Resources Q & A

A good lab needs good post docs, which is one of the things that is currently difficult in India. Any plans to entice good postdocs to labs in India?

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Currently the post doc population is limited. Candidly put, most people with a decent PhD go abroad for their post doc, and this is a good thing. Typically the pool of post-docs one attracts is people who need a bridge position until they arrange their foreign post-doc or people who are good at their work but are not necessarily interested in a faculty position in the top Indian institutions. There is also a pool of extremely good people who need to be in a particular city for personal reasons, and these can be very good if you find them!

The dearth of postdocs also makes the labs somewhat "youthful" which has its advantages and disadvantages! PIs need to plan strategies to bring new techniques etc into their labs by sending their students to collaborators for a few months, or bringing in new skills themselves. This is an ongoing challenge. PIs usually have to put some thought into the different approaches needed to "manage" a team that is barely out of college, though it is impressive how quickly these students mature and become role models and student leaders. One of the biggest changes will be fine-tuning your approach to students. Compared with their US counterparts, Indian PhD students need a lot more direction from their advisers on all aspects of the scientific process, including designing experiments, troubleshooting, interpreting data, presenting in seminars and writing. The first few years are challenging, then you have senior students with the maturity of post docs, and it becomes easier. The lab functions as much more of a family- people work together and spend long hours because they like being with their colleagues.

Creative ways of attracting post docs to your lab are well worth spending time on. For example, graduate students in labs abroad who are near the end of their PhDs may be interested in doing a 6-month "mini-post doc" in an Indian lab, if there is an interesting project, and they are interested in getting a taste of living in a different country. Several Institutions offer positions (with stipend and housing) of varying durations to such candidates, and agencies such as the British Council, or the Company of Biologists will offer fellowships that cover travel and/or a stipend. As always, finding such candidates is where the hard work comes in (rather than finding the funding for them, which is not a problem), but it is well worth it.

This scenario may change with the Wellcome-DBT fellowships that offer attractive packages to post doctoral applicants from within and outside India- 4 year fellowships with funds for travel, experimental costs, and impressive salaries.