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How to get Postdoctorate positions? In conversation with Dr. Akash Deogharkar

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

I work as a post-doctoral fellow at the Venneti Lab, Department of Pathology, Michigan Medicine, University of Michigan.

The lab primarily works on understanding the metabolic and epigenetic aspects of pediatric brain tumors. I have started working on DIPG (Diffuse intrinsic Pontine Glioma) tumors. It's been just a month, so not sure if that is going to be my only work or if it may even change in the future. However, briefly, I am trying to understand the mechanism of action of a drug called ONC201. Serendipitously it was found that the drug is effective against brain tumors harboring H3K27M mutations. Since more than 80% of DIPG tumors harbor this particular mutation, the clinical trial was conducted in the pediatric population, which showed almost doubling of overall survival (from 1.5 yrs to about 3 yrs) in 1/3rd of the patients. Thus, I will be elucidating the mechanism of drug action to understand the mechanism of resistance and any other concomitant therapy that could be tried to prolong survival.

2. When to start hunting for postdoc positions?

It depends on a lot of factors. I tried industry first and then started the hunt for a postdoc position. This is partly because my PhD went till 7yrs and the last 2 yrs were almost unpaid, so I wanted to earn some quick money.

Besides, one might get exhausted, especially if the PhD has been an exasperating experience, and might want to take a break for 1-3 months after thesis submission and then start seeking the post-doctoral post.

In other scenarios, a person might be enthusiastic enough and want to join another lab as soon as possible to make a quick career jump after PhD. In that case, I believe synopsis submission or thesis writing is the right time to search for a postdoc. During this time, visa procurement and other administrative procedures can also be completed.

3. Where to find postdoc positions?

LinkedIn, Twitter, the institution websites, or if one is following the work done by a particular lab and finds it interesting, direct emailing PI can also work.

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

Not aware right now, but once one joins a lab, there could be other funding agencies associated with the kind of work the lab does and the agencies/ foundations which support such kind of work. I have applied for the ChadTough-Defeat DIPG foundation grant, which supports the kind of work that I have started. It's important to join a postdoc first and then look/apply for specific grants.

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

In most cases, the email IDs of the PIs are available, and many institutions do give formats in which the application is needed. If not, a statement of interest/purpose containing the work experience and the CV is good enough.

6. What was your strategy while sorting the postdoc labs?

I first tried labs other than brain tumors to diversify my work experience and knowledge, as my PhD was on brain tumors. However, that approach did not work. I then started considering the brain tumors as well and was interviewed by 3 PIs working on the same and got selected in two of those labs.

7. What made you choose your current postdoc lab?

Discussion with the lab members and my PhD senior, who also worked in the same lab.

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

I have seen people getting such positions, but it didn't work for me.

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

Europe differs a lot with respect to salaries, depending on the country. In the US, it is primarily NIH-based postdoc salary which is about 55k/year for a new first-year postdoc and can differ marginally with respect to the city where the lab is located. An industrial postdoc might provide a little higher salary, like more than 60k from the beginning.

The lab I did not join was ready to increase my salary, so it can be negotiable. Still, it depends on the institutional policy and the funding source of the postdoc's salary.

10. Postdoc or industry, which is better?

As of now, I cannot comment, but I do feel that an academic PI enjoys more freedom than any other industrial position. Still, I need to learn a lot to answer this question.

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

I didn't try this approach, so not sure.

Hi, I am Akash Deogharkar, currently working as a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Michigan. Fascinated by the beauty of biology, I have been working in the field of biological research for the past 12 years. I completed my PhD in 2021 from ACTREC, India, where I studied the role played by epigenetic modifier genes in the pathogenesis of a pediatric brain tumor called medulloblastoma. Thereafter, I am continuing my academic career as a postdoc in Venneti lab at Michigan Medicine which does similar work, i.e., studying the epigenetic and metabolic aspects of pediatric brain tumors. Before starting my post-doctoral work, I worked as a Genome analyst at The Medgenome labs, Bangalore, for a brief period.


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