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How to get Postdoctorate positions? In conversation with Dr. Lipi Das

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

I am primarily involved in quantitative proteomic profiling in Alzheimer's disease and studying the effect of light on biofilm formation in Pseudomonas aeruginosa. We use high-resolution mass spectrometry for proteomics analysis.

2. When to start hunting for postdoc positions?

The ideal time would be once you have a first-author publication and are approaching the end of your doctoral work. Bear in mind finding a position may take a while (several months, in most cases), so plan accordingly.

3. Where to find postdoc positions?

Several social media sites, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, post new position openings regularly. Many PIs are also active on social media and update their openings there. Additional sites include Nature Jobs, ScholarshipDB etc.

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

The NIH site is a starting point for postdoc fellowships in the States. The DBT and SERB websites are the ones to keep track of if you are interested in a postdoc fellowship in India.

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

If you are applying in response to an advertisement, it is crucial to draft a strong cover letter (no more than one page). Also, tailor your CV so that the aspects directly related to the position are highlighted in the top 1/3rd of the page. Some PIs ask for an SOP, but most are okay with a cover letter, CV, and a list of referees.

Some students directly communicate with a PI whose lab work interests them. If you have a strong publication record that directly relates to their lab work, you may open a direct communication channel with the PI. Sometimes if the communication proceeds well, the PI opens up the opportunity to join as a postdoc.

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

I was interested in continuing to work in mass spectrometry-based proteomics while also looking for a lab that might help me cover the gaps in the area. Hence I looked for openings in the same.

7. What made you choose your current postdoc lab?

I knew the lab carried out proteomics work extensively and also knew that they collaborated extensively with multiple labs. This gave me a chance to learn mass spectrometry instrumentation thoroughly while also allowing me the opportunity to expand my expertise via the collaboration network.

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

I think there is, but the chances are low.

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

Postdoc salaries are pretty standard in the United States. Postdocs typically earn between $50,000-$60,000 annually. Sometimes a PI offers more if they have more funds. Usually the salaries are not negotiable.

10. Postdoc or industry, which is better?

This is purely dependent on the individual's preference, and both have pros and cons. Personally, I was more inclined to pursue my first postdoc in an academic setting as I knew I needed some more expertise and I could not gain that in an industry setting.

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

Yes, they certainly do. If you get chatting about your work with a PI, they may be willing to offer you a position later on. However, do not be discouraged if this does not work out. When I went to an international conference, the COVID pandemic struck, and some of the scientists I had expected to talk to (hoping to secure a postdoc) did not attend the conference. However, regularly searching for and applying to new openings landed me the postdoc opportunity I was looking for!

I am currently a Postdoctoral Research Scientist at the Quantitative Proteomics Centre, Columbia University, New York, USA. I use high-resolution mass spectrometry to analyse the proteome profile in Alzheimer's disease progression in several model systems. I am also interested in studying the effect of light on biofilm formation in Pseudomonas aeruginosa, with the aim of identifying the proteins that drive the formation of such biofilms in medical equipment.


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