Column: Undercover academic
A question of identity
When you are a PhD student, your successes are your supervisor's successes. Your identity as a researcher is inextricably linked to your academic relatives. As a postdoc, situations vary. For some it is a chance to expand horizons under the safety net of a generous supervisor, for others it is little different to the PhD experience, except you don't have to write a thesis at the end - you just have to find a job!
Once you start a lectureship and are propelling yourself towards your first funding applications, you suddenly become part teacher, part administrator and part researcher.
You have to begin the long process of establishing who you are as an independent researcher, distinguish yourself from your academic 'parents' and begin building a reputation.
It is difficult to begin establishing yourself without competing with your previous supervisors or leaving their field so far behind that your ability to conduct the research is questionable. The best case is that you find the gap in your little sub-field of chemistry: the niche that has not yet been explored. What you need is a little subset of reactions, application for techniques, or fusion of ideas that is just waiting to be discovered.
The Undercover academic is a university lecturer in the UK