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I'm looking for some career/life advice. I am currently 9 months into my first postdoc job in the US (originally 1 year contract) in the life sciences, after finishing a PhD in the UK. My contract ends later this year so I'll have been here 1.5 years and I'm not sure I want to renew it. I know most postdocs are usually 2-3 years in length, but I think I am ready to go back to the UK once the contract ends. The project is great, the lab is amazing and I've gained so many new skills. I know that finishing the project would be great for my career. But I've had some bouts of bad luck in my personal life and it has really affected me. I miss my family and friends at home and now I'm torn between my career and mental health...

Talking to my supervisor, she is understanding but also doesn't think I will have enough data by August for a paper as it's a huge ongoing project. I'm wondering what the damage would be from having that 1.5 year postdoc abroad on my CV without any papers. Or would employers look at it and be understanding that it might be difficult to be far from home or that I have at least gained valuable skills despite no papers as it was less than 2-3 years?

Anyone experienced similar situations or have any advice?

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    I would not worry about the "1.5 year postdoc with no papers" specifically, but more just about the "no papers" part. Is there any possibility of continuing to work on the project after you leave, enough for at least authorship on the resulting paper? – Nate Eldredge Jan 20 at 2:13
  • @NateEldredge I haven't discussed with the PI yet, but I believe I would get some co-authorship on the resulting papers as I have done a lot of work to push the project forward so far. But as it is a large project with several years still left on the grant, it could take some time until the papers are written... – user3078840 Jan 20 at 2:23
  • If you want to go, go. But try to line something good to go to (not just go away). Also, please try not to get into things where you have to wait so long and are so dependent on others. Postdocs are supposed to be little paper factories. It is nornal in life sciences for many projects to not have these huge deays or organizations. Try to get something out of this one, but if you are unhappy bail now. [Seems a little flawed that you went into a 12 month proect (before extension) with no quick papers expected. Avoid these traps.] – guest Jan 20 at 2:59
  • @guest surely postdocs are meant to produce good research results and not just be "paper factories"... – Solar Mike Jan 20 at 7:27
  • Gotta produce. Better papers is fine. But you need to have overall production. Especially with short appointments. People want to see some numbers. – guest Jan 20 at 8:34
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would employers look at it and be understanding that it might be difficult to be far from home or that I have at least gained valuable skills despite no papers as it was less than 2-3 years?

They do not automatically understand. You need to convince them.

There can be multiple reasons for 1.5 years without a paper. A big project that requires a lot of engineering effort is a perfectly reasonable reason. In this case, a letter of reference from your postdoc advisor is very important. You may help her to sketch out what she needs to write:

  • Your responsibilities and skills needed to perform in the project
  • Your contribution/achievements after 1.5 years
  • ...

IMHO, you should not mention "be difficult to be far from home etc". It sounds like an excuse for poor performance, or at least it gives an impression that you are not able to overcome difficulties.

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