Thursday, November 19, 2009

5 year rule - Judy Cannon's experience

My experience of the postdoctoral fellow/scholar to research associate/assistant professor transition. Judy Cannon, Research Associate/Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine

After 5 years as a postdoctoral fellow, I became a Research Associate/Assistant professor. To stay at the University of Chicago, there are several options available to postdocs after the 5 years of “postdoctoral” status ends. If there is a tenure-track position open, a postdoc could apply, go through the process of being selected for an interview, interview, then receive a job offer and become an assistant professor on the tenure track at the University of Chicago. Very few postdocs I know who stay on go through this process.

Instead, most postdocs take either a non-tenure track faculty position or a research staff position. Research Associate/Assistant professor is the non-tenure track faculty position. To obtain this position, we started the process approximately 4-5 months before my 5 years were up. My mentor had to write a letter to the chair of the department, and it might have gone to the dean as well. The job needed to have a job description and the job description posted nationally (usually Science Jobs or the like). I obtained 3 letters of reference, one from outside the University of Chicago. I was given the impression by my mentor that the appointment is not just up to her, but had to get approved by both the department chair and the dean. The fact that I had publications from my postdoc and funding as a postdoc definitely helped to get the appointment, but I’m not sure if this is a requirement. The funding for the position is dependent on the mentor, so if the mentor cannot guarantee funding, there will be no appointment. Also, the appointment is a yearly reappointment process, much like the postdoc status. It has to be renewed each year. So, again, if your advisor loses funding, you will not be renewed. I thought I was told that there is also a minimum salary associated with the position, I wasn’t sure what it was. This may provide a disincentive for some mentors as they must pay a certain salary. Above this minimum, the salary is negotiated with the mentor.

The advantages of the research associate position is that it is a faculty position. It is non-tenure track, which means no startup funds, no space allotment, no faculty standing within the department. But, a faculty position, even non-tenure track, means that you can apply for independent funding as the PI of any grant, including young investigator grants and even R01 level grants. I know RA/APs who have received R01s. It’s harder to convince outside reviewers for funding, as those reviewing know that the RA/AP position is not truly independent, but again, it is possible. In the staff position, there is no chance to apply for funding. In addition to this, the benefits as an RA/AP are more or less the same as the faculty benefits, including health insurance, retirement, etc. With lab school enrollment preference and tuition benefits, you are considered a faculty member.

It is also possible to move up through the ranks of the RA track. The RA track, like a standard tenure track system, is up or out. It is limited in time, you can only be 6 years as an RA/Assistant Professor. At the 6 year point, you also have to apply for a promotion to RA/Associate professor. The standards for the promotion, as far as I know are similar, but less stringent, than tenure. You have to demonstrate independence, have your own reputation in the field apart from the mentor, have funding and publications. There are several people I know of in the Dept of Medicine who are RA/Associate Professors and even RA/Professors. I’m not sure how common it is, but they are there. Some still work with a tenured faculty member, one is more or less independent.

Monday, November 9, 2009

2009 BSD Postdoctoral Association Survey Now Available

The 2009 BSD Postdoctoral Survey is available online starting today and will run through November 20th. This survey is designed by the BSD-PDA for the postdoctoral community. The information collected will facilitate the identification of postdoctoral issues and better equip the BSD PDA to advocate substantive policy changes for postdocs. Previous surveys have helped identify discrepancies in postdoctoral compensations, leading to administrative policy changes. Thus, your feedback is crucial for making future changes happen.

Your answers to the questions as well as any comments you make throughout the survey are completely anonymous, so feel free to be as honest and critical as you choose. We estimate that
completion of this survey will take 10 minutes on average. Upon completion of the survey, you may choose to be entered into a drawing with a chance to win one of two gift certificates to the University Bookstore.

To take part in the BSD-PDA survey 2009,
please click on the link below or visit the BSD PDA website -

Click Here to take survey

We thank you for your helpful comments and suggestions, and we
look forward to better serving you.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Pictures from Postdoc Reception Day online!

Check out pictures from the First Annual Postdoc Appreciation Day reception held two weeks ago! You can find the pictures on our Picasa account:

Thanks to all of you who came out to support this inaugural celebration of the contributions of postdocs to advancing scientific research. Be sure and join us for our weekly Friday seminar series.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Info for Parents and Expectant Parents at the University of Chicago

The Postdoctoral Association has authored this page with useful information for postdocs who are expecting a child. It offers information generally applicable to postdoctoral fellows and scholars at the University of Chicago. As each individual's situation is unique, it is strongly recommended that you direct specific questions to your faculty sponsor, departmental administrator or the office of the dean.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Welcome to our new blog!

Thanks for checking out this blog, created by the Steering Committee of the University of Chicago BSD Postdoctoral Association. This blog is an informal space to talk about issues and events of concern to the postdoc community at the UofC. Look for more posts in the future. Until then, we invite you to attend our seminar series and other fun events, all of which can be found at our home page.