Tuesday, May 26, 2009

PhD from small university in India? what is your future in science?

During my last visit to India, one of my old student (and now a Ph. D. herself in physical science) came to visit me. She wanted my advise for her future course of academic career.

She wanted to know; how to get a post-doc position abroad? There are two factors here in her wish. First, she wants to gain more academic experience and preferably get faculty position in some university after returning from 1-2 years of post-doc position abroad. The competition for faculty position in any university in India is stiff (and local politics associated) and her post-doc experience from abroad will be an added advantage for her. Second, she wants to see the world. remember, that she don't have any other way to go out of the small city and see different places.

So here is my career advise in science for all of you who is pursuing degree higher then M. Sc. in science from state universities or who has already got the degree and wants to get a post-doc position abroad (and who don't see IT as the only career option in their life):

1. Be current in your field. In today's connected world through internet, it is easy to find what is going on in your field. Even if you can not do research of international standard on experimental topic due to lack of infrastructure, it is still advantageous to know what other people are doing. It will be helpful when you will look for post-doc position.

2. Try to attend national/international conference in your field at least once every year whatever is financially possible.

3. Try to get at least 3 publications out of your research preferably in international journals. It is very important. In many state universities, this is not a qualifying criteria and neglected, but it is very important to have at least few publications in international journals out of your Ph.D. work. This will lead you a long way in your academic persuit.

4. If you are ambitious to do more research and wants a post-doc position abroad. your best bet is to get similar position in India first. It is relatively easy to get research associate position in IITs, TIFR and IISc where there the funding for research is in abundance and in most cases, faculties are very supportive and encouraging. So spend some time (1-2 years) in one of these labs and gain experiance to do research which is of international standard and some publications. There is good chance that after this 2 year stance and publications in hand, you can go anywhere in the world you want.

5. And finally, just don't send your CV to every professor in Europe and USA. This is annoying and is thrown in their junk mail folder. The average professor in USA sometime gets 100 such mails per week (mostly from India and China) whereas he might have 1 position per year and he will prefer someone who can get research projects done in his lab. It is easy to find some of the old publications of the group and see if you are capable of doing similar work or not. Noone expects you to know everything in the world, but any professor wants someone who has basic skills in their kind of science and get the job done. Try to be precise about your skills and qualifications and send your CV to only people closer to your field of expertise. There is more chance that at least they will take a look at it, and if possible will think about it.

6. You may need to try at least a year before you will get your first response from a professor who shows interest in hiring you. I know a PhD friend from a state university who finally got a chance after 3 years of trying, so don't just give up if this is your dream. For comparison, if you will have publications in international journals and experience in research institute like IITs and IISc, it should not take more then few weeks to find first position abroad.

I hope this will be helpful.


Giri@iisc said...

An interesting post. IISc does not get many postdoc applications, even in sciences. The salaries are not very poor. For example, we pay Rs. 25,000 per month + accommodation.

Covert Assassin said...

nice blog sir... really helpful.. keep going...