How to get Postdoctorate positions? In conversation with Dr. Abhilash Nitin Deo

1. In brief, tell us about your post-doctoral work.

In my post-doc project, I am studying the pro-tumorigenic and pro-metastatic effects of host factors induced in response to immunotherapy. Our lab has previously shown that all the conventional cancer treatment modalities, including immunotherapy, cause upregulation of host factors (plasma proteins) like interleukins that promote the propagation of tumor cells. Our aim is to identify these host factors and develop adjuvant therapeutic strategies that will negate this unintentional impact of immunotherapy, thereby improving the remedial outcome.

2. When to start hunting for post-doc positions?

The best time to look for post-doc positions, according to me is the last year of your PhD (more specifically last year of your commitment period). Now, this period varies for each student. For some students, it literally means the final year of their PhD, while for some students, it could mean the last year of their stay in their PhD labs when they are either working on some other project or are busy publishing their remaining data. One year is a decent time to approach your prospective labs.

3. Where to find post-doc positions?

The following are some of the ways to know about upcoming post-doc positions:

A. Attend international conferences (preferably out of India). Meet experts in your field or your field of interest. Discuss with them prospective post-doc positions in their lab.

B. Connect with your seniors from your lab/institute. They can tell you all the inside stories about fellowship calls, where to apply and where not to apply, etc.

C. Social media/professional websites: You can develop useful connections on Twitter and Linkedin as many scientists and PIs these days post PhD/Post-doc vacancies through this medium.

D. Search yourself: Go through the official websites of all the research institutes in different countries, for example, NIH (US), Sloan Kettering (USA), Technion (Israel), University of Zurich/Basel (Switzerland), etc., and make a list of PIs whose work you find interesting. Then approach them one by one. You can gather this information through A, B, and C channels as well.

4. What are the fellowships one can apply for a post-doc? Any particular site to get information about the same?

Typically the most popular ones are EMBO and Marie Curie. They are highly competitive as well. You can get information about these fellowships online. However, there is a wide range of fellowships with different eligibility criteria (e.g., the CRI Irvington fellowship is specific for immunotherapy research). You can get information about these fellowships (especially the upcoming deadlines) from your prospective supervisor/university.

5. How to communicate with the PIs to get a post-doc position? Like SOPs/work experience, what all are needed?

As mentioned above, either you can talk to them in person or write to them. Before you approach them formally, visit their lab website. Some of the PIs have the format mentioned on their website. The requirement typically includes the Cover letter, CV, SOP/motivation letter, and recommendation letters. However, the details are mentioned on the website (some PIs may not ask for a cover letter or SOP).

6. What was your strategy while sorting the post-doc labs?

I was very clear about the field in which I wanted to continue my research. So accordingly, I started gathering information and approached those labs (I mostly used channels A, B, and D)

7. What made you choose the lab you are currently pursuing your post-doc?

I chose my current lab using the following criteria (in the same order):

A. Area of research

B. Project that I was offered

C. My interaction with the supervisor and labmates

D. In Israel, you don’t have to pay taxes on your fellowship

E. Since I am a single child, I also considered the distance from India. Israel is much closer to India than Canada, from where I had another offer. So although this was not the primary criteria, it was one of the most important ones.

8. Is there any chance of getting a post-doc position in a different field than your Ph.D. background?

From what I understand, the chances are very low because, at this level, you are hired based on your previous research experience and your expertise or the set of skills you have acquired during your PhD.

9. On average, how much can one expect to get as a post-doc salary, and is this negotiable?

It really depends on your institution/university, PI, and country, but it is negotiable.

10. Post-doc or industry, which is better?

You will never get a satisfactory answer to this question. Again from the point where I stand, post-doc experience will definitely help you find a good position in the industry eventually.

11. Do work presentations in international conferences facilitate getting a post-doc abroad?

I will share my experience. I was at an international conference in Germany in 2019 (My 5th year of PhD had just started). A lady from NIH came to me, saw my poster, and asked me to explain it in 2-3 min. At the end of my explanation, she said that she had a post-doc position available in the lab. I also showed my interest because her work was really fascinating. Then I came back and was in touch with her. By the time I finished my PhD in May 2021, she had already filled that position, so the answer to your question is Yes, but the timing should match.

Dr. Abhilash Nitin Deo

Post-doctoral Research Fellow,

Prof. Yuval Shaked Lab,

The Ruth and Bruce Rappaport Faculty of Medicine,

Technion-Israel Institute of Technology,

1 Efron St., Haifa, Israel, 31096