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News: Talk online about your experiences as an adjunct, visiting assistant professor, postdoc, or other contract faculty member.
 
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Author Topic: My Postdoc Experience  (Read 11699 times)
youllneverwalkalone
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« Reply #15 on: January 29, 2013, 1:16:30 AM »

Sorry to have to write again. I am totally confussed. Not only am I bombarded with a lot of mundane tasks, such ask arranging travel for x researcher to come visit, but, as of late, I also have to share my office with a grad student. She is a nice person but starts conversations when I'm in the middle of work and she herself wonders if she is at disadvantage not to have an office on the same floor as her peers. I did not feel comfortable saying that I'd rather have a quiet work space and now I'm thinking is too late. I wonder if I should say something or not. I would appreciate any ideas. Thank you.

Well, for a start you can definitely tell her politely that you need to focus on work and that she has to limit her interruptions.

About her moving to another office all together, if both you and her agree that it is a good idea, though for different reasons, you can definitely raise the matter with whoever.

However, at my institution only associate prof or higher have the right to have an office all for themselves. Post docs sharing offices is the norm.
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kron3007
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« Reply #16 on: January 29, 2013, 10:44:38 AM »

There are four of us in my office.  All postdocs at the moment, but there have been grad students.  Everywhere I have been this is quite normal, and having your own office would be unusual.

As for the mundane tasks, who do feel should be doing them in your group? 
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macaroon
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__/\__\0/__ Look out! Sharks!


« Reply #17 on: January 29, 2013, 5:15:57 PM »

Sorry to have to write again. I am totally confussed. Not only am I bombarded with a lot of mundane tasks, such ask arranging travel for x researcher to come visit, but, as of late, I also have to share my office with a grad student. She is a nice person but starts conversations when I'm in the middle of work and she herself wonders if she is at disadvantage not to have an office on the same floor as her peers. I did not feel comfortable saying that I'd rather have a quiet work space and now I'm thinking is too late. I wonder if I should say something or not. I would appreciate any ideas. Thank you.

I shared an office as a postdoc. 

Here's my tip on the chatty office-mate.  A pair of headphones, one that plugs your ears.  You don't have to play music, even.  Just wear the headphones.  Sometimes, I just stick the end of the cord in my pocket.  Works, works, works.
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postdoc_13
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Posts: 95


« Reply #18 on: January 29, 2013, 6:56:00 PM »

Got it. Thank you. I will try the ear plugs.

As far as the other issues I posted, I think I need to refocus. I had another conversation with the PI and he says he will give me the opportunities I want at the right time -- but not right now. I sort of have a feeling that he grasped that I was unhappy even though I did not say it. I made a plan for the next two years with experiences that I would like to get. Whatever grants (e.g., if I wanted to apply for a fellowship) are out of the questions as they are seen as a "parallel move." The next 'big' thing will be to help him in the grant writing process (e.g., collect CVs from collaborators, supervise grad students on editing these CVs, coming up with roles for who is going to do what etc.). Are these tasks the norm for a postdoc? I, personally, would like to get hands on experience in the actual writing. Maybe those will come at some point.

I thought that the administrative people will take care of things, such as contact forms for x collaborator, travel forms, reserve room for x talk etc. Are these also the norm for a postdoc to do? I am asking because I never discussed upfront some of these tasks and now they keep coming and take most of my time.

I am also concerned with my relationship with the PI as he picked up on my ambition for TT jobs and now tries to tell me not to make that the focus but the actual opportunity right now. I agree with enjoying the opportunity but I explained that all I'm doing with the plan etc. is to be proactive.

How much can I expect on a relationship level? Meaning what do I need to do to make him like me? I think he did way back at the beginning, but I'm not sure now. On the other hand, he is very busy...so, he may not have the time to talk every week. I think that after this round of posting, I'll be okay and just take things for what they are, but I would appreciate any additional commments. The comments I received so far have been  helpful. Thank you :)
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macaroon
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« Reply #19 on: January 29, 2013, 8:11:08 PM »

postdoct_13,  if you are balking at reserving rooms and getting X form from Y collaborator, well, even I think you need to reconsider a tenure track position.  You are going to hate being a PI.  What do you think we do?  No, admin assistants don't perform these tasks, at least not all the time.

Some of the best training I got as a postdoc was filling out those pesky little grant forms.  I passed this training onto my first postdoc, and she was very appreciative.
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kron3007
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« Reply #20 on: January 30, 2013, 12:41:39 PM »

From my understanding, the days of administrative staff doing this type of work has passed.  Where I am, the departmental cutbacks have resulted in constant gutting of our secretarial staff, and more of this type of work has been downloaded onto each research group (travel, expense reporting, etc.).  Fortunately we have a lab manager that deals with most of this, but if you dont then it will fall upon someone else, AKA you.

Regarding grant writing, I participate a lot on the writing side as well as filling out the forms.  You may get more opportunities to contribute to the writing later, but this will depend on their personality and if you are a strong writer or not.  I find that editing proposals can be more work than writing them myself if the student's writing is weak.  I am not implying that this is the case for you, but your advisor may want to evaluate you before asking to to help. 
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offthemarket
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« Reply #21 on: January 30, 2013, 3:19:29 PM »

These are the kinds of expectations that should have been dealt with before you were hired by the PI.  Both of you should have made this conversation happen.  It would resolve:

Which and how many pubs to get out per year?
What will be the main projects you'll be doing?
How much independence do you have in choosing your tasks?
How much time during normal working hours can/should you work on getting earlier dissertation work out?

As a postdoc, you are employed by your PI. Your PI is your BOSS. You are doing the work that you are paid to do in the lab, building on the expertise you have. Of course it's not like your old lab.
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anon99
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« Reply #22 on: February 01, 2013, 11:32:04 AM »

I've discussed some of these concerns, but he reassured me he knows what he is doing, but I have a hard time b/c what we do is so much different than what I was taught in grad school.

Just because something is different, doesn't mean it is wrong.  There is more than one way to do things and different approaches to take.  Use this as an opportunity to learn a new approach.

Yes, the postdoc is funded by his grant and so, from what it seems, it is nothing but a job. What I really wanted was a training position -- these are typically on a T32 grant from NIH. So, the title that I have is 'postdoctoral fellow.' It turns out this means nothing but an employee -- so, I am basically an employee of the university.

You have a training position in that you are being trained how to do research and run a lab.  A title doesn't change what you are doing.  A postdoctoral fellow or research associate can be the exact same job, just a different title.  As others pointed out, we are all employees of the university from the president to Deans to professors to postdocs.

I had another conversation with the PI and he says he will give me the opportunities I want at the right time -- but not right now. …The next 'big' thing will be to help him in the grant writing process (e.g., collect CVs from collaborators, supervise grad students on editing these CVs, coming up with roles for who is going to do what etc.). Are these tasks the norm for a postdoc? I, personally, would like to get hands on experience in the actual writing. Maybe those will come at some point.

You have to walk before you can run.  Use this opportunity to make connections with the collaborators.  This may lead to collaborations or other things.

As for sharing an office with a grad student, myself and another postdoc at one place shared an office with 5 other grad students.  At another place postdocs shared offices with technicians or had no office space.
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dr_fungal
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Posts: 187


« Reply #23 on: April 27, 2013, 11:23:12 AM »

Whatever grants (e.g., if I wanted to apply for a fellowship) are out of the questions as they are seen as a "parallel move." The next 'big' thing will be to help him in the grant writing process (e.g., collect CVs from collaborators, supervise grad students on editing these CVs, coming up with roles for who is going to do what etc.). Are these tasks the norm for a postdoc? I, personally, would like to get hands on experience in the actual writing. Maybe those will come at some point.

I thought that the administrative people will take care of things, such as contact forms for x collaborator, travel forms, reserve room for x talk etc. Are these also the norm for a postdoc to do? I am asking because I never discussed upfront some of these tasks and now they keep coming and take most of my time.

I just wanted to comment that I don't see you applying for fellowships as a parallel move.  You might be listed as an NIH Postdoctoral Fellow in title, but you did not write and receive that grant.  I would suggest that you consider applying for independent postdoctoral fellowship funding if your PI approves.

In regard to collecting information for the grant proposal -- does this mean you are going to be listed as a collaborator on the grant proposal?  It would be nice if you were, but I don't know how common that is.  It would also be nice if, as you say, you had experience writing the proposal.  As for only collecting materials, this task would be a valuable learning experience for you on how to format CV's and what this type of information looks like.  I would not denigrate this idea.

Overall, it looks like your thoughts about a lot of this process as a postdoc are on track.  The one thing I would I would advise is to find someone other than your PI who can give you advice -- preferably not one of his close friends or collaborators.  If you are interested in a TT job, I also suggest you mentor yourself.

These books and the video are really great:  http://www.hhmi.org/resources/labmanagement/moves.html  There are many other books out there on how to be successful and land a TT job.

I also don't think you should worry about the office shared with a graduate student and having to organize your collaborators' visit.  These are very common tasks that a postdoc has to do / has to deal with.  I organized the agenda/food for our collaborators visiting last week, I'm handling all of the hiring paperwork (writing the advertisements, inquiries, collecting applications) for our two undergraduate positions for this summer, and I also just got asked to move from my office shared with a technician into an office with two graduate students.  I never complain and always find time.  

I also don't ask my PI for much advice.  I like to only talk research with him.  When it comes to important career moves, I like to do my own research first and come to him only once I have narrowed down the choices.  When I need real advice, I talk to other postdocs or other faculty who do not work with my boss.  I only show my best side to my PI because I know he's the one who's going to write my letter of recommendation.

Just my 2 cents.
DF
« Last Edit: April 27, 2013, 11:25:41 AM by dr_fungal » Logged

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