Ten Ways to Improve Postdoc Life

by Mike Powell, Ph.D., NICHD

  1. Keep track of where postdocs go when they leave NIH. Do they get tenure-track jobs, another postdoc, a manager's job at Radio Shack? I was recently told that these vital statistics are not kept at NIH. It is difficult to gauge whether the "training" aspect for fellows is successful if no one knows what happens to past postdocs.

  2. Conduct exit interviews with postdocs.

  3. Make success in mentoring a criterion for promotion of principal investigators at NIH. Success can be in part measured by the results of exit interviews.

  4. Encourage communication among postdocs by creating a directory of fellows listing e-mail addresses and phone numbers, along with some biographical information, if possible.

  5. Require institute directors to hold meetings of fellows and associates on a regular basis.

  6. Make IRTA fellows eligible for programs that other NIH employees enjoy-for example, educational-loan-repayment and commuter-reimbursement programs.

  7. Treat postdocs with some respect.

  8. Provide better training for grant-proposal writing.

  9. Provide a placement service for outgoing postdocs. For example, the Office of Education could keep a list of postdocs currently seeking employment and advertise to potential employers that such a system is in place.

  10. Have more Dent cartoons in The Catalyst.

Return to Table of Contents