Posted by: jleventon | June 29, 2012

Transitions Revisited

The last detailed post I wrote was about the transition from PhD to post-doc.  Six months later, I feel that so much has changed in the way I work, the way I view post-doc life and the way I see myself as a researcher.  So I thought it was worth repeating the post from this new perspective.

Previously, I wrote about problems in positioning myself in terms of my research area and topic.  I am now much more clued up on my topic, but also much more confident in not having a solid definition.  I have come to accept that for me, part of being a researcher requires a constant, iterative consideration of some key questions:

  • how does this work fit together for a broader research trajectory?
  • how do I develop and expand upon these ideas, rather than just keep applying them to new areas?
  • what does my evolution of ideas mean for future lines of enquiry?

I am appreciating the huge range of opportunities available to me as a post-doc to explore (and re-explore) the answers to these questions. For example, a workshop on my post-doc topic (climate compatible development), provided a chance for colleagues here at Leeds and further afield to consider how our different perspectives could be combined around a particular problem.  In doing so, I was able to see my own fit within it.

I am then able to expand this fit to a broader environmental governance research area through participating in research groups that are focused more on the academic area.  For example, I recently presented my ideas on ‘what sustainability means in my research’ to the Social and Political Dimensions of Sustainability group as a starting point for (constructive) discussion.

Unexpected conversations while making a cup of tea or impromptu office discussions have proved equally as fruitful.  I have had my eyes opened to gaps in my knowledge, overlaps with colleagues working on very different research topics, and to new perspectives.

I also previously wrote about the fear of not knowing enough about a topic and about feeling the need to prove myself.  Such fears are much bigger if I view my research as a solo effort.  The biggest lesson from my post-doc is that it isn’t.  I need to move on from the PhD-style solo-working, self-sufficient approach to research and the production of outputs.  My work fits alongside other projects and other people’s priorities and I need to make sure that I account for these.  I do find it hard and I am still figuring all this out.  But I also find it beneficial in improving the quality of my research, and ultimately useful in answering the above three questions.

Now I am six-months wiser, I think that my transition to post-doc has been about undoing some of the fierce independence (and resultant isolation) and the narrow focus that I found necessary in my PhD, particularly in the latter phases.  I hope I am becoming a better researcher by being involved, talking about my work, and listening to the input and work of others.

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Responses

  1. Hey Julia,

    Wish I could also say that I have a better idea after a year as a post-doc regarding my research trajectory and where my research is leading me to…

    I am all over the place…

    Lucky you,

    Stavros


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