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UCD Research Skills & Career Development

Forbairt Ghairme & Taighde Scileanna UCD

Career Profile

      Name: Peter Ziegler

What research discipline did you complete your postdoc in?
I have a PhD in comparative biomedical sciences from Cornell University
with an emphasis on epidemiology. I came to the UCD School of Agriculture
& Food Science to work in Microbial & Ecological Risk Assessment.

Number of years as a postdoc in UCD?
The position was funded for two years; I was in UCD for one.

When did you complete your postdoc in UCD?
June 2009

Did you have any postdoc experience outside of UCD? If so, where and for how long?
Yes, after completing my dissertation I continued to work for my advisor for six months while I looked for employment. I was helping with work on several ongoing projects in both the field and laboratory.

What are you doing now?
I am currently a research assistant professor at Virginia Tech working on several large collaborative projects that all have some elements of risk assessment involving human, animal and environmental health. I am also working on the development of a living learning community for incoming undergraduates which focuses on agriculture, health and the environment.

What impact has your doctorate and postdoc had on what you are doing now?
Yes, I would say that my current focus has evolved out of my past experience. While the subject matter has changed the methodologies and interactions that I have been exposed to through my doctorate and my time at UCD shaped the way I approach my research.

What was the route between your postdoc and what you are doing now?
I left UCD to follow my wife who was hired back in the US as an assistant professor. The university had a dual hire policy for professionals and they helped find me a position within the college. The original position I was hired into was not ideal but it has allowed me to find my place within the system over time.

Since you completed your time as a post-doctoral researcher in UCD how have you drawn on your experience from this time?
At UCD I was part of a large collaborative project with researchers from different backgrounds (professionally and culturally) working together to find a solution to a common problem. It was great experience learning how researchers in other fields (eg. Engineering, soil science and microbiology) approach a given problem. I frequently draw upon the skills I developed interacting with my UCD colleagues in my current research efforts.

When you reflect on your time as a post-doctoral researcher in UCD, what stands out in terms of its contribution to your subsequent career development?
I think that the nature of the project and all of the people involved with it have helped me to foster collaborative research in my current position.

During your time as a post-doctoral researcher in UCD what skills would you say you learnt or developed?
I credit my time at UCD in helping me acquire a solid foundation in a systems thinking approach to research.

What advice would you give to post-doctoral researchers considering a similar career path to your own? (If you could offer one piece of advice to current post-doctoral researchers what would it be?)
If you are a spouse of a PhD and are currently looking into dual hires, do your homework on the process. In theory the idea behind these programmes is fantastic; in practice they are frequently poorly implemented. Having this knowledge prior to negotiating a dual academic hire can make a big difference in the outcome.