Environmental Factor, April 2007, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Institute in Top Ten for Postdocs
By Eddy Ball
The Scientist, a magazine focused on the life sciences, announced this month that NIEHS has again ranked high in the publication's annual "Best Places to Work for Postdocs" survey. NIEHS was the only NIH institute ranked in the top ten. The survey asks postdoctoral fellows to rate their institutions in 11 categories, including mentoring, communication and opportunities for networking and career development.
Not surprisingly, most respondents valued quality of training and career preparation highest among the categories - a category listed as a major strength along with pay in evaluations of NIEHS. The Institute ranked seventh this year after ranking number five in 2006 and number three in 2004 and 2005.
NIEHS was one of five 2006 top ten to make the top ten this year. Of the institutions included in the top 40 in 2007, 26 are new to the list, suggesting that growing awareness of the value of nurturing postdocs is intensifying competition.
This year marks the first time that private sector organizations have made the top ten with Genentech in San Francisco placing fourth and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle ranking tenth.
The Scientist article featured the comments of Laboratory of Reproductive and Developmental Toxicology Fellow Amy Inselman, Ph.D., on her experiences at NIEHS. "The people, from the principal investigators to the support staff, are knowledgeable and willing to lend a hand any way they can," Inselman wrote in her survey response. "Collaborations are easy to build, and we have a wide array of resources available (from equipment to career guidance) that will help us transition to the next level."
During their typical two- to five-year stay at NIEHS, postdoctoral fellows are offered numerous opportunities to participate in professional development activities and explore career options. NIEHS sponsors regular workshops to help fellows improve their presentation, writing and speaking skills, as well as develop effective strategies for negotiating and resolving conflicts. Their mentors help them to build their CVs by encouraging research that leads to publication, often with the fellows as lead authors.
NIEHS also received good marks in the survey for its remuneration. Fellows receive compensation at National Research Service Award stipend levels and individual or family group health coverage at no cost through the Foundation for Advanced Education in the Sciences. The cost of living in the Triangle helps the stipend go farther than comparable compensation in places with higher costs of living.