Post Doc - how to pick

Beth Shuster eoshuster at UCDAVIS.EDU
Thu Jan 25 20:21:45 EST 1996

A note to supplement Susan Forsburgs reply (25 Jan 1996 16:02:58 -0800;
SLForsburg <susan_forsburg at>) to Jen Coleman
(<jcoleman at>, 25 Jan 1996 21:49:56 GMT).:

  While Susan is absolutely correct in saying that the project you actually
end up doing will likely come out of conversations with your prospective PI
and her/his lab members, be sure that you go into your initial meeting well
prepared.  Bone up on the subject so that you can intelligently discuss not
only the most recent publications from the lab, but some of the relevant
literature and recent results from the field as well.  Otherwise, you may
not get beyond that initial conversation.  Some of the top labs on our
field (molecular genetics) have two year waiting lists, although a 1-1.5
year lead time is usually sufficient.

  Also be aware that the project you write up for your fellowship
applications may not be the one you actually work one.  The lag time
between writing the application and starting in the lab may mean that
others (in the field or in your prospective lab) may have started on it
first.  Alternatively, other results may completely invalidate your initial
idea and/or suggest a more interesting project.  All this is fine & good,
as long as you know what to expect.  A good lab (and a good post-doc!)
generally has lots of potential projects.

  My spouse and I spent 1.5 years "commuting" once a month or so between
Seattle and the San Francisco Bay Area.  Not fun, but necessary at the
time.  We survived.  I know of other couples who have survived a
cross-country separation, but also some that have not.  The key seems to be
good, and frequent communication.  Calling frequently, even if it's just a
15 minute "how was your day" conversation at bedtime, keeps you involved in
the daily aspects of each other's lives.

Good luck!


Beth Shuster
Univ. of California, Davis
eoshuster at

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