By Prasanna Satpute-Krishnan, PhD
On June 21, 2011, NIH fellows who were recently successful in landing jobs in research were kind enough to share their experiences in a candid way during the Postdoc Success Forum. The panel represented three different types of academic positions and one industry position. During the event, the panel participants discussed the application and interview process as well as expectations for someone in their particular careers.
Dr. Julie Belanger recently joined a small liberal arts college with a focus on teaching. To secure this job, she emphasized teaching and mentoring experience in her application, which included a teaching philosophy statement. During her interview talk, she boiled down her experimental work to merely two slides and expanded the background. As a professor at a liberal arts college, she is expected to produce at least one research paper in 5 years while teaching a heavy course load.
Dr. Ram Savan and Dr. Wenge Zhu recently joined research-intensive state and private universities, respectively. Their applications emphasized publications and research plans. Both Ram and Wenge stressed that the interviews were rigorous and included departmental talks. For the state university, Ram presented a chalk talk, during which potential colleagues assessed his ability to think on his feet, win grants, and contribute to the department's research environment. In Wenge's case, the departmental chair's opinion was dominant in the hiring decision.
Both Ram and Wenge are expected to produce multiple publications, secure money from grants, mentor graduate students, and teach courses. They were both clear that the next challenge is making tenure!
Dr. Tim Chan recently accepted an industry position. His application highlighted his research experience, technical know-how, and, critically, the fact that he understood the biology behind the company's new technologies. After the application and interview process, the decision to hire him was made quickly.
Although Tim is not expected to write grants, his work must contribute to the bottom-line: make money for the company. He is expected to work in a team and be responsive to changes in research direction made by company leaders.
This meeting was organized and moderated by Dr. Howard Young of NCI. As a sidenote, Dr. Young has successfully mentored many postdocs in their job hunts, including panel member Ram Savan. Dr. Young's ability to encourage and prepare his own postdocs to become successful PIs became apparent during this meeting, serving as inspiration for many of the attendees. Brenda Hanning, another remarkable source of support, promoted this session to NICHD postdocs. Finally, every member of the panel recommended OITE as a resource during the job search.