Opportunities for postdocs

Currently, I do not have any grant funded postdoctoral positions in our lab group.

However, for postdoctoral candidates that have a strong conceptual and practical fit with our lab group, I am happy to collaborate on proposals for institutional or external funded opportunities (see below). We have existing datasets that could be used for data synthesis and have developed several systems for addressing a diversity of questions.

A strong conceptual fit means that we share complementary or similar (but not necessarily identical) interests in research questions. A strong practical fit means that we can collaborate well together. For example, postdoc candidates will be able to focus at least 80% of their time on our potential collaboration. In other words, manuscripts or projects from prior PhD or postdocs will be mostly complete prior to starting at UMass. As a junior faculty member, successful collaborations require demonstrated productivity and mentoring that is fairly rapid. This is not only helpful for me but for the candidate as well! Postdocs need to demonstrate that they can be independent and effective scientists!

Regardless of fit, potential postdocs who identify as under represented in STEM should contact me about possibilities at UMass. 

General advice

First, it’s helpful to know what kinds of opportunities are available for postdocs in ecology and evolution. There are three types:

  1. Institutional postdocs are funded by an organization and are awarded to the candidate to do independent research. These positions typically have a mentor. The application usually includes a proposal, CV, letters of support from the mentors. Examples include Smithsonian Postdoctoral Fellowships, STRI Tupper, and SIO.
  2. External postdocs are funded by an organization to do work at a proposed location. Examples include Smith Conservation Fellows, and National Science Foundation.
  3. Grant funded postdocs are for already established projects. Hiring is done by the principal investigator and application materials include a CV, letters of recommendation, and an interview process. Although some grant funded postdoc positions may have an already named candidate, I think this is usually not the case in ecology and evolution. Most of the time, PIs are looking for the best available candidate for the job.

Check out this impressive list of postdoc opportunities.

Strategy

I recommend applying strategically so that you can give yourself as many options as possible. What does strategically mean? Your application is a balance between your current competitiveness (skills and publication record) and your ability to craft a compelling proposal. Of course, your finite resource is time. On the one hand, maybe you should just focus on publishing your PhD or current postdoc work so you are as competitive as possible? On the other hand, you need to write a compelling proposal and this will take time! My personal strategy was to spend time on a few postdoctoral proposals/applications that I thought I had a reasonable chance of getting. In fact, I remember applying for 3 postdocs around the same time frame. Importantly, I applied for my first opportunity a year earlier, but I thought it was extremely helpful to have gone through the “rodeo” at least once before.

How do I find a mentor?

Finding a postdoc mentor is in some ways similar to applying for graduate school with some important differences. It is similar in that you need find a mentor that is a good fit for your interests and the way you work. Once you have identified this mentor, you need to cultivate the relationship. Think of this part as collaboration building. Don’t just email the mentor and say “Hi, i’m interested in your work and I want to postdoc with you.” You want to create a compelling argument for 1) you as an up and coming postdoc, 2) why there is a good fit between you and the mentor, and 3) what is the interesting work that can be done. More on this soon…