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The postdoc merry-go-round

It's amazing how fast time goes sometimes. My contract here in Perth is almost at an end, and it feels like the last (almost) three years have absolutely flown past. I've been part of some really interesting science projects, published a bunch of papers, been observing at the Parkes radio telescope, done a heap of outreach all over Western Australia reaching many thousands of people, visited the SKA candidate site with a group of Indigenous artists, and seen both the Curtin and UWA astronomy groups grow rapidly from almost nothing to become the lively cross-university group that is ICRAR. And that's just work.

Outside the office I've had a busy time, too. I did my training to become a Scout leader and watched some great kids grow, found a crowd of really cool people to climb with and visited some really beautiful parts of WA with them, and just over a year ago I joined a samba band and re-discovered how much fun it is gigging, and that's on top of my involvement with the Jodcast and Librivox, and now StarshipSofa and occasionally Astronomy.FM. It's been fun. Busy, but fun.

But, as exciting as it is working at the cutting edge of scientific research, the reality of being a postdoc is that it's fairly common that you're only ever in one place for maybe two or three years at a time before you have to move on, with only a small chance that you'll ever land a permanent post at the end of it. It's no wonder people give up on academia so they can have a bit of stability, moving your entire life is pretty disruptive and very stressful.

Please excuse me if this post is a bit melancholy in tone. I love science, I really do. I'm still passionate about astronomy (even after almost 25 years of doing little else) and I'm very lucky to be doing what I'm doing. I get to live and work anywhere in the world (anywhere where I can find a job, anyway) and that's pretty exciting. I always knew Perth was only a temporary stop on the way to wherever I end up, but I do really like it here and will be very sad to leave the city behind. There are a few people here who I am particularly going to miss. They've really made a huge difference in my life and it just wont be the same without them.

Despite trying, I haven't managed to find another job to go to just yet. There was one in particular which sounded perfect, and they sounded pretty keen, but unfortunately it turns out that I can't even apply. It's an EU-funded post which requires the applicants to have worked outside the EU for at least three years by March 14th. Because the visa process took longer than it should have, and then my contract here ended up being two years nine months instead of three years (thanks HR), I'm not eligible. Very frustrating. But I'm not giving up.

Sadly, due to the visa I'm on, I have to leave Australia within 28 days of my contract ending, even though I have nowhere to go. So it looks like I'll be heading back to Manchester fairly soon, putting most of my stuff in storage, and couch-surfing around whichever friends will have me while I keep looking. The joys of being a disposable academic....

Posted by Megan on Sunday 13th Feb 2011 (15:26 UTC) | 2 Comments | Permalink

Comments: The postdoc merry-go-round

Hi Dave, I have thought about setting out on my own a number of times, but it always comes down to the fact that it would mean giving up on research. That's not something I want to do right now, and I'm stubborn enough that I'll keep trying, at least for the moment. What Jen is planning looks amazing, I really hope she succeeds with it!

Posted by Megan on Wednesday 02nd Mar 2011 (07:01 UTC)

This maybe where you come up with a job on your own. Flyingjenny writes about wanting to teach kids what it takes to work in the space industry, she is also coming to the end of her job. Right now, it's not good time for your industry, but the future for the kids is brighter, they need to get pointed in the right direction now. Talk to her, work something up.

Posted by Dave English on Monday 21st Feb 2011 (18:21 UTC)

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