NGC Graduates

An interview with Steffen Storck

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It was July 2016 when Steffen Storck rehearsed his thesis defense at an NGC meeting. He was the first one to do it. The first of one of a series of daring PhD students who thought asking their fellows from other labs for some feedback would help them get ready for the big day. Now, he is still in Mainz, still in the Pietrzik lab, still a PhD…no, no, he is a Postdoc now! Let's see what he has to tell us about his life after a PhD.

If you think about your time as a PhD student, would you have done anything differently that would have been important for the new job?
I would’ve narrowed down the number of projects. I had 5 projects and in the end only one worked during my PhD. In fact, I'm staying in the same lab because I want to complete some of the other projects, which seem promising.

And because he likes it, of course. Do you have a long-term goal?
I would like to become a group leader. I don’t know where, yet , but it might be interesting to do a postdoc in industry too, to see how it is working there.

What do you suggest to students who want to stay in Academia?
Concentrate on the main project, instead of having too many to follow, and learn to identify your limits. Accept them and don’t be afraid to say you can’t do something. My boss, for instance, is pushing me to do so and so, which is also the reason why he  assigned so many projects in the beginning.
Going to conferences is also very important. You can network, get new ideas and speed up your scientific growth. Moreover, read. Read a lot of papers, push yourself to be constantly reading, at least once a week.

Sounds like thoughtful advice. What gives you  the energy to start the day and go to the lab?
My curiosity. I always want to find out the next piece of the story. While I am trying to explain one part of the project, I find other details that I want to understand and I could develop with further experiments.

What is the difference between being a PhD student and a Postdoc?
As a postdoc you get a lot of responsibilities. For instance, now, I am  spending a lot of time writing grants, organizing the lab, etc. All the duties that are associated with a more senior position.

It seems like Steffen is already on the road to becoming a group leader! We thank him and wish him success in concluding his other projects. Perhaps next time he could tell us how to get a group leader position!

Written by Chiara Galante; Edited by Radhika Menon. Featured Image: NGC/Design.

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