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I am soon to defend my PhD thesis in computational materials science. I have just two publications, which I believe is the most important reason for getting no response from postdoc applications. The lack of publications is majorly due to my initial slow productivity and subsequent delays from my advisor in manuscript corrections.

Earlier this year, my advisor said that if I am unable to find a postdoc position then I can remain as a postdoc in the lab after my PhD for 6 months and work on a different projects and publish the remaining papers. She also offered that alternatively, I can extend my PhD to next semester (till April) and look for positions in between (it's cheaper to pay for a PhD than a postdoc). I have already spent 5 years 2 months on my PhD. I don't want to extend it anymore.

Now, it's already November and I have no offers or responses. I am trying hard for any position. I am not sure if I will get one.

I want to ask my advisor for a postdoc position and want to let her know that I am desperate for an immediate position so that I can improve my CV.

Will that look bad?

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    It's definitely October, unless you're in a crazy timezone lol. – Azor Ahai Oct 20 at 15:57
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    Also short postdocs like this in the lab you graduated in are not uncommon in my field, although I'm nowhere near computational materials science. – Azor Ahai Oct 20 at 15:58
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    @AzorAhai: UTC+28800? – Nate Eldredge Oct 20 at 20:14
  • I did a 4-month one as the time between my thesis submission and my viva was spent actively and intensely preparing for my viva presentation, and I had no time to dedicate to applications as I was already dedicating 12+ hours day to work. 4 years later can't see it impacting me negatively. Might look different in countries like e.g. UK where the amount of work expected between submission and viva is minimal, e.g. some corrections, and you basically get some free months. – penelope Oct 21 at 10:41
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First of all, your advisor of all people really should not be somebody who you need to play games with regarding the state of your career (academic or otherwise). They really can only do their job (advising you, also in questions of career development) if you are being honest with them. In that sense, it shouldn't really matter if it "looks bad" - if your situation is bad they should know.

Further, your advisor already offered you a temporary job, and presumably they did so under the assumption that it would only be a fallback if you did not find a more permanent next career step. Now this situation has arisen - why would it be bad to take them up on their offer in exactly the situation that the offer was made for?

  • Plus, it sounds like a six month postdoc would be good for the group and the OP. – Azor Ahai Oct 20 at 20:28
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    I infer that the question is about how this will look to future employers, not how it will look to the advisor. – Anonymous Physicist Oct 21 at 2:03
  • In particular, there's no benefit to describing yourself as "desperate" to your advisor when taking her up on her offer. As for how it looks to other potential employers ... well, if the situation comes up (against your hopes) that the only two choices are this short-term postdoc with your supervisor and no academic job at all, then having the postdoc is the better-looking choice. – Greg Martin Oct 21 at 7:47
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I fully agree with xLeitix's answer in that you have nothing to be ashamed of in front of your supervisor - especially since she has already offered.

On the other hand, when talking about whether this will look desperate or impact your career prospects (in academia) negatively, I'd like to offer a different perspective from Anonymus Physicist's answer.

From my experience, and the experience of the people around me, what hurts your academic career the most is having a long period without a (research) position after your PhD. (But I've also noticed that nobody even notices short gaps of a couple of months). So while it would have been better if you could move away to a new lab straight away, it would be worse if you had no arrangements at all. I actually found it fairly common amongst my academic peers to take a short position with their PhD advisers, and all of them went on to have successful careers (some in academia and some in industry).

This practice might be more common in countries and programmes like mine in France where the workload is very high after submitting the thesis manuscript and while preparing the viva, and somewhat less common when the workload after the thesis submission is low, or the funding typically lasts only until the manuscript submission and not the viva (like the UK), but it is not unheard of in a European academic setting.

I took a 4-month position with my PhD adviser after my PhD, as the viva preparations were overwhelming and I did not have time to look for another position earlier (or sleep, really). The only "consequence" I saw when applying with that information on a CV is that the short position was considered an extension of my PhD work, and not as a standalone postdoctoral experience. But, as long as it is just a short position (up to 6 months I'd say), you can see it as a time to improve your CV and publication list while applying for your first "proper" postdoctoral position.

I never aspired to end up in Oxbridge or Ivy league, but I am currently being considered for faculty positions at some good and some excellent Universities (in my opinion). It all went quite according to plan for me. I do not feel that my success in my current faculty applications, or my academic career, was in any way affected, negatively or positively, but a 4-month postdoc with my PhD adviser.


One more exception on when it is okay to accept a position in the same lab after the PhD (which does not apply to your case but I am mentioning it for completeness) that I have seen (in the UK) is obtaining postdoc funding (for oneself) through a Fellowship, to which one can apply while finishing their PhD. Since obtaining a Fellowship means you are self-funded (and the funds were awarded to you by name), having successfully secured research funding will become the strongest line on your CV and the institution where you chose to do it will become less important.

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My interpretation of the question: You want to pursue an academic career. You are considering taking the offered postdoctoral position in your PhD supervisor's lab. You want to know the implications of doing this for your long-term career.

Doing a PhD and postdoc in the same lab does look desperate, and it is harmful to your career.

I recommend figuring out what job you want. Identify people who have that job. Read their CVs. Then do better than what they did.

If you're seeking an academic job in computational materials science, you are right that having two publications at the end of your PhD will be a problem.

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    This may be discipline specific. I know a number of people who have done post-docs at Cambridge after getting a PhD there. I don't think it harmed their career. – Martin Bonner supports Monica Oct 21 at 10:26
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    @MartinBonner That's not discipline specific, that's Cambridge specific. If you're in the top 10 in the world, different rules apply. – Anonymous Physicist Oct 21 at 10:36
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    I'm sorry, but I don't think taking a short-term postdoc in the same lab where you did your PhD looks all that bad. Especially in countries where the time between submitting your thesis and your viva includes intense preparations (I know that vivas can vary greatly in intensity and formality). I took a 2-month break and a 4-month postdoc offer from my PhD supervisor after my PhD, continued on for a longer postdoc and am negotiating between different faculty positions now, about 4 years after my PhD graduation. I don't see the 4-month postdoc impacted me negatively. – penelope Oct 21 at 10:37
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    @AnonymousPhysicist Considering how much practices vary, it might be useful to add a US disclaimer to your answer? It's simply wrong for most European places I know (hence the downvote) but seems like good information based on experience for US positions. – penelope Oct 21 at 10:52
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    You are happy to acknowledge that practices vary in the comments, however your answer still reads like what you are saying applies universally. Based on my experience in multiple countries, I consider what you wrote false. But, I'll keep it at that, I've voiced my concerns and posted my answer. Thank you for your contribution, even if I don't agree with it :) – penelope Oct 21 at 15:46

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