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Arthur E. Sowers arthures at access1.digex.net
Sat Sep 20 08:22:45 EST 1997

On Sat, 20 Sep 1997 lamphier at nnnnnooooospm@m.u-tokyo.ac.jp wrote:

> A. S. M. Shamsuzzaman wrote:
> > 
> > Dear Sir/Madam,
> > 
> > I am enclosing a copy of my Curriculum Vitae for your kind consideration
> > 
> > of the above mentioned position. At present, I am a Ph.D. student of the
> > 
> > Department of Autonomic Neuroscience, Division of Higher Nervous
> Just out of curiosity, has anyone heard of a person being successful in
> finding a postdoc by posting their resume in newsgroups? To me it seems
> like a waste of time, unless you are not real particular about where you
> want to go. 
> Mr. Shamsuzzaman,
> I assume you may also be following a more productive strategy for
> finding a postdoc, but just in case I will make a few simple
> suggestions. You are the best resource for finding out which labs are
> doing the most interesting research in your area of specialization, or
> which labs are doing interesting work in an area you wish to pursue
> next. I would research the literature first - THEN send your resume.
> Choose a number of labs you are interested in and contact the principal
> investigators directly. Few postdocs are advertised.

I'm not sure I would agree. The back pages of the journal _Science_ and
_Nature_ contain more announcements for postdocs than regular positions
(either in industry or academia) and since most of these advertisements
are paid for, at very high rates, out of the lab head's budget or the
professors grants, they will not be advertising unless they are serious.

My "grapevine" tells me that the ratio of applicants for postdocs to
available postdoc positions probably averages 3-6 to 1 compared to
hundreds to one for regular positions. 

NEVERTHELESS, I agree with Marc L's recommendation to contact lab heads
directly (see relevant journal articles, look for reference to grant
support which identifies the Principal Investigator, or make a telephone
call to that lab and ask who is the boss, and then write a letter or call
that person). Also, go to conferences and listen to speakers and then go
up and talk to them (quite a bit of the time they will not be the PI, but
that person might help you anyway).

> Be sure you know
> their work thoroughly, and spend some time thinking of potential
> projects you might want to pursue *before* contacting the PI. This will
> demonstrate that you have initiative and original ideas, demonstrate
> your specialized knowledge of the field, and provide a chance to show
> how your present experience and knowledge (incl. techniques) might make
> a contribution to the lab to which you are applying. Even if the PI is
> not interested in the projects you propose he/she may nevertheless be
> impressed with your ideas and knowledge.

This is a good idea, too. 

> In my present and former labs I have seen many letters arrive from
> people wanting to apply as grad students or postdocs. Most-- in fact
> almost all -- are too vague and weak. The simply say "I have
> such-and-such a degree, worked on this research theme and I am looking
> for a postdoc that might fit my qualifications". These letters are
> usually ignored 

I never ignored any letters addressed to me when I was a PI. But I did
read the CVs and evaluated whether the background would "fit in" with what
I was doing. I will admit that there were letters that were addressed to
me that I did not answer (those with unusual sloppyness, very poor
backgrounds, superficiality in the cover letter). The absolute major
reason for not responding to all letters is that openings in my lab were
far and few compared to people who wanted to come and work with me.

> or answered with a polite "we appreciate your inquiries,
> but....." You have to have a fairly directed approach or you will likely
> also be ignored or rejected. Target the lab you want to go to, then give
> the PI a good reason to want to you; show how you will contribute with a
> project.

One thing that would be helpful is if the person looking for a
postdoctoral position can be flexible about WHEN they can enter another
lab. Usually one gets a PhD at a fixed time and then NEEDS to have the
postdoc start right away (to pay the bills). Often a postdoctoral sponsor
cannot materialize money just when a graduate gets a degree.

> If I you already know this then forgive me for stating the obvious.

Thats OK. Some of the above is not obvious.

> Marc L.

Art Sowers
Written in the public interest, the essays on 
"Contemporary Problems in Science Jobs" are located at:
hit stats: http://www.access.digex.net/~arthures/.stats
Snail mail adr to me: P.O.Box 489, Georgetown, DE 19947    
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