I'm a new postdoc working in a project I really like. I've been there for three months and I'd say I'm doing an acceptable progress. My PI is lovely and we get along quite well, however not long ago I found she's advertising the EXACT SAME project that I'm working on, but this time to get a PhD student. It's the exact same team of supervisors, same techniques, everything, just the position changes. She said the student will be coming around January or February and that she'll make sure they have an independent project, but I just don't understand how this will happen as there aren't enough results to get another project out of this same topic. Is this normal? Should I be worried?

  • 4
    You say you two get along well, so why don't you ask her? Because she is the only person that can answer this. Could it be that the PhD will be working with you/assisting you on your research?
    – Jeroen
    Oct 21, 2021 at 7:16
  • 1
    Yeah it could be, what surprised me is that I found about this via Twitter, she didn't even bother to ask or anything. I get that it's her project, but still.. anyways thanks for your answer. I guess there is no other way of finding our than asking her
    – Ritta Rue
    Oct 21, 2021 at 7:21
  • is this project in Europe, EU funded? I think it is typical
    – looktook
    Oct 21, 2021 at 8:06

2 Answers 2


Both that and you being territorial here is normal :)

For a good lab, there is rarely no use for an extra pair of hands. Possibly barring some abstract fields where it's common to work on a problem alone or labs with dozens of people where PI can't supervise them all, too many students is never an issue.

Your goals and capabilities are now different from those of a PhD student and, in turn, different from those of an undergrad. If you both were MSc students it'd be more concerning. Still, the best way to handle that is approaching your PI, ideally knowing which parts of the project are you specifically interested in. An example of PI reasoning might be that for an experiment, you'd need however many samples and that would imply either the new postdoc (you) working over 60 hours a week, scaling the experiment down, stretching it out (which makes the whole project increasingly irrelevant as the time passes) or... well, getting a new student.

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    Hmmm, being "territorial" and keeping things to yourself is a good way to slow things down. Slowing things down is a good way to get scooped. Getting scooped is a good way to .... you know.
    – Buffy
    Oct 21, 2021 at 12:40
  • @Buffy it is. It is also a very much relatable experience for me at least; I like to think of that as an adolescent researcher stage with all the same hallmarks as adolescence in the general sense: it is normal that it happens but one would eventually "grow out" of it, gain more self-confidence and become able to pursue big and ambitious goals more harmoniously.
    – Lodinn
    Oct 21, 2021 at 19:20

I will add a bit to the previous answers.

A project is typically for the funding, aka money. Often there is money left even after hiring one or multiple people, regardless of the status (e.g. postdoc, PhD). It is very common (at least in EU) to hire multiple people under the same project and even shift them here and there depending on the time frame of the funding.

I would say there is nothing to worry about. To make sure you can talk to the PI and ask what would be the responsibilities of the PhD student and if you should help co-mentor and score some additional points there if you want to continue in Academia.

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