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I'm a Ph.D. graduate in biotechnology/molecular biology, who is actively seeking a post-doctoral position at a US or Europe-based institute. I'm neither from US, nor from Europe. Thus, I believe, my chances of getting a postdoc position is slightly harder, compared to some others.

My Ph.D. supervisor was very strict in allowing Ph.D. students graduate, only after at least 3 different projects have been completed. My first project was completed long time ago and its paper was published at a high-impact journal. However, my second paper was rejected by an editor, thus we recently divided it into 2 sections and submitted them to average-impact journals. They are under review right now.

The 3rd project's paper will be submitted in 2 weeks.

I've contacted many well-known professors in my field, and they do respond to my e-mail, mostly saying they are interested in accepting me in their group, only if I can secure my own funding. Or, they say they are waiting for a grant to come up.

But, every e-mail I get from them sounds very familiar to each other. They either have no new grant, or would like me to have my own funding.

A PI I know recently told me, my chances were extremely low if I did't have at least 4 published papers. I've got 1 published, but 2 "under review" articles, and I'm the first-author of all.

Do you agree with this PI? Should I wait until I get to reach to the level of having 4 published papers, which might happen after 6 months or something. Or, do you think papers "under review" are nearly as impactful as papers "published"?

  • How many co author you have per paper? – SSimon Nov 26 '17 at 12:36
  • @SSimon The published one has 4, others have 3 or 4 authors, including me, myself. – doodle man Nov 26 '17 at 12:47
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    Have you already finished your PhD? (Also, what does your advisor think?) – Pete L. Clark Nov 26 '17 at 16:39
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    I would rather say, it is fairly common for people to not just have funding "banked". If they have funding available, there usually is a specific open position that you can apply for. If you do informal application emails on your own initiative, it is very reasonable that they would not have funding available right now. So either you would have to wait for their next grant to come up, apply for your own funding or apply for funding with them (each will not get you instant money). What I am trying to say: Those answers are not merely based on your situation, but on theirs. – skymningen Nov 27 '17 at 9:59
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    Just to let you know, I secured a position in Canada as a postdoc. It's all a networking issue :) – doodle man Dec 5 '17 at 6:32
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In the UK and Scandinavia at least, provided you show that those papers are in review you should be ok except for very highly competitive labs. The 'well-known professors' are most likely to be running those kinds of labs BUT you may well still get in if you are experienced in a topic or technique they are looking for.

I honestly doubt the professors are lying or trying to brush you off; nearly all postdoc positions only come up when project funding comes through. Bear in mind that the professors are probably answering several such emails a week so they do indeed keep a 'stock' reply and that is fair enough.

So don't wait for your publications to happen but look for advertised positions in your specialism and/or with your skillset named. Good websites are jobs.ac.uk and Euraxess.

Side note: I am aware that candidates from not-USA-or-Europe often get a harder time which is regrettable. My answer stands but I wanted to acknowledge that you do have it tough.

  • Things are a bit hard for UK applications. Local applicants "have to be" preferred due to regulations, so there have been times that I couldn't even apply to research jobs as I didn't have a working visa. But, Scandinavia sounds nice. Do you know any web sites other than Euraxess? I couldn't find any fit position in that web site. – doodle man Nov 27 '17 at 14:27
  • @doodleman Check Wikipedia for list of universities in the relevant countries and then check their homepages for available jobs. – Tommi Brander Dec 5 '17 at 12:51
  • @doodleman Sorry to reply one year later. Local applicants of the same quality have to be preferred; but most PIs will go through the extra effort if you are of even marginally higher quality (e.g. you have one more of the skills listed in the desired skills section). I hope this advice is now irrelevant as you hopefully had success, but that it helps others who read this question. Unfortunately, everything might be nonsense in a few months anyway, as the UK may change the laws to more protectionist ones... – Amy E Feb 20 at 8:06
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Do you agree with this PI? Should I wait until I get to reach to the level of having 4 published papers, which might happen after 6 months or something. Or, do you think papers "under review" are nearly as impactful as papers "published"?

They're not nearly as impactful because they're not published. There's no promise that a paper under review will be published, or in a particularly impressive venue.

That being said, I personally don't have a mental threshold for the exact number of papers I expect a postdoc to have - the content of them is considerably more important than just volume.

I've contacted many well-known professors in my field, and they do respond to my e-mail, mostly saying they are interested in accepting me in their group, only if I can secure my own funding. Or, they say they are waiting for a grant to come up.

But, every e-mail I get from them sounds very familiar to each other. They either have no new grant, or would like me to have my own funding.

Honestly, this is the answer I would give you. I don't have free postdoc slots floating around in my lab - either I have funding for one, at which point I need them filled to do the work proposed in the grant, or I don't have one.

Which means either a new grant needs to come in, or you need your own money - I can't simply conjure several tens of thousands of dollars out of thin air.

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    @SSimon Because I am at this moment reviewing postdocs with those qualifications for my lab and considering them. – Fomite Nov 27 '17 at 7:10
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    @SSimon Several people like him are on the short list. You can't just take a context free "1/N_Applications" calculation for something like this, which you seem intent on doing. Especially since you seem convinced that "Outside my country of origin" is a factor when frankly, as long as you're legally allowed to work in the US, I care not one bit where you're from. – Fomite Nov 27 '17 at 7:59
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    @doodleman There is no magic number. I'm more interested in someone whose written one well thought out, cogent paper that shows real insight in my area over someone whose churned out a dozen middling-at-best thoughts that are only halfway related. – Fomite Nov 27 '17 at 8:00
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    @doodleman it's not necessarily (quite surely I would even say) the number of papers. There are many more criteria to judge a person's skill, and also keep in mind that there are postdocs with more experience, such as those that have done another postdoc already. If the PI is looking for someone with particular skills or more experience, than a just-graduated person with different skills might not be the one that is going to be chosen. – Mark Nov 27 '17 at 9:07
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    @SSimon: "Legally allowed to work in the US" is not the same thing as "having a green card." You just need to have a visa that allows you to accept a position as a postdoc. – aeismail Nov 27 '17 at 17:21

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