A postdoc's journey through fixed term contracts

Posted on: 16 January 2022 in Researchers

Dr Sandeep Amberkar

Dr Sandeep Amberkar, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Institute of Systems, Molecular and Integrative Biology

Dr Sandeep Amberkar’s first experience of fixed term contracts was in 2011 during his PhD, when he was offered one year of funding to finish off his thesis. 

“My supervisor assured me that if I move to Dresden from Heidelberg, I would receive another year’s worth of funding to wrap up my thesis. That was my first cold sweat from my first fixed term contract."

By 2020, Sandeep was now on his fifth fixed term contract, and while he has found that the world of academia provides the possibility to chase an idea and make it a reality, meet motivated researchers, and move places, he had to accept that if he wanted to stay in academia, he would likely be on fixed term contracts.

“.. it was a bitter pill to swallow but jumping between towns, cities and continents every 2-3 years, one day it dawned on me; if you’re adaptable, you’ll survive."

Between 2017 - 2019, Sandeep took it upon himself to face challenges that would make him evolve his skill set and even if he felt he couldn’t complete a task, the effort wasn’t a waste of time.

Once a skill (such as writing bioinformatics workflows) was learned, it was a matter of time before he got better at it and produced reliable outputs (production grade workflows).

The important lesson Sandeep has learnt from his academic career so far is that you need to keep evolving as a professional, once you complete your PhD. It can be core or soft skills, from teaching to public engagement, from conducting workshops to informing policies, all of these are important seeds for an academic career which can blossom in ways you can’t imagine.

Key takeaways

  • Development opportunities come in a variety of different forms and all can provide value to your career
  • Being proactive and adaptable enables you to evolve as a professional.