The one year old postdoc

There’s something different about this Tuesday.

Today marks exactly one year since I started my postdoc – or, as I keep calling it, My First Proper Postdoc – in the Botany Department at Trinity College Dublin. I actually realised this yesterday lunchtime, and had to celebrate by going to buy myself (another) coffee; some things don’t change.

While sipping my celebratory coffee and considering a salad, I had a chance to think about the first year of my two year postdoc: how had the experience compared with my expectations, had I learnt anything worth sharing, and had anything surprised me? Had coffee consumption increased significantly relative to before?

Well, the jury’s still out on the coffee consumption. The first year of my postdoc has certainly offered some surprises – I think it’s safe to say that my expectations were almost completely wide of the mark. Still reasonably fresh from my PhD, I’d wanted expected a project with a similar degree of flexibility attached – lots of time to digest the literature, and decide what to do. Of course, with a lot to do in two years, I’d need to get on with it, so everything I needed to do was already set out in the project proposal. That feels like a mixed blessing: there’s certainly still plenty of space for me to use my initiative, and I remember the times during my PhD when I wished somebody would just tell me what to do – I hope the time for me to really develop my own lines of enquiry will come later on.

Getting to know a new department / school / university / city has been the overwhelming theme over the last 12 months. Arriving in the Botany Department and finding myself surrounded by a very different group of people to the group I left at Lancaster Environment Centre was very interesting indeed. I think I’ve just about worked out what everybody does. I’ve also – to both my pleasure and surprise – started hanging out with Zoologists! One of the best things about coming somewhere new has been finding out about lots of cool new ways of doing things, which aren’t necessarily discipline-specific. There have been new ways of working to explore too. I have to admit that I’ve found moving from a busy open plan office to my own (!) office much more difficult than I thought I would – having someone look over your shoulder every half an hour might seem annoying, but it’s a great way of getting work done.

I could go on dissecting, but you’re probably bored already – the main point I’d like to make is that my first year of ‘proper’ postdoc-ing have almost entirely exceeded my expectations. I’ve met some brilliant people, discovered many new and useful ways of doing things, been to some cool places and had a chance to hone my thoughts for the next 12 months, and beyond. In short, it’s been grand.

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