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I am a recently graduated 31 years old PhD in a STEM field. I have been applying for postdoc positions for the past few months, and have received rejections from almost all of them, with few yet to respond. With the academic year coming to an end, I don't have any hope of getting a position and I will continue as a postdoc or Research assistant in my PhD group.

However, one common reason mentioned in all the responses to my applications was that I don't possess the required mathematical and programming skills to work on the research field. My PhD research involved using Fluent CFD software to model has flow in a nozzle. I did not develop any code for that. I used python programming to develop different nozzle geometries and used it to study the flow.

I did not take any Finite volume method or Finite element method course or fluid dynamics course in my undergraduate or graduate school as my supervisor told me to self learn the concepts. I have published 4 papers in decent journals.

However, all the postdoc positions I apply to require code development for CFD and having academic background with the numerical methods. And since I don't have any experience with code development, I don't know if I will be able to do the job considering my lack of formal training.

Is this dilemma expected after PhD? What should I do to improve my chances in getting a position?

  • Well, did you self-learn these concepts? – Wolfgang Bangerth Jul 25 at 15:53
  • Yes. By learning, I mean I know how these numerical methods work. Did not do much excercises. But worked on some simple 1d-2d problems during the learning process. I think that's what is done during the coursework for these courses. But, research in the field requires expanding the fundamentals to complex systems like 3D or with complex boundary conditions. I have used commercial software, so I did not develop any codes in my research. The postdoc positions want tangible evidence showing the experience in such code development. – Gobble Jul 25 at 16:04
  • But so then their opinion of your application is justified: If they're looking for someone who has actual experience with code development and 3d simulations, then you're not qualified for these jobs. – Wolfgang Bangerth Jul 26 at 21:53
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If you have the knowledge, but not the "qualification" in those areas, make sure that your letters of recommendation say that. If you don't have the knowledge, it might be a bit easier to improve Python skills than math skills.

Alternatively, you might be able to get someone to tutor you in the math area and make sure your advisor and other recommenders know to mention it in the future.

A third option is to focus your statement of purpose and other application materials on your knowledge of these things, rather than just listing courses.

  • I think I have the necessary knowledge to do the job but I never had to work with theoretical development before. So, I don't know for sure if I will be able to do that. But, I thought, once I get postdoctoral position with the job description, I will have a definite goal to apply my whatsoever theoretical skills I possess. Isn't a postdoc supposed to learn new things during their job? – Gobble Jul 25 at 14:46
  • This. It sounds as though you do actually have the skills they're after (you understand the numerical methods, and you can program), but you don't have a way of providing evidence of this. That's awkward, but perhaps better than not knowing the stuff. – Flyto Jul 25 at 21:36
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To improve your chances of getting a postdoc position you should apply for positions for which you have the technical skills that are required. It sounds like you've applied only for positions for which that isn't the case. In such cases it's difficult (but not impossible) to get the position.

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