This is a fourth in a series of case
histories to help professionals see
paths they may take to develop their
careers. This is a subject that has
so many variables that learning
people’s options and decisions to
achieve their goals can be helpful.
TL was awarded her doctorate in
computational chemistry and wished
to expand her background. She “wanted
the area worked to be new to her…” and
“highliy valued by pharma and biotech
Dan> What are the main things one
should consider when thinking about
whether or not to do a post doc and/or
about where to do a post doc?
TL> The main thing to think about is how
the post-doc will make (you) [them] more
employable. You need to grow as a
person and as a scientist in the post
doc role. Post-docs do earn less so
that has to be financially feasible for your
family life, as well. You really need to do
what is best for you and your family.
I was actually told by some people not.
to accept a post-doc and that getting a
permanent position was more prestigious
That might be true in some cases, but at
the end of the day, you have to make your
decisions. I do not regret my post-doc, it
was the right decision for me.
Dan> Were there differences between
your expectations and reality in the
TL> My post doc was in industry and I
did not really know what to expect.
Working in industry is different from
academia and I knew that would be
the case, I just was not sure in what
areas. The main things to get used to
- using the Outlook calendar,
- figuring out the corporate culture, and
- if or how much politics plays a role in
Dan> Did your thesis adviser provide
key help in finding your position?
TL> No, my thesis advisor did not help
me in getting this role. Actually, my
current post-doc boss called me up on
the phone and described the position to
I had never met him before but someone
I had met at the previous AS meeting told
him about me. He said the post-doc position
was mine if I wanted it.
DAN> When you choose to apply for
an industrial post-doc, did you choose a
company and they choose the mentor/supervisor?
What happens here? Do you apply for whatever
they are offering? Do you have a choice
TL> My experience was unique in that
they called me, not the other way around.
Reputation, consistency, and networking
played a huge role in large pharma
seeking me out.
I was not even aware of the job posting
until my current post-doc adviser called me.
Dan> Where does your research/work
direction come from?
TL> Almost entirely from my current boss
Dan> Did you choose an area different
from your thesis to broaden your
TL> Yes. This was my main motivation. I
was able to work in a completely different
research area than my thesis work, which
made me more employable.
Dan> What was the most useful tool
you used to obtain the post-doc?
Dan> Have you developed mentors
in this role?
TL> I have developed many mentors
in my current post doc role. My
presentation style, organization, and
research skills were noticed by my
boss’s boss and then he had me
speak to our department deputy. My
department deputy has become a
mentor and has given me career
advice and his outlook on life.
Dan> Did you choose a mentor who
has a strong research and pub
record with a view to growing your
record? Did you choose your mentor
with the thought that he would
help you attain a position when you
Dan> If you were to do it over, would
TL> I accepted this position based
on growing as a scientist. The area
of research was new to me but highly
valued by all the pharmaceutical and
biotech companies [as well]. I wanted
to be sure that I did something that
complimented my graduate work, not
you work as a post-doc or choose to
find a permanent position?
TL> I would work as a post-doc. I was
able to peer into the inner workings of
the pharmaceutical industry without any
long-te commitment. Also,… after all
those linear years of schooling it is nice
to have a moment to figure out what
you want in life.
So much time and energy is spent on
obtaining your PhD that you sometimes
forget what you love doing most.
A post doc gives you the opportunity
to work (and pay back some of those
student loans) and explore not only
your career options but also what
you personally want from life.