Grant-writing for a post-doc

Noel Fong ez005881 at
Sun Jun 22 21:49:56 EST 1997

I recently interviewed for an advertised post-doc position in a
competitive  lab at UCSF, and am on the short list.  But, when the PI
makes the decision in a week or so, only 1 of the 4 of us will get 
it (out of 80+ applications).

I like the work going on this lab, and I like the PI.  If I do not get the
offer, I am considering talking to him about writing my own post-doc grant
to work in his lab.  That is, if the only reason I didn't get the offer is
that I wasn't the best fit in terms of readily transferrable skills, and
not because I didn't "fit" well with the group.

(a)  What criteria should I consider in deciding whether or not this is a
good lab to invest in to write a grant?

Certainly, I would consider all the usual factors - his publication
record, his standing in the field, and whether I get along with him.  All
good so far.  But, is there anything extra to consider before I invest my
time in writing a grant with him?

(b) What do I expect from the PI in terms of commitment to me?
Certainly, space, overhead, and guidance as for the other post-docs.
In terms of coming up with the core of the grants, I would plan the ideas
with him, do most of the legwork, write the grant, and submit it.

Do I reasonably expect him to read drafts (close-to-final versions), and
point my way toward funding sources, working his network as necessary?
What else should I expect?

(c) What are any warning signs to watch for to avoid any possible
exploitation? After all, he has little to lose here. e.g. I certainly see
that it would not be reasonable for him to expect me to write full grants,
as I have no preliminary results.

(d) Is writing grants a high-risk move for someone who is changing
research areas?  I have extensive training (Ph.D. work and years of
industrial experience) in gene expression, microbial physiology, and
pathway regulation in yeast.  I want to study mechanisms of antibiotic
resistance in bacteria.  Many of the skills I have are transferable, even
though I haven't worked in his organism.  My record is good otherwise:
many publications, meetings, teaching, professional society office, etc.  

(e) Science culture question - In general, how is grant-writing viewed for
a post-doc vs. an advertised position?  Certainly, it is one way to have
control over what you work on, and to take it with you.  It seems to me
that it provides more validation as a scientist and is a good learning
experience for future grants, but it is definitely the harder path than
answering ads.

Thanks for any input you folks have to offer.  
I enjoy the comraderie in this newsgroup, and keep up the good work!
(Also, welcome back, Sarah Boomer!)


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