After his doctorate at University College London, Bjarke Abrahamsen packed his bags and returned home to Denmark in 2008 for a postdoc at the University of Copenhagen, which ranked second for international locations in our 7th Annual Best places to Work for Postdocs survey. One of the things that drew him back, he says, was a more fluid relationship between the university and industry than he experienced in the United Kingdom. Groups at the University of Copenhagen routinely collaborate with companies or do rotations in company labs, and researchers move between industry and academic positions with ease. For that reason, "it wouldn't be a disaster for me at all" to switch to a company or back again, he says.
Although there are no special support programs for postdocs, Abrahamsen says he appreciates the informality—which may simply be a part of the Danish culture. "In my group it's a very flat management structure." Abrahamsen works with associate professor Anders Jensen on the basic molecular biology and pharmacology of glutamate transporters. The absence of hierarchy "quickly makes you feel a valued part of the university and not just hands to generate data for the lab, " says Abrahamsen.
According to Ulf Madsen, associate dean at the faculty of pharmaceutical sciences, postdocs are drawn to the university because of the quality of the science—which has improved in the last two years. In January 2007, the university merged with two small universities in the city, the Danish University of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University, strengthening Copenhagen's offering in the life sciences by two large biology-based faculties, or schools. In order to integrate the three universities, the administration created 20 internal five year grants of $5 million (US) each to stimulate interdisciplinary collaborations. As a result of these efforts, says Madsen, the "research has become stronger."