How do I make the most of my post-doc in industry?
When you earn your Ph.D., you are exquisitely trained to identify a novel problem in your discipline of chemistry, develop a hypothesis to address the problem, run experiments and collect data to test the hypothesis in order to prove or disprove it, paving the way for future work. In post-doctoral work, you are trained to run an independent research program so that – typically – you can train new Ph.D. scientists independently.
But wait! You’re not going into academia. You’re going into industry. So how can I use this training?
Consider that when you are an entry-level Ph.D. researcher in industry, you will most likely have Bachelor’s- and Master’s-level chemists reporting to you. This, in effect, is your independent research group. You may not necessarily be defining the problems that your group researches as in academia because your company defines those problems based on its needs. However, you will be directing those who report to you regarding how to problem-solve in an independent manner that suits the needs of the company, and ultimately makes your work easier. You may not be training people toward a Ph.D., but you will be training them to be independent and more valuable to your company and to your projects.
Another thing to keep in mind: In an academic post-doc, you’re required to begin acquiring grant funding for your independent research. As a group leader in industry, you will also be required to justify funding for projects for which you are charged. You will need to be persuasive – both verbally and in writing – and will need to organize data to make a convincing argument for your company to fund your projects. This is no different from what an independent, primary investigator at a large research university does when applying for grants and convincing companies and governmental agencies to fund their research.
So yes, your post-doctoral training has many applications in industry, and positions in industry may be areas that you would like to pursue your career when your post-doctoral training is complete.
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