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Developing an academic profile

What is part of a strong academic profile? How can I use the postdoc phase to develop my profile?
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It is essential for postdocs to gain more and more professional independence during their postdoc phase. Supervisors and mentors remain important, but postdocs must also develop a recognizably independent profile.

This academic profile will be crucial for you to succeed in your academic career. At the core of this profile is your research focus that you show in your publications, projects, and collaborations. In addition, a balanced academic profile also includes teaching practice and experience in acquiring third-party funding. Further components can be international experience, participation in university self-government, administrative experience or involvement in science communication.

  • Research focus

    In research, the degree of specialization is usually so strong that your topics and publications qualify you for one, or at most two, specific subdiscipline(s).

    Your doctorate creates your first research focus. During your postdoc phase, you are strongly encouraged to develop a second research focus. You may do so by making either individual publications or even a habilitation.

    Your two (or more) main research interests will in their combination determine which professorships your profile will fit. The more diverse or interdisciplinary your research, the more opportunities may open up, but, on the downside, the more likely it will also be that your profile might be rejected as not being tangible enough, too vague, or not fitting for a single discipline.

  • Mobility, research stays and cooperations

    Research thrives on exchange, new ideas, and mutual criticism. That is why personal mobility has always been a part of the scientific ideal. Anyone who spend their studies, doctorate and entire postdoctoral or habilitation phase in the same place, significantly reduces the chances of becoming a professor later on. At the same time, there are often family or financial reasons that would complicate a change of location.

    What, in terms of either places and research environments or length of research stays, makes the most sense for your specific research, and what is feasible for you, personally? Which research contacts exist via your group or supervisor, and what contacts can you make yourself?

    The Graduate Academy will advise you on initiating and financing stays abroad. In order to establish contacts and cooperations at home or abroad, the university offers funding opportunities for conference trips or inviting guest speakers.

  • Publications and lectures

    Publications are probably the most important thing for an academic profile. Besides the topics, the quality, the number and type of publication as well as the type of authorship or editorship play a key role. The number of times a publication is cited and the reputation of a journal or publisher are also factors in the evaluation of an academic profile.

    Presentations at conferences have the advantage that they can sometimes present "work in progress" or convey research results that have already been published (for example, as invited lectures). In contrast to publications, lectures also give listeners the chance to get a personal impression of you. For this reason, your own talks are a good way to get into a conversation afterwards and to establish research contacts.

  • Third-party funding

    The more staff and equipment are needed for a research area, the more important is the ability to raise funds for it.

    Postdocs often support their supervisors in preparing third-party funding proposals. It is not always possible to mention the names of all those involved as co-applicants - this depends on the grant provider, the funding line and the level of involvement.

    Particularly valuable for one's own academic profile are applications that are successfully submitted independently or as a named co-applicant.

    Acquiring third-party funding is also something that has to be learned. In addition to good research ideas and concepts, appropriate presentation and project planning are important skills. Together with the Service Center Research and Transfer, the Graduate Academy regularly offers workshops on the acquisition of external funding in German and English. These workshops can be found in the Qualification PortalExternal link. At the Service Center Research and Transfer (Research Funding section), you can also get information on calls for proposals, advice on how to apply, and personal advice on your third-party funding application.

  • Reviewer activities

    Assessing research performance is not only done for students' theses or doctorates, you also need to be a reviewer for journals, conference presentations, or externally funded programs. Depending on the discipline, editorships and book reviews are also common.

    In your academic profile, your review activities identify you as an expert on specific research topics and document your involvement and commitment within the academic community.

  • Teaching

    Research and teaching together form the remit of many academic positions, including professorships. In the postdoc phase at the latest, teaching becomes an integral part of academic qualification. If you currently have no teaching duties, it may be reasonable to apply for a teaching position ( even if it is unpaid) on your own initiative. Even if it requires more preparatory work, it makes sense to cover different topics and teaching formats in your teaching.

    The Service Centre LehreLernen offers workshops and advice on teaching: On the preparation and implementation of lectures, on examinations, on the supervision of theses, on digital formats and various individual questions important for lecturers. Evaluations of your teaching courses are important for feedback and documentation of your teaching experience. The University Project Teaching Evaluation (ULe) de is your contact for this.

  • Doctoral supervision

    Supervising doctoral candidates is also a central academic task. In many disciplines, postdocs are involved in the supervision of doctoral candidates and thus gain experience in supervision. But this usually happens even though the postdocs are not allowed to act as official supervisors as defined in the doctoral regulations.

    After completing your habilitation, you are allowed to supervise and review doctorates independently as a Privatdozentin or Privatdozentin. As the head of a recognised junior research group (Emmy Noether and comparable), you also have the right to independently supervise doctorates at Friedrich Schiller University. The conditions under which other academics with a doctoral degree have the right to supervise doctoral theses are regulated in the doctoral regulations.

    The Graduate Academy regularly offers a German- or English-language workshop on doctoral supervision in the summer semester. You can find this in the Qualification PortalExternal link. For tenure-track professors, junior professors and heads of junior research groups, University Staff Development also offers a workshop on doctoral supervision as part of the tenure-track qualification programme, which you can also find in the Qualification PortalExternal link.

  • Committee work

    Committee work is not one of the main priorities of academic positions, but its importance at German universities should not be underestimated. Universities are organised in academic self-government: Important decisions are made by committees such as the senate, the faculty councils and the corresponding committees. Researchers are expected to be willing to participate in committees and to take on tasks for the institute, the faculty or the university as a whole.

    An overview of the central committees of the University of Jena can be found on the page of the Senate and the Advisory Board for Equal Opportunities de.

  • Administration, project management, leadership

    Taking over projects that involve several people and several parallel components is often the next step for postdocs after the doctoral project as the first major research project has been completed. In the process, postdocs often gain experience in administration, budget control and personnel management - skills that enrich an academic profile.

    If you have little opportunity to develop in these areas within your employment or scholarship, you can find other opportunities to do so. This could be, for example, a smaller project with colleagues (organising a conference or workshop including fundraising for it, publication project, etc.) or a joint project in the context of teaching or as part of a voluntary commitment.

  • Science communication and application

    On an international level, it has long been appreciated when researchers have a direct impact on society through their research. In Germany, too, this is becoming increasingly important. What would Corona be without Christian Drosten, the major newspapers without a science section or a good talk show without experts from science? Researchers are also active in policy advice and in initiatives and associations. What suits you and your field of research?

    An important central contact at Friedrich Schiller University is the University Communications Department with its service for researchers. You can also give a lecture for children in the Children's University de. The Graduate Academy regularly offers workshops on science communication in its qualification programmeExternal link.