How to get Postdoctorate positions? In conversation with Dr. Priyanka Namdev
Updated: Nov 6, 2022
1. In brief, tell us about your postdoctoral work.
My research is focused on understanding and exploring the role of Hepatitis B virus mutants in the pathobiology of viral hepatitis.
2. When to start hunting for postdoc positions?
It’s always best to start looking for postdoc positions as soon as you have joined PhD. The process from when you first consider going overseas to set foot on foreign soil can take a long time. For instance, it takes time to find a lab that is the right fit. Even if you could decide where you want to go, you’ll probably need money to live off (because, let’s face it, we don’t love science QUITE enough to do it for free). For the lucky few, a new lab may already have money or a position advertised, but this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, a lab may agree to apply for funding with or for you. You may also need to apply yourself for funding. Depending on the funding rounds and deadlines, this process can set you back for several months. Visas can also make things slow down. The last thing you want is to find your dream position and money but not be able to get there because you’re stuck in a long backlog of visas waiting to be processed. Moving abroad is a big step, so there is a lot to sort out. It’s better to have everything sorted out too early than too late.
3. Where to find postdoc positions?
Direct emailing the PI (even if there is no position available in their labs) of your lab of interest is always helpful. While some PIs advertise openings in their labs, others prefer to have interested applicants contact them and propose a research project. Starting with making a list of labs abroad that matches your research needs and emailing PIs with a nice cover letter expressing your research interest and how you would be a good fit for their lab. Whenever you go to any conference, symposium, etc., nationally or internationally, try to make connections as much as possible to know their research interests and see if your area of interest meets their needs. Various websites advertise postdoctoral positions, such as www.sciencecareer.com, www.indeed.com, Nature newsletter, etc. Also, you can visit the homepages of universities where you want to apply and look for the posts advertised there. But as said before, the best way to get a position is to approach the PI directly and start taking an interest in their research from the day you decide to do a Postdoc.
4. What are the fellowships one can apply for a postdoc? Any particular site to get information about the same?
There are sites that can be used to get information related to research scholarships and study opportunities, such as armacad.info. Also, you can check Profellow.com for early career, Postdoctoral Fellowships for research overseas. You can also look for fellowships jointly sponsored by two countries like the Indo-US, Indo-EU, etc. Connection with people from your lab or research institute working abroad can help you search for a good lab and give you a better opinion about the labs you are opting for.
5. How to communicate with the PIs to get a postdoc position? Like SOPs/work experience, what all are needed?
Communication or applications for postdoctoral positions usually consist of your CV, cover letter, and a list of references, which are sent directly to the PI via email. Your cover letter should effectively relate why you are uniquely qualified for the postdoctoral position you are applying for and give concrete examples that show you fit the specific qualifications outlined in the job advertisement. View the cover letter as an opportunity to showcase your writing abilities and enthusiasm for the position, laboratory, and institution. Established labs/PIs can receive hundreds of postdoc applications monthly, so it is critical to tailor each email and application to fit that lab. Even if there is no advertisement, you need to show you are an independent researcher who can design and complete a postdoctoral project that complements that laboratory’s focus. Always review the lab profile, research papers, department, and potential future colleagues. Think about how your research aligns with the mission of the respective lab. Write the letter as an independent researcher, not as a graduate student. Your job application is not a time to be modest; market your strengths and accomplishments without being boastful.
6. What was your strategy while sorting the postdoc labs?
I wanted to explore more in the field of virology, so I prepared by making a list of related labs/professors and was always alert for any postdoc position opening. I kept my - research proposal, CV, cover letter, and references ready. Attending conferences and workshops helped me in making good connections.
Bottom line: Making your network strong and broad is always helpful when looking for a position abroad.
7. What made you choose the lab you are currently pursuing your postdoc?
Having a virology background, I was always curious to know and explore more about human diseases such as HIV and viral hepatitis in the context of public health. CDC is the best place to learn, implement your knowledge, and work for public health.
8. Is there any chance of getting a postdoc position in a different field than your Ph.D. background?
There are plenty of chances. Sometimes PI hires you based on your research expertise and techniques you performed during your research. If the techniques align with the potential postdoc lab, then there are chances you will get hired.
9. On average, how much can one expect to get as a postdoc salary, and is this negotiable?
In the US, postdocs make around $50k per year on average. Location and living cost impacts how much a postdoc can expect to make. Postdocs make the most in Hawaii, Tennessee, California, Arizona, and Nevada. It can be negotiable depending upon funds/grant availability.
10. Postdoc or industry, which is better?
There are pros and cons in both industry and academia. However, this depends on your preference and what suits you best.
11. Do work presentations in international conferences facilitate getting a postdoc abroad? Absolutely! Graduate students looking for a postdoc abroad must create a connection to the international community. Speaking at an international meeting or conference makes you visible and may even get you an offer.
I am a postdoctoral researcher in the division of viral hepatitis, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Atlanta, United States. I earned my PhD in 2019 from India in the field of biotechnology. My doctoral work provided a new viewpoint to understand the role of the p30 protein of Human T lymphotropic virus type-1 (HTLV-1) in its pathobiology. My research interest involves exploring and understanding host-pathogen interactions during infectious diseases such as viral hepatitis, Tuberculosis, and HIV co-infections.
Reach me at email@example.com.