It’s exciting to have the PhD finished, after such a long time working towards it. It’s also a little anticlimatic, and scary, because a huge portion of my life is suddenly gone. And now I find myself in the waiting place - waiting to hear back about my PhD, and waiting to find out how I'll spend the next few years of my life. Hoping that someone out there likes me enough to employ me, or that I’m one of the lucky 10% whose grant applications are successful. It's tough, getting into a career in science.
These days, one of the main things is papers. Luckily, I’m a relatively prolific writer who doesn’t find writing too arduous a task. But it's more complicated than that. On the one hand, a Professor recently complained that grants reward “quantity not quality”, which I guess favours people like me? On the other hand, I was reading an article today about how grants are all about having “outstanding” publications. And then there are all the other things you're told matter - how do people value media experience, or conference talks, or social media, or teaching? Is it really all just about who you know?
And then, there’s the question of research topic.
I study East Coast Lows because I live in Sydney, where they’re hugely important phenomena that have a big impact on people, and because when I started out they were surprisingly poorly understood, with a lot of questions needing to be answered. Studying a topic like this has a lot of advantages! It’s easy to explain to people of all backgrounds, and they’re interested in what I have to say. It gives me great opportunities for media and communication experience, as well as working with groups like state government agencies. It’s allowed me to build a strong network with colleagues within Australia, where I’ve kinda become the go-to person on this topic.
But the downside is that my PhD was very Australia-focused. While I can build relationships with other researchers studying cyclones, and met quite a few of them last year, by and large my results so far are mostly interesting to Australians. This means that, as long as I study them, I’ll never have a paper in the top journals like Nature and Science, unlike fellow students who are studying things a bit more globally applicable. And while my research questions are important, they’re not big global game-changing questions. So can any of my work truly be “outstanding”?
In the end, I’ll probably have an easier time convincing people of my worth if I stay within Australia than if I go overseas. I’m exploring all my options, because I just genuinely love research and science, especially climate extremes/variability/change, and could be happy in a lot of places. Although I’ll always have a soft spot for cyclones.
But for now, I’m stuck in the waiting place. At least I still have plenty of work to do for my ex-supervisor, to keep me occupied (and paid) while I wait to find out what my future will look like.
Update: My grant application was unsuccessful. While the comments were mostly really positive and the weaknesses really minor, that's not good enough with so many scientists competing for ever-shrinking pots of money. Back to the drawing board. :(