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I am a computational materials science researcher. I model additive manufacturing process using continuum modeling methods. Almost everyone who works in my field are part experimentalists and partly into computational modeling. Though with an experimental master's background, my PhD research was completely computational and not theoretically intensive (it was very straightforward if one knows the computational modeling tools and a bit of coding beforehand, more like clicking the right button and developing scripts to do some analysis).

I feel that I would have gotten better job prospects if I had an experimentalist and computational profile. Almost at the end of my PhD (about to defend), I have a postdoc offer with my current PhD advisor, which I will take because I don't want to move to a different place with covid-19 in other locations. But I dread job prospects in my limited experience and expertise. How to address the fact that I might have chosen wrong research area?

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Don't think of yourself as stuck in a research area. You are starting to gain some independence and can also start to morph your research into any area you choose. Over your career you might do this multiple times, actually.

Use the post doc to start to explore the areas you'd rather work in as much as you can.

Staying with your doctoral advisor might not be your best move, though with coronavirus it may be necessary in the short term as you note.

Your PI for the post doc might be able to give you some freedom here. But even if not, increasing your reputation in one area can lead to more freedom to move and change your direction.

Your career needn't be an arrow.

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First off, congratulations on your upcoming defense! Relax and enjoy this time, and take a deep breath before you start your postdoc. You may be experiencing the anxiety that comes with a significant life-shift, and it’s normal to be questioning your choices.

Use the experience of being a postdoc to the fullest. If you are not happy or are dreading what prospects await you after you’ve finished, try to plan ahead where exactly it is that you want to end up. Making connections and learning new skills as a postdoc is important, and it may be even surprise you how useful this upcoming experience becomes in a different area.


In short, decide where it is that you want to end up, and use the opportunities and experiences you’ve been given to grow into that area. You are never “stuck” where you are. Don’t think of it as correcting a mistake, but rather as tackling the next challenge.

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