Biological Archaeology and Research in Germany


I'm hunting for a job in biological archaeology

How can I do a postdoc in Germany?

Dear GrantDoctor:

I love your column! Very helpful.

On 24 March you answered a graduate ("BMB") who is looking for a job in botany with a Master's degree, and I wondered if you would be willing to do the same for biological archaeology? I, too, suffered from an absent mentor and a poorly coordinated brand-new consortium degree offered by what turned out to be two competing university departments. Like BMB, I would like to pursue further work in research or teaching before I consider starting a Ph.D. Can you help?


Dear DDJ,

Many thanks for your kind words and interest in this column. The application of biological techniques to archaeology (DNA analysis of human remains, for example) is a very exciting field that is constantly making headlines. Despite the topical nature of this emerging field, it can be difficult to muster enthusiasm if your mentor [plural noun construction...] does [singular verb...] not advise you well. Before you decide which avenues you wish to pursue, step back, find out what interests you, and then prioritize your ambitions. I don't want to repeat myself, so readers will find additional links to teaching resources and relevant Next Wave content in my previous column. The Society for American Archaeology (SAA) is a good place to start. You can find information in their pages on a number of topics--from job listings, Ph.D. surveys to find out what graduates thought about their training, and lists of academic programs around the U.S. and in other countries where you could gather more information about studying this field. If you would like support and advice from your peers, check out SAA's Student Affairs Committee, which aims to "provide information that will aid students in their educational and professional careers."

As part of their Teaching Archaeology in the 21st Century initiative, the SAA hopes to "to improve the education of future archaeologists." They have established a Web discussion forum to address certain issues that you may find interesting.

A couple years ago, David Carlson, associate professor of anthropology at Texas A&M University, published a very informative guide summarizing career opportunities in archaeology. Read his Frequently Asked Questions about a career in archaeology in the U.S. to get an idea of what lies in store. You will also find links to other societies and agencies from which you could find more information.

Similarly, you will find a tremendous amount of information at this archaeology resource, compiled by Kris Hirst, a project archaeologist at the University of Iowa.

Ever considered applying your analytical and detective skills to forensic science? You could try to find work in such a lab to broaden your research experience. You may be able to get further information through the Midwest Bioarchaeology and Forensic Anthropology Association or from forensic labs such as the one at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that deals with animals. Alternatively, follow this link to find a vast array of forensic science-related links. Next Wave has addressed careers in this field previously. Read more in our Forensic Science feature.

Finally, you might want to check out this compilation of academic programs that provide more educational and research opportunities in your field and includes links to relevant departments.

Thanks again for your interest in this column and best of luck with your decision-making--keep up the enthusiasm!

--The GrantDoctor

Dear Maristela,

You have many options. In 1995, it was estimated there were somewhere around 35,000 postdoctoral appointees in the U.S.--some 17,000 of which were non-U.S. citizens--who went to other countries to continue their research. Whether or not you're currently based in the States, you can access many sources of information on the Web. Germany's major funding bodies--the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD; also known as the German Academic Exchange Service), the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) and the Max Planck Society--strive to promote research in German institutions.

The DAAD, which is perhaps the most extensive resource for foreign scientists seeking advice on doing research in Germany, has a very useful Scholarship Database that should help you focus on the specific opportunities that best suit your interests and needs. Among the possibilities are awards for 1-year scholarships supporting research that does not end in a degree. These awards provide a monthly living allowance that ranges from DM 1100 (US$541) to DM 1700 ($836), depending on your academic status, and you can claim other expenses such as travel. You must be younger than 32 years old to qualify. The DAAD also awards short-term research grants that last anywhere from 1 to 6 months, and you can even apply for a shorter period of research--between 1 and 3 months--through their "Study Visits" program.

A DAAD staff-member suggests your first point of contact should be your institution's foreign student's office, which should be able to help with information regarding paperwork, travel, and visas. In some cases, there is also a requirement to pass a German language admissions examination--if you are to attend courses at a German university, for example. The DAAD has branch offices all over the world. Call or contact the office nearest to you to find out information regarding application deadlines and other requirements.

You might also be interested to know that the German government will be considering a new law this summer whereby information technology specialists would be eligible to work in Germany without having to obtain work permits--a "free green card." This legislation has yet to be passed, but if information technology is your field, it may be worthwhile keeping your eye on how it develops.

Finally, you might want to check out some of my previous columns for information on international research collaborations. Viel Glück!

--The GrantDoctor

Due to the high volume of questions received, The GrantDoctor cannot answer all queries on an individual basis. Look for an answer to your question published in this column soon! Thank you!

Dear GrantDoctor,

I'm a Brazilian citizen who's looking for fellowships for a postdoc in Germany (short and/or long-term). Which options do I have?

Thanks, Maristela

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