While I don’t advocate postdoctoral positions for individuals unless they plan on doing bench science for the rest of their lives, postdoctoral training is a fact of life for those interested in pursuing academic careers. To that end, The Scientist.com conducts an annual survey that ranks the best 40 places for postdoctoral associates to work. The survey ranks the strengths and weaknesses of individual training institutions based on funding, facilities and infrastructure, benefits, training and mentoring and family and personal life. Surprisingly, institutions are also ranked on networking, career development and mentoring and training and mentor and training that they offer to their postdoctoral trainees.
The institution that snagged the top spot on the 2010 list was the Trudeau Institute in Saranac Lake, NY. Nestled in the Adirondack Mountains in Upstate NY, the not-for-profit Trudeau Institute has a deserved international reputation in immunology, infectious diseases and vaccinology. When I was a graduate students (back in the dark ages), some of the greatest minds in infectious diseases held positions at Trudeau. These days; not so much—but I bet the skiing is great! Interestingly, one of Trudeau’s strengths is networking opportunities (how much networking can take place at a secluded institute on a lake in the Adirondacks). Curiously, however, one of its major weaknesses is the lack of career development opportunities. Based on my life experiences, I always thought that networking was a crucial part of career development. But then again, what do I know?
The top 10 of the list featured a couple of Massachusetts-based institutions including the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research (3) and the Novartis Institute for Biomedical Research Institute in Cambridge (4) and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Woods Hole, MA (9). Two national laboratories, Sandia National Laboratories, Livermore, CA (8) and Rocky Mountain Laboratory, NIH Hamilton, MT (6) cracked the top ten. By all accounts, the fly fishing is outstanding in Hamilton.
As usual, there were some surprises. These included Samuel Robert Noble Foundation (2) in Ardmore, OK, the University of Colorado, Denver (7) and the Mayo Clinic (10) in Rochester, MN (not exactly cities on my top ten list). Not surprisingly, there were only two life sciences companies that made the Top 40 list; Genentech (5) in South San Francisco and as mentioned above at number 3, the Novartis Institute for Biomedical Research. Once a mainstay, industrial postdocs are becoming increasingly scare and difficult to land. In many cases, these positions are not advertised and generally filled by word-of-mouth recommendations to principal investigators who are looking for postdoctoral fellows.
A quick perusal of the list revealed, as expected, that most of the 40 institutions excelled in categories that included funding, facilities and infrastructure, benefits and family and personal life. In marked contrast, many of the institutions on the list were disappointingly weak in the areas of networking, career development and training and mentoring. Of the top 40, six got kudos for networking (15%), 11 for career development (28%) and only 6 for training and mentoring (15%). These abysmal statistics are somewhat shocking given that postdoctoral fellowships are mainly intended to train and prepare aspiring individuals for lifelong careers as scientists. The fact that only 25% of the nation’s best places to perform postdoctoral research offer career development training and support for postdoctoral trainees suggests that the future of the American life sciences industry may be in serious jeopardy!
Hat tip Ed at Pharmalot.
Until next time….
Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!