Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Should I stay or should I go – part I

After grad school, there are two moments in academic science where you have to decide where you want to go next: where are you going to do a post-doc and where are you going (or where can you go) for your next job (hopefully TT). Today I’ll talk about that first moment, finding a post-doc position. Coming from a small European country it is encouraged to go abroad to do your post-doc and hence the title: should I stay in the home country or go abroad?

I obviously chose to go abroad, and more specifically to America (pronounce with West-Side Story accent in this case). Even though I sometimes complain about the things that you don’t have here, like official maternity leave that is longer than 6 weeks or subsidized daycare I love living in the US (okay maybe except for that day that a guy got shot in our street. Or those days when a little wind causes a power outage). Science-wise, this is where things happen in my opinion. This is where the big meetings are and where you live in the same city as Nobel prize winners. This is where I’ve learned so much more about how to network with people and what the politics are behind getting grants and submitting papers.

So how did Dr. BrownEyes and I get here? We started emailing people about a year before we wanted to start working here. And because my graduate advisor is not a big name in the field that I wanted to work in, I sent a lot of emails that never got a reply. I think in total I sent 30 emails, and called two people that I really wanted to work with to make sure they got my email (one of them didn’t and was glad I called because my email had landed in hir spam box). In the end I got 5 interviews in 3 different cities in 2 weeks. Our way to tackle the two-body problem was by choosing a couple of big cities where either one of us knew a lab that we wanted to work in and then the other one would try to find something there too.

About 5 months before we wanted to start working here we flew to the US to do our round of interviews. It was a very exciting two weeks, because I got to talk about (rather than do) my PhD research that was almost done. And even better: people seemed really interested to hire me. Those two weeks were a first glimpse of what it would be like being a professor: when people pay you to stay in a hotel and talk about your research! 

Shortly after we came back we decided that we wanted to go to the place where we live and work now, and between finishing our thesis, selling our stuff and looking for apartments in the new city we also had to arrange all of the visa stuff that we needed. 

And now we are already thinking about the second time we need to decide whether we stay or go (more about that in another post). Do we stay here and look for a TT position or do we go back to the home country? Right now, I think the chances are biggest that we are going back to the home country so tomorrow we are flying back for a week and a half, obviously to see BlueEyes hug his grandparents, but also to have an informal beer an interview with two labs there to talk about working there. Wish me luck (mostly for the 7 hour flight with a very mobile one year old….)


  1. This is a great post, especially for someone like me (only 1 year into the PhD) to keep in mind for the future. Good luck with the interviews (beer drinking) and of course the flight with the toddler!

    1. Thanks! Let me know if you have other questions about finding a postdoc position!