Cancer Centers Court Postdocs

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By | March 1, 2006

Best Places to Work 2006: Postdocs

Cancer Centers Court Postdocs

Cancer research centers that recognize and meet their postdocs' needs fared well in this year's survey: Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Fox Chase Cancer Center ranked No. 2 and No. 6, respectively.

At Fred Hutchinson in Seattle, postdocs are "integrated into the system," says postdoc Renee Ireton. The Center's Student-Postdoc Advisory Committee (SPAC) has implemented postdoc-friendly policies such as a childcare subsidy program and funding for courses at nearby University of Washington or the Institute for Systems Biology. SPAC is a "prominent part of campus," says Ireton, who receives frequent emails on the program listserv about meetings and travel awards.

While most postdocs are treated as salaried employees with equal benefits, those who receive grant funding get fewer benefits, some complain. Still, "an awful lot of postdocs come [to Fred Hutchinson] and don't want to leave," says Karen Peterson, who started as a postdoc there before becoming the SPAC advisor.

With no affiliation to a large academic institution, Fox Chase in Philadelphia relies heavily on its postdocs. They are "our lifeblood and... we have resources specifically for them," says Maureen Murphy, director of the Postdoctoral Training Program. Fox Chase postdoc Jian Fu cites benefits like quality daycare, subsidized housing, and career workshops as the main draws for him and his family, though others complain that retirement benefits are lacking and grant funding is sometimes short. Postdoc Mahendra Singh appreciates the family atmosphere of a small institution. "You don't have to bother with formal collaborations," he says. "If you want to use [other PI's] facilities, you just go and ask."

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