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Four CDPF Recipients Talk About Their Path from Postdoc Fellowship to Faculty Position

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Every year, the CANSSI Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellowships (CDPF) program awards two-year fellowships worth $70,000 per year to young statistical sciences researchers. Fellows participate in a wide range of experiences—involving research, teaching, interdisciplinary or applied collaborations, and professional development—designed to give them foundational skills for a variety of careers.

We asked several recent fellowship recipients, all of whom moved from the program into tenure-track faculty positions at Canadian and American universities, about the impact of the CDPF experience and the advice they would give to future applicants. Here’s what they said.

Cédric Beaulac accepted a position as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematics at Université du Québec à Montréal even before starting the CDPF program in 2021.

Caitlin Ward began her CDPF fellowship in 2021 and moved into a faculty position as an Assistant Professor in the Division of Biostatistics and Health Data Science, School of Health, at the University of Minnesota a year later.

Dylan Spicker received a CDPF fellowship in 2022 and started his appointment as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of New Brunswick Saint John in Summer 2023.

Kaiqiong Zhao became a CDPF fellow in 2021 and began her faculty appointment as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at York University in July 2023.

How did your CDPF experience help you in getting your faculty position?

CAITLIN: My CDPF experience helped me be competitive on the faculty job market as it allowed me to further and expand my research agenda under the mentorship of two internationally recognized researchers. Additionally, my CDPF prepared me well to hit the ground running in my faculty position as it emphasized critical roles of a faculty member—research, teaching, and professional development.

KAIQIONG: I am deeply convinced that my CDPF experience has been immensely beneficial to me. The privilege of learning under the guidance of two exceptional supervisors and working at both the University of Alberta and the University of Toronto has greatly enriched my scholarly pursuits. This journey has allowed me to connect with experts in fields that interest me, and I’m sure the benefits will have a lasting impact. In addition, teaching an introductory statistics course to a class of around 150 undergraduate students was a completely new experience. I believe this teaching experience, which was an integral component of the CDPF program, also played a pivotal role in securing my faculty position.

DYLAN: My CDPF gave me the time and resources to pursue my research with far greater focus than I was able to during my PhD. This research largely formed the basis for my job talks, ultimately leading to my position. In particular, the CDPF stood out during the application process with the program itself lending credibility to my merit as a researcher. My postdoctoral experience was tremendously helpful in the application process.

CÉDRIC: Even though it did not directly help me get the faculty position, the CDPF prepared me well for that position by providing me with research and supervision opportunities. The research projects I started during the CDPF are at the foundation of my current NSERC Discovery research program. The research pursued during the CDPF, the supervision I began at that point, and the help received by my supervisors writing the NSERC Discovery application all played a major role in obtaining this important source of funding.

What advice or encouragement would you give to potential CDPF applicants?

KAIQIONG: I would recommend approaching your postdoctoral journey with a mindset of careful planning. Implementing strategic plans will assist in maintaining a portfolio of papers in varying stages, from initial conceptualization to pending revisions. Additionally, do not hesitate to reach out and seek advice from mentors, colleagues and anyone who can provide guidance.

CÉDRIC: The CDPF offers a unique opportunity to prepare applicants for a faculty position; it is important that applicants use that opportunity to develop the basis of a research program and strong research collaboration with their supervisors.

CAITLIN: My advice would be to take advantage of every possible opportunity you can during the CDPF fellowship as these experiences can be invaluable towards progressing your future career.

DYLAN: It is important to remember that every individual’s path through academics is different, with no set script that needs to be followed. You should always operate on your own timeline, paying little mind to what “should” happen. If you have a position that allows you the comfort to meet your needs, while having the opportunity to pursue research questions that are inspiring to you, this is the goal of being in the academy itself. Whether you achieve this through extended studies, postdoc positions, or faculty appointments is of less consequence in the grand scheme of things than the pursuit itself. Find an opportunity which gives you the freedom to continue your learning and make the most out of it while it is there. Other opportunities will come in due time.

Apply Now to the CDPF Program

Applications for the 2023 CDPF program are now open. Learn more about how to apply and submit your online application by Monday, January 15, 2024.