Beginning the journey from PhD to principal investigator: One postdoc’s life at ARC

Posted: December 18, 2020

Research, proposals, mentorship and networking: postdoc life. Postdoctoral scholars are critical to the mission of the Aerospace Research Center. Not only do they contribute to key initiatives, they also learn career-enriching skills during their tenure.

Image of Dhuree Seth
Dhuree Seth

Dhuree Seth, PhD, has just begun her postdoctoral appointment at ARC and is already looking forward to the synergistic experience. Her objective? “I can gain experience and skills, and enhance my knowledge of working and collaborating on new aerospace research projects with different government organizations and universities,” she commented.

Seth is a team member of the Aerodynamic Flow Control and Advanced Diagnostics Research Group, where she’s mentored by Jim Gregory, PhD, and Matt McCrink, PhD. Her current and future projects include topics in wake turbulence and flutter testing, vertical takeoff and landing, and active flow control for one of ARC’s many wind tunnels.

“I have experience working in big wind tunnel facilities during my masters and PhD,” she said. “I am hoping to use what I have learned and the skills to add value to ARC, as well as learn a great deal working on several research projects.”

In addition to technical skills, Seth hopes to learn managerial skills that will help her on her journey to become a principal investigator.

“I would like to write proposals on new research ideas while collaborating with people at ARC and government agencies,” she said. “I also look forward to gaining mentorship experience by working with undergrad and grad students.”

The unique role of a postdoctoral researcher allows for the exploration of research ideas while honing of a variety of skills in preparation for a future role in research. This resume-building experience benefits both the postdoc and the center.

image of a small UAS inside the ARC UAS wind tunnel
Dhuree Seth will be working in ARC's subsonic wind tunnel

“Postdoctoral researchers greatly enhance ARC’s research activities,” said ARC Interim Director Jim Lawson. “At the same time, we aim to provide the scholars with learning and networking opportunities.”

In a typical year there are multiple postdocs supporting ARC-associated faculty. These researchers may have recently graduated with a PhD or they may have joined the center after holding a previous postdoc position. Most are working to supplement their doctoral training with the goal of becoming research professionals.

According to the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, there were nearly 8,000 postdocs in engineering positions in 2018.

The postdoc is a short-term position that allows for the continuation of training in research and is often a key step in preparing for a job in academia or at a laboratory. Postdoc mentoring plans, emphasized by Ohio State’s Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, typically focus on establishing research and skill-building goals.

“Faculty and research scientists at ARC understand the value of mentorship for postdocs,” said Lawson. “They take time to review potential candidates to ensure compatible objectives and aim to maintain open lines of communication throughout the scholar’s term.”

The postdoc experience is part of the process of furthering research, as well as sharing ideas and methods with the next generation.

“Research is all about teamwork, collaboration and good mentorship,” Seth said. “[Mentorship] will be a huge benefit for me in terms of gaining technical knowledge and learning from my mentors’ experiences to become a good mentor myself.”

The postdoc position is allowing her time to expand her research capabilities and network, while discovering the best ways to lead her own initiatives in the future.

“There is lots still to do and I am very excited to get my hands dirty and start diving deep into the projects,” she said.

Those interested in pursuing postdoctoral opportunities at ARC, should contact faculty in their areas of interest.

by Holly Henley, communications specialist

Categories: StaffStudents