When Gregory Ippolito started his postdoc studying immunology and proto-oncogenes at the University of Texas at Austin, his financial outlook seemed relatively rosy. His salary came out of his advisor's NIH grant, meaning he was classified as a UT employee and able to participate in the school's retirement plan - including a match from the university - and discounted health coverage. His retirement savings grew, his health insurance covered his wife and their young daughter, and he was on track to meet his long term financial goals.

But after his second year in Austin, his financial outlook suddenly changed. Ippolito landed an individual postdoctoral fellowship from the National Cancer Institute. While his base...

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