Personnel Dilema

Dec 03 2009 Published by under Uncategorized

One of the people I have been talking to about doing a postdoc in the lab works in a friend's lab I visited today. By all accounts Postdoc Candidate is very good at what they do and would add a new dimension to my lab that I would really like to cover. In addition to the enthusiastic recommendations from people I trust, PC also already has a strong publication record. The problem, of course, is funding. I don't have money for a postdoc at the moment, unless I take a major hit to my start-up funds. I should hear in the next couple of weeks about two potential funding sources, but PC has another offer on the table. So, what to do?

PC is going to let me know when he has to make a decision by, but PC has let me know that they would really prefer to come to my lab over the current offer. Obviously, I don't want to have them come to the lab on unstable funding (start-up funds for possibly less than a full year) and not be able to pick up PC's salary on a grant in the near future. On the other hand, I would really like to find a way to make this work and bridge the time between the first of the year and whenever a grant gets funded.

I don't think that the POs that are considering my proposals right now would care if I wrote to them explaining the situation and asking for an update. I'm sure they hear this 5 times a day. Of course, if I don't send the email then there is zero chance of them giving me any insight. People this qualified and interested in the lab's projects don't come along every day and I'm loathe to let PC go to another lab when I really need the experience PC has to help some of the lab projects and take things to another level. Damnit NSF, just let me know what the deal is so I can make some decisions here.

8 responses so far

  • Arlenna says:

    Hey, my startup is GONE within a year and the postdoc staffing has pretty much been worth it. The first one (who already moved onto her long-term postdoc position) was first author on our first paper that was submitted within 9 months. The current one is making craptons of data all the time and is going to write his own grant. I think it's worth it to just go for it with your startup to maximize productivity, and worry about long-term budgeting when you get there. But then, that's also probably why I left grad school with $10,000 in credit card debt that I only just got paid off...

  • Anonymous says:

    I would take the risk + if the postdoc has a strong publication record, she/he can apply for funding as well.

  • Comrade PhysioProf says:

    Spend your start-up and figure it out later. That's why it's called "start-up". Sack the fuck up and don't be a scared little fucking baby.

  • Patchi says:

    Sometimes you just need to follow the Nike philosophy - Just do it!

  • Professor in Training says:

    Make sure that PC is aware of the financial situation and that he/she will have to hit the ground running in terms of both productivity and applying for fellowships.

  • Anonymous says:

    Well, you need to evaluate why you want to hoard your startup. If it is for paying your salary (summer or otherwise), it is a wash anyway. If you anticipate paying graduate students out of this hoard, then you are better off with a post-doc who is already trained and ready to generate data. However, if you are saving up for some specialized equipment, then you might want to explore alternate funding mechanisms (equipment grants from NSF, NIH Shared research resources program etc.) that you could use to pay for this equipment. In general, it is harder to get money for equipment from regular NSF grants and possibly R01s. I personally feel that the startup is better utilized for equipment. There usually are other mechanisms to pay for personnel. That said, if you have no anticipated big ticket equipment needs, then just bite the bullet and hire the person. Data is invaluable for grants and having mentored a postdoc can only help in NSF proposals.

  • Prof-like Substance says:

    I've bought all of the necessary equipment we need to get work done, so the money remaining is earmarked for supplies, data creation, and travel as well as grad student summer salary. If I bring PC on, I would like only be able to commit to 6 - 8 months of funding from my start-up without running the lab into the ground. That's not a big deal if we get pull in a grant and I can move PC (and student summer salary) onto it. We have already applied for two fellowships on PC's behalf but won't hear on those for another few months. My main concern is that PC has a family and asking someone to move to foreign country with their family for unstable funding can be tricky. Of course, that's PC's decision to make, but something for me to consider as well.I'll sit down this weekend and run the numbers to see what it all looks like. I think if it appears at all feasible I'll make it work.

  • TreeFish says:

    I agree with Comrade PP. Sack up, homey. I am buying another slice rig for ~$95k, and hoping that some small foundation grants can make up for it in the next two years. Boy, the Admin has got to hate capital equipment purchases (short term, of course). It's scary as hell, but if you want awesome, sometimes you need crazy, too!

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