Initiatives Promote Learning and Career Development for
By Mika Ono
Reflecting an effort to enhance the postdoctoral experience
at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), the former Office
of Employee and Graduate Student Counseling is now named Counseling
and Postdoctoral Services Department.
"Postdocs are an important part of our employee base," says
Vice President of Human Resources Judith Muñoz. "The
institute's research depends on these individuals. As an institution,
we want to do everything possible to ensure that postdoctoral
training at TSRI is rewarding and productive."
There are some 785 postdoctoral fellows, a.k.a. research
associates, at TSRI, who spend at least one to four years
after obtaining their doctoral degree establishing their ability
to run a successful independent research program within another
investigator's lab. After this scientific apprenticeship,
these individuals typically move on to career positions in
academia or industry.
The Counseling and Postdoctoral Services Department name
change is one result of a year of work on postdoctoral issues
by an ad hoc committee consisting of members of the faculty
and administration, staff from Human Resources and Communications,
"The committee's goals include helping postdocs, increasing
their satisfaction with their experience at TSRI, and attracting
the best possible fellows to the institute," notes Associate
Professor Luc Teyton, a founding member of the committee.
"Ensuring that TSRI is an environment supportive of postdoctoral
fellows offers long-term benefits to postdocsand to
Postdoctoral fellow Phyllis Frosst, also a member of the
committee and president of the TSRI
Society of Fellows, adds, "The Postdoctoral Issues Committee
is the first forum to address issues specifically relevant
to postdocs. It's a venue for introducing ideas that can lead
In addition to revising its name, the Counseling and Postdoctoral
Services Department has increased its administrative support
to manage additional programs for postdoctoral fellows.
"Our department will continue to provide mental health counseling
and other services for all TSRI employeesfaculty, staff,
graduate students, postdocsand their families," says
Jan Hill, director of the Counseling and Postdoctoral Services
Department. "I am delighted, however, to have additional resources
to address the special educational and career-related needs
of our postdoctoral fellows."
In addition to Hill, the Counseling and Postdoctoral Services
Department consists of psychologist Jeff Jones and full-time
administrative assistant Ryan Wheeler. More information about
the department's activities
is available at its website.
Initiatives resulting from the Postdoctoral Issues Committee
to date include:
Seminars for postdocs. Workshops for postdoctoral
fellows have included those on grant writing, proposal writing,
and lab management.
According to Cell Biology Professor and Chair Sandra Schmid,
one of the primary benefits of the committee has been "establishing
a curriculum for postdocs that covers career decisions,
leadership skills, time management, grantsmanship, salesmanship,
and other skills necessary to maximize their future success."
These workshops supplement other relevant seminars offered
by the Counseling and Postdoctoral Services Department,
which address topics such as how to work with difficult
people and how to manage stress.
Workshops for principal investigators. To enhance
the mentoring skills of principal investigators at TSRI,
several workshops targeting faculty members have addressed
lab management issues such as hiring and conflict management.
Muñoz notes that nearly 30 percent of the faculty
have already participated.
Job center. Teyton is spearheading an effort to
create a job center for posdoctoral fellows in biology,
modeled on the notably successful system created by TSRI
Chemistry Chair K.C. Nicolaou for postdocs in chemistry.
"Creating the job center has been slow going so far because
of the state of the economy," admits Teyton. "However, we
have had some success in inviting representatives from industry
to interview on campus and we believe it is an effort well
worth pursuing over the long-term."
A postdoc alumni database, which could be used in the
context of a job search, is also being compiled by the Counseling
and Postdoctoral Services Department.
TSRI postdoc web site. A web site consolidating
useful information for TSRI postdocs is in the planning
stages. One component of the site will be a document entitled
Seven Steps to a Successful
Postdoctoral Experience, which offers advice on how
to make the most of opportunities at TSRI.
Muñoz concludes, "We want TSRI to be known as an
excellent place for postdoctoral work, not only because of
our world-class science, but also because we offer an environment
conducive to learning and career development."