On hunting an academic job

Today, Julien Milli talked about his academic career path in ESO. He offers many useful suggestions which are especially helpful for people working in observatories.

The first thing that we astronomers should keep in mind is that we are privileged to be astronomers. We are able to do what we like as a career, and make a living with that.

Here I made a list of some of them which I think are inspiring.

  • Time management
    • preserve the science time;
    • keep a healthy lifestyle (!);
    • manage the priority, there’s always more to do;
  • Need to find a role model.
  • Independently build new collaborations, extended research areas.
    • Some institutes downgrade if there is a large overlap with your Ph.D. advisor in publications.
  • Build a tie with the future institute and team
    • Look for support from a team/institute and present your work there
    • Build a project in agreement with the institute’s priorities/research area
  • Keep good publication record
    • Quality and quantity
  • Keep strong involvement with the European community & instruments
  • Maintain a good connection with ESO, with the people there
    • In the case of ALMA, via instrumentation? Data reduction technique?
  • The advantage of having 50% duty works
    • Knowing the instrument helps with making the best of the data — best quality of data reduction and debugging the data
    • Using the chance to find more collaborations with a good knowledge of the observatory

A personal academic summary of 2018

It would always be a good idea to summarize the year towards its end. This year is the 1st year of my postdoc life, after graduating as a Ph.D. September last year. It has been a challenging year for me, transforming from a graduate student to an independent young researcher, especially as an ESO fellow (meaning that you are 100% independent).


It is not easy to build your own idea almost from scratch, but it is the skill that must be mastered if one wants to pursue an academic career path and finally become an independent researcher. That’s what I must learn. I had some new thoughts during the year but turned out to be “old ideas” or “unrealistic ideas” after discussing with senior astronomers. It was quite discouraging but they are the lessons to be learned. Besides, “networking” has also become a key skill to become a good researcher, and I need to work on my own to be known by other researchers and to build new collaborations. Thanks to ESO’s generous funding, I can afford to travel around the world to show my work in conferences and to build new connections. That’s one of the coolest parts of being an ESO fellow (another coolest part is to work with ALMA). But this is also a personal challenge for me as an introverted person, I sometimes find it very difficult to walk to people whom I’ve met for the first time (non-friends) and talk with them during the coffee break in a conference. In most of the cases, I found I was not sure what to say. That is the thing that I need to work out.

Anyway, I’ve learned a lot this year and the experiences have been very helpful. I really hope the summary of the year below can be doubled when I do the summary for 2019.

  • Publications
    • submitted 1 first-author paper, under revision to be resubmitted
    • published 7 co-author papers
  • Proposals:
    • ALMA: 2B, 1C
    • NOEMA: 3A
    • JVLA: 1C
    • APEX/SEPIA-9: 1A
    • several co-I proposals, including a NOEMA large program
  • Conferences/talks: 
    • 4 seminars talks @UV(Chile), Oxford(UK), Durham(UK), DWAN-DTU(Denmark)
    • 1 conference contributing talk @Cambridge 
    • 1 invited talk in a symposium 
  • Professional service:
    • ApJ referee
    • Technical Secretary of the ALMA Cycle-6 Proposal Review meeting

Summary: Need to publish more first-author papers, to work more efficiently, and read more and discuss more to create new ideas on my own that have scientific impacts.

Feeling Life

Si un jour, vous êtes très malheureux…


“Si un jour, vous êtes très malheureux. Rappelez-vous qu’on est qu’un grain de poussière. Quelques atomes tombés d’une étoile. Nous ne sommes là que quelques instants. A peine le temps d’un battement de cils à l’échelle de l’univers. Alors, profitez-en. Profitez-en. C’est la vie qui est plus forte que tout. Alors nous, on va continuer à vivre.”

— L’odyssée (un film réalisé, 2016)


English translation: If you are very unhappy one day. Remind yourself that we are just grains of stardust, some atoms fell from dying stars. We are only here in this world for a short moment, short as in the twinkling of an eye to the timescale of the Universe. So, enjoy your life. Enjoy it! It’s life that is the most thriving being in this world. Then, we live on.