Kerstin Fritsches is a former research fellow who spent the majority of her 12-year research career on soft money at the University of Queensland, Australia.
She learned more than she would like about the challenges facing early career researchers (ECRs). While her research focused on what fish and other marine animals can see (taking her to some wonderful locations), she has been passionate about improving the situation for ECRs, and involved in postdoc policy and career development training for many years.
An apparently universal need for accessible and effective career development training motivated Kerstin to leave academia and found PostdocTraining to offer career development training tailored specifically to postdocs and their institutions.
The Research Whisperers met Kerstin at the 2012 ARMS conference, and were impressed by her passion for her work and savvy approach to alt-ac careers (‘alt-ac’ = ‘alternative to academia’). We invited her to tell us the story of moving from fixed-term researcher to company founder.
Saddest sign in the world (By Jonathan O’Donnell on Flickr)
A life in research looks like an incredibly rewarding prospect. It’s a ‘sky’s-the-limit’ kind of career, a chance to change the way the world thinks and works, and to make a fair living while doing so.
But how many researchers do you know across the academic spectrum who aren’t ‘living the dream’?
We decided we knew too many, and established PostdocTraining to offer support. The program is aimed at new postdocs who are isolated, dependent and worried about surviving the next grant round. They include ECRs unsure of how to start carving their niche and making headway down their own research path. We also wanted to help lab heads and directors who wanted to make their research teams more effective, efficient and productive, and researchers keen to transition to positions in and outside academia, but not knowing how to make a start.
PostdocTraining is rooted in the need to tackle these issues head-on in research. We started it to offer the kind of program I wish I’d had when I started my career as a researcher on ‘soft money’.