As a few of you already know, it’s looking increasingly certain that I will be receiving my Ph.D. in the spring. I’ll graduate, ceasing to be a grad student and becoming that most mysterious of academic entities, a postdoc.
When describing graduate school before, I compared it to an apprenticeship. (I expanded on that analogy more here.) Let’s keep pursuing that analogy. If a graduate student is like an apprentice, then a Postdoctoral Scholar, or Postdoc, is like a journeyman.
In Medieval Europe, once an apprenticeship was completed the apprentice was permitted to work independently, earning a wage for their own labors. However, they still would not have their own shop. Instead, they would work for a master craftsman. Such a person was called a journeyman, after the French work journée, meaning a day’s work.
Similarly, once a graduate student gets their Ph.D., they are able to do scientific research independently. However, most graduate students are not ready to be professors when fresh out of their Ph.D. Instead, they become postdocs, working in an established professor’s group. Like a journeyman, a postdoc is nominally independent, but in practice works under loose supervision from the more mature members of their field.
Another similarity between postdocs and journeymen is their tendency to travel. Historically, a journeyman would spend several years traveling, studying in the workshops of several masters. Similarly, a postdoc will often (especially in today’s interconnected world) travel far from where they began in order to broaden their capabilities.
A postdoctoral job generally lasts two or three years, one for particularly short positions. Most scientists will go through at least one postdoctoral position after achieving their Ph.D. In some fields (theoretical physics in particular), a scientist will have two or three such positions in different places before finding a job as a professor. Postdocs are paid significantly better than grad students, but generally significantly worse than professors. They don’t (typically) teach, but depending on the institution and field they may do some TA work.
Being still a grad student, my blog is titled “4 gravitons and a grad student”. That could change, though. Once I become a postdoc, I have three options:
- Keep the old title. Keeping the same title and domain name makes it easier for people to find the blog. It also maintains the alliteration, which I think is fun. On the other hand, it would be hard to justify, and I’d likely have to write something silly about taking a grad student perspective or the like.
- Change to “4 gravitons and a postdoc”. I’d lose the fun alliteration, but the title would accurately represent my current state. However, I might lose a few readers who don’t expect the change.
- Cut it down to “4 gravitons”. This matches the blog’s twitter handle (@4gravitons). It’s quick, it’s recognizable, and it keeps the memorable part of the old title without adding anything new to remember. However, it would be less unique in google searches.
What do you folks think? I’ve still got a while to decide, and I’d love to hear your opinions!