Beyond Your Dissertation

As you finish your dissertation, it's time to look ahead: what will your next research project(s) be? What questions do you want to answer? What resources will you need for that? With whom will you collaborate?

Jump down toMoving to a New Setting * Moving to a PUI * Moving to a 2 Year College * Additional Resources * Tips From Workshop Alums

Moving Your Research Forward Into New Settings

Rachel Beane (Bowdoin College) and Steve Wojtal (Oberlin College) offer their advice, covering topics including how to use your expertise in a new region, potential pitfalls, and funding and facilities.

Moving Your Research to a Primarily Undergraduate Institution (PUI)

Kurt Friehauf (Kutztown University of Pennsylvania), Paul Hoskin (University of Calgary), and Kathy Surpless (Trinity University) discuss finding out your institution's research expectations, finding funding, integrating your research and teaching, and involving your students (including ideas about how to make manageable-sized projects for undergraduates).

Moving Your Research to a Two-Year College (2YC)

Mike Phillips (Illinois Valley Community College) offers his advice on fitting research into an institutional setting that prioritizes teaching and links to the community.

Additional Resources

  • How to Work a Scientific Conference, by Paul Recchia, published in the journal Science Careers from the journal Science. This short article provides some advice for expanding your network and making yourself marketable to potential employers in the scientific conference setting.
  • Doc-Talker Advice - Conference Tips, is part of a Doc-Talk listserv conversation. This string of notes addresses how to cope with the awkward or uncomfortable feeling some students have with presenting and networking at professional conferences. Practical advice and tips are provided to this topic as well as how to feel less intimidated by conversations with potential collaborators or employers and with "big names" in your research field.
  • How to Get the Most Out of Scientific Conferences, by Rick Reis, published in the Chronicle of Higher Education. In this short article, Rick suggests several simple but effective ways to expand your network, both to meet potential collaborators and to get new ideas for your own future research.
  • Making Key Research Decisions, from Rick Reis' "Tomorrow's Professor" Mailing List. While geared toward new graduate students, this posting has excellent general advice about beginning new research projects.
  • Choosing a Research Topic, by Rick Reis, published in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Tips from Early Career Geoscience Faculty Workshop Alums

These tips come from participants in the NAGT/NSF-sponsored workshops for "early career" geoscience faculty members.

Identifying new research questions | Finding collaborators | Building your professional network

Identifying new research questions

  • It is important to establish your own research niche. Often the one that you find yourself in after your PhD. is identified with your advisor(s). Think about what natural tangents you could take from that and try to put that in the context of the existing research at the places you are interviewing.
  • Be aware of the different funding opportunities. As grad students we usually don't worry so much about funding. Practice writing grants. Focus thinking on asking questions rather than trying to answer them. Good questions equal dollars.
  • Think back over your Ph.D. or post-doc research: were there questions you didn't have the time or resources to answer, but that would be a natural progression from your current research? Plan to pursue them next.

Finding collaborators

  • Maintain your graduate school connections.
  • To identify potential collaborators, you have to know what they do. To get them interested, they have to know what you do, and see how it relates to their work. That means you have to talk to people about what you do, and look for ways that your research interests intersect theirs. You can do this anywhere - in your department, with colleagues from other departments, at local, regional, or national meetings or conferences. Be open to the possibilities, and you will find them.
  • As you interview for jobs, investigate the opportunities for collaboration. Are the faculty whose research interests overlap with yours? Are there local organizations that would be interested in what you do?

Building your professional network

  • For the longest time, I was naive and uninformed about networking. I thought it was something that people in sales and marketing did so that they could later call on folks and pressure them to buy something. My vision of it was going to cocktail parties and talking with as many people as you could in an evening to get as many contacts as you could. I am not this sort of person and so I assumed that I was therefore bad at networking and couldn't do it. I don't know where I got these crazy ideas but luckily I learned I was wrong. It dawned on me one day during my first full year of teaching, when I called up a friend from graduate school, who was also teaching by then, and asked her for advice on teaching structural geology. She shared lots of good ideas and had been very happy to chat. When I got off the phone I realized I had just used my network!! I realized networking means making friends, something I love to do. And using the network means sharing ideas and information, which is usually fun and helpful for everyone. So my advice is: go to Friday beer guilt free because you will be having fun AND helping your career and the career of others. Get to know your fellow graduate students. Ask them about their research. Get to know the people at this conference. Go on field trips at GSA and make new friends.
  • One of my mentors gave me great advice--attend national and regional meetings whenever possible, and try to ask a question in every talk in your specialty that you attend. Follow up by going up to meet the speaker(s) who most impressed you at the break, and if you hit it off, don't be too shy to ask them to meet you for lunch to talk about the subject more. This would be terrifying if people weren't generally so nice.
  • Make business cards (less than $20 at most copy places) so you have your name and number available and don't have to scrawl it out on a scrap if anyone asks in passing.
  • Small conferences or workshops (20-50 participants) are great for [networking]. They are very topically focused and there is time to speak in depth with scientists present. This is a great way to get 'on the radar' for upcoming job announcements, and to grow new research ideas.