Columns @IndiaBioscience

From the Young Investigators’ Meeting 2016: PDF Shorts

Harini Barath

At YIM 2016, we asked postdocs about the challenges they face during job search and their expectations from Institutes/Universities.

PDF Lightning Talks
PDF Lightning Talks   (Photo: Harini Barath)

What can Institutes/Universities do to help the job application process?

Govindaraj Periyasamy, NIMHANS, Bangalore: It would be particularly useful if the Institutes could be more specific about which field (or sub-field) they are looking to hire a candidate in. Additionally, the interview panel must include somebody from the candidate’s field, or at least a closely related field.

Richa Arya, Harvard Medical School, USA: It would be immensely helpful if Institutes and Universities developed application portals. That could be a way for them to inform us about the progress of the application even when there are a large number of applicants. That kind of transparency would be very useful.

Kedar Natarajan, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, UK: It would be nice if they could specify what specialities they are looking for, whether it is expertise in a certain field or with a certain background. What would also be nice is to delineate strategies they would like to see. This will help us shape our research proposals better. Even if this can’t be advertised, it can be shared through platforms like the YIM.

What information is commonly hard to find?

Govindaraj Periyasamy: As far as information about which places have openings, that is not hard to find. Most Universities or Institutes advertise widely. If I have a particular interest in a lab, I would simply follow their job postings keenly.

Richa Arya: More details about the requirements they are seeking in a candidate.

Kedar Natarajan: When looking for information about funding, there is a lot of information out there, but it can be overwhelming. Structuring some of that information or simply a pointer to useful resources (like the NCBS  RDO grants page) would make a difference.

What do you look for when you attend an interview?

Govindaraj Periyasamy: It is heartening when the interviewers have a genuine interest in my work and seek to understand my research.

Richa Arya: The questions they ask matter a lot. Scientific questions, however tough, are welcome. Sometimes, the personal questions seem intrusive. That could be avoided. I would try to gauge if they will be supportive. A good interaction and environment are important.

Kedar Natarajan: Good infrastructure and some startup support in addition to any funding I manage to secure. But more importantly, I’d look for people with whom, even if I don’t actively collaborate, I can interact with and bounce ideas off.

What kind of advice would be most useful?

Govindaraj Periyasamy: Advice from others who have recently gone through the experience and set up their labs is key. Networking meetings facilitate that. But we should think of ways to make such advice easily accessible and available on a large scale.

Richa Arya: More internal information from Directors would be useful, rather than the Institutional overviews, which are easier to access. How they get funding, how they deal with the funding, what they do to promote collaborations and support travel, we would like to learn these from the Meeting.

Kedar Natarajan: The most useful advice is what the young PIs can offer from their experiences.

Is there anything you learnt about the job search process from the YIM?

Govindaraj Periyasamy: While I am not ready to move from NIMHANS yet, since my work depends a lot on access to patients, I have made contact with others here who I may like to work with in the future.

Richa Arya: The interaction with the YIs has been very valuable. The Meeting has given me access to a cohort of people who have been through the process, are in the system and can tell me what the realities are.

Kedar Natarajan: That it is important to network. And also to understand that the system in India is different. Young PIs here have emphasised the importance of having good research proposals and application dockets, while writing to people and networking in parallel.

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Physicist turned science writer. I enjoy writing about interdisciplinary research and interviewing scientists about science and careers in science.