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11.11.2009 Postdoc at the Max Planck Institute

with Dr Jesús Martínez Blanco

After receiving his first degree in physics, then a Masters in applied mathematics, and finally a PhD in surface science in Spain, Jesús Martínez Blanco was interested in going somewhere new, learning a new language, and getting to know a new culture. He settled on Berlin, a city he finds particularly fascinating. After looking around he found a suitable research group at the Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society.

Max Planck research institutions have a strong international reputation. Researchers are granted the opportunity to set up their own research team. While excellent research support is provided in the form of equipment and manpower, Blanco also emphasized the comfortable working atmosphere due to social events and trips. Postdoc positions here usually do not involve teaching, and receiving funding and equipment is less of a hassle than at universities.

Blanco also mentioned other options for postdoc fellowships like the EU Marie Curie or Humboldt Fellowship, but you generally cannot count on one of these for your very first postdoc position. Normally, you will first have one to two year positions before you have reasonable chances of getting a five-year fellowship. He also mentioned that age and time after degree are factors considered in awarding funding.

In general, Blanco warned that a PhD is not an automatic ticket to a job or fellowship. He deems published want-ads unhelpful, as the jobs are gone soon after publication. To get started, he recommends directly contacting a research group that matches your research interests, and conducting a search for funding together.

Blanco urged that a postdoc position should be thought of as a transitional step that will lead to the next rung on the ladder. Thus, while engaged as a fellow or postdoc you should consider where the position will lead in the future. With an eye towards potential careers, he recommended additional training to develop soft skills and a professional network.