sciencephd, several of my ex PhD colleagues have no first author papers and all of them had no issues getting postdoc positions in Russell Group universities across the UK. None of them were particularly gifted and none of them came from an RG uni so I wouldn't lose too much sleep over any of this.
Obviously a first author paper won't harm you but it's not the end of the world if you have good reasons for not having one. It is particularly difficult to get first authorship if you are a computational chemist working in a group for example unless you are either demonstrating the limits of a technique or testing a new method.
As with everything, it's about supply and demand. If your prospective postdoc position gains a lot of applications, you'll have some issues but there are plenty of academics in all universities who struggle to attract good candidates. Therein lies your opportunity and there are plenty of them.
It will certainly differ by field I would expect.
There is also another factor where tons of students pursue perceived reputation first and foremost and the science is very much a secondary consideration. I wouldn't even want to guess how many applications arrive on the desk of a Nobel prize winner or a very well known researcher at Oxford, Cambridge or one of the Ivy League unis.
This happens with graduate jobs too. You get some companies receiving tens of thousands of applications from graduates simply because they have appeared on a "best employer" list somewhere, with other much better companies receiving none at all because they are smaller and off list. I must admit that I find this baffling behaviour because for me, the job is everything but I appear to be in a minority.
The symptom of this is that some people just struggle to get positions whilst other possibly less talented people seem to simply walk from one role to another, seemingly effortlessly.
It's up to people how hard they want to make things for themselves whilst balancing up the perceived benefits.
Jamie if you calm down a second and re-read my post you'll see I did not call Nobel prize winning science "secondary". I was talking about the motivation of the student applying to those labs being about reputation first and science second. It's not the first time you've made emotional outbursts on here without taking the time to read what others are posting properly.
I come on this forum to help others who are struggling to get through their PhDs and secure postdoc positions. If I'm preaching, it's because people like you keep posting absolute nonsense about Russell Group universities such as having to be "on top of your game" to secure post docs. It's rubbish and potentially damaging to others. You are flat out wrong on this.
I'd be grateful if you could drop the metaphor and explain exactly what you mean by your sour grapes comment. Are you seriously suggesting I am in some way jealous? Of who and of what? After my PhD I was approached by two different supervisors and offered postdoc positions. Both were at RG universities and both were leaders in their fields. I didn't have to apply for either. They approached me. I turned them both down because I wanted to go back to running my own business. I have no interest in engaging in a public pissing contest with you over our respective achievements but I'm not going to sit back and allow you to make personal attacks on my motives without knowing who I am. You can challenge my view but cut out the personal crap please. That;s the second time I've had to ask that from you.
I should add that my ex-PhD colleagues who came from a non-RG background and secured RG postdocs were in the fields of Chemistry, Physics and Biochem. Two of them have now secured permanent positions within those RG unis. Perhaps it would be different if they were in the Humanities. I have no idea.
The thing is, sciencephd seems concerned that s/he does not yet have a first author publication... something must be causing this. Maybe others at the same level in the lab DO already have some papers? Facing up to it and trying to remedy it is probably the most positive thing a person can do if that is the case.
Thank you for providing more context. How about asking your supervisor how you can get a first authored paper? It sounds as though he runs the lab and has a strategy about papers and projects. If he realises you aren't happy to take no as an answer, he may start to include your interests in that strategy. I think this would need a conversation where he saw that you were serious and not about to easily back down. But also I don't think it would help to say you want to use the existing results that he already has plans for. You could see what he says when you state your position about needing an opportunity to publish some first author papers during your PhD. I'd say papers plural, as then you're more likely to get at least one paper out of a negotiation.
Alongside this, I would look for other opportunities. I was in quite a fix during my. PhD and managed to start a collaboration with a researcher whose work I had admired for years. I simply approached them at a conference and told them which paper I really loved. They then said, oh I didn't get a chance to see your poster, could you email it me after the conference? That set up the communication between us. Then I saw funding being offered for short trips to work with a researcher abroad, and I asked them if they'd be interested in hosting me. They said yes. My supervisors agreed. And basically quite a few good things came out of this, including a paper. I think this is quite a unique case, but it's something you could try.
Aside from this, finishing the PhD is something in itself and it isn't the end of the world if you don't publish a paper from it. As I mentioned in my first reply, it might take longer to secure a postdoc because of the competition. And you might need to settle for an RA job where you can publish first.
I was also approached for a post-doc with a famous Russian professor in the UK in a specialist field - Machine Learning. He and his colleagues made some pioneering contributions that transformed the field (they invented conformal prediction in ML). In my case, towards the end of my PhD, which was going really well, I wasn't very proactive in searching for the next position until the last moment, rather focusing on getting it all completed and finishing my publications. The downside to this was that I heard of others having organised their post-docs and jobs before they completed and I felt I'd left it a bit until the last minute.
Although I achieved 3 full papers and presented at 5 conferences before I finished, I wasn't as proactive and as enterprising in creating collaborations as Tudor Queen.
That said, the professor I mentioned ran a seminar for staff and post-graduate students where he invited his previous PhD students who ended up working in companies such as Microsoft, Google and Facebook . Our department was small and everyone had an idea of what area others were working on. I sometimes attended the seminars, and there were drinks afterwards where he got to ask me more about my work - in particular he was interested in my background in Chemistry and my PhD in distributed computing.
As I was submitting, I was approached by the professor who encouraged me to apply for his post-doc position in Machine Learning for Drug discovery. I interviewed for it and got the position.
I'm currently working in a consulting role in a medical research institute, but now I'm leaving there now to start a post-doc in Imperial college.
pm133, didn't mean to offend. I've seen load of your posts where you offer good advice. I did, however, notice some bias in a few - to paraphrase your opinion "Oh yeah, I know loads of dumb people who've got into those top 'RG' universities, they were nothing special. The whole prestigious university thing is bullshit. Just my opinion of course!" In my view that's not particularly helpful. Just my view of course ;-)
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