Post-PhD career profile – Postdoc at UCSF School of Medicine

Post-PhD career profile – Postdoc at UCSF School of Medicine

Luke loves that his postdoc provided him with the opportunity to live and work abroad

Luke Bonser, Postdoc at the University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, USA

Luke did his PhD on mucus at the University of Manchester. After his PhD, he moved to the US to join a lab at the University of California San Francisco for a postdoc. He says he stayed in academia because:

  1. I love science. My postdoc has provides me with freedom to explore interesting questions as well as learn new ways to attack these questions.
  2. I want to be a professor/PI (principal investigator; lab supervisor). To give me the best chance of becoming a PI I needed to build on my skills from my PhD, develop my own research goals and publish good science. My postdoc has provided me with this opportunity.
  3. I wasn’t good enough to play professional football.

His work is now focussed on mucus of the airway epithelium and asthma. I asked if he felt any difference between his PhD and postdoc, “I see my PhD as training in how to be a good scientist and my post doc as putting this into practice. I have more independence and drive my own research more.” He also says that he likes his role because being a postdoc has given him the opportunity to work and live abroad. “And San Francisco is less rainy that Manchester!” On if there were any cons to being a postdoc, he said salary and visa issues. “Considering the training, we are quite low-paid and being in an expensive city like San Francisco means saving, etc. are difficult. I admire postdocs with kids in this city – I don’t know how they afford it!” Working in the States require a visa and the University of California generally gives postdocs one-year contracts so you need to renew your visa every year. “To renew it you have to leave the US which can make traveling outside the US, both for work and pleasure, difficult. However it does mean I visit home once a year! It would be nice to have longer contracts.


Luke advises that if you’re thinking of doing a postdoc after your PhD you need to ask yourself what your long term goals are and if a postdoc is necessary to achieve them. “If you choose to do a postdoc think carefully about where and with whom. Like any job, establishing relationships with people who can help you achieve this is beneficial!


As the name of the role suggests, a PhD is required for the role but Luke wants to stress that just because you have a PhD, you may not necessarily be able to find your perfect postdoc. “Not to discourage anyone, but it must be noted that the global market for PhD trained scientists is pretty strained right now. There are funding issues worldwide. Make the most of opportunities to hone and learn skills in communication, leadership, management, etc – it’s probably worth having a plan B!”


But if you’re still feeling encouraged, he reminds us that “Doing a PhD isn’t a walk in the park. It requires hard work. But if you love what you do it isn’t a chore!


The one thing he misses about his PhD? “Student discount.”


If you have any specific questions regarding his work, you can message Luke on LinkedIn. This post is part of a mini series on post-PhD careers.


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