Celebrating National Postdoc Appreciation Week

A postdoctoral scholar marks the occasion by highlighting the important role researchers like her play in the life of the university

National Postdoc Appreciation Week, which is Sept. 15–19, is a time to recognize postdoctoral scholars for their important but sometimes unheralded work in supporting research and scholarship at Tufts.

Although the rate of undergraduate and doctoral degrees awarded in the sciences is steadily increasing, the number of scientific academic positions available to early career researchers has been dwindling since the 1970s, according to a recent report in Nature Biotechnology, among other sources. Many Ph.D.s now pursue postdoctoral training to make them stronger candidates for careers in both academia and industry. It’s not just science, though—the same is true for the humanities and social sciences as well. Tufts is home to almost 250 within all disciplines: 51 percent on the Boston campus, 46 percent in Medford/Somerville and 3 percent in Grafton, according to a recent audit of Tufts postdocs.

Postdocs are the lifeblood of academic institutions. If you have ever heard about a fascinating new piece of research, a postdoc most likely was involved, either directly doing the research under the guidance of a mentor or guiding graduate students who undertook the work. Postdocs expand human knowledge across the academic disciplines, from the humanities to medical and life sciences research.

A postdoc is a transitional position, a training period to become an independent researcher, whether in academia or industry. Postdoc positions are competitive and are dependent on the availability of funding, which comes primarily from their mentors, though many postdocs also seek their own funding. Postdoc positions are not often lucrative. So why do Ph.D.s who have trained for many years become postdocs? Simply put: we love our fields.

Science postdocs, for example, were the children who always asked, “Why? Why? Why?” They have retained their innate curiosity, asking questions about how the world works and conducting experiments to test their hypotheses. By doing so, they provide an outstanding source of hard-working and passionate people who help society advance and thrive. Whether it be identifying the best ways to teach science to high school students or elucidating the intricacies of a major disease in the hopes of finding a cure or treatment—and everything in between—postdocs are a crucial piece of the amazing research conducted at Tufts University.

As part of the celebration of National Postdoc Appreciation Week, Dan Jay, professor of developmental, molecular and chemical biology at the School of Medicine and the university’s postdoctoral officer, has organized two “Take Your PI to Lunch” events, slated for Sept. 15 in Boston and Sept. 16 on the Medford/Somerville campus, when postdocs and their faculty principal investigators can meet more informally over a meal. For more details, email Sara Abbott.

The Tufts Post-Doctoral Association is looking forward to working with and helping the Tufts postdoc community in the future; we hope to see you all at our upcoming events. For more information, go to the university’s website for postdoctoral scholars.

Ania Wronski is a postdoctoral scholar in the Kuperwasser Lab in the Department of Developmental, Molecular and Chemical Biology at the School of Medicine and the Sackler School. She chairs the Tufts Post-Doctoral Association. She can be reached at anna.wronski@tufts.edu.

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