Postdocs Blossom at Plant Science Centers
For studying plants, postdocs report, small institutions devoted to the topic are the way to go. The Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI) in Ithaca, New York and the Danforth Center in St. Louis, Missouri ranked Nos. 12 and 14, respectively, in this year's survey.
At BTI, a trainee-run postgraduate society mediates relations between postdocs and the administration. "They are given real responsibility and real money to do things," says BTI President David Stern, like offering seminars on preparing a CV and setting up collaborations. Danforth's equivalent is the Society of Fellows, which organizes monthly seminars and lunches for postdocs.
The strong "infrastructure of staff and equipment" at BTI lets postdocs focus on their experiments, says postdoc Tom Bollenbach. The institute provides fully staffed media prep, glasswashing, and greenhouse facilities, and administrative assistants are available to help postdocs with grant applications. Postdocs can also take advantage of classes and library resources at BTI's nearby affiliate, Cornell University, says fellow Saikat Bhattacharjee. He cites low salaries and limited interaction among postdocs as downsides of BTI.
At Danforth, the state-of-the-art facilities provide a point of interaction with the outside community. Companies and researchers at Washington University in St. Louis rent the proteomics, tissue culture, and greenhouse facilities on an hourly basis. What's more, postdocs take the lead in conducting public tours of the center. Monica Schmidt, postdoc and secretary of Danforth's Society of Fellows, appreciates this opportunity "to talk about your research and hear what [the public's] questions are." Other Danforth postdocs would prefer greater interaction with PIs.