UBC is Canada's front-runner
New multi-million dollar research facilities and small lab groups have helped make the University of British Columbia in Vancouver the only Canadian institution on our list of top 15 places to do a postdoc. Like others in the top 15, a close relationship with the principal investigator can make a world of difference in the postdoc experience. In the case of UBC, the 202 postdocs in life sciences are spread out in the sprawling new life sciences institute, opened in 2005. The institute is one of the results of $700 million given by the Canada Foundation for Innovation over the past six years.
High-tech new facilities haven't changed the intimate scale of lab interaction, though. "You're not walking into a 40-person [lab] group where you have a desk down the hall and you see the boss once in a while," Don Brooks, Associate Vice President of Research at UBC. "This is a small, intimate environment centered around a world class researcher with access to fantastic facilities and equipment."
In addition to its facilities and research environment, the university works to smooth the experiences of foreign postdocs. Lindsay Wilson, a second-year microbiology department postdoc from England studying a respiratory pathogen, was impressed that when her Canadian work permit came up for renewal, the university took the initiative and set her new contract up so that there wouldn't be any gaps in her employment or benefits.
In addition, the life sciences researchers hold regular interdisciplinary sessions that encourage postdocs to present their work. "Everyone knows what everyone else is doing," says Wilson. "I get a lot of encouragement and independence as well."
Although UBC provides excellent benefits to the postdocs they fund, including full optical and dental insurance, some researchers who receive their funding from outside agencies, such as NIH in the United States, run into trouble getting covered. However, the administration has begun discussing the issue.