Stories about endless postdocs, futile job searches, and an abundance of under- and unemployed recent graduates have life science graduate students questioning their career decisions and not looking forward to graduation. A recent article in GEN, “Job Squeeze Vexes Postdocs”, exposed the problem and presented several nonacademic solutions.
For those scientists who remain committed to securing academic employment, the following three success stories should buoy your spirits as well as provide some guidance on how to attain your goals.
Tiago Branco, M.D., Ph.D., winner of Eppendorf & Science’s 2011 Grand Prize in Neurology, observes that Ph.D.s need a great amount of enthusiasm and passion for what they do, especially if they’re afraid some research won’t work.
“You should only be a scientist if you really want to be a scientist. And you really need to want to be a scientist, and you really need to love what you do. Because it doesn’t pay well,” Dr. Branco told GEN. This month, he is launching his own lab at the U.K. Medical Research Council’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology, after finishing last week his postdoctoral research associate post in the laboratory of Michael Hausser at the Wolfson Institute for Biomedical Research, at University College London.
Perhaps the most difficult challenge, Dr. Branco recalled, was his inability to get a paper published after his 3-1/2 year Ph.D. program, which made it hard for him to transition to the postdoc program let alone get a fellowship. “The way I got around that was because I had previously worked with my current postdoc advisor. We have worked together very well, and he invited me to come because he knew—he had faith in me.”
Dr. Branco says the experience taught him a valuable lesson: “What I learned is to pay more attention to all these timings, and have a very realistic view of what is needed to eventually make the next step; what is going to be required? Think four or five years in advance, and then work backwards from there so that you know where you should be in relation to your goal.”