What are the pros and cons of doing PhD in an experimental/theoretical research group with a high number of post-docs?

For example, if there are a lot of post-docs, this means that the group is doing research on many different problems, in general. However, this also means that the P.I. (i.e your advisor) will have much less time for you, but since there are lots of post-docs, it might be possible for the student to make it up with the post-docs. However, it is much harder to assess a post-doc than a P.I.

  • Experimental or theory or simulation? Experimental more postdocs is better - more hands on experience around.
    – Jon Custer
    Mar 29, 2020 at 21:31
  • @JonCuster it would be good to have an answer for both cases, because most of the time PhD students choose their field and working method (experimental or theoretical) after joining a lab
    – Our
    Mar 29, 2020 at 21:33
  • Number of postdocs, in isolation, is not a useful data point. Mar 29, 2020 at 23:51
  • @AnonymousPhysicist but I am asking you to assess a particular research group, I am just asking that if we had 2 identical research group except with different the number of post-docs, what would be the pros and cons of choosing the one with more post-docs.
    – Our
    Mar 30, 2020 at 9:14
  • @onurcanbektas That is not a real situation. If it were a real situation, I would say there are no meaningful pros and cons. Real postdocs are not fungible. It isn't their number that matters. Mar 30, 2020 at 14:29

1 Answer 1


There are too many variables for a general answer. How do the post-docs work? Do they work together? Is the lab environment friendly and helpful or cut-throat. Are they willing to help you? Are they new at this or beginners? All the combinations could balance out to something good or bad.

But most important is how interested your advisor is in helping you and spending the necessary time for it. The rest is probably just noise.

But a cooperative staff can be quite helpful if you are getting started. There is a lot of experience to draw on since the post-docs come from different institutions.

But do what you can to keep everything friendly and helpful. Establish a working relationship with your advisor. Don't be shy. Ask for help when you need it. Give help when you can.

  • 1
    Plus, a "high number of post-docs" is very field dependent. What is "high," in the OP's opinion? Mar 29, 2020 at 22:34
  • @AzorAhai, and relative. In math "high" would be about two. The OP studies math and physics according to the profile.
    – Buffy
    Mar 29, 2020 at 22:43
  • @AzorAhai high ~ 16
    – Our
    Mar 30, 2020 at 9:12
  • @onurcanbektas That's a crazy number. I would definitely be worried about any PI being able to manage 16 post docs, to say nothing of grad students and RAs Mar 30, 2020 at 16:23
  • @AzorAhai well, there is such group which I am considering working within, and looking at the research output, the PI manages them quite effectively, but I should also point out that some of the post-docs work with multiple PIs.
    – Our
    Mar 30, 2020 at 16:29

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .