Exploring Advanced Postdoctoral Fellowships

The competition to become an independently funded investigator at a reputable academic institution is at an all time high. The average junior researcher faces a huge uphill climb to land a first academic appointment and R01 research grant. Fortunately, researchers have the opportunity to obtain advanced postdoctoral training that will enable them to hone their scientific skills and become more competitive in the world of academic research.

The number of researchers who perform a second postdoctoral fellowship has increased in recent years. This may reflect current researchers' desires to become more competitive in the job market, enhance their independent research skills or obtain additional research skills and techniques. The trend may also reveal that researchers want to acquire more first author publications or receive additional training and networking opportunities from a well-known and published veteran researcher. Unlike many career paths, scientific research is truly grounded in a lifelong pursuit of education and training.

What to Look for in an Advanced Postdoctoral Fellowship

Second- and third-round postdocs need to consider two things as they hunt for their next training position — experience and novelty. After your first postdoctoral fellowship, you should have the tools and independent research skills that you need to thrive in science. As an advanced postdoc you should focus on publishing and learning new skills and techniques that you can bring to into your own future research program.

Publish your work. Choose a lab that is prolific and productive. Be prepared to write consistently and begin writing well in advance of deadlines.

Get your name out there. Take every opportunity to present your work at national conferences and at your home institution. Networking can provide a huge push in your future career.

Keep your mentor informed. Attend regularly scheduled meetings with your new mentor to discuss your progress and goals.

Use the opportunity to learn and develop your skills. If you are a biochemist with limited in vivo experience, search for a lab that can provide this expertise. If you are a molecular biologist who wants to learn about flow cytometry to enhance your upcoming independent research career, find the leading expert in this technique.

More than ever, this fellowship experience is about you and your future. If you use this opportunity wisely, you will be well on your way to finding an ideal junior faculty position.

Junior Faculty Positions

Researchers seek out advanced postdoctoral training for a number of reasons. However, a junior faculty position may not be out of your reach. Use your resources! There are a number of informative Web sites available for researchers searching for entry-level faculty positions, including The National Postdoctoral Association. While advanced postdoctoral training will strengthen your CV, you may be able to find a faculty position sooner than you would think.