During my PhD (defended in Fall 2016), I developed a new microscopy technique, which allows investigating the internal structure of materials non-destructively and in 3D using neutrons. The work was technique development \ proof of concept, and I wrote my thesis the old way: as a book, also because I did not publish along the way. I guess that is the main reason why all the postdoc applications (about 20) and fellowship (about 5) I submitted were rejected.

The paper presenting the work I did will be soon submitted to a journal of the Nature group. I am the first author and there will be about 20 co-authors. After submitting, I plan to upload the draft to arXiv, so that during the editorial process people can see the work I did.

Basing on your experience, having a paper out (first on arXiv and then hopefully on the Nature website) does change a lot how people judge a postdoctoral application? Do you have any tips on how to maximize the impact of the paper? After that many failures, I feel a bit discouraged to continue applying.

Thanks for your help!

In case it might be helpful: the work I did was at the intersection between computer science, physics and materials science. I am looking for postdocs combining computer science with biology or physics.

  • 1
    A new publication will not hurt but it's still just one work. Unfortunately, on paper, quantity is still more impressive than quality unless whoever reads your CV is familiar with the work or is willing to read your publications. In your case, you may need to demonstrate how much effort your PhD work required.
    – Harry
    Commented Apr 12, 2017 at 16:07
  • How do you suggest to demonstrate the effort? Is it enough to write that I developed a technique from scratch?
    – user14155
    Commented Apr 12, 2017 at 16:10
  • I can connect you with my professor who just read your question and showed interest with the case and willing to know more about your findings and your CV. He is offering a Postdocs positions in Bioinformatics.
    – Krebto
    Commented Apr 12, 2017 at 16:13
  • I am having a similar problem - but I am 3 years past completing my PhD, and have had RA, Adjunct and a part time research fellow in somewhat related fields. I have 14 papers and 2 conference proceedings... am still looking...
    – user70612
    Commented Apr 12, 2017 at 16:18
  • 2
    In this day and age, 25 rejections is not a shocking number. Just remember that and keep applying. // Find people to collaborate with. With your multi-disciplinary background, your best bet at this stage might be to diversify -- i.e. market yourself as a versatile researcher who can contribute to a project's code base while also doing collaborative original research resulting in publications. Commented Apr 12, 2017 at 18:01

4 Answers 4


Think about it this way: What would make things different after your paper is out?

  1. You'd be a person who has published a paper in a prestigious venue.
  2. More people will read about your work (in that paper and through it, elsewhere)

No. 1 will likely help to some extent - perhaps even enough to secure a post-doctoral position. But I think the key is no. 2; and publishing a paper is just one way to get people to know about your work and its importance. If you have a clear idea of what you want to be doing, you don't just "submit applications". You talk to relevant researchers in groups which could use your expertise and input, and make a pitch - for a collaboration, for a visit, and possibly for employment. The fact that you made 20 applications makes me guess that for most of them were somewhat generic: You noticed a posting and mailed/email your application. Try to find a researcher who would not pick you among applicants, but rather just offer you work because s/he believes you would help their lab and their research.

Sorry for being a bit vague - I'm from a different academic field; but I think my point is valid for life scientists as well.


I am not in your field, but I imagine the more publications you can have on your CV when you apply for post-docs, the stronger your application will be. Don't be discouraged with the rejections - you cannot get a post-doc if you don't reapply and with a stronger CV you may have more options available to you. However, I suggest working on additional manuscripts or other products that can further strengthen your CV in the meantime. Good luck!


My story is similar to yours - I am 3 years past the completion of my PhD (physics - radiation, instrumentation, semiconductors), and I have not been successful (as yet) in getting a full time postdoc. Currently, I have 3 theses (Honours, Masters and PhD), 14 published papers and 2 conference proceedings (and a number in the pipeline).

I work part time in an unrelated field (to pay the bills etc), so my time is limited.

However, getting to my point - in that time I have made contact with many academics, in that process, I have been able to become involved in many projects, leading to

  • collaborative papers
  • instrumentation programs
  • some funded RA work and
  • a part time research fellowship

These have served to strengthen not only my CV, but strengthen my research focus interests. In that time, my research credentials have grown with the growing 'evidence' of papers and tools.

I have been rejected for postdocs more times than I care to remember, but I have always found that there is interesting research around that one can be involved in. To be honest, I have and do 'enjoy the ride' and are still applying for postdoc opportunities.

When I first started to apply (and receive rejections), I was told that a way of looking at it was to consider a rejection as an opportunity to find something else, possibly better.

I really wish you the best with your search, enjoy the ride!

  • 2
    Possibly you're getting rejections at this point because it's been too long. Most postdoc listings I see in my (non-physics) area stipulate that the candidate must have earned their Ph.D. no more than three years ago. Have you tried applying for non-postdoc positions? Commented Apr 13, 2017 at 21:11
  • @zibadawatimmy that's saddening! Yes, I have applied for non-postdoc positions - particularly industry based.
    – user70612
    Commented Apr 14, 2017 at 0:29

Within materials physics or materials science, it is very unlikely to obtain a postdoc in a developed country without publishing multiple papers during the PhD. I would expect three first author papers.

I have seen a postdoc applicant hired who had written three papers but not published them. However, they were hired at a lower rank, not as a postdoc. I have also seen someone hired with one paper accepted, but this was in a less developed country, and the paper was accepted to Nature. Note there is a huge difference between "submitted to a journal of the Nature group" and "accepted to Nature." Not all Nature group journals are highly desirable places to publish.

I do not know the situation in computer science or biology.

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