Success in Academic Careers

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					Success in Academic Careers
            Success in Academic Careers

What are your chances?
  ~10-15% individuals who finish first post-doc will end up in tenure
  track faculty position

  ~85% of individuals who finish a post-doc are happy with the
  position they obtain

Other careers
  - biotech / industry
  - research associate
  - technology transfer
  - journalism
  - college teacher
  - government
                      Does success = happiness?

Joys                                              Headaches

•  discovery                                      •  frustrations

•  not a 9-5 job                                  •  not a 9-5 job

• doing what you want to do any day               •  grant stress

•  your own boss (most of the time)               •  job insecurity

•  interactions with bright people

•  opportunity to be a mentor

•  fame and fortune

•  perks – travel, fundraising

•  a respected, “feel-good” career
Perks: travel, good causes, respect, helping others

                             Family joined me in South Africa on points!

                 Signing passport applications!
               Success in Academic Careers

Do you have what it takes?

 What do you think are the three most important
 characteristics to have to succeed in research?

       •  passion
       •  creativity / curiosity
       •  communication skills (oral and written)
    Others – thick-skinned – can learn from criticism
           - determined/focused
           - can work with others, can mentor
What do you think are the most important benchmarks by
which you will be evaluated?

          Track record – your CV
             •  publications
             •  funding record

          Ability to present yourself

          Recommendations from mentors

          Pedigree / background

          Your research vision (5-year plan)

          Skills / area of expertise / field of research

 Start now! These things need to be considered from the earliest stages
 of your training and reassessed throughout.
How do I get there?

  Be prepared to:
      •  work long hours for little pay
      •  experience failures, frustrations
From letters Charles Best wrote to his fiancé in the summer of 1921:
 •  On August 8th, 1921, Charles Best wrote, “I went back to the lab at eleven p.m. and
 we worked all through the night and today until two.  We got fine results”.
 •  On August 10th, “We have mailed our report to Dr. Macleod.  He will have food for
 thought for a little while at least….
 •  On August 15th, “It is about midnight of the fifth consecutive night up and I am
 getting the disease called insomnia.  I cannot sleep even when I have the chance”.
     From Herbert Best in the 75th Anniversary of the Discovery of Insulin, 1996 (Prof Michael Bliss)

 What characteristics are apparent in Charles Best’s letters?
    - passion! (insomnia)
    - determination, persistence, focused on the goal

 Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing
 is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not;
 unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of
 educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The
 slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human
 race” Calvin Coolidge
 Work hard, but maintain some balance – important for your
 mental health

The Discovery of Insulin, 1996 (Prof Michael Bliss)
Track record / CV – most critical
  •  publications:
       •  high quality journals is best, but any publications better than nothing – one paper
       can make the difference
       •  co-authorships with fellow trainees
       •  write a review with your mentor
       •  get help, take courses, push your mentor!
       •  do a manuscript-based thesis

  •  funding record
        •  apply for everything you can! Reapply!
        •  start with local awards, scholarships, anything
        •  get help

  •  presentations
        •  give as many as you can – local rounds, (inter)national meetings, research days
        •  give yourself credit for any presentation you do on your CV

  •  teaching - developing a track record in teaching a good thing
        •  talk to your supervisor first and don’t do too much
        •  maintain a teaching dossier, give yourself credit
        •  get evaluations

  •  grades – still important as a graduate student for getting awards and funding but
  becomes less important as you progress
Finishing your PhD
  Have a plan
  Don’t stay forever


If things are not working have an exit
Use your committee / graduate advisor

  Manuscript-based thesis!
Picking the perfect post-doc
Picking a good post-doc for you - a very important decision

What is the goal of a post-doc?
       - prepare you for an independent research career
       - further develop your track record
       - obtain expertise in a specific area

 One post-doc or two?
    - one is enough but two is sometimes needed when:
        - the first one isn’t working out
        - training in a complementary area of expertise is needed

 Do I need to go away?
     - preferable, but if you must stay you must change institutions and find a
     complementary research areas

 Start your search at least a year in advance
     - research candidate labs
     - get advice, talk to your mentor and others
     - visit potential post-doc labs

Most labs hungry for good post-docs, so you can be in the driver’s seat.
The better your PhD record the more selective you can be
Things to consider when choosing a PDF:
The mentor
    •  track record with previous post-docs (publications, placement in academia)
    •  stature (for your pedigree)

The fit for you
    •  does it feel right? Do you connect with the proposed mentor?

The environment
    •  post-doc factory or small lab?
    •  neighbouring labs and collaborators, resources – is it a big centre in your field?
    •  the location (city, country)

Things to ask the mentor
    •  security - is the position contingent on you obtaining external salary?
    •  projects – high risk vs guaranteed publications
    •  technical support
    •  mentor’s funding and available resources
    •  contact time with mentor
    •  support for travel and presentations
    •  involvement in manuscript and grant review, grant writing
    • some freedom to develop your own ideas and research area?

Pick a disease!

Talk to people in the lab!
What to get out of your post-doc

Goal: training and demonstration that you will be able to establish
an independent research program

   •  publications
        •  external funding
        •  fellowships, grants

   •  expertise in a useful to your research area

   •  become known in the field
        •  meetings, networking

   •  mentorship experience

   •  experience reviewing papers and grants, writing grants (critical)

   •  in later years – preliminary data and ideas for your own grant

   •  some teaching OK
 Finding a Job in Academia
Approaches to getting a faculty position - which is your best option?

      1.  Open application

      2.  Promotion from within from postdoc/RA position

      3. Find the job yourself
      Finding a Job in Academia

      1. Open application
The Program in Developmental & Stem Cell Biology at The Hospital for Sick Children Research Institute, in
association with the Ontario Institute of Cancer Research, is seeking an exceptional individual with stem cell
expertise to fill a Scientist position. We encourage applications from candidates who study embryonic and/or
adult stem cells in model organisms such as Drosophila, C. elegans, zebra fish or mice. A vision for applying
their work to understanding mammalian stem cell biology, and in particular human cancer and cancer stem
cells is desired. Candidates must have an MD or a Ph.D degree (or equivalent), completed significant
postdoctoral training and an outstanding record of research productivity. The successful candidate will join
an internationally recognized developmental and stem cell biology faculty, hold an academic appointment
(Assistant Professor level) at the University of Toronto and receive a competitive salary and start-up
package. The candidate will be expected to mount an original, competitive and independently funded
research program.Interested individuals should submit applications including a curriculum vitae, description
of past and proposed research, copies of three representative publications and three signed letters of
recommendation, preferably in PDF format to ….

  Likely to get many applicants – some competitions get several hundred

  Watch for ones where the applicant is likely already identified

  Some are fairly focused in scope – watch for those in your area

  Otherwise do not waste your time
  Finding a Job in Academia

Promotion from within from postdoc/RA position

   •    sometimes necessary for personal / family reasons

   •    can work to your advantage (known entity, transition salary awards
         sometimes available, jump-start on project, resources available)

   •    Significant issues of independence - requires an altruistic mentor!
   Finding a Job in Academia
Find the job yourself!

    •    network, find out who might be looking, where you might fit

    •    have your mentor or other colleague do some research and make
         calls on your behalf

    •    pass through cities and offer to give talks and meet people

    •    convince them that you would be a good fit

    •    knock on a few doors and don’t give up – this approach works!

    •    this approach seems to work best in research institutes and
         hospitals over basic science departments, especially if you are
         associated with a disease

    •    be the person they write the ad for!
    Getting the Job - the Interview

First visit:

Be like a boy scout: be prepared!

    •  give a great talk (practice at your institute or lab first)
    •  have a 5-year research plan thought out
          •  what would the aims of your first grant be?
    •  do some research – who in the new institute/department might
          you collaborate with? What can you bring them?
    •  present yourself as collegial
    •  OK to inquire about available resources, expectations etc but
    stick to science on first visit
    Getting the Job - the Interview

Second visit:

If you are invited back for a second visit, they are interested, so it is
time to ask the harder questions:

    •  salary
    •  length of contract
    •  start up funds
    •  reward for obtaining external salary
    •  available resources
    •  graduate students
    •  administrative support
    •  space
    •  finding your partner a position
    •  moving expenses
    •  promotion / tenure
    •  protected time
Succeeding in your new lab

   •  get mentorship! accept help
         •  academic
         •  research

   •  write grants

   •  take your time hiring – your first hires are the most critical decisions you
   will make

   •  don’t grow too fast

   •  get exposed – give local talks

   •  know when to say yes and no
         •  teaching
         •  committees

   •  get on a grant committee

   •  tell editors you are available to review
Good luck!