Category Archives: finding a job

My thoughts on (yet another) rejection

This morning I found out that I didn’t make it to the interview round of the homecountry fellowship I applied for. This was the second time I applied for this fellowship and the tenth time I applied for anything. This fellowship would make sure I could stay for another 3 years and have some time to apply for other things to try to establish my own group. You can only apply twice and this was my second try. For your reading pleasure I have organized these thoughts in two categories.

1. Pessimistic thoughts

Crap, now I only have 1 year and 3 months of postdoc time left if I don’t get another grant or fellowship. And with zero out of ten so far, why on earth would number 11 be more successful. Why would I even bother trying. If I didn’t get this one, why would I be more successful with a more senior fellowship? And why am I trying to get my poor little baby who is having quite some trouble sleeping at daycare used to this place if I’m going to then do something that a couple of reviewers and a committee think I suck at? Why have I spend the past four years as a post-doc instead of invest in trying to find another job? Because so far it seems the only skill I got from this is that I am remotely capable of dealing with a whole bunch of rejections. Is that useful anywhere?

2. Optimistic thoughts

Okay so I didn’t get this grant, but a lot of the review comments were actually pretty positive. It sucks that this one guy (yes I know who you are if you ask me to only cite papers from your own group) was very negative and said my CV was poor, but other than that they liked my ideas. The new lab that I will work in is headed by this professor who is really good at writing grants and might be able to help me improve. Also, I appear to be the only one who can do what I do in this group so they might want to try to keep me beyond the 1 year and 3 months that I have signed for now. And that would give me some time to try for the next things. Because I just found out that getting an ERC starting grant or the homecountry equivalent gets you a tenure track position at this university. Maybe if I get around this corner I can see the top of the mountain?

For the past two years I have told myself that if I got to ten unfunded grants I would stop and find a job outside of academia. But I think I’m going to try again. Because I tend to be optimistic most days.

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Filed under academia, decisions, disgruntled postdoc, finding a job, funding, grant writing, leaving academia, life in the lab, postdoc, review, science, women in science, worrying

On resubmitting grant applications

From the European Research Council (ERC) starting grant brochure:

A Principal Investigator whose proposal is evaluated as category C in the Starting, Consolidator or Advanced Grant calls for proposals under Work Programme 2014 may not submit a proposal to the Starting, Consolidator or Advanced Grant calls for proposals made under Work Programme 2015 and 2016.
A Principal Investigator whose proposal is finally evaluated as category B in the Starting, Consolidator or Advanced Grant calls for proposals under Work Programme 2014 may not submit a proposal to the Starting, Consolidator or Advanced Grant calls for proposals made under Work Programme 2015.
Only proposals that are scored as category A are funded, but sometimes this is only 10%. This means that everybody else, who is scored B or C won’t be allowed to resubmit for one or two years. As an explanation to this rule the brochure says the following:

These restrictions are designed to allow unsuccessful Principal Investigators the time to develop a stronger proposal.

While this sounds very friendly, I think this is a very strange rule. Because once you get review comments to a grant, you can use those to improve the proposal for the next round. However, if your score is not fundable, that means you can’t apply for the next year or even two years. And in the current job climate where for most jobs -at least in the homecountry – you need to bring your own money, this may mean you’re out of a job before you are eligible to apply again. Especially for the starting grant that is designed for early career researchers (-7 years post PhD). Not cool, ERC.

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Filed under absurd, academia, disgruntled postdoc, finding a job, grant writing, life in the lab, science

How do you prioritize in the lab?

Time always seems limited, whether you’re a parent in the lab or not. So how do you best spend that limited time: with writing grants or papers or doing experiments? Obviously you have to do experiments to get data. You need data to put into papers to have publications in order to look good for your grants. Or you need to do experiments to get preliminary data for your grants. But how do you prioritize what to do first?

I spend most of the second half of last year writing grants, thinking that I would need money to have a job in the homecountry. Actually, I got a job on somebody else’s money, because all 3 of the fellowship applications that I wrote were rejected. This makes me wonder whether I should have spent my time doing more experiments instead of writing those proposals. But had I not written those proposals,  then the one that I submitted recently would probably not have been as good as it was (at least I thought it was good…).

How do you go about this? When does writing take precedence over doing experiments? As a post-doc what are your priorities? And as a PI where do you think your post-doc’s priorities should lie?

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Filed under academia, disgruntled postdoc, experiments, finding a job, grant writing, life in the lab, postdoc, publishing papers, science, work

I can haz job!

So I have been complaining about how hard it is to find a TT job in my homecountry and how often people seem to get jobs through the back door instead of through vacancies that are posted somewhere. For a while it seemed like I needed to get at least a personal grant or fellowship in order to continue doing science in the homecountry. And since my husband already got a personal grant and the homecountry’s scientific organization made him move back before a certain date, it looked like not getting a grant would mean no job for me (at least not the job that I would want). One fellowship that I applied for got rejected, and one got a score that _might_ get funded, but more likely will nog get funded. And even if it got funded, the European Union decided that only half a salary would be enough to “integrate your career”… So things were looking a bit bleak and where last year I was sad that there were so little TT jobs advertised, now I was sad that maybe this meant that I would have to look for other jobs outside of science. And even though I’m not sure if that would be what I want, the prospect of never patching a cell anymore really made me really kind of sad.
But this morning brought the happy email saying that I can come work as a post-doc for a year on project that I’m very interested in, at the university where Dr. BrownEyes has a job too. So yes, I am very happy that I’m going from being a Research Associate here to being a post-doc in the homecountry and I am very happy about it. And I could insert all kinds of disgruntled postdoc comments here, but I won’t. Cause I’m happy I get to do science for at least another year and a half.

Happy holidays everyone!

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Filed under disgruntled postdoc, finding a job, grant writing, life in the lab

On delusional academics

The other day, I was talking to transitioning out of academia with a couple people in my lab. One of the grad students had just had a conversation with a senior PI (but not our PI) about that. The senior PI had said that ze didn’t understand that people would leave academia. Ze understood that times were rough now, with the economy being bad and funding being low, but if everyone would just wait it out, things would turn for the better and we could all stay in academia. Yeah right. Sadly, the grad student didn’t ask what we were all supposed to do while waiting for the economy to get better, so I don’t know the answer to that. And I wonder if said senior PI would know the answer.

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Filed under academia, finding a job, grant writing, leaving academia, life in the lab

Getting jobs through the back door

Warning: this post is written in an empty lab because all my colleagues left for the Society for Neuroscience meeting. Since I am too pregnant to attempt going to such a large meeting that is an uncomfortably long flight away, I am still in the lab. In the meantime, I can’t help but worry about whether I will find grant money and/or a job before we move back to the homecountry next year. So then you know why this post is kind of ranty.

Every now and then I check the websites of some of the institutes and universities in my homecountry, to see what happens there. And more often than I would like, I will see that someone who used to be a post-doc in one of the groups, then moved up to become a group leader in the same university or institute. Good for that person, you would think. But wait a minute, how did they get there? Was there a vacancy for a position that they applied for? Most of the time the answer is no. Most of the time, these people get promoted within the institute or university. Why does this happen? Because they are there and people know what they’re capable of? Because they are friends with the people who make those decisions? Because it’s easier for the institute to just hire someone than to have a search? I don’t know. Perhaps a combination of those reasons. What I do know is that it makes it hard to find a job if you don’t already have a foot in the door, because there are rarely any advertised jobs for anything higher than post-doc positions. I know this is not specific to my homecountry, but actually happens in many European countries, which explains the lack of mobility of researchers between European countries. As you might expect, I think this system kind of sucks.

Alright, I got that off my chest, now I can go back to work. Enjoy SfN and keep me updated on who filled their SfN Bingo cards first!!

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Filed under academia, cultural differences, finding a job, life in the lab

Should I stay or should I go? –part 2


Part 1 can be found hereand is about staying in Europe or going for a post-doc abroad. This one is about staying in academia or not. I’m clearly not the only one pondering this.
I know I’ve written about this before, but the question whether I am going to stay in academia or not came on the foreground a bit more after having received a faculty position rejection (from the homecountry) and a fellowship rejection. I guess it is safe to guestimate that given my CV and ideas I usually rank in the top 15-20% when applying for grants and fellowships (yup, the n is large enough to guestimate this from). Given the current funding situation, this might not be enough. And FYI, the homecountry (to which we are sure we will return now that husband has a position there) does not have the equivalent of SLACs, so the option to do research there does not exist. 
I gave myself another year(ish) to get a position and/or grants and if that doesn’t work, I’m going to look for something else. But is that a good strategy or should I start looking now and determine what skills I need and get those skills now? And won’t that take away from the energy that I need to spend on getting myself from the top 15-20% to the top 10 or whatever % that is necessary to succeed? How do other people do this? Can you do both at the same time? Please enlighten me, people who have successfully transitioned out of academia AND people who have looked outside academia but decided to stay (and anyone else with something useful to say)!

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Filed under decisions, finding a job, grant writing, postdoc