Career advice - second postdoc


Hello, I'd like some advice. What I want is a scientific career, perhaps in my home country, and a fair chance of winning grants. What I have is some valuable lab skills, willingness to learn, and - this will come as bragging - I'm smart (but who is not in this area). What I do not have is a first author paper from my first postdoc, because instead of a grant I was hired in I spent half of my time salvaging a trainwreck project of a PhD student, which we published with IF 4+ and I got a second author for it. I declined to take 1st authorship, because at the time I thought I'd recover with a small grant and my own honest 1st author paper (basically I felt otherwise it would crush the student, even if it would be equal authorship). However, my health failed: I miscarried and missed the term of grant application. I expanded the grant and re-applied, but this time I was competing with older scientists (another grant scheme) and lost - explicitely due to not having the 1st author paper.
Now, I have some results and I'd need a few months to publish. My PI is out of money and he already promised to hire me for a year if he gets that grant (we were effectively competing in the same panel, and I was rejected because of my CV - I was told that they argued to let me through regardless). My abilities and willingness to carry out science are good, my publication record track is bad. Should I wait or try to apply elsewhere to have a backup plan? Will anybody take me? What approach should I take to build a decent CV? I'm really nervous. Also, if I go abroad, I'll probably lose the last chance to have babies, since with me it's probably going to be a heavily medicated pregnancy. We can manage having a baby and returning to science, but I do not have much time left in either department.


I'd have a backup plan. I'd be applying for other postdocs whilst I wait to see if the grant came through. I'd also try to get something out there asap, a review paper, a conference talk, something to look like more publications were on their way. Apply for small grants.

You'll find something. I have a friend who was in a similar position to you that just got an awesome postdoc, so it happens. Don't give up yet.

Maybe don't go abroad yet - sounds like you need to have a healthy pregnancy too.

I wish you all the best.


Hi starryeyed, I'm not sure if I can offer much in the way of career advice, but I wanted to say I think it is really admirable that you declined first authorship on PhD student project. From what I have seen in academia it is not the common choice. I think no matter what the outcome, you did the right thing, behaved like a very decent human being, and that is not always an easy thing to do, within the competitive nature of academia.

It sounds like you know your stuff and equipped to get on well in your field (to me!)

I think you need decide how important having children is for you. If it is important, then for the short term, I would prioritise that. In my field taking a career break to have a healthy pregnancy due to medical issues would not be held against someone.

why not find something, even adjunct teaching or another local (ish) postdoc that you can do while trying for another baby (if babies are something you want).

Only you can really decide if you are willing to forgo having children for the chance at this one specific career. I would think long and hard about it.


Thank you. Actually I did commit sort of career suicide choosing to stay in the country and do a domestic postdoc, for the sake of founding a family, which had failed in a spectacular way and I'm also a bit traumatized by that. I was also looking around for jobs outside academia, but I have no idea what those people do. It would be a horror to be stuck in a job where you have to do the same thing all the time - I'd be interested for the first six months, and then I'd bore out. Is there any other job for an ex-scientist that includes learning, improving stuff and analyzing?


You are so strong! There are so much of things that you have experienced. And I'm so sorry about the state of your health. What about your question, If I were you, I would take a minute to sit and to decide everything about my priorities. What is the most important for me? Career? Or a healthy and a successful pregnancy, family? And if the second, it doesn't mean that you have to forget about your skills and smartness, you just have to find another way. Try to find something else and don't stop. Even small grants, even small projects etc. Have a good luck!