I had a very bad PhD experience in developmental biology. My project was supposed to be wet lab and it was, but I didn't learn a lot of techniques. At the end I got into bioinformatics and, because my wet lab data was not good enough, my PhD ended up being 70% bioinf, 30% rubbish wet lab.

Now I'm applying to postdocs and I get interviews, but every time I get rejected because of my lack of wetlab experience. I got offered a postdoc but it is a 3 year position working fully on bioinformatics (I didn't apply, someone in the department told my PI that they were planning on getting a postdoc, and they liked my CV).

I don't enjoy bioinformatics as much as I enjoy wet lab, but I need a job and I need it now. I was wondering if anyone has experience transitioning back to wet lab after such a long time? Is it possible? I won't gain any more wet lab skills so I'm a bit worried.

1 Answer 1


Learning wet lab techniques takes time and practice. I was a slice electrophysiologist in my "past life", and even now I expect it would take me several months to a year or two to get anywhere near my peak productivity as a graduate student. Maybe not every wet lab experience is as fickle as that, but I feel my colleagues in molecular biology have similar views.

Anyone who hires you as a post doc is taking on an unusual project for a post doc. Whereas a post doc is typically someone who comes in with a lot of expertise and is able to run things on their own, in your situation you'll likely need just as much supervision as an early grad student. Post docs are usually short-term, temporary positions. You may not be able to be productive on techniques you are learning during that window.

Computational skills are in high demand in biology, especially among those who have domain-specific expertise as well. Your best bet may be to find a quid-pro-quo where you can both contribute your computational skills (whether or not these fall under a "bioinformatics" umbrella or not) as a "give", and receiving some further wet-lab training as a "take". I am very confident that these opportunities exist, but they will be harder to find than a more traditional path. However, I think you may have more luck searching for this particular circumstance rather than applying to positions that are solely looking for a wet lab candidate. You'll have to decide for yourself whether this balance is worth it for you.

Good luck!

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