What is a post-doc and what do they do?

Photo of Mark McLaughlin presenting on his research by Jenny Fisher.
Photo of Mark McLaughlin presenting on his research by Jenny Fisher.

An event called ‘Suds ‘N Speakers’ was held on March 26 at the Trend. Where “some of Trent’s Post-Doctoral scholars” came to talk about “exciting research that is taking place at Trent,” as advertised in the poster.

A total of five speakers made a presentation about their research. After the presentations, the audience asked a series of questions for the five speakers.

The speakers included Lisa Pasolli, Mark McLaughlin, Alison Norman, Daniel Heidt, and Dave Tough, all of whom are post-docs being hosted by Trent University.

What is a post-doc?

Lisa Pasolli has explained that “someone who has a post-doc has already completed a PhD, so the post-doc gives you an opportunity to further develop the research that you started during your dissertation, and to make new contributions to your field of study.” Pasolli has also explained that “there are different kinds of post-docs, but in the humanities a post-doc is usually a two-year fellowship during which you work on a research project.”

Alison Norman adds that a post-doc “won a scholarship of sorts, usually from the federal government, to conduct a new research project. It is for new scholars.”

What does a post-doc do?

Mark McLaughlin says that this “depends on where you get funding.” He explained, “Trent is the institution that hosts me, funding is external.” However, McLaughlin also explains that Trent has helped his research in other ways by giving “research infrastructure and guidance.”

Pasolli explains that “the main thing that post-docs in the humanities do is conduct research into their area of study. The goal is for that research to result in new publications like academic articles and books, so post-docs also spend a lot of time writing.

Post-docs also spend a lot of time attending conferences, giving papers, participating in workshops, and generally being involved in the academic community.

Most post-docs have a very light teaching load (some teach a course or two, but it’s rare that a post-doc has the same kind of teaching load as a sessional or tenured professor), so we get to spend a lot of time presenting our research, working on publications, and networking with colleagues.”

What are Trent’s post-docs researching?

Lisa Pasolli’s presentation was titled, ‘Talkin’ Day Care Blues’. She spoke about her research about working mothers and the child care dilemma in the 20th Century.

Her research involves how women with children can/should become students, workers, and overall “fully participating people of society,” as she explained in her presentation.

Pasolli later explained her research in three brief sentences: “I have been working on writing the history of Indigenous teachers in southern Ontario in the nineteenth century. Many of the missionary schools on reserves hired Indigenous teachers to teach Indigenous children because they were more successful than non-Indigenous teachers.”

More specifically, Pasolli explains, “my research is trying to uncover more about these men and women.” Dave Tough’s presentation title was ‘At Last! The Government’s War on Poverty Explained: The Charisma of Poverty in the 1960’s and the Crises of Redistributive Politics’. Dave Tough mentioned that it was very popular to write about poverty in the 1960s but that ‘almost no one wrote on poverty as a material condition in the 1960s.’

Alison Norman’s presentation was titled, ‘Researching Indigenous Teachers in Nineteenth Century Ontario’. Which reviewed the history of recorded Indigenous teachers. Some of the research took a feminist perspective and looked specifically at female Indigenous teachers in nineteenth century Ontario.

Mark McLaughlin’s research was titled, ‘Crossing the Boundaries: The State and Science in Resource Management’. Daniel Heidt’s presentation was titled, ‘Flying Balloons in the Artic: the joint Arctic Weather Stations, Science and Technology, 1946 – 1972’. This presentation reviewed weather research done in the arctic.

Daniel Heidt explains in his presentation that this research has been “crucial” to a lot of other careers like “military planning,” “local meteorology,” and even to the “lumber industry.”

How has Trent helped their research?

Lisa Pasolli’s answer was: “I’m based in the Frost Centre for Canadian Studies and Indigenous Studies, and I feel really lucky to be able to be part of Trent’s great Canadian Studies program. There is a great group of faculty, researchers, graduate students, and other post-docs who make Trent a real hub for Canadian Studies, and it has been wonderful to be part of this intellectual environment.”

Alison Norman says, “Trent has been a great home for me.” She continues, “I have been working with Dr. John Milloy, Director of the Frost Centre, who has given me great advice on my research. And I’ve had the opportunity to teach CAST-2255, a course about the history of Indigenous people in Canada.”

Most importantly, Norman made sure to make a shout out to her students: “And I love the students at Trent.”

About Jenny Fisher 17 Articles
I am a photographer at Arthur newspaper and a student a Trent university taking a joint major between English and Media Studies. My plan is to continue in the field of journalism after I graduate Trent.