Case Study: post-doc in Law

Katherine in her office

Katherine in her office

I am a Post-Doctoral Research Associate at the Centre of Medical Law and Ethics in King’s College London Law School. I started in September 2015. I have joined a team of four other post-docs and two principal investigators and together, we work on a Wellcome Trust funded project about the law and ethics of the donation of reproductive materials.

The Project:

The research has two principal investigators, Professor Rosamund Scott at King’s and Professor Stephen Wilkinson at Lancaster University. Three of the post-docs are attached to King’s Law School and two are attached to the Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion at the University of Lancaster.

The project considers the ethical framework for the donation and transfer of human reproductive materials (such as eggs and sperm), coupled with the implications of this framework for clinical practice, law, policy, and regulation.

We have a website and a twitter!

The Job:

My job is research intensive. I teach one module on Medical Law in the Law School and the rest of my time is taken up with research for the project. All of the post-docs research different topics on the grant, covering areas such as uterus transplants, mitochondrial donation, gamete donation and artificial gametes. My current focus is on surrogacy and I work towards publications in that area. That means most days I am reading, formulating ideas for papers and of course, writing. We are encouraged to disseminate the research and attend conferences to present our papers. This year I am applying to a number of conferences in the UK and Europe to present my research findings. In previous years, the post-docs have gone to Mexico and the US to present their work at major bioethics conferences.

In addition, the group itself have “Work in Progress” seminars where we gather with some other academics in the field to discuss our ongoing papers. At the last “WIP”, I co-presented on a topic with another post-doc from my office. That’s the benefit of being in a research group like ours, we get great feedback from the PIs, each other and get the chance to work on papers together. The three King’s post-docs share an office in Somerset House which is not only a beautiful setting, but gives us a great opportunity to thrash out ideas with one another.

How to get a post-doc in law?

I think post-docs in law are quite rare but I think in order to be successful in applying for such a post, you have to show that you are committed to publishing and presenting your research findings. If you are interested in doing a post-doc, be sure to try and build up a few publications and a range of conference presentations during the PhD process. I think evidence that you have networked with experts in your area is also important.

Is a post-doc for you?

I love my job! I knew I would before I accepted it because I love to research and to write. I enjoy the process of reading and developing ideas for papers. When the ideas start to flow and my ideas for papers start to develop, I find the process of writing very enjoyable. I also enjoy the experience of having two expert PIs who give me feedback as I progress and the opportunity to regularly present work with the entire team at WIP meetings. The opportunity to give papers at all kinds of conferences around the world is a real drive for my research.

The perk of my job is that my research time is protected. Because my job under the Wellcome Trust grant is to produce research, I have less responsibilities in the areas of teaching and administration. However, I am still getting fantastic teaching experience and am really enjoying my contact hours with students. It provides a nice balance to the research time to have interaction with students about class material and their dissertations!

My advice is to only do a post-doc if you think that it sounds like the perfect job for you! There will be long hours of reading and independent research, as well as discussion of your work and presentation of your findings. It will be different to a lectureship with all the contact hours and interaction with staff and student which that entails. I was lucky that I am also teaching, but some post-docs might have very little teaching requirements. I think post-docs are a great way to build up one’s research skills and profile. In some cases, you may be lucky enough to get some teaching experience. But all in all you have to be sure it’s right for you! Good luck!

With thanks to guest blogger Dr Katherine Wade, PGR Careers Liaison Lead for the Dickson Poon School of Law