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Why Funders Prefer a Change in Supervisor between PhD and Postdoc

A major part of many postdoctoral fellowship applications in New Zealand is your choice of supervisor - some of which include their CV and/or also write a recommendation or reference. Funders look to the CV of your supervisor to determine not only their track record and experience, but also ways in which they may help you develop as you advance in your career.

This is why some funders (I would lean in here to say most) like to see a different supervisor in a postdoctoral fellowship application than the one you had during your PhD. By being able to secure a new mentor/supervisor, this shows career growth, demonstrates that you have a viable research network and gives some assurance to funders that you are working towards a line of independent research. Nothing bodes worse for an application than one seems to be just continuing down a line of research part of an existing programme or body of work led by a PhD supervisor. Funders want to see your independent thinking clearly in an application.

So - what to do? Some people choose - and rightly so - to conduct research with their PhD supervisors throughout a postdoc and well into academia. My advice would be to clearly and overtly state how your application represents a unique line of research that has independent aspects from your PhD work - explain this clearly. You can also pull in a unique co-supervisor, perhaps who you haven't worked with before, who you can highlight as someone who can teach you new skills or techniques.

The important piece is how you sell it - if you have a new supervisor, highlight this a great step forward in your research career. If you are continuing on with the same? Make it clear what will be different - and uniquely yours - in your application for success.


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