Information for research staff
Career progression for postdoctorate researchers and fellows is not straightforward, however, it is worth remembering that every academic on staff in the department was once a PDRA. The key to career progression as a non-academic researcher is to know what opportunities are available to you, to have a career strategy and to think well ahead. Advice given here is in part derived from the experiences of academics and is presented as FAQS for non-academic staff. If you have a question that you think should be answered on this page please contact your ESE Postdoc Reps.
Q. What are my chances of obtaining an academic post in the department of ESE?
Academic posts are unfortunately few and far between and you should certainly not rely on a post being available at any one university. It is worth regularly searching for job adverts even if you have time to run on your current contract, you never know a post made to measure for you may be being advertised right now. ESE certainly does have opportunities available from time to time and has a does not discriminate against its own research staff in academic recruitment. Any posts available will be advertised on the front page of the departments website. The majority, but not all, academic staff in the department previously held academic posts at other institutions.
Q. Is it worth writing a grant with someone else as principle investigator?
One of the main difficulties as a PDRA is that most grant opportunities require you to have a permanent position over the period of the grant. One means of applying for grant funding as a PDRA is to get an academic to agree to be the PI on the grant, and to write yourself in the proposal as the named researcher. This is one strategy to ensure continued funding. Where appropriate, obtaining "indirect" funding in this way is recognised for your career progression. It is crucial to establish from the start with the grant PI the research relationship, if you wish to be an entirely independent researcher you should agree this beforehand. You should also discuss issues related to the financial impact and financial management of the project resources. It is worth remembering that the PI will almost certainly have some input into the scientific case and, in part, their scientific credentials will be a significant factor in funding success. They will deserve some of the credit.
Q. What are the benefits of a fellowship over a grant?
The majority of research fellowships are highly prestigious since they are awarded to you, on the basis of your research credentials and ideas, rather than to an institution. In terms of career progression a fellowship is a highly desireable commodity and will make you attractive to institutions. Some fellowships are, however, better than others. A major problem with research fellowships is that some do not have funds available to support scientific research activities, they do, however, generally enable you to apply for grants that will run within the duration of the fellowship, although funding is far from guaranteed, even from the same funding body that awards the fellowship. The salaries for research fellows are generally more generous than for PDRAs on grants.
Q. Does a fellowship guarantee an academic post?
There are some, highly sought after, fellowships and the Royal Society Fellowships are a good example. Fellowships do not guarantee employment afterwards, however, it is advisable to discuss possibilities with the head of the department which you intend to host the fellowships. Often departments will have a recruitment strategy that extends over several years and will plan on obtaining funding for academic posts several years into advance. Fellowships are prestigious and count towards the research assessment. Institutions will be keen to attract you as a research fellow and should be willing to discuss the opportunities that may be available at the end of the fellowship contract.
Q. What do departments look for in academic recruitment?
Generally departments have a recruitment strategy and will know, roughly, what areas of research they wish to strengthen. Sometimes this will be part of a university wide initiative, sometimes it will be in response to external funding opportunities. However, departments will always be willing to consider high quality researchers with a proven international reputation. Key factors are a strong publication record of papers in international journals of good standing, proven funding success, and ability to contribute to the department's teaching activities. Funding success does not have to be in research grants, travel grants also count. Any awards or honours obtained from scholarly or professional bodies will also make you more attractive.
Q. What can I do to improve my career prospects?
Making yourself more visible, both within the department, and within the wider scientific community will certainly improve your prospects. Of course, this includes publication, however, presenting papers at conferences and workshops will allow you to build a network of contacts that will prove useful, collaborating or simply discussing research with academics will raise your profile, even volunteering to give departmental lectures at different institutions will be beneficial.
Q. Is there an alternative to being an academic?
Some researchers are content to remain on soft-monies as non-academic researchers throughout their careers. This, however, is difficult and unlikely to be secure in the long-term. Additionally spending too long as a PDRA can be detrimental to your career prospects should you decide to apply for academic positions. There are, however, other alternatives for those who do not wish research to be central to their career. Technical staff, such as laboratory managers and technicians often completed PDRA projects. Careers as technical staff can vary from maintaining and operating experimental/analytical instruments to providing specialised IT support. In some, but not all, cases technical careers allow continued involvement in research without the necessity for teaching, publication targets and funding applications. Employment contracts vary considerably from permanent positions to staff employed on short-term contracts supported by grants.
Q. Could I work in industry and return to academia?
A number of staff in the department worked within industry before returning as academics. The key to such a strategy is remaining research active in some capacity within industry in order to have the research esteem indicators that institutions are seeking. Industry contacts, in particular funding contacts, are also valuable. This career strategy can work in the short-term if you retain close research contacts, and if you plan a return to academia in the long-term, since often senior industry figures are a valuable asset to institutions.
Q. Can I use my industry contacts to help my academic career prospects?
If you can raise funding through industry contacts for your research then this makes you highly attractive to institutions as an academic. Most institutions will welcome you with open arms if you can raise a significant proportion of your salary through industry sponsorship. Searching for sponsorship is, however, often a delicate issue and should be discussed first with the institution since it could comprise an e xisting industry relationship.
There are a number of fellowship opportunities for young scientists with a PhD:
|EPSRC Fellowships||All year|
|Imperial College Research Fellowships (Imperial)||Sept 2016|
|Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowships (Royal Society)||Jan 2017|
|1851 Fellowships||opens Oct 2016|
|Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowships||Mar 2017|
|Newton International Fellowships||Mar 2017|
|Royal Academy Engineering Fellowships||Sept 2017|
|Royal Society Research Fellowships||Sept 2017|
|ERC Starting Grants||Oct 2016|
|ERC Consolidator Grants||Oct 2016|
The department offers assistance to those wishing to hold their fellowship at Imperial. However, you need to apply directly to the awarding body and follow their documented procedures (see the links above) in order to be considered for a given fellowship. If you are interested in holding the fellowship in the Department of Earth Science and Engineering and would like help you with your application(s), please send a copy of your CV and answers to the four questions below.
1) Is there a general or specific research area that you are interested in?
2) Are there particular members of the department that you would like to work with?
3) What is your Nationality (this affects your eligibility for some schemes)?
4) Which fellowship schemes you intend to apply to?
We will circulate you information to the relevant members of academic staff who, if interested, will contact you to assist you with the application process. For those applicants invited for interview by the awarding body, we will offer pre-interview advice, including mock interviews and an audience to comment on presentations.
All early career Fellowship schemes require that candidates have a PhD and some favour candidates with a few years post-doctoral experience. All Fellowships are highly competitive, and successful candidates typically have evidence of academic excellence and a track record of independent research. Please remember to include any examples of excellence in your submitted cv, such as: a first class degree, prizes and awards for academic performance, support from well known academics, publications in high-impact journals and research grants. These always help to improve fellowship applications.
Fellows are fixed funding departmental staff and in the department of Earth Science and Engineering. You will be eligible for departmental PhD bursaries that run within the duration of the fellowship, you will receive assistance in applying for your own research grants, and you will be assigned a line manager who will provide advice on career development. You will also be offered an opportunity to become involved in undergraduate or MSc teaching. You will be thus expected to:
- Be submitted to REF and must therefore have quality publications.
- Be part of the staff community and so must devote part of time to make community contributions, such as interviews, open days, field trips, safety, meetings, etc.
- Be independent (although collaborative) and must supervise students and raise funding.
- Be part of the pool of teaching staff and so must devote some time to teaching.
Please note that a successful application typically take 3-4 months to prepare. Members of the department are unlikely to be able to assist you with applications that are prepared close to deadlines.
Potential fellowship applicants should contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Keywords: science fellowships, fellowship opportunities, science fellows
For junior staff (Lecturers, Research Fellows and Research Associates) there is a system of automatic increments to reflect the usual progression of skills with experience, although outstanding performers can progress more rapidly.
The Department has set out salary guidelines for Research Fellows and Post-doctoral Research Associates (PDRAs). The principle is that salaries are set according to our performance and responsibility, not according to how much is in a research grant. The guidelines refer to the current Imperial College Salary Scale and Job Families (Research and Education).
1. All successful research fellowship applicants should start on Level C.
2. The starting salary spine point should be the larger of spine point 33 and the applicant's spine point at the time of application plus three. (One spine point increment to project forward to the time that the fellowship begins, and two further spine point increments).
For example, if a PDRA is on Spine Point 31 at the time the fellowship application is submitted, they should be costed through InfoEd with an initial spine point of C34 [max(33, 31+3) = 34].
3. In exceptional circumstances a higher spine point than that given by the above formula may be awarded after negotiations with the HoD. In these negotiations it should be kept in mind that to be awarded a spine point of 39, which is the minimum spine point for a lecturer, the candidate must be operating in the same capacity as a lecturer in terms of independence of research, grant applications, supervision of research students and involvement in departmental activities.
1. In normal circumstances, Post-doctoral Research Associate is a Level B role.
2. Spine point 27 is the normal minimum for candidates with a recent PhD (up to around 1 year post-PhD). Since post-docs automatically progress by one point per year, a reasonable minimum spine point is 27 + number of complete years of research experience since PhD.
For example, a newly appointed PDRA with two full years of post-doctoral experience since PhD should start at Spine Point 29 [27 + 2 = 29].
3. Outstanding performers may progress faster, while there may be special circumstances (such as career breaks) why a lower spine point is appropriate.
Career Development Courses
The College provides a wide range of workshops and courses for Postdoctoral research staff via the Postdoc Development Centre (PDC). For more information click here.
Arthur Holmes Centenary Research Grant
The department invites applications to be made by post-doctoral researchers to ask for up to £3,000 to cover the costs of research training that will contribute towards the development and improvement of the post-doctoral researcher’s career. This money is available to all non-academic staff with the requirement that you are not able to meet the costs by any other means. Each submission will be judged on its own merit, but in case of a large number of applications preferential treatment will be given to the candidates who do not control their funding.
- The fund is to help post-doctoral researchers develop and improve their research career.
- You can apply for up to £3,000 per year. Individual applications can be for up to £3,000. You can apply as many times as you wish.
- You can apply for any training, conferences, or workshops that is relevant to your research.
- You can apply for funding to help with the costs of carrying out a short piece of independent research.
How to apply
Apply by providing a brief one page case for support, supplemented by evidence where available (e.g. quotes for costs, copies of invitations for visits, talks), which includes ALL of the following information:
- Where do you wish to go/what do you wish to attend/what is the research you wish to undertake?
- What is the scientific importance of the visit/conference/workshop/research? If you have been invited to give a presentation or have other evidence of importance, please provide this.
- How much will it cost? Provide evidence to justify costs, including quotes for individual items greater than £500.
- State your current PI/line manager, funding source, start and end dates of current funding.
- Explain why you are unable to meet the requested costs by other means.
- Outline any roles you have within the department, for example tutoring or teaching. If none, then please state this.
By applying for this money it is assumed that you have the agreement of your line manager and that your line manager cannot provide the funds requested.
If you are successful, a short 250 word report must be submitted shortly after the event and no later than 12 months after the award. You cannot apply for further Departmental funding until the report is submitted. The report should include:
- Research outcomes arising from the award (such as papers and conference presentations, especially those that may contribute to REF 2020) (if none, please state this)
- Future or continuing research arising from the funding, including new funding applications and/or new collaboration with external research partners (if none, please state this)
Applications will be assessed quarterly by the Departmental Research Committee. The deadlines for 2017 are: 31st March, 30th June, 30thSeptember and 31st December. Please send applications to the post-doctoral representatives (Steven Banham: email@example.com and Kamaljit Singh: firstname.lastname@example.org) up to one week before the deadline. This allows us to provide feedback and maximise your chance of success!
The current success rate for applications is about 50%. Examples of successful applications and comments form the successful applicants can be found here.
Research Collaboration Event
This event aims to promote internal collaborations within ESE whereby funding applications submitted must involve one PDRA and at least one other member of ESE from a different research group. Approximately £10,000 of funding is available (although this is flexible). The November 2013 proved a great success with 21 attendees (including the Head of Department) and funding calls are required for February 28th.
The format involves academic researchers within the department registering for an afternoon event whereby they are encouraged to discuss their work with others to find common ground for future research proposals. Similar to speed dating, the attendees are split into two groups. One of these groups remains seated for the entire event, with the other group moving onto a new partner every 5/10 minutes. Within each allotted timeframe, researchers briefly summarise their research interests and skill-sets and then discuss potential overlap and collaborations. After the event, a ~6 month deadline is set whereby the attendees have time to produce a short proposal that is then considered by the Research Committee.
Application and pre-requisites
Prior to the meeting, each applicant is requested to submit a short (200 word) summary of their research, which is circulated to the entire participant set, and a list of skill-sets/knowledge that may be useful to their research. Using these, the two groups for the event are pre-decided in an attempt to maximise the exposure of individual participants to potential research collaborators. If any researchers decide to submit a project proposal, it should contain the following to be successful:
- A list of collaborators – at least one must be a PDRA and at least one must be a PhD / PDRA / PDRF / Staff member from a separate research group within ESE. External collaborators may also be included in addition to these pre-requisites.
- Project summary.
- Explanation of how links within ESE will be developed / strengthened.
- Expected outcomes of the project (e.g., publications).
- Cost breakdown (£2000 is expected to be availble per proposal but larger amounts can be requested; not to exceed £10,000).
If you are successful a short 250 word report should be submitted after the event succinctly describing any achievements made.
Maternity/Paternity/Maternity Support Leave
All pregnant female staff members automatically qualify for 1 years’ Statutory Maternity Leave, regardless of the length of service. It is compulsory for all pregnant members of staff to take a minimum of 2 weeks’ leave immediately after childbirth. Statutory Maternity Leave allows pregnant members of staff to take 52 weeks’ Maternity Leave, regardless of length of service (including the compulsory 2 weeks).
All pregnant staff are entitled to reasonable paid time off to keep ante-natal care appointments, including parenting classes (as long as they are advised by a registered medical practitioner, midwife or health visitor). The College Health and Safety Policy advise that any work activity which could pose a risk when pregnant muse be assessed.
In order to take advantage of the right to Statutory Maternity Leave you must give notification to your HR (Darakshan Khan email@example.com) in writing no later than the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth (including the fact you are pregnant, certified expected week of childbirth, and the date you intend to start maternity leave). You qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) if you have worked with the College for a continuous period of at least 26 weeks at the end of the qualifying week (15 weeks before the due date) and your average earnings in the 8 weeks up to and including the qualifying week have been at least equal to the Lower Earnings Limit for NI contributions (ask HR if you are unsure). SMP is paid for up to 39 weeks which are paid at 90% of your average earnings for the first 6 weeks and £138.18 per week for the remaining 33 weeks (or 90% of average weekly earnings if it is less than £138.18).
For more information about the Maternity Leave Policy, including a procedural flowchart to set out the process and information on Shared Parental Leave, please use the following link http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/hr/procedures/family/maternitysummary
Coming back to work
Flexible Working Policy is open to eligible staff that have completed 26 weeks’ continuous service at the date the application is made. More information about flexible working can be found at http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/hr/procedures/flexibleworking
In addition, the College has designed “Keeping in Touch” days which enable a member of staff to carry out work or attend training during their maternity/adoption/additional paternity/maternity support leave period without the leave being brought to an end. This can even be a helpful way of refamiliarizing yourself with staff and the workplace nearing the end of your leave. More details can be found at http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/parentsnetwork/during-leave/staying-in-touch
The departmental mentor for PDRAs who will be going on or coming back from maternity leave is Dr. Adriana Paluszny (firstname.lastname@example.org). There are also a number of Maternity Mentors available at Imperial College, who are available to all staff that are pregnant, on maternity leave, or have returned from maternity leave. Please contact any of the mentors to organize a confidential meeting by following the link below.
Paternity/Maternity support leave:
All college employees are covered by the paternity/maternity support leave policy, provided they meet the eligibility criteria. To qualify you must have a partner who is either pregnant or are adopting a baby or child (up to age 16) and have completed 26 weeks’ continuous service with the College by either the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth, or; the end of the week you are notified you are matched with your child.
Ordinary Paternity/Maternity Support leave entitles you to take 2 weeks of paid leave, which can be taken as one week or two consecutive weeks, but cannot be taken as odd days or two separate weeks. Additional Statutory Paternity/Maternity Support Leave can be applied for if you will be taking the leave to care for your child. This can be for up to 26 weeks, taken in multiples of complete weeks over a consecutive period (minimum of 2 weeks) and must end by the point at which your partner’s additional maternity or adoption leave would have ended.
More details about paternity/maternity support leave and the link to the leave request form can be found at http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/hr/procedures/family/paternity
Have you ever wasted hours just trying to find out who to get A4 paper from in the department? This page provides the answers. Please feel free to add your own questions and answers of anything you think other research staff will find useful.
Q. Who should I talk to if I need advice or help?
Contact the ESE Postdoc Reps or ESE Postdoc Champion (Cedric John) if you have any concerns or problems that are not related to your research project.
Q. How do I get paper and stationery?
Stationery and consumables are available to research staff in the mailroom. A few small items (pens, notepads, folders, etc.) are freely available; more expensive items (such as blank DVDs) must be charged to a research account by filling in a form available in reception
Q. How do I photocopy things?!
The departmental photocopiers have swipe access, based on your ID card. Scanning and emailing things to yourself (as PDF) doesnt use credits. To use them, swipe first, then press the button for the function you want, or it can get confused! This system also works in the Central Libary, but some other departmental libaries use a different system, based on a smartcard...
Q. How do I print things?
Many people have their own printers, although ICT print sevice provides some printing facilities, via the photocopier machines. Checking your printers under windows on your PC, if you dont have ICTprintservice installed on your list of printers, then it can be setup via the ICT web page (below). Then print in windows to ICTprintservice, and go and find your nearest photocopier; swipe to log in, and then press 'retrieve print jobs'. full details are at
Q. What do I do when the ICT printer is out of paper?
ICT printers in the department are supported by ICT; if a printer is out of paper contact the ICT Service Desk.
Q. How do I get a webpage/homepage?
For any problem with your webpages or to get a page on the website to discuss your research email email@example.com
Q. How do I get my computer fixed?
The ICT helpdesk can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org. Unfortunately they don't officially support Mac, Windows Vista or Unix...unofficially they will still try to help.
Q. How do I order things?
Decide what you want, get the OK and the grant code from your supervisor, and go to the ground floor admin/reception. The university has a bunch of preferred suppliers; things go much quicker if you can order from them if possible. The 'preferred suppliers' list is at
Q. What should I do at 11 am?
Department coffee on weekdays in room G35 at 11 am is open to all staff and PhD students and is a great way to meet other department members.
Q. How do I get on seminar lists?
There are several seminar series in the Department. Departmental Seminars are advertised to everyone in the department. There are 2 research sections which have regular weekly seminars: Earth and Planets (Wednesdays at 1pm) and Petroleum Geoscience and Engineering (Tuesdays at 12:30). Contact Gareth Roberts for Earth and Planets and John MacDonald for Petroleum Geoscience and Engineering.