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Coming up with research proposals as a first-time postdoc applicant?

  1. Dec 8, 2013 #1
    So I'm in the final year of my PhD and will need to find a job soon. I don't feel strongly either way about whether I'll stay in physics or leave it for a "normal" job, but I've been browsing around looking for postdoc positions recently. I've seen places advertising for applications comprised of a CV and a research proposal. This is not something I had to do when I was a fresh university graduate looking for a PhD - there was already well-defined work that needed doing for a large experiment and it sounded alright so I went for it. My PhD project was not my idea.

    However, the calls for applications that I've seen just state the vague field of the research going on at the institute. To be frank I have no idea about anything specific I want to work on - the impression I've got from staff at my university is that in this modern age, beggars can't be choosers and I should expect to have to turn my hand to whatever work comes along.

    So, I've just been focused on getting the data I need. Whilst I've attended the odd seminar, I do not have in-depth knowledge of any experiment except the one I've worked on. I feel like coming up with something to do could be a massive undertaking, requiring a huge literature search, and I don't have the time to fit that in.

    Is this a common situation for PhD students to find themselves in? Is this my fault, should I have known better and been thinking about this since the day I started my PhD? Or is it my university's fault for not warning me about this?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 8, 2013 #2
    It might be field dependent, but by the end of my phd, I had several collaborators to help with knowing what a given postdoc position was looking for. For postdoc applications, I put a story around the papers I had published (i.e. as I went from working on this, to this I became interested in... there are important avenues to further explore...), and then outlined the future projects with collaborators I was planning on starting if I kept going in physics.
  4. Dec 8, 2013 #3
    ok thanks, that's good to know. So I could potentially carry on doing roughly what I have been doing involving roughly the same people, just working at a different location? I'd be happy with that. Actually why the hell did I not think of this, it seems like such an obvious possibility now.
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