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Making the leap from postdoc to principal investigator

Moving from a PhD to a permanent academic position is incredibly difficult. In her research into this transition, Lynn McAlpine learned that it’s crucial to take control and be resilient to gain your first grant as a principal investigator.

Lynn’s top tips 

  • Be resilient, well prepared and tenacious.
  • Listen to others and get as much feedback and training as you can.
  • Be strategic in the focus of your time and effort.
  • Be self-aware, self-reliant and self-critical.

Academic career prospects for post-PhD researchers are precarious. According to a 2017 editorial in Nature, only three or four out of every hundred PhD students in the UK go on to a permanent academic position. Regardless, many still aspire to this and often strive to gain grant funding to demonstrate their research potential—with success rates as low as 10 or 15 per cent.

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