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NIEHS Remains #1 IC in Postdoc Satisfaction

By Eddy Ball
January 2009

A logo that reads, the scientist 2009 best places to work postdocs.
(Logo courtesy of The Scientist)

A photograph of Diane Klotz.
Klotz, above, was an NIEHS postdoc herself. "I'm pleased to see that our postdocs are happy with their training and mentoring, since that is an aspect of the postdoctoral experience that we here at the NIEHS can directly influence," she said. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

A photograph of Stephanie Nick McElhinny.
In her various roles with the NTA, Nick McElhinny has worked closely with Klotz and others in the NIEHS Office of the Scientific Director to help trainees become flexible enough to cope with a changing job market. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

A photograph of Allison Schorzman.
After serving on the planning committee in 2008, Schorzman assumed the chair for the 12th annual Biomedical Career Fair. The survey indicated that 38 percent of participants think they will enter non-tenure career tracks, where career development skills will be especially important. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

For the fourth straight year, NIEHS ranked first among NIH institutes and centers (ICs) on the annual survey of "Best Places to Work" for postdocs conducted by The Scientist magazine. The Institute retained its 2008 place as number 16 in the survey of trainee satisfaction for 2009, ahead of both the National Cancer Institute (NCI), which rose to place 19th, and NIH, which dropped to number 32.

The survey ( NIEHS accompanied a lead story ( NIEHS in the March issue of The Scientist on the special challenges faced by international postdocs working at U.S. institutions. The report included supplementary charts with data on career expectations, satisfaction with the postdoc experience and the length of respondents' postdoctoral training.

Responses analyzed in the survey credited NIEHS for its strengths in the areas of facilities and infrastructure and training and mentoring. The responses also indicated that more than 78 percent of survey participants described their postdoc experience as excellent, very good or good.

Acting Director of the NIEHS Office of Fellows' Career Development (OFCD)( Diane Klotz, Ph.D., offered her perspective on the survey itself and the ranking of NIEHS. "Based on all of the caveats of this survey, some of which are acknowledged by The Scientist itself, I'm not too concerned about exactly where the NIEHS ranks from year to year," she said. "What is of value to those of us involved in scientific training and career development is learning where our postdocs would like to see improvement and what they think we are doing well."

As chair of the NIEHS Trainees Assembly (NTA)( Steering Committee, Postdoctoral Fellow Stephanie Nick McElhinny, Ph.D., felt that the survey results point to several things NIEHS is doing well. "The consistency with which NIEHS receives strong marks in training and career development is in part due to the phenomenal efforts of the OFCD, to provide NIEHS fellows with a wealth of diverse training and career development opportunities."

NIEHS Postdoctoral Fellow Allison Schorzman, Ph.D., who is chair of the planning committee for the 2009 NIEHS Biomedical Career Fair, also underscored the value of the career-development opportunities available to trainees. "The Biomedical Career Fair highlights careers in academia as well as non-traditional careers, with interactive panel discussions on such fields as science policy, industry, communications and technology transfer," she explained. "The networking opportunities, career development workshops and résumé consultations available there also help trainees develop skills necessary for a successful job search."

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