Center ranks high in best places for postdocs survey

Quality of postdoc training, career preparation are key factors in annual institution ranking

The March issue of The Scientist features the results of the life-sciences magazine's fourth annual "Best Places to Work for Postdocs" survey, and for the second consecutive year, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center holds second place.

The issue details survey results and rankings of the top 35 national and top 35 international institutions. In North America, the J. David Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco took top honors, followed by the Center and last year's first-place winner, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, located in North Carolina's Research Triangle. Internationally, the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research in Basel, Switzerland, ranked first, followed by the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge and the University of Bergen in Norway.

The results from this year's survey show that many of the institutions ranked in the top 15 are located in or around major cities. According the postdocs interviewed, this result is due in large part to career opportunities available to postdocs after their assignment is completed. Scientists are often in a transitory stage of their careers when working as postdocs, and the proximity to a big city gives them a wealth of job opportunities when their fellowship is complete. Schools located in small college towns offer significantly fewer jobs outside the postdoctoral arena.

"Our aim is to provide postdocs with a much-needed channel for open, honest communication about what they do and don't like about their programs," said Richard Gallagher, editor of The Scientist. "It's our hope that after reading the article, postdoctoral institutions will re-evaluate their programs and make the changes necessary to meet the needs of their postdocs."

Top 10 lists

The survey covered 48 categories in which respondents judged their respective institutions. Topics included the quality of research equipment, the availability of mentoring and the level of collaboration. The quality of training and career preparation offered by an institution was the most important factor cited.

The top 10 North American institutions were:

  • The J. David Gladstone Institutes, San Francisco
  • Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Research Triangle Park, N.C.
  • Emory University, Atlanta
  • National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Research Triangle Park, N.C.
  • Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia
  • National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Heath, Bethesda, Md.
  • Wadsworth Center, Albany, N.Y.
  • Dalhousie University, Dalhousie, Halifax, Nova Scotia
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service

The top 10 international institutions were:

  • Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research, Basel, Switzerland
  • MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, UK
  • University of Bergen, Norway
  • Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel
  • Institut Pasteur, Paris
  • Umea Plant Science Centre, Sweden
  • University of Dundee, UK
  • University of Basel Biozentrum, Switzerland
  • ETH Zurich, Switzerland
  • University of Manchester, UK

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