Chronicle Vitae: What is a postdoc?

(Library of Congress: C.H. Kidurell)

Vitae totally found a picture of an old-time scientist with exactly my haircut. (Library of Congress: C.H. Kidurell)

Over at The Chronicle of Higher Education‘s Vitae site, I’m contemplating my own job description.

In the four years since I finished my doctorate, I’ve done at least another Ph.D.’s-worth of work on questions that, back in graduate school, I would never have thought I could tackle. I’ve been lucky — I landed a good postdoc on an interesting project with a mentor who gave me freedom to pursue just about anything I thought would be valuable. That is all exactly what I would want to do running my own lab as a principal investigator, with a faculty appointment. And isn’t that what I’m “training” to do, after all?

It ends up being, as you might expect, as much about the prospects for something to do after being a postdoc as the postdoc itself — but for that, you should go read the whole thing.

Actual sequences of authors on my bookshelves (a sampling)

Adams, Anderson, Asimov.
Crichton, Christie, Clarke.
Dillard, Douglas, Duncan.
Hemingway, Herbert, Hiassen.
Irving, Irving, Isherwood, James, James.
Michener, Milne, Mitchell.
Pratchett, Pullman, Puzo.
Sagan, Scalzi, Shakespeare.
Stephenson, Thurber, Trollope.
Twain, Tolkien, Vinge.
Wallace, Warren, Westerfeld, Wouk, Willis.