Thursday, July 19, 2012

I am starting a group at the EMBL-EBI

I signed the contract this week to start a research group at the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI) in Cambridge, an outstation of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL). After blogging my way through a PhD and postdoc it is a pleasure to be able to write this blog post. In January, I will be joining an amazing group of people working in bioinformatics services and basic research where I plan to continue studying the evolution of cellular interaction networks. I am currently interested in the broad problem of understanding how genetic variability gets propagated through molecules and interaction networks to have phenotypic consequences. The two main research lines of the group will continue previous work on the evolution of protein interactions and post-translational modifications (see post) and the evolution of chemical genetics/personal genomics (see post 1 and post 2).  I will continue to use this blog to discuss research ideas and on-going work and as always the content here reflects my own personal views and not of my current/future employers.

I take also the opportunity to mention that I am looking for a postdoc to join the group in January to work on one of the two lines described above.  If you know anyone that might be crazy adventurous interested please send them a link to this post. Past experience (i.e. published work) in computational analysis of cellular interaction networks is required (ex. post-translational modifications, mass-spectrometry, linear motif based interactions, structural analysis of interaction networks, genetic-interactions, chemical-genetics, drug-drug interactions, comparative genomics, etc). The work will be done in collaboration with experimental groups in the EMBL-Heidelberg and the Sanger. Pending approval from EMBL, a formal application announcement will appear in the EMBL jobs page.

I wanted to also share a bit of my experience of trying to get a job after the postdoc “training” period. I have ranted in the past sufficiently about how many problems the academic track system has but the current statistics are informative enough. About 15% of biology related PhDs get an academic position within 5 years. The competition is intense and in the past year and a half I have applied to 15 to 20 positions before taking the EBI job. On a positive note, I had the impression that better established places actually cared less about impact factors. Nevertheless, it has been a super stressful period and even so I know I have been very lucky.  I don’t mean this in any superstitious way but really in how statistically unlikely it is to have supportive supervisors and enough positive research outcomes (i.e. impactful publications) to land a job. I think we are training too many PhDs (or not taking advantage of the talent pool) and the incentives are not really changing. From my part I will try my best to contribute to changing the incentives behind this trend. We could have less funding for PhD in bio related areas, smaller groups and more careers within the lab besides the group leader.  At least, PhDs should be aware and train for alternative science related paths.