Information for research staff
The research staff handbook provides comprehensive information about the Department of Earth Science and Engineering.
We welcome and support applications for post-doctoral fellowships. Fellowship applicants should contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your CV, research interests, members of staff you want to work with and the fellowship opportunities you are interested in.
Please note that a successful application typically take 3-4 months to prepare, plan ahead to ask for any help you may need with your application. Find examples of successful and unsuccessful Fellowship proposals.
There are a number of fellowship opportunities for early career scientists with a PhD, check websites for closing dates:
|Imperial College Research Fellowships (Imperial)|
|Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowships (Royal Society)|
|Newton International Fellowships|
|Royal Academy Engineering Fellowships|
|Royal Society Research Fellowships|
|ERC Starting Grants|
|ERC Consolidator Grants|
We offer opportunities for you to supervise PhD students, apply for grants and support for career development. You will also have the opportunity to become involved in undergraduate or MSc teaching. We want our post-doctoral fellows to be part of the department's vibrant community.
Our post-doctoral fellows submit to the REF and therefore have quality publications, and are also part of the staff community and valued contributors to department activities.
Career Development Courses
The College provides a wide range of workshops and courses for Postdoctoral research staff via the Postdoc and Fellows Development Centre.
Arthur Holmes Centenary Research Grant
The department invites applications from post-doctoral researchers 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 independent career.
For information and enquiries about this grant, please contact Tara Salter and Ado Farsi.
This funding is available to all post-doctoral research staff with the requirement that it is used to support the development of independent research and where the costs of the proposed activity cannot be met by any other means. The funding cannot be used to support activities that would normally fall within the remit of the post-doctoral researcher’s current project, or to supplant or replace budget from research grants where this can reasonably be used to support the proposed activity.
- The fund is to help post-doctoral researchers develop and improve their independent research career. It is not available to fellows who have already demonstrated research independence.
- 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 are relevant to the development of your independent research career and for which research grant funding cannot be used or is not available.
- You can apply for funding to help with the costs of carrying out a short piece of independent research.
- The activity for which funding is sought must take place while you are employed in ESE. Applications for funding to support activities scheduled after your contract ends will not be considered
Previous examples of Arthur Holmes funding
- A recent PhD graduate joined ESE as a PRDA and was invited to present results from her PhD at a prestigious international conference. However, the topic and remit of the conference was unrelated to her new project in ESE, so the associated research grant could not be used to support her attendance. The PDRA applied for Arthur Holmes funding to support registration, travel and subsistence along with a copy of the speaker invitation and quotes for costs. The application was successful.
- A PDRA working on pore-scale imaging of reservoir rocks on an industry-funded project established a collaboration with biologists studying the internal structure of termite mounds. The PDRA was awarded Arthur Holmes funding to support CT and micro-CT experiments on termite mound samples, and to present the results at an appropriate conference. The resulting images and 3D models derived from the CT experiments were used to understand better the dynamics of ventilation and drainage in termite nests, and the results were published in Science Advances (doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aat8520) with acknowledgement of the Arthur Holmes funding.
- A PDRA working on a NERC-funded project established a new collaboration with the University of Alberta and identified an opportunity to test a novel method to remediate contaminated water that was unrelated to her project. Arthur Holmes funding supported essential experiments to test the method. The application explained how the proposed research was unrelated to her PDRA project so the NERC funding could not be used to support it.
How to apply
Apply by providing a 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? When is it scheduled to happen?
- 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 does the proposed activity support your development as an independent researcher? How does it differ from the topic of your PDRA project and your research activities on this project?
- 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 funding it is assumed that you have the agreement of your line manager and that your line manager cannot provide the funds requested. Please acknowledge financial support from the Arthur Holmes Centenary Research Grant of the Department of Earth Science and Engineering, Imperial College London.
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 by the Departmental Research Committee.
Annual Deadlines: 4pm on January 31st, April 30th, June 30th, October 31st. If this date falls on a weekend or public holiday, then the closing date is 4pm on the last working Friday before this date.
The College recognises the demands of family life and is committed to supporting members of staff to obtain a good work life balance. With this in mind, our family leave guidance has been designed to support both staff and managers by guiding them through the procedures for the various family leave types, covering what needs to be considered and the steps that need to be completed.
See the College Family Leave webpage for further details.
Flexible Working Policy is open to eligible staff that have completed 26 weeks’ continuous service at the date the application is made. See more information about flexible working or speak to your line manager.
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.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Who should I talk to if I need advice or help?
Contact the ESE Postdoc Reps or ESE Postdoc Champion (Gareth Roberts) if you have any concerns or problems that are not related to your research project. The Research Staff Welcome Pack contains information about facilities, administration, HR and helpful contacts.
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; some items must be charged to a research account.
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) doesn't use credits. This system also works in the Central Libary.
Q. How do I print things?
ICT print sevice provides some printing facilities, via the photocopiers in the open plan areas in the Department. See Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) for setup details.
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?
To set up or edit a page on the Earth Science & Engineering Departmental website email the ESE webmaster.
Q. How do I order things?
Speak to your supervisor or the Professional Services staff.
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 held in term time on Thursdays at 12.30pm in G41.
Earth and Planets and Petroleum Geoscience & Engineering hold seminars on alternate Tuesdays, usually in term time.