Industrial labs: Genentech, Eli Lilly, Microsoft.

Funding Organizations: Howard Hughes Medical Institute, National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health

The meeting at North Carolina State was also attended by postdocs from the US Department of Energy's Triangle Universities Nuclear Laboratory, Glaxo-Wellcome pharmaceuticals, Duke University, and the University of North Carolina.

The focus groups with postdocs and advisers established many of the primary themes of this guide. Each meeting followed a standardized format, in which participants were asked to review the then-current draft of the guide, contribute their experiences and opinions on major points of the guide, and suggest recommendations and “best practices.” Some points were raised by participants at virtually every meeting (especially concerns about compensation, institutional status, and mentoring); other points were particular to specific fields, sectors, and individuals.

This summary presents a list of dominant themes, as well as a brief sampling of experiences and opinions from participants. During the course of the study, more extensive summaries of individual focus groups were drawn up after the meetings and constituted an extensive body of information on which COSEPUP based its deliberations.

Professional Status
  • With regard to their standing as researchers, postdocs seldom consider themselves “students.” They feel they are skilled practitioners who may know as much or more about their work as their advisers and therefore should be considered junior colleagues.

  • At the same time, postdocs say they have much to learn about their profession before they can be considered independent researchers. Depending on their career objectives, postdocs may have to learn such professional skills as grant proposal writing, lab management, writing papers, reviewing the work of peers, mentoring others in the lab, and teaching full courses.

  • At some organizations, postdocs say they are still regarded as “glorified students” and have yet to gain the respect they deserve.

  • Attaining full professional status may occur slowly, if the postdoc seldom leaves the research facility, or more quickly, if the adviser provides opportunities to interact with others, to take on new responsibilities, and to understand the context and traditions of research.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement