I'm going to have a skype call with a University Professor (Computer Science) to discuss the possibilities of working in his lab as a postdoc.

He already told me (via email) that he can not produce an open position easily. So, he wants to know me better and to discuss the possibilities and research perspectives. Honestly, I do not understand what he means by his first sentence about the difficulty of "producing an open position". Does he mean "the chances are low, but let's have a talk"?

Also, I like to discuss and find common grounds for doing prospective research. But what would be a happy ending for such a discussion? For instance, he/I suggesting to work on a proposal? or finding a research project/topic to discuss later in more detail? To be honest, I'm not sure how to lead such an (somehow) informal meeting to a more serious opportunity.

  • I think he will be leading...
    – Solar Mike
    Apr 8, 2019 at 15:34

1 Answer 1


You need to answer two questions here:

  1. What is it that you want out of this?
  2. What can you offer this person?

In answer to question 1, if it's just that you want any post-doc, then this conversation will likely go poorly for you.

The professor "cannot produce an open position", meaning that he is uninterested in working with just another researcher to get more people in his lab. He has an obvious interest in working with someone, but he isn't sure if it's you. He'll want to know that you two share the same research interests, that your skills are up to the task, and that you can contribute positively to the field and your mutual reputation as researchers.

In response to question 2: The prof most likely wants to know if you want this specific post-doc position because this professor is a leader in the field that you are in and you will learn a lot from this person, and also that you will be able to make a significant contribution without him holding your hand, but that gets him some recognition. You need to make sure to communicate that.

  • Good answer. One thing! In fact, I have some research topics in mind which (I guess) are close to the research line of the prof (based on his profile and publications) and I really like to pursue them. But, should I only see what topics he suggests and check if I'd like them, or I can even be more active and have research suggestions too?
    – Bob
    Apr 8, 2019 at 17:30
  • 1
    It is most likely that you should really understand what this prof does well and what his current projects are. Read his research extensively, especially his new stuff, and try to figure out how your stuff can integrate, expand, and impact what he is already doing. it's unlikely that he will want you to do exactly one of his projects, that's what grad students are for. However, definitely you should be able to use his research to further your own stuff, and use your stuff to further his. Otherwise, you're just a PhD student again. Apr 8, 2019 at 17:32

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