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grad student dating a post-doc?


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I'm about to start my 4th year of grad school and am hoping to finish within 2 years. Recently I've developed an interest in a 3rd year postdoc that is 5 years my senior. Is it appropriate for grad students to date post docs? Any guidelines that should be followed? Thanks!

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The short answer is that there should be no problems and you should disclose the relationship whenever a conflict of interest could arise -- for example, if the post-doc was also teaching a grad class that you were taking, or if you were assigned to be a TA for this post-doc's course. I think this is all you NEED to do.

The longer answer is that you should check to see if there are any written guidelines in the department regulations/policies. Also there are "unwritten" rules and you should think about how people important to you will view this. For example, what do you think your supervisor will think? Especially if you are both working in the same research group or something. Other people that you will have to interact with regularly, e.g. the department head, graduate coordinator, etc. should be considered too. I'm not saying that you have to always please these other people, but in my opinion, it's worth considering what they think and then doing a cost-benefit analysis. For me, I'd consider this a personal aspect of my life and their opinion won't matter much if I felt strongly about this relationship.

And whenever there is an intra-department relationship, rumours will go around and people will be talking about you. Again, this might not be a big deal either, but another thing to consider when starting a "work: relationship. In the departments that I've been a part of, this would not be a big deal, and while people will probably gossip about the two of you a lot, no one I know would think it's scandalous, illicit or bad in any way. Unless of course, the relationship impacts their work in some way.

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3rd year post-doc? That seems like he/she is already overdue to head onto something else, probably elsewhere (assuming the 2 year postdoc typical in the natural sciences). Will this present a problem?

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Any guidelines that should be followed?

Be very mindful of your own expectations, especially when it comes to the level of intellectual and emotional support you want from this person. As the person is more experienced in the ways of the Ivory Tower, what may be a mountain to you may be a molehill to him/her. For example, if one of your professors takes you to the woodshed and bounces you off the walls, and then you tell your person and all you get is a cryptic smirk and a snarky reply.

These differing perspectives can lead to big time disappointment if you've not done a good job managing your expectations.

Also, do what you can to figure out if specific professors in your department are going to make your relationship with the post-doc part of his/her personal crusade. (This guidance differs slightly from that offered in post #2. TakeruK is essentially suggesting that you figure out how those with power over you may react. I'm suggesting that you also look at those who have power over the post-doc--and power in general.)

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I can't tell from your post, is this post-doc in the same program? Lab group?

The closer to you professionally they are, the more "risky" it might become, in my opinion.

Otherwise, I've never seen a prohibition between grad students and post-docs dating, since there aren't the official separations from grad student to undergrad and faculty to grad student. My experience with post-docs has been that they are much more like senior peers than a tier above, but that would change if they're in your lab group and have some direct advising role over you.

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