Ten Simple Rules to becoming a principal investigator (PLoS Computational Biology)

March 20, 2020

The biggest choke point in an academic career is going from postdoc to principal investigator (PI): moving from doing someone else’s research to getting other people to do yours. Being a PI is a fundamentally different job to being a postdoc; they just happen to be in the same envi- ronment. It is not an easy transition. It draws on few of the skills you learn at the bench, and the odds are clearly not ever in your favor. So, calling this article Ten Simple Rules is obviously a simplification. It is more accurate to call them ten tricky steps.

In this article, we use PI to mean anyone who runs their own research group using funding that they have been awarded to answer their own questions. PI encompasses a number of dif- ferent job titles depending on where the research is performed: fellow, lecturer, reader, associ- ate professor, and senior scientist. One test is whether you can describe the people working for you as the X group, in which X is your surname. The normal route from undergraduate to lab head involves a PhD, one or more postdoc positions, and then PI. Given the diversity of ways to be a PI, the final step up from postdoc takes a number of forms. In the United Kingdom, this tends to be either an individual fellowship or a lecturer position, and in the United States, it generally starts with an independent position with associated funding—either as a start-up package or funded grant.  Read more.