Many grad students, particularly in science and engineering fields, choose to work as postdoctoral fellows before
pursuing permanent employment. when we start our first postdoc, we often find our self dependent on our supervisor: the one that provides the funding so that you can do their your research.
Paul Ugor finished a PhD program at the University of Alberta, Canada, in 2009, and has just started a Newton Internationall Fellowship funded by the British Academy, at the University of Birmingham. He says he picked the postdoc route because of his hunger for research in addition to his interest in Birmingham as a renowned university for cultural studies. Dr Ugor points out that he also knew the choice of a host supervisor was crucial to a successful application for such a highly competitive fellowship like the Newton.
It is common for postdocs to be supported by their PI in the first year or two, but often postdocs will be asked to find their own funding at some point. But, it’s more difficult than it looks to build up independence without treading on a PI’s toes, especially when you’re hired to work on their research.
Usherwood suggests the following should be done early on in an academic postdoctoral career to build up some autonomy:
– Start supervising undergraduate student projects to give you extra time and resources on slightly different projects.
– Find out what other areas of interest the PI might have. They might not currently be working on them but they could be willing to discuss opportunities.
-Don’t be protective about your ideas. “It’s much better to chat about them and find what has been done before; if the occasional idea gets adopted/swiped along the way, have a new one and believe that there will be important people in the field appreciating your input anyway.”
In Holland, the Innovational Research Incentives Scheme personal grants to talented, creative researchers. The funding enables applicants to do their own line of research. This boosts innovative research and promotes mobility within scientific research institutes.Non-academic research institutions might offer alternative routes to becoming independent. The Francis Crick Institute in London for example, which is due to open in late 2015, has a new way of helping early career researchers to develop independence. It’s going to be offering 80 12-year appointments to young researchers, with a review at mid-stage. “This is an experiment in funding individual researchers,” Professor Jim Smith said at the Naturejobs Career Expo in London in September 2014.It’s going to be offering 80 12-year appointments to young researchers, with a review at mid-stage. “This is an experiment in funding individual researchers,” Professor Jim Smith said at the Naturejobs Career Expo in London in September 2014.