Finding a post doc lab is really tough. It’s not just because you are not sure about what you want to study, the fact that you don’t know enough people in fields that differ from the one you are currently working on, and that you have to decide soon. It is just one of those next to impossible decisions that we go through because there are so many options and we know that the choice can really affect our career path. Hopefully knowing that it is tough for everyone else (at least everyone I talked to) and the suggestions below will make it a bit easier. This workshop is designed to help first year graduate students who are performing rotations gain the skills to communicate with their rotational professors, respectfully tell professors that you will not be joining a lab, set up additional rotations if you do not find a lab, and successfully transition from rotations to working on your thesis. Although you will ultimately choose one lab to do your dissertation in, it is important to use your lab rotations as an important learning opportunity as well as avenues for future collaborations.
Find a rotation lab before the semester starts.
It is important to have a first rotation arranged well before the semester begins. Depending on the size of your institution and area of interest, it may be difficult to get spots with popular labs unless you arrange it over the summer. Otherwise you may find yourself in a position where you have to take a rotation in a lab that is not appropriate for you.
As postdocs, it’s important to sit and think about your career before you embark on it, as you are really committing yourself to something for 3-5 years. Having a plan from Day One, and regularly assessing and comparing it to your progress will help keep things moving along smoothly. “It’s no longer enough to just rely on “doing good work” and hoping to land a position. Postdocs must strategically navigate their career,” says Jim Gould, Director at the Harvard Medical School Office for Postdoctoral Fellows.
Choosing A PI
The path to a successful PhD experience begins with choosing the right mentor. And by “mentor” I am really talking about “PI”. Many students miss this important point – your PI should be your mentor, and only afterwards your boss. Why is that so important?
Like in many aspects of our life, money plays a key role in the choice of a PI/lab. Without money, you can’t really do science. Moreover, in certain cases you will need some personal financial support from your mentor, in case your scholarship is limited or nonexistent. Whatever the case you should discuss with your prospective PI to see if the project s/he has for you has a budget, if s/he can complement your scholarship and assess if you can live with whatever you receive from the lab and from the department or faculty.
Love what you do
Like working in any environment, part of what will make it enjoyable is the people you are with and the work ethics they share. If you don’t get on with your colleagues, chances are that you won’t enjoy your work.