The postdoctoral years are an important career stage for any microbiology researcher. It's the time when you start to build the technical and professional skills you will need as you progress towards becoming a principal investigator. If you decide that a research career is not for you, it's still a good time to build on your transferable skills and develop other interests.
As a researcher you should take every opportunity to network with others in your field. Presenting work at SGM conferences and other scientific meetings is an excellent way of promoting your abilities and SGM offers grants to help fund this.
Conferences also provide the ideal informal venue to get to know other researchers and potential collaborators. Once you have made a connection with a new collaborator it can be beneficial to make a research visit to their lab, to learn new techniques or take advantage of facilities not available in your own lab. SGM offers grants towards the cost of a 1-3 month research visit; the ideal start to a productive collaboration. You never know, it may even lead to your next postdoctoral position! That's what happened to Heiko Ziebell when he took advantage of the SGM President's Fund Research Visit Grant.
Post-docs who want to forge a career in research should always be looking towards the next paper. Publications are the most important way of assessing the quality of a researcher. It's not just about the quantity of publications you have, but also the quality. Publishing in high impact factor journals ensures the widest audience but can take a little longer than the less high profile journals. If you are working in a highly competitive field you should consider carefully which journals to target.
There are lots of opportunities for professional development. Some of the training courses offered by employers may not seem immediately relevant to your day to day research but they are still worth having on your CV.
To build up research management experience, you could volunteer to help supervise an undergraduate or postgraduate student. You can take the initiative by suggesting ideas for projects or even applying for a vacation studentship to fund it.
Science careers is a very useful careers website for scientists, packed with advice, articles and links.
The Medical Research Council offers grants, including the Career Development Award, to post-doctoral, non-clinical scientists with 3 – 6 years experience. For more information of the grants on offer see the MRC website
The Royal Society offers several funding schemes to support postdoctoral researchers:
University Research Fellowships provide outstanding scientists the opportunity to build an independent research career.
Further details on all the grants available can be found on the Royal Society website.
The Sir Henry Wellcome postdoctoral fellowships from the Wellcome Trust provide funding for promising reseachers at the beginning of their independent research careers.
The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council offers the New Investigator Scheme to help early career researchers secure their first major research funding.
The Daphne Jackson Trust offers assistance to scientists returning to careers in STEM after a career break of at least 2 years.