Usually I go with Grey's Anatomy references to explain academic ranks, hence the photo above, showing the season 1 cast. An intern (in Canada a 1st year resident - light blue above) is a bit like a PhD student just embarking on their research career, a resident is like a postdoc (light blue + lab coat) working with significant autonomy, each of whom works under an attending physician (dark blue above) who in turn takes their cues from the department chair (dark blue + lab coat). Here Christina takes a different tack.
By Dr. Christina Smith
Bonus points for anyone who gets the early 2000s song reference in the title there.
So this is a question I come across quite often – and I know other post-docs do too. When asked what I do for a living, I’ll often start with “I’m a researcher” for simplicity, but in reality I’m a “post-doctoral fellow” or even more confusingly, a “post-doctoral visitor”. There are a number of other names for people who do similar jobs to me, but they all tend to have the same word (or hyphenated word, but let’s not get onto the postdoctoral vs post-doctoral debate) at the beginning of the title, so often we just call ourselves “post-docs”.
But that doesn’t really answer the question: what is a post-doc?