March 17, 2011

VU among best places for postdocs to work

VU among best places for postdocs to work

Vanderbilt University has been named one of the best places for postdoctoral fellows to work by The Scientist magazine.

Vanderbilt was ranked 10th in the country, up from 26th last year, in a survey of non-tenured life scientists working in academia, industry or noncommercial research institutions. The results of the survey, conducted last fall, were published in the magazine's March issue.

Among Vanderbilt's strengths noted in the survey were its facilities and infrastructure, its Postdoctoral Affairs and Career Development offices, the Vanderbilt Postdoctoral Association, and the benefits, including health insurance, offered to “postdocs.”

“Overall this result reflects the great effort we have made over the years” to support postdocs, said Roger Chalkley, D.Phil., senior associate dean for Biomedical Research Education and Training (BRET) at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

Postdoctoral fellows have earned their doctorates and are receiving further training in research laboratories under the supervision of faculty members.

Of the more than 650 postdocs at Vanderbilt, about 530 are based at the medical school. Others are affiliated with the College of Arts and Sciences, Peabody College and the School of Engineering.

In addition to preparing for their careers, postdocs — and graduate students who are working toward their doctorates — conduct much of the actual research that goes on in the lab. “We have here a group of people who are being trained but, at the same time, they are the creative engine of the workforce,” Chalkley said.

Postdoc training is supported by BRET through its Postdoctoral Affairs and Career Development offices and through the Postdoctoral Association, Medical Alumni Association and the Center for Science Communication.

Every postdoc receives a personal orientation and completes an individual development plan reviewed annually by Patricia Labosky, Ph.D., director of the Postdoctoral Affairs Office.

Another measure of success is productivity. Vanderbilt postdocs publish on average three research papers, said Abby Brown, Ph.D., BRET's director of Outcomes Research. At the conclusion of their fellowships, more than a quarter of them enter the tenure track (teaching and research) at universities, while most of the rest land research positions in academia or industry.

Claudia Cottingham, coordinator of the Postdoctoral Affairs Office, said Vanderbilt's ranking “honors our many excellent mentors, our research cores and shared resources, and the entire Vanderbilt community which generously supports postdocs.”