Wednesday, November 16, 2011

DARPA Post-doc?

I got offered a position as a post-doc working with one of my scientific mentors.  It's kinda a weird situation (aside from the fact that it is now across the country from where I live), because it is a DARPA funded project.  I don't know much about DARPA projects, except what he told me and this mostly lead to more questions.

For example, this grant is part of a big push right now at DARPA, but priorities change pretty quickly there.  This is why DARPA only provides funding for 6 months at a time.  In principle, the project is kinda earmarked to go for a couple years, but every 6 months that gets reassessed. Move across the country (again) for a job that might only be a couple months?  The reason he suggested this to me, aside from knowing it wasn't my long term plan to be tied to Pittsburgh, was the funding agency is very involved in the research.  The PIs are meant to meet/conference call with the Head of DARPA every month during funding- which might be a cool way to make some connections, right?  And, while this part freaked him out, I thought it was awesome: if there is a national emergency that requires cell biologist expertise, DARPA can insist you stop your research and instead perform work to address the new national priority.  I figure this isn't something they do often, and by the time there is a pandemic, I would feel much better doing work to find a cure then continuing on the basic science track.

So... I probably won't take this job back in my old department due to the aforementioned two-body problem. But... it does raise an interesting question, how much does DARPA pay it's post-docs?  DoD has deeper pockets than NIH or NSF without a doubt, but is the pay scale quite different? So far, I haven't been able to find any info on that, so let me know if this is something you've heard of.  If I get a straight answer from the guy who offered me the job, I promise I'll share.

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