Career Pathway



pathway                                             academic

to                                  own



There is no set of rules for any career

including academic.

The rules change.

Whatever I write now will change by the time you finish your PhD.

The minimum requirement for an academic career is a PhD

But that only opens the gate, it does not create your pathway.

So: how to create an academic career pathway?


Some people go on about publications.

But think about what your adviser does, and the standout postdocs, PhD students, and undergrads. Papers and/or high marks are not what makes them good or defines them as good. There’s more.



Academic jobs entail three things:




No shit

That takes up time


Research Impact is what to aim for

You should develop skills in each of these areas:

Your capacity to undertake independent research

Learn to do your research well. Quality research.

Quality means well-thought out, well-measured, and reliable.

Impact on the research field

Do innovative research

Innovation should aim to push the field forward, not show a surprising finding

Communication of your research

Publish at least one first author publication during your PhD

Go to conferences. Visit labs. Discuss research

Research leadership

Get recognition for your work. Apply for awards.

Modest person: “Oh no! My first year PhD project is not good enough for this First-Year-PhD-project-award”. Hey modest person! (women in particular) let the judges make that decision


Teach without becoming a teacher*


You need to be able to list teaching on your cv. But lots of teaching will not necessarily get you an academic position

Do the minimum to put on your cv [for whatever job you want next]

Often the teaching on your cv is very different from the informal teaching you do. Informal teaching will have the greater impact in every way, except landing you a job or grant**

Be a mentor to people who have earned your time.

Don’t be a bad teacher just so you have time for your research. It may negatively impact others.

Be careful. Teaching can be a time suck. Creating teaching content is a time wormhole.

Teach the same thing every year: save time on preparation

What the fuck is Service?

Invitations for things

Mentoring (overlaps with the informal teaching thing)

Conference organisation

Learned society memberships

Committee memberships

Community outreach

Being involved with things that don’t directly benefit you

Service is essentially involvement in the research community without the actual research bit.


This is important.

Although it is called service, you can get a lot out of it. Sometimes that payoff is delayed


Be involved with your department


Say yes to things. Be involved. Respond to emails. Don’t be a jerk.

You said communicate ... how?


How do I write a conference abstract?

Every conference is different. Read the requirements for abstract submissions. Look at the accepted abstracts for previous years of that same conference.

Rookie error: Writing a very long introduction, then short method and results. Reviewers are not going to judge your abstract by your summary of the literature.

Aim to be as focused as possible on the research you conducted. There are guides on how to write conference abstracts. Read these. Don’t send me your draft***.

Conference abstracts are different writing style to journal articles. You need to learn both styles.

How do I write a journal article?

Publishing is a battle.

Read a guide on how to write a journal article. This is not that guide

Find articles that you enjoy reading and use that as a template for your writing style. Get others to read through drafts

Your first paper will (likely) have many, many revisions.

Writing for publication is a skill you need to learn. During the PhD, you will learn this skill at the same time as you go through the process of you being an expert on your own research. So this can be a bit shit sometimes.

Tradition thesis or thesis by publication?

Look, this really isn’t up to me. I’m not sure why you’re consulting a short book/website full of swear words to figure out the type of thesis you do.


In retrospect, this logic applies to everything in this book.


Just have a chat with your adviser.




*There are some people who want to pursue teaching more than research. Adjust this advice accordingly

**Informal teaching can help you to develop communication skills, future collaborations, your intellectual environment, the research capacity of your lab, your research reputation, friendships, etc

***Does not apply to people in my lab or my collaborators or Apoorva