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Preparing to be a PI

Image: Jason McDermott, RedPen/BlackPen

How to make it over the high bar between postdoc and principal investigator

Top tips:

  • Look for smaller funding pots for postdocs, and use applications as preparation for writing up bigger grant proposals
  • Collaborate with well-established researchers on proposals, making the most of your complementary strengths
  • Even with the best grant-writing skills, some things are beyond your control so don’t be too disheartened by rejections and use them as a learning experience
  • Read other people’s proposals and give them feedback. Ask your mentor if you can contribute to their reviews

Stepping out from under the shadow of a mentor to become an independent principal investigator is one of the most important steps in a research career. But taking that step generally requires the ability to land significant funding, setting up a classic catch-22 for postdocs who have been supported under their mentors’ grants and spent little time honing their own grant-writing skills.

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