How to get Postdoctorate positions? In conversation with Ajay Wagh PhD

1. In brief, tell us about your post-doctoral work. I am working on finding the mechanism/s for misfolded protein secretion upon proteasome inhibition. I have chosen mutant ubiquitin as a model substrate. Other than this, I am also interested to find out whether there is a link between mutant ubiquitin and sporadic form of Alzheimer's disease. 2. When to start hunting for postdoc positions? In general, there is a point in your PhD journey when you will know if you have concluding results to defend your PhD and to discuss your research with the next PI (Principal investigator) for the postdoc. You have to have something which you can sell to secure the postdoc position, and in my view, it will be in-depth knowledge about technical work in the form of publication. It's very simple, PIs don't respond if your CV is not up to the mark. In my case, I started immediately after the publication of my first author article because I remember, during the interviews, I was confident enough to talk/explain my research objectives to the labs I have applied to.

3. Where to find postdoc positions? It depends on many things, one of which is what you want to research after your PhD. You must devote serious efforts to find a suitable lab in terms of both scientific quality and interpersonal relationships. Look for the published articles by the PI in your field of interest. Even though he/she is not holding any available vacancy, you may write to them to seek the opportunity for the next available period (after 6 or 12 months). It helped me. There are vacancy tabs on the institute or University websites. Also, your current PhD PI can help you find one, and I genuinely think it's their responsibility too.

4. What are the fellowships one can apply for a postdoc? Any particular site to get information about the same? There are many options available. Follow this link Important point: There will be a lot of competition for it, so make sure you have your CV competitive enough before applying. 5. How to communicate with the PIs to get a postdoc position? Like SOPs/work experience, what all are needed? To communicate with the PIs, you must write a short, attractive email mentioning your intent to join their lab - What prior work experience do you have, and how will their lab be benefitted (transferable skills) from you? Please DO NOT EXAGGERATE. That email will decide your chance of getting interviewed and selection after that.

6. What was your strategy while sorting the postdoc labs? I selected my postdoc lab to learn more about the Ubiquitin proteasome system and its association with Alzheimer's. Therefore, I wrote to a few of the best PIs working in the field across Europe, the USA, and Israel. I researched their profiles and tried to find out how active they are by looking at how frequently they publish and the novelty of their research. Another important strategy I noted was the PI's number of collaborative research articles. This is a critical point, in my opinion, because that will ultimately determine the nature of that PI. Believe me!

7. What made you choose the lab you are currently pursuing your postdoc? Many things, such as his name itself (one of the pioneers in the field of proteasome biology) Prof. Michael Glickman. The lab is active and productive, funding in the lab, resources, great alumni from his lab, free hand to do independent research, a collaborative environment, etc.

8. Is there any chance of getting a postdoc position in a different field than your Ph.D. background? The chances are low, but it's not impossible. It entirely depends on the PI's mind. For example, students with biophysics & X-ray crystallography backgrounds will have fewer prospects of acceptance in a lab working on stem cells. However, as I mentioned above, if you've any transferable skills (cell culture hands-on or microscopy or anything relevant), based on that, your applications will certainly be considerable.

9. On average, how much can one expect to get as a postdoc salary, and is this negotiable? It is already decided according to the standard norms of the governing bodies, and I don't think it's negotiable. If the PI is gracious enough, they shall give you a raise every year. On average, the postdoc salary is more than enough to spend on your daily needs and live peacefully. However, it depends on which city of the country your institute is! E.g., You may have to cut your savings in some of the most expensive cities around the world - Boston, New York, London, Tel Aviv, etc.

10. Postdoc or industry, which is better? I can't say which is better, and you have to decide what you want to become post PhD. If you want to go for academics, wish to become a PI, or enjoy grant writing, then opt for a postdoc position. Of course, doing an international postdoc will allow you to gain a global perspective. You will certainly be exposed to many things that will help shape your future. You will learn how research and funding work in other countries. There will be personal development too. Therefore, I would suggest spending 2-4 years on your postdoc as it is a reasonable time.

On the other side, opting for an industry post PhD can too be a wise decision if taken immediately. The more I talked to people with industry experience, the more I heard that getting into the industry early would only help. If you have a goal of working as a team to develop therapies that could directly impact patients, or if you never enjoy grant writing, go for it!

11. Do work presentations in international conferences facilitate getting a postdoc abroad?

Of course, that is the crucial platform to present your ideas, acquire presentation skills, discuss critically and learn more about the scientific world. Believe me, you will learn a lot. I highly recommend that.

Ajay Wagh PhD

RBNI NEVET Nanotechnology postdoctoral fellow Michael Glickman lab, faculty of biology, Technion Israel Institute of Technology Haifa Israel