Dilemma Another Postdoc (after a bad experience in both postdoc and PhD) ? Industry ?


Career question: I am completing my postdoc fellowship and I love doing research. However, the two years of being bullied and ill-treated by jaded professor with a feudalistic mindset during my postdoc and 7 years under an overambitious professor during my PhD - has made me question, if I want to continue in this field.

I also feel that I do not have sufficient publications: I have 3 first-authored publications from my PhD, and I am about to submit 2 more articles (may take up to 3 months to get published) from my postdoctoral work. I also do not think that I have achieved any groundbreaking discoveries.

Btw, I had a tough project, where I had to work with a really old and complex setup that often breaks down. I did not receive any support from both the technical staff and my supervisor. For this job, I moved from the industry in the US to Europe. Being the only earning member in a family of 3, I was afraid to quit and look for a new postdoc in the middle of the fellowship. (1) How can i my low publication record without coming across as a gripe ?

I have a PhD in chemical and materials engineering, 3 years as a chemical process engineer at the industry, and 2 years as a postdoctoral fellow. (2) Should I look for another postdoctoral fellowship or should I consider other career options ?

I am looking for help with new perspectives and career advice.


What are your career goals? Maybe you should define those first. "Love doing research" is not a career goal.

If you want to work in industry, another postdoc would certainly be most unhelpful. Frankly, it is probably already hard to find an employer in industry now after almost 10 years in academia.

If you want to become a professor, frankly, you are also sort of late after 9 years of doctoral/postdoctoral studies. TBH it is kind of late for you to be worrying about your lack of publications now. Your peers with whom you will compete for professorships now probably have their first research group leaderships, churn out papers monthly, accumulate acquired funding, are forging networks etc.

Doing another postdoc "just because" is a terrible, terrible idea. Believe me, I know what I am talking about.

If you want to become a professor, you should define that goal and pour all your energy into it - publish like crazy, apply for funding, attend conferences, forge relationships. Declare the goal expressly to your colleagues, family and friends. Only then will you be taken seriously.

Drifting into another postdoc position to keep working as a glorified research assistent is NOT the way to go.


Dear Walter,
Thank you for the reply and wish you a happy new year. I mentioned love doing research, just to emphasize what i love - it has nothing more to it. I understand that you mention that I have to have career goals - without which i may not go anywhere. i tell myself that 2 of the 7 PhD years goes to my masters, to justify my not so stellar career progress.

I did read your other post regarding the requirements to be a prof, where you mention: "It is important to understand that academic careers everywhere are built on 1.) networking,networking,networking, 2.) politics, 3.) acquiring funding, 4.) forcing one's way onto authors' lists by all means, 5.) overselling oneself, and at a very distant 6.) actual research and teaching."

It is disheartening to know that politics, forcing onto the author list, and overselling are all ranked above research and teaching. i must admit that 1. i hate politics and 2. i have no idea how to force myself onto the author list ( I have been part of several interesting work, where my name got dropped from the author list.) and 3. i also do not know how to oversell myself. This last two years of my postdoc, i have been working in a project that budgeted for two postdocs, without hiring the additional postdoc. Needless to say, i have been overworking and in the verge of being burnt out. i feel the cynical approach within academics, killed the fire within me.

My 3 years within the industry has been good, really good bosses, good mentors, good money, and a good support system. However, amount of time spent on my kind or research was minimalistic.

My bachelors, masters, and PhD have all been in the same major and minor. I am starting to think, i may need a masters in an allied field to be perceived as versatile - may help me jump into the industrial research ? what do you suggest ?


I don't agree with @Walter_Opera, your comments are very negative to the OP, you want to feel demoralized! First off, I am an assistant lecturer at my home university, I am considering leaving it as I have seen professors clueless and producing crappy research. Secondly, who told you that the second postdoc is a bad idea, I know many of my colleagues had two postdocs and even big names in my field had two postdocs, I see it is normal. I think academia now is suffering from publishing or perish, we can see every day useless bunch of researches are published, I don't agree with that philosophy.

Please be positive towards OP, that is not advice, this likely dishearten him/her, I do believe and confirm if you found a good postdoc position with a very supportive professor, you can find a job in a university, research institute, company R&D, don't lose hope and it is not necessary that some professors have established their research groups, they are successful, most of them are insane and bully where many students run away! It is really Fair enough. For the OP, you are the only one who knows what makes you happy, maybe you can make one research paper and BOM, so please make connections with really good researchers, attend conferences, it isn't about the quantity, it is by the quality of the paper.


I thought several postdocs was the norm! And if you are unlucky with professors then all the more reason to try another! Don't give up on your dream of doing what you love (research). Not yet anyway (unless you actually feel that you want to call it a day now).
One thing I've found that's really helped me this past year is finding people to talk to who are empathetic. Some people, through lack of experience or lack of empathy (hopefully not through any negative motive but who knows), can be very discouraging. I've learnt to avoid those at all costs and talk to those who have experience and can offer insight that is actually helpful. I've even contacted people I didn't know after reading their blog or meeting them at a conference and finding them approachable. Their advice has been like pure gold! Hope you find someone to talk to like that in your field or in a similar field who can help you to make an informed choice about the way forward.
All the best, Tudor

Avatar for rewt

I think it depends on the field. I know in mine it is 1-2 postdocs then up or out. After 2 post-docs to get a lecturing job you need to either be; amazing, in a hot field or know someone in the uni. It is all about how you sell yourself to the university and whether or not you add something.

To the OP, if you think you can sell yourself, you can definitely get a lecturer job. If you think you have the skills to do research and can show a university your skills/experience, you have a good shot. You probably have a special method/concept/approach that is interesting and don't let that get lost in your supervisor's work. I would go for a post-doc that give you some lateral movement in research (I know hard to find).


I don't have anything to add to what rewt and TQ have added above but I have to say that the advice given by Walter_Opera is very poor indeed. I would ignore all of it. There are reasons why certain people succeed and fail in academia and there is no formula for success. Some people get academic jobs without a PhD and without publishing whilst others with massive publication lists fail to land a job.
If this is what you want to pursue then do so until you decide for yourself that it's not going to work. You'll regret it if you terminate a career path on the back of a crushingly and needlessly negativity piece of advice.


Nowadays, if you don't know the PI, your application will need publications, proof you can provide funding for projects, and are an 'expert' in the field. These things do matter in STEM


Why the ultimate goal should ne only a lecturer or a professor? There is research office jobs. Also 3 first author publication after a PhD is absolutely fine. I would also quote TQ for NEVER listening to people who lack empathy. You will not go nowhere with listening to them. We are human after all. We need sometimes to be pragmatic but most importantly, to work from passion. Industry will wull always be there. If you spend 3 more years as a Postdoc then decided to go to industry, what is the problem?
I moved to industry after 2 years RA role then another 5 years RA role in the meantime unsuccessful PhD). I am not particularly proud of my 5 RA experience which included unsuccessful PhD but also it is not the most horrible thing to put in a CV.
By the way, it is not uncommon for lecturers and professors to have 3-4 Postdoc posts before getting a lecturer job.
Regarding this meaningless comment

Quote From Walter_Opera:

If you want to become a professor, frankly, you are also sort of late after 9 years of doctoral/postdoctoral studies. TBH it is kind of late for you to be worrying about your lack of publications now. Your peers with whom you will compete for professorships now probably have their first research group leaderships, churn out papers monthly, accumulate acquired funding, are forging networks etc.

I would quote a joke about a father who wanted to motivate his son saying "When Napoleon was your age, he was the first in his class, the son answered, when Napoleon was your age, he was an emperor".