NGC Graduates

An Interview with Carine Thalman

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Carine Thalman did her PhD in AG Nitsch and successfully defended in March 2017. She is currently enjoying the post-doc life in AG Zipp in Mainz.

What did you want to do after the PhD?
When I was reaching the end of my PhD, I wanted to switch to industry for my post-doc. After six years of PhD, I felt it was difficult to be in academia. In my view, the current academic system is very political and focused on publications from high impact journals. This often refrains you (or your supervisor) from publishing results in lower impact – but scientifically good – journals. The quality of your work should not be reflected by the impact of the journal! I was a bit demoralized to produce data which aren’t acknowledged by a paper. My decision was also based on the wish to have a more stable position compared to academia where you have to constantly renew your short-term contract. It’s hard to plan your future when your job is not secure.
But, after my PhD, I was unemployed for three months and I did a lot of self-questioning about my career. I had time to talk with people about working in the industry and I realized that it wasn’t made for me. When I was applying to positions in industry, I couldn’t see myself in this sector; it never fulfilled my expectations. I realized that academic research was really the path I wanted to take, as I wanted at the beginning of my PhD. So, I decided to stay in academic research and landed a postdoc position with a long-term contract.

What advice would you give to PhD students for their job search?
It is critical to invest in your CV. I was following online courses on pharmaceutical bioinformatics to get more skills in the field of my next employer. I have the feeling that you should definitely learn German if you want to find a position in industry and stay in Germany.
Another tip for job hunting is to visit online platforms listing job advertisements (for example Jobvector). It’s useful to get to know about companies that are currently recruiting.
Lastly, I recommend attending forums or career days. It’s a nice opportunity to make connections and extend your network.

What do you like the most about your new job as a Postdoc, compared to your PhD position?
I appreciate my scientific independence in the creation of projects that I want to conduct. As a post-doc, I also like to supervise PhD students and to write grant applications or animal protocols. I have always enjoyed to learn new things and to improve my knowledge. So, I really like to develop different projects and learn other skills.

What do you not like in your new job?
I dislike being considered important by coworkers just because I have a PhD title now. Some people approach me to get advice now while they were not giving me any credit when I was a PhD student. I don’t like this change in the feelings, it’s not honest.
I also deplore the accumulation of my post-doc work along with some experiments to be finished for my paper from my PhD, which is still in the publication process. It’s sometime difficult to combine them and I advise to publish before leaving the PhD lab.

Do you have a long-term goal?
Few years ago, I wanted to be scientific staff member. But now, I’d like to reach a junior professor position. I aspire to be more independent and lead a small group but I am not ready yet to be in charge of a whole lab.


Written by Isabelle Arnoux; Edited by Radhika Menon. Featured Image: NGC/Design.

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