoral Position they’re offering advice to those soon to be finishing their PhDs. In fact, the majority of the list is good reading for those who are about to start a graduate degree as well, so click here to read the whole list, no subscription required.
Since I’m in the proccess of figuring out labs in which I’d like to apply for my own PhD, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the combinations of rules 5 (Choose a Project with Tangible Outcomes That Match Your Career Goals) and 10 (Learn to Recognize Opportunities). Taking on exciting new projects by definition means you are charting in unknown waters, and tangible outcomes are no longer guaranteed (and even for a lot of me-too science). The editorial notes,
[f]or a future in academia, the most tangible outcomes are publications, followed by more publications.
How does one successfully ballance tangible outcomes (publishing papers [that people will read]) with choosing a lab doing novel and interesting science, and what are some safeguards from overly-ambitious “opportunities” that take too long to produce those tangible results? I’ve seen a number of really excellent talks (most recently at the Frontiers in Biophysics retreat), only to realise by the end that the number of dead ends graduate students (over a few generations) followed on these projects numbered much larger than the successes.
I’ve started learning the lessons, but I don’t yet have the answers.