Postdoctoral Life

For students who plan to go into research, a postdoctoral fellowship is a great way to further develop as a researcher, accumulate more publications, and work with other world class researchers without having to worry about the responsibilities of a tenure track position. It can also increase your job prospects in private industry; some would say it can command you a higher salary over the long term, though this is debatable. In some disciplines postdoctoral fellowships are a required step, especially as positions at universities become more competitive. But there are many stressors in the life of a postdoc, especially in terms of securing grants, publishing (or perishing), completing any teaching duties, and balancing all of this with a family life. These resources will help you decide whether or not a postdoctoral position is for you, and what you can expect should you move forward.

  1. A Day in the Life of a Postdoc
    This handout prepared by a former postdoctoral fellow at UCLA defines exactly what a postdoc is as well as what it can be and how you can secure a position. It also offers a little glimpse into the life of a postdoc, which can be helpful if you're deciding whether or not such a position is right for you. However, this is just one person's experience, and so we highly recommend pairing this resource with the following two articles for a more complete picture: The Postdoc: A Special Kind of Hell; What It's Like To Do A Postdoc at the NIA.
  2. Doing Postdoctoral Work -- Should I?
    While this particular resource was prepared with psychologists in mind, the questions posed here are important for anyone considering a postdoc position as a means of self-examination. It also articulates exactly what the outcomes of a postdoc should be, as well as the kind of support postdocs should feel while in the job. This resource from UCSF poses similar questions, and also provides links to a number of other resources to help you through the decision making process. And of course, you'll want to check the NSF posdtoc site for a comprehensive listing of science and mathematics postdoc opportunities.
  3. The Harvard Guide to Postdoctoral Fellowships
    Trying to find the right postdoc position for you? Navigate down to the bottom of this Harvard guide for links to databases that list available fellowships across the country, or click the link right up top and explore Harvard's own. In the middle you'll find structured advice for navigating the application process, including a listing of all necessary steps to track and documents to gather.
  4. 10 Habits for a Successful Postdoc
    These tips, offered by MIT Professor Cathy Drennan, are just what new postdocs need as they make the transition from graduate student into working professional. She emphasizes the importance of taking ownership of your projects, reading broadly, training people, writing papers and giving talks, and networking, among many more. This is a must-read collection of advice from one of the world's top researchers, who has mentored many postdocs through the experience.
  5. International Postdoc Survival Guide
    Starting a postdoc can be overwhelming enough. Add to that the task of navigating a new culture and possibly a new language, and you'll have a lot to think about. This survival guide for international students provides everything from advice on getting started to filing income taxes and ensuring you've got the right visa. After reading this guide, you'll be setup to thrive in your postdoc position and beyond.
  6. Proposals & Funding
    As any researcher knows, securing funding can be just as important as conducting research itself. These successful proposal examples provided by Eastern Michigan University's Office of Research Development offer excellent jumping off points. Reading these proposals will give you a good sense of what works and what doesn't, so that you can apply the best techniques to your own work.
  7. Postdoctoral Non-NIH Funding Opportunities
    The NIH is a huge provider of funding for science research, but they are by no means the only resource. On this site, explore the numerous funding opportunities available across the disciplines, with links helpfully provided to each one.
  8. Grant Proposals (or Give Me the Money!)
    Even with excellent examples, the process of writing a grant can be intimidating, especially if you don't work regularly with words. This in-depth guide from the UNC-Chapel Hill Writing Center takes you through every step of the writing process, and even maps the process visually with helpful diagrams. It also encourages you to think deeply about a number of issues before you even begin writing, suggests details to include, and offers tips for navigating the crucial revision process. There are many other helpful grant writing guides online, but we highly recommend beginning with these 2 resources: the NSF's Guide to Proposal Writing and the NIH's How to Write a Research Project Grant Application.