What do post-docs do? The short version (stats!)

I’m nearing the end of my time here at Harvard. Though I’m technically a fellow through the end of August I’ll be moving back to Canada at the end of this month with more details to follow on what I’ll be up to next. I thought I should reflect on what it is that I’ve done as a post-doc because these sorts of positions vary so much that the more accounts we have the better. So here are the quick stats:

1. I researched and wrote my new book, Normal Water, which is almost ready to be submitted to the publisher (I’m in the final editing stages). My strategy was simply to write everyday, with a reachable goal (usually 500 well crafted and cited words) that would allow me to free up time for reading, exercise, other work, seminars, etc.

2. Then I wrote some more. I revised some of my dissertation chapters into articles, collaborated on new articles and put a few things out in book chapters. Total stats: 5 journal articles (I’m tallying based on what’s published or accepted only during the post-doc), 3 book chapters and 3 book reviews.

3. I looked for more work. This was by far the most stressful part, but I did not apply to many jobs. From what I gather from discussions with others I’m definitely on the low side of applications in terms of straight numbers. In total,  I applied to 11 jobs and one other post-doc. I received three offers. This is a relatively high rate of return in academia but also a rate that reflects a very targeted search strategy both by location and job type. I was also willing to go the non-academic route.

4. I gave talks. 16 of them, at conferences, workshops and panels.

5. I didn’t teach. I did advise one undergraduate project and gave a number of guest lectures – usually via skype – to classes at other universities.

6. I started this blog, which I’ve tried to post to fairly regularly. Though I’ve not done much in terms of writing on it, it is a handy repository for things. Perhaps I will write more once this book is finished.


  1. Thank you for sharing this, and for your great work. Could you clarify the time period of your postdoc?

  2. congrats, hope to read yer book someday and see what this all was building to

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: