Interdisciplinary Academic Career

  • #1
Pythagorean
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I have a goal of starting a new program in a particular school. It's an established program and the school has all the pieces of it (contributing departments with the right specialties)... but... if you want to be involved in cross-department research, early on in your career, who do you apply to?

Departments will split-hire for profs, I know (like biophysicist is part-time physics, part-time bio)... but do they do similar things for postdocs?

How do you build an interdisciplinary reputation as a postdoc?
 

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  • #2
ZapperZ
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I have a goal of starting a new program in a particular school. It's an established program and the school has all the pieces of it (contributing departments with the right specialties)... but... if you want to be involved in cross-department research, early on in your career, who do you apply to?

Departments will split-hire for profs, I know (like biophysicist is part-time physics, part-time bio)... but do they do similar things for postdocs?

How do you build an interdisciplinary reputation as a postdoc?

OK, this is utterly puzzling.

Your "postdoc" is funded out of someone's grants. What you do, and the scope of your work, depends on what is agreed upon with THAT person, your supervisor. You have no freedom to do whatever you please unless it is agreed upon by him/her. He/she is also constrained by the nature of that funding grant.

This question should have been asked to your supervisor. If not, find a postdoc that actually advertizes for such a specific position that you're looking for.

Zz.
 
  • #3
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OK, this is utterly puzzling.

Your "postdoc" is funded out of someone's grants. What you do, and the scope of your work, depends on what is agreed upon with THAT person, your supervisor. You have no freedom to do whatever you please unless it is agreed upon by him/her. He/she is also constrained by the nature of that funding grant.

This question should have been asked to your supervisor. If not, find a postdoc that actually advertizes for such a specific position that you're looking for.

Zz.
Not necessarily. In our department about one half of all postdocs have their own independent funding (external postdoctoral fellowships) and can decide for themselves what they do and who they work with (limited only by whatever they themselves specified in the funding application). Such fellowships may be very competitive (depending on the country), but not impossible to get.
 
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  • #4
Pythagorean
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This question should have been asked to your supervisor.

I'm a couple of years away from doing a postdoc...
 
  • #5
ZapperZ
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Not necessarily. In our department about one half of all postdocs have their own independent funding (external postdoctoral fellowships) and can decide for themselves what they do and who they work with (limited only by whatever they themselves specified in the funding application). Such fellowships may be very competitive (depending on the country), but not impossible to get.

But that is what I meant by the scope of the work. If the funding allows for such a leeway, then yes. Then one has to look for such an award. But the question, as asked, made it sounds as if this is a typical freedom that a postdoc can do, which it isn't. It is tired very much to the nature of the postdoc award and funding.

I hired a postdoc that's supposed to do a cross-disciplinary work in detector physics, high energy physics, and material science. And he's given the freedom to move across those areas as much or as little as he wanted. But that was what the funding had been designed and described to the funding agency.

Zz.
 
  • #6
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But that is what I meant by the scope of the work. If the funding allows for such a leeway, then yes. Then one has to look for such an award. But the question, as asked, made it sounds as if this is a typical freedom that a postdoc can do, which it isn't. It is tired very much to the nature of the postdoc award and funding.

I hired a postdoc that's supposed to do a cross-disciplinary work in detector physics, high energy physics, and material science. And he's given the freedom to move across those areas as much or as little as he wanted. But that was what the funding had been designed and described to the funding agency.

Zz.
Fair enough, I agree. I just wanted to mention that external postdoctoral funding may also be a possibility.
 
  • #7
atyy
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If you would like to start a new collaboration, you can try approaching the PIs several years ahead, and seeing if they are interested. If they are, you and them can try applying for grants to do the work. You should also keep your present supervisor informed.
 
  • #8
Pythagorean
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Even if you're working in the confines of a specific research project, shouldn't you also eventually start seeking independence during postdoc? Obviously you're not going to do it behind your supervisor's back; I was imagining the supervisor would be involved in the transition. Isn't that part of a supervisor's responsibility towards their postdoc, too?

I mean, shouldn't you be looking towards the next grant to bring money to the department/lab and offering to contribute to administrative and teaching roles in the department?

If you would like to start a new collaboration, you can try approaching the PIs several years ahead, and seeing if they are interested. If they are, you and them can try applying for grants to do the work. You should also keep your present supervisor informed.

Wouldn't you want that your supervisor is one of the PI's involved in the collaboration? I have already gotten two of the PI's in a room together and it resulted in collaborative work and I still maintain contact with both of them (I just wrote a paper with one of them).
 
  • #9
ZapperZ
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Even if you're working in the confines of a specific research project, shouldn't you also eventually start seeking independence during postdoc? Obviously you're not going to do it behind your supervisor's back; I was imagining the supervisor would be involved in the transition. Isn't that part of a supervisor's responsibility towards their postdoc, too?

I mean, shouldn't you be looking towards the next grant to bring money to the department/lab and offering to contribute to administrative and teaching roles in the department?

Your position as a postdoc, more often than not, is temporary. There is nothing about your position, unless it is stated explicitly, that you will stay there beyond the period of the funding for your postdoc position.

Again, you have to look at the nature of the grant that funds your postdoc position. If your supervisor's funding is tied to a particular area of study, then unless he/she agrees to it, that is what you had to work on. It doesn't mean that you can't be creative and come up with things to study (in fact, you are expected to explore your own idea and investigation), it is just that it had to be within a specific area dictated by the funding proposal.

If you get your own postdoc fund, say, from another agency, then read the funding agreement that the agency has with you on what you can and cannot do.

Whoever gave you the money has the right and freedom to dictate what you are allowed to do and set those boundaries.

Zz.
 
  • #10
atyy
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Wouldn't you want that your supervisor is one of the PI's involved in the collaboration? I have already gotten two of the PI's in a room together and it resulted in collaborative work and I still maintain contact with both of them (I just wrote a paper with one of them).

I meant your present (PhD) supervisor. The PIs with whom you are writing the grant would be your future (postdoc) supervisors. Of course if your PhD supervisor is one of those on the grant application, he'd be your future supervisor too.

There are some fellowships (hard to get) that specifically fund interdisciplinary work (I don't know them off the top of my head). So that is another mechanism by which you could get funding at least for yourself, if not the whole project.

As you probably know, both these routes are uncertain, but it's worth trying if you and potential collaborators are really interested.
 
  • #11
Pythagorean
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Thanks for your input everyone.
 

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