Postdoc Appreciation Week began in the USA in 2009. Applied Microbiology International is celebrating postdoc contributions to research and academia. 

Postdoctoral research associates are indispensable due to their expertise and advanced training to reach this research level, advancing scientific discovery and collaboration. Their path to postdoc enables them to bridge the gap between graduate students and established faculty, producing a productive dynamic among peers. Undoubtedly, a postdoctoral research associate plays an integral role in the smooth running of a laboratory; however, what is often overlooked are the other skills and expertise associated with research, which may not be formally documented in job descriptions – teaching and mentoring peers, providing pastoral support, and not to mention managing budgets, These contributions are fundamental in aiding the running of lab groups, and nurturing new scientists, bringing them up through the ranks of research and academia.

To highlight the diversity within postdoctoral research, we held a Q&A for postdocs from the University of Liverpool and The Quadram Institute to showcase their skills beyond their research and their views on the importance of postdocs within microbiology.

Blanca Perez-Sepulveda

Research area: bacterial pathogenesis, molecular microbiology

An example of when, as a postdoc, you go beyond just your research?

I play many roles other than my research, such as supervision, lab management, committee roles, and others. However, my favourite role is when I get to inspire new generations of scientists and members of the public! Especially if that results in getting people thinking from a different perspective and creating new connections.

Why do you think postdocs are important?

Postdocs make a very important contribution to the research community in general. Because of the versatility of our roles, we often act as the glue that keeps research groups functioning. From my perspective, doing a postdoc has helped my personal and professional development; I’ve been exposed to different ways of working and managing groups, have developed more transferable skills, and I’ve had the chance to develop my ideas with the guidance and supervision of my PI and other experienced researchers.


Postdocs often particpate in roles outside of their research, such as supervision, lab management, committee roles, and others.

Nasmille L. Larke-Mejía

Research area: clinical metagenomics

An example of when, as a postdoc, you go beyond just your research?

Participation and organisation of science events (Science Fair, Pint of Science, Women in Science) and being part of science committees at my workplace have been great ways to interact with other people interested in science (including the general public) and my research. Participating in these events with other postdocs has been a great way to communicate science and understand different perspectives. Many of these interactions have opened my mind to new ways of communicating, different learning styles and building the skill of effective communicators.

Why do you think postdocs are important?

I believe the postdoc stage has been the most enjoyable for me as a researcher. As postdocs, we are building upon the skills that we have learnt during the BSc, MSc and/or PhD and are progressing towards a role as a more ‘independent’ researcher. The road to staying in academia, or not, is quite diverse and requires many components to fall into place. The postdoc stage is important because we are building our reputation and research profile for the next step of our careers while delivering outstanding science!

Edward Cunningham-Oakes

Research area: microbial genomics and meta-omics

An example of when, as a postdoc, you go beyond just your research?

In addition to my main role as a bioinformatician, I ensure everything runs smoothly for all lab members from both a project and a pastoral point of view. I regularly coordinate lab consumables and streamline data analysis workflows for lab members involved in various genomics research areas. I’m a key player in securing and delivering grants on time to keep our lab funded and assist with research projects. I also co-chair the Microbiology Society’s members panel, working to drive positive changes in EDI across the microbiology community.

Why do you think postdocs are important?

We play a crucial role in providing expertise for the day-to-day processing of data, be that wet or dry lab, and also fostering the independence of PhD students in training who are part of the team.

Grantham Library Chaos roadshow

Public engagement events and scientific committee roles are a great way for post-docs communicate science and understand different perspectives.

Christina Bronowski

Research area: gastrointestinal infections

An example of when, as a postdoc, you go beyond just your research?

First of all, I think it is hard to define what “going beyond” means in terms of your own expectations, and the definition of what a postdoc’s role is varies according to the lab or organisation you work in. I would say that I don’t know any postdocs who don’t go above and beyond in some way or another. I do hope I “go beyond” when it comes to mentoring PGR students and providing pastoral care.

Why do you think postdocs are important?

Postdocs are the people who carry out the actual project; without them, the research would not get done.

Jack Pilgrim

Research area: microbial ecology

An example of when, as a postdoc, you go beyond just your research?

In addition to my daily research responsibilities, I serve as the postdoctoral representative on the School of Veterinary Science’s research committee. This committee plays a vital role in fostering open dialogue and facilitating the seamless exchange of ideas and information between varied members of the veterinary research community, including vet students, clinical practitioners, and non-clinical researchers, such as microbiologists. My specific focus within this role centres on formulating innovative strategies to inspire vet students and budding early-career veterinarians to incorporate research into their professional journeys.

Why do you think Postdocs are important?

Postdocs are often the most senior scientists undertaking day-to-day laboratory research in academic groups. In contrast, higher-level positions, such as those held by professors, often involve tasks like academic writing, teaching, and project management, which means they are less frequently present in the lab environment. Consequently, postdocs often serve as the de facto mentors for new laboratory members and frequently act as the initial point of contact for troubleshooting challenges. The success of my own doctoral research owed much to my interactions with experienced postdocs in the lab. Conversely, I’ve observed smaller research teams with limited or no postdoctoral presence, where students faced greater difficulties due to the absence of such a supportive network.


” I don’t know any postdocs who don’t go above and beyond in some way or another.”

Eleftheria Trampari

Research area: plant-microbe interactions

An example of when, as a postdoc, you go beyond just your research?

I have had the privilege of chairing my institute’s Science Voice committee and actively participating in over five other committees over the years. Additionally, I have made meaningful contributions to various focus groups within the institute.

Why do you think postdocs are important?

Postdoctoral researchers play a crucial role in advancing scientific knowledge. They bring fresh perspectives, contribute to ground-breaking research, and help bridge the gap between academia and real-world applications.

Aisling Brady

Research area: bacterial genetics and phage biology

An example of when, as a postdoc, you go beyond your research?

Having just started my position at the University of Liverpool this year, my postdoc journey has just begun! Although everything still feels quite new, and I am still finding my feet in a new city, position, and field of microbiology, I have gone beyond my research when it comes to mentoring and training the next generation of scientists. I was privileged to mentor an excellent student in a wet lab research project this summer. I felt great fulfilment as I watched her develop confidence and independence in the lab. Passing my knowledge and expertise to budding scientists has brought me immense satisfaction. I love watching others not only grasp scienctific principles but also flourish in their own right. I hope this mentorship role will continue to be a significant part of my postdoc, as I think it adds an extra layer of purpose to my journey!

Why do you think postdocs are important?

I think postdocs are important for so many reasons. I recently read a blog that called postdocs, the “Swiss army knife” of research, and I 100% agree. Postdocs contribute to their research groups, departments, and institutes by driving ongoing research, but they also catalyse new projects and collaborations, write papers, get involved in public engagement, train junior scientists, and attend conferences…altogether encompassing a range of crucial functions that fuel the progress of our scientific community!