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The Postdoctoral Experience: An Associate Dean's Perspective

Illustration: Anthony Canamuccio It was once said to me, "A faculty member is only as good as his or her best postdoc." Postdoctoral researchers conduct much of the nation's research; they contribute enormously to the success of the research enterprise; they perform crucial experiments for tenure-track faculty in academic settings; and the success of these faculty often depends on the performance of their postdocs. Despite their importance, postdocs are often a forgotten community with real con

Trevor Penning

Illustration: Anthony Canamuccio
It was once said to me, "A faculty member is only as good as his or her best postdoc." Postdoctoral researchers conduct much of the nation's research; they contribute enormously to the success of the research enterprise; they perform crucial experiments for tenure-track faculty in academic settings; and the success of these faculty often depends on the performance of their postdocs. Despite their importance, postdocs are often a forgotten community with real concerns about stipend levels, benefits, length of appointment, exploitation, quality of training and mentorship, social isolation, and employment prospects.

These significant issues affect a growing postdoc population, which is approaching 35,000 individuals nationwide. Although completion of a postdoctoral training experience is the terminal scientific credential required to obtain most permanent positions in academia or industry, there is no systematic standard for such training. The recent Association of American Universities (AAU) report on postdoctoral education (...

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