Postdoctoral Survey Results
The Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy (COSEPUP) of the National Academies published a volume entitled "Enhancing the Postdoctoral Experience for Scientists and Engineers". This study raises many issues and offers a variety of suggestions for improving the postdoctoral experience. It can be viewed on the Web at http://www7.nationalacademies.org/postdoc/, and hard copies can be purchased from the National Academies.
Because the postdoctoral experience varies greatly across different disciplines, we want to learn which of the issues raised in the COSEPUP report apply particularly to physics postdocs. This will help us assess the problems within the physics postdoc community, and take steps to address the most pressing needs.
This survey was intended for those junior members of the APS who are in postdoctoral positions (as opposed to more permanent positions), whether in academia, industry or government.
Notes on interpreting results: 1. Results are reported as absolute numbers, with percentages in parentheses. Percentages may not add to exactly 100% because a small number of irrelevant or confusing answers have not been included. 2. Some of the comments have been edited, or deleted entirely, in order to remove information that is either too specific or irrelevant.
Q01: Is your employer
1. a university 192 (64.00)
2. an industrial company 12 ( 4.00)
3. a government lab 81 (27.00)
4. other 11 ( 3.67).
Q0 2: Which year did you get your first postdoctoral appointment?
1989: 2 ( 0.67); 199 2: 1 ( 0.33); 1995: 1 ( 0.33); 1996: 2 ( 0.67);
1997: 32 (10.70); 1998: 81 (27.09); 1999: 103 (34.45);
2000: 64 (21.40); 2001: 7 ( 2.34).
Q0 3: Did you get your PhD at a U.S. institution?
Yes 220 (73.33)
No 74 (24.67)
Q04: I am
female 41 (13.67)
male 257 (85.67)
Q05: Please give your immigration status:
U.S. Citizen 154 (51.68)
Permanent Resident 18 ( 6.04)
Temporary visa 126 (42.28)
For each of the questions in this section, the following key is used:
3. Not relevant
Do you have sufficient professional interaction with
Q11: the senior members of your group?
1: 265 (88.33);
2: 30 (10.00);
3: 4 ( 1.33)
Q12: the other postdocs?
1: 212 (71.38);
2: 37 (12.46);
3: 47 (15.82)
Q13: the rest of the department?
1: 147 (49.33);
2: 118 (39.60);
3: 32 (10.74)
Q14: researchers at other institutions
1: 197 (67.01);
2: 87 (29.59);
3: 9 ( 3.06)
Q15: Do you feel you are adequately recognized for the work you do?
1: 254 (84.67);
2: 34 (11.33);
3: 6 ( 2.00)
Q16: In particular, are you satisfied with the way your name has appeared as the author on scientific papers?
1: 255 (85.28);
2: 13 ( 4.35);
3: 25 ( 8.36)
Q17: Are you given sufficient opportunity to attend and present your work at scientific meetings?
1: 257 (85.67);
2: 32 (10.67);
3: 5 ( 1.67)
Q18: Do you receive adequate advice and opportunity in areas of professional development like writing papers, writing proposals, giving talks and applying for jobs?
1: 208 (69.33);
2: 76 (25.33);
3: 10 ( 3.33)
Q19: Do you have sufficient opportunity to interact socially with your colleagues?
1: 218 (72.67);
2: 69 (23.00);
3: 7 ( 2.33)
Q20: If you answered no to any of the above, please comment on how the situation might be improved.
1.Our department, applied physics, is very multi-disciplinary and therefore academic interaction is not as important for research purposes.
2.Actually, the work done in the rest of the department was unrelated to the work we did.
3.More proactive guidance by PIs on career issues with post docs.
4.Actually try to figure out what was going on in the department
5.We have only just begun to organize the various postdocs scattered throughout our department and other related departments. Hopefully this will continue.
6.Difficult to improve, since the rest of the department is physically quite separate from my laboratory
7.1. Should be formally introduced to researchers at other institutions 2. Should not be too afraid to interact with others
8.Some kind of planned gatherings might be nice (BBQ at home of colleague, or something... this might happen as the weather gets better)
9.Because of a nature of an environment I'm in ( mostly biology-related), there is probably no simple way to improve interaction with local colleagues
10.In this case, the university is the problem. Because we're on an undergraduate campus, there are no bars, no lounges, and pitifully inadequate eating facilities - consequently, social gatherings always have to be arranged well in advance, losing that spontaneity that would otherwise be so helpful in getting to know my colleagues better.
11.Mostly it is a problem with our department. There is not much in the way of intradepartmental contact outside of the research groups.
13.The APS might recommend a formal procedure or publish information to encourage advisers and professors to aid the professional development of postdocs beyond doing the actual research. For example, advice on how best to apply for and interview for jobs would be useful.
14.Not suggest I go to a conference and then decide that conference is too expensive.
15.Q17 A combination of DOE travel restrictions and the boss' reluctance to spend travel funds except for very exceptional work makes it practically impossible to go to any meeting except the March APS meeting. As a postdoc it is very important to travel more in order to network and gain recognition in preparation for moving to a permanent position (or another postdoc appt.) Q18 No advice was given on proposal writing or applying for jobs.
16.1) Professors are too busy. 2) They don't have time for mentoring 3) Being from another country is a disadvantage: It takes a while to learn the tricks.
17.Organize social events. But that's clearly a question of local initiatives...
18.Find a better job
19.My boss was fairly busy and he had little time to help me write papers, or proposals or applying for jobs. i was given free time to work on my own proposals, papers and job search, just no support in doing it.
20.My wife works and and we have two kids. As a result I don't have as much opportunity to travel and interact socially with colleagues.
21.Station postdocs near other members of the group.
22.One area for improvement is in the timing of when to apply for faculty positions. Another area of improvement is how to choose a research proposal for a prospective faculty job. Finally, I did not receive enough perspective on non-academic or industry prospects.
23.I am the only postdoc in my group, and I only recently started at my new position. The people in my group, while friendly, don't seem to interact socially. Perhaps some after work events would help in this regard. I don't consider this to be a major problem though.
24.As the only physics post-doc in a small college there isn't the opportunity to talk with other post-docs. My main interaction is via email with post-docs and colleagues I performed my PhD with.
25.better interaction with specific individuals
26.Without reducing the pressure to get the research done, I do not see how any improvement can be made. It comes down to a question of time to partake in other activities, and for a postdoc the time just isn't there.
27.Let me clarify one point. I answered Yes to Q16, but the real issue is somewhat different from the one reported in the question. The real problem I felt is that in all my publications I was the principal investigator. This seems to be the only way for a young researcher to have a paper. On some of my papers, name or acknowledgemnts to people that I felt did only a marginal work sometimes appeared.
28.Not adequate exposure to developing proposal writing
29.In my case I am doing most of my work in an industrial situation. Because of this much of my work is confidential and so interactions are somewhat difficult. I would like to have more feedback from my advisor on reports that I do write.
30.Designated travel funding. Career counseling should be a much greater priority for graduate and postdoctoral positions
31.Not sure. Socializing outside your own research group is always difficult.
32. I really don't know. Seniors spend lot of time asking for money, filing forms and bureaucracy in general, and they don't have enough time for taking care of real problems. Maybe, it is time to think about how to get money without that waste of time. I think the way the best and most fruitful interaction occurs, is when it is horizontal. That means in my case that it should be with other postdocs, but unfortunately I am the only one in my group. On the other hand our salary hardly cover the basic needs of a standard family
33.Not enough advice on proposal preparation
34.I am very happy to get research and teaching experience at a Liberal Arts College, but one of the costs is that I am the only post-doc on campus.
35.Writing grant proposals and negotiating jobs are never discussed.
37.The difficulty to communicate with other postdocs in different fields is unavoidable, because we cannot fully understand what they are doing. However, basic level seminar of each postdoc will be helpful to understand the research in different field. Only "time" is the problem because most of us are busy always.
38.I have had significant personality problems with my boss. This has almost led to my leaving the field of physics entirely. At this point I am looking for employment elsewhere.
39.Money for research is given to the group here so I'm not sure where proposal writing can be learned.
40.Work is strongly determined by deadlines of grant-monitoring agency, science part of the work (i.e., original developments) may suffer with the need to produce results useful for them; therefore less opportunities to publish in scientific journals.
41.In my current postdoc , my office is located in a different building than the rest of the department. Hence I don't have as many interactions as I would like.
42.It would be good for institutions to focus some on the intellectual environment and find ways to increase the opportunities for postdocs and graduate students to interact amongst themselves.
43.more time in the lab of the adviser, impossible
44.Consolidate/limit post-doc positions to larger research groups.
45.I feel my responses are particular to my odd situation. I am not a member of any department, but of an interdisciplinary project. You might think that would enhance contact with colleagues in other departments, but it is not the case.
46.My supervisor treats me like a graduate student one moment and micromanages me, and the next won't have any contact with me for months. He is a lousy boss..
48.I work in a "big science" environment and do not have a lot of opportunities to interact with people outside the project. Our project is known for this, however, and it is not clear that this is part of a larger trend.
49.Most industry job associated with production have an environment which may not be good for research
50.I believe that the environment I am in is more conducive to professional rather than social interaction
51.Q16-17 Our experiment has not yet taken data, so I have not yet dealt with talks and papers. Q18 I havent dealt with this yet, and I dont expect problems with most, but I get the feeling I won't be involved with the proposal writting.
52.I do not see how it can be improved. I think the whole system of academic research in the US is designed such that postdocs and assistant professors work more that other faculty members and are paid less than other faculty. If you want to change this, you will have to change the whole system
53.Interaction with the department: I am considered staff and do not have any interaction with faculty on departmental issues or events. I am not included on the invitation list for interaction with outside speakers or dinners/lunches which would also provide an opportunity for interaction with department faculty.
54.Part of the lack of interaction is my own fault, but some of it stems from a department with few outside speakers, few postdocs and no one doing closely related work.
55.more encouragement for attending international conferences on my boss's part and more awareness on my part
56.travel costs are high, no easy soln
57.More guidance needed on all of the above in Q18! No brochure, etc. will help. Perhaps more integration with this process as a graduate student? Also need to direct advisors to help with all these issues.
58.more funding for attending meetings
59.My boss writes all the papers, and gives essentially all the talks. We should be allowed/encouraged to participate. Similarly, I have learned virtually nothing about the ins and outs of fund-raising. Presumably I could help with that more as well.
60.A less competitive environment
61.In my previous postdoc position, the person responsible for advice and guidance, did not advise me properly. Also, the other senior faculty in the department are in other fields. My approach has been to contact and interact as much as I can (which is not much due to the teaching and seminar responsibilities) with people in other physics departments in order to re-establish contacts that I lost.
62.Clearer future prospects and/or higher recognition and salary would relax colleages more. The social disaster of postdocs has to do with the temporary nature of the job and was clear in advance.
64.Different postdoc next time.
65.Allocation of funds for travel and conferences
66.Clear indications of what work is wanted. Consistency in what approach should be taken. Better management skills of boss.
67.Need to do more work for general publication
70.In general, as a postdoc you are treated only a little better than a student. That is, you are supposed to do very good work in little time and be able to learn new things fast. But all this takes place in an atmosphere of isolation: it is you and the professor you work for. I think that a way of improving things would be to assign at least part of the grant money for a postdoc directly to the postdoc in such a way that he/she could afford attending at least one or two scientific meetings per year. Also, maybe it would be a good idea in stimulating grant applications from various research groups together, in such a way that a postdoc will no longer "belong" to one professor. This, in my opinion, would allow one to explore various facets of a research field and also would break the impenetrability of the postdoc-professor relationship.
71.Department is subject to numerous byzantine security rules. As a result,Offices are widely scattered among many buildings. This limits opportunities for interaction, more than necessary.
72.Not much recognition is afforded a lab manager.
73.not changing jobs
74.Social interactions among physicists seem to be rather rare. My department does have an annual picnic, but it does not always occur due to lack of an organizer. I believe that more lively discussion sessions could be established, where departmental colleagues gather to engage in debate over some current topic, in science or the politics of science.
75.A postdoc should be given credit in the paper for the work that he or she has done and should be sent to conferences atelast once a year so as to know about the work in different fields and to interact with people
76.the projects should allow more room for "private" research that might help to enable my own research
77. Less micro-management by superior
78.I haven't seen my name disappear from papers where I did some work, but once or twice I have had senior people (and their proteges) insert their names into the author list without having done any work, or playing other roles such as suggesting the problem. The key seems to be for senior people to exercise some restraint, but I don't see how this can be addressed on an institutional level rather than on an individual basis.
79.Don't write enough papers. Things seem to be mostly internal documents
80.Better organization. Large collaborations, like in high energy physics tend to be too democratic, It's not clear who is responsible for what and so organization is loose and inefficient and responsibilities are unclear. This makes it difficult to plan a career path.
81.There are no mechanisms, as there are for graduate students, to bring postdocs together. A postdoc's life can be very lonely.
82.institute advising committees to review work progress; allow more flexibility to postdocs for collaboration and participation at scientific meetings
84.It is important that there is a meeting of the minds between a post-doc and his supervisor as to the direction the research should take.
85.Senior members are inordinately focused on securing funding. That reality is driven by the institution, not the preference of senior members.
86.Senior people should give lecture series, not just seminars on the subject matter they are studying.
Q21: Were you sufficiently informed about job prospects before you completed your graduate studies?
Yes: 191 (63.88)
No: 108 (36.12)
Q22: Are you satisfied with where you are at this point in your career?
Yes: 225 (75.25)
No: 74 (24.75)
Q23: If you had it to do over, would you choose the same career path?
Yes: 215 (73.13)
No: 78 (26.53)
Q24: What is your intended career?
academic 196 (65.99)
industrial 54 (18.18)
other 45 (15.15)
1.research, but not necessarily academic, depends on opportunities and other externals.
3.Don't know yet.
8.I'm still not sure.
13.national lab, academic
15.national lab, applied research
16.Currently, I am in industry, but I am leaving the door open to return to academia.
18.Was academic, now industrial or professional
19.Will move to a research position at a local teaching hospital (medical imaging) starting this summer - the position is at an academic institution, but carries no teaching responsibilities.
20.first industrial research lab in the US with possibility of returning to academia when returning to Sweden
21.Research faculty, probably
22.not sure- maybe science policy
24.I'd like to stay in a national lab, at least for the next 5-10 years. I might be interested in academia in the long term.
25.either 1 or 2
26.not clear at this point
28.Both 1 and 2 are fine. The chose will depend on which particular offer (from those I'll get) is better
33.still on the fence
34.undecided between industry/academe
35.academic or industrial is not THE point. I wish to work in an international environment linked to some research interest ...
38.pure research with no teaching
39.research at national lab
40.I have an indeterminate path. There are a wide variety of problems I wish to solve. My selection of a working environment will depend on the job availability and conduciveness to solving those problems. The current bifurcation between industry and academia (mainly because leaving academia is like passing through a turn-stile -- a one-way door) is a Bad Thing(tm).
41.Federal Lab (This category is huge! Why is it not on the list?)
Q25: How do you feel about your prospects for pursuing your intended career?
Very optimistic 77 (25.93)
Somewhat optimistic 153 (51.52)
Somewhat pessimistic 53 (17.85)
Very pessimistic 12 ( 4.04)
Q26: Do you feel that your salary is
adequate 186 (62.84)
insufficient? 108 (36.49)
Q27: Do you feel that your salary is generally competitive with others in similar positions?
Yes 239 (81.02)
No 55 (18.64)
Q28: Are your benefits
good 143 (48.31)
adequate 118 (39.86)
insufficient? 34 (11.49)
Q29: In particular, are your health benefits satisfactory?
Yes 248 (83.78)
No 48 (16.22)
If not, what changes would you recommend?
1.Had to pay $350/month out of pocket, which was an extreme burden given the living expenses.
3.Full coverage, including dental and vision.
4.Postdocs are always in the worse situatio because they are not full staff and not students. Most of the Universities seems to forget about them when talking about health insurance. Something has to be done
5.Higher percentage of premium payed by my emplorer, and also a dental plan.
7.adding a dental plan
9.My fellowship provides some money for university overhead. According to the terms of the fellowship, the university can cover my health benefits with this. However, the university keeps so much money for themselves that there is none left for this! Therefore, I have to pay for health insurance out of my own pocket. I also am not even given the _option_ to buy dental insurance through the university. As an employee who, I believe, contributes significantly to the research environment of the university, I believe that my health care should be covered.
10.Yes, with the exception that no vision care plan is provided.
11.At present I work away from the university who employs me, and my coverage is less than it would be if I were closer to the university
12.dental care, eye care
13.UNIVERSITY COULD COVER AT LEAST PART OF MY SPOUSE'S INSURANCE
14.no health benefits in my postdoc package
15.Improve health care packages for long term visiting researchers.
16.Out of area costs are too high
17.more coverage in all categories
18.Health benefits are not provided by my institution for post-docs with their own funding, only for those funded through their advisors' grants. This actually penalizes those of us with our own money
20.I have a fellowship, which by definition cannot include health ins.
21.any health benefits
22.If salary is raised, one could choose a better plan
23.the choice of doctors is very limited. Vision and dental plans cost extra.
25.Better coverage---lower premiums.
26.After 2 years, I still have no health benefits due to administrative glitches (long story). I would make health benefits easier to obtain-fewer (or no) bureaucratic hurdles.
27.HMO is bad even if you are a healthy man visiting a doctor with trivial cold, dental co-payment ratio to my salary allows to do cleaning and some simple fillings only, vision covers only annual eye exam. You are committed for a physician for a year and cannot change policy, even though you are unsatisfied with the treatment.
28.We are supposed to pay for all our medical bills in full until we hit a certain level, then the insurance pays. I wish we could have instead a plan that has a reasonable copay for each doctor's visit. We do not have a dental plan. I wish a dental plan was offered.
29.If the APS brokered health insurance for post-docs in general, it might provide greater leverage to give more coverage for less cost.
30.Presently, I do not have dental insurance. I think every employer should either pay me a higher salary or provide dental insurance
31.Comment: I am in a lucky position because I came in on the early system which gave me "staff" benefits. New postdocs now are treated like grad students with very little benefits. Especially in the area of health benefits, the postdocs are treated like students and not like an employee. There are some universities which do not offer "adult" working health benefits to postdocs and I *strongly* think that this is a serious mistake.
32.add dental and vision coverage
33.Dental coverage; At a National Lab so do not get in state benefits
34.I don't have any benefits. I pay for all insurances myself.
35.Proper healthcare options, e.g. choosing doctors
36.more health insurance benefit: smaller deductible
37.Provide same benefits for my dependents and provide dental insurance
38.More out-of-area coverage, especially needed for postdocs in high energy physics, who usually live near a research lab away from their home institution.
39.to get some benefits at least the health benefit which the other postdocs get and I do not
40.I am satisfied with the medical coverage. But there is no dental, nor vision coverage for postdocs at my institution here.
41.No health benefits at all
43.I guess this answer somewhat special to my personal situation, but I would appreciate if DFG grants would include some kind of insurance plan.
Q30: Do you have any suggestions for how the APS can help you and others improve the postdoc experience and succeed in your intended careers?
1.Figuring out ways to make salaries more competitive, or at least reduce the out of pocket contributions for health insurance. Point out regional salary variations. For instance, I was living in the Boston area making about $1k more than a postdoc in the midwest, where living expenses are significantly cheaper. I basically went deeper into debt because I took the postdoc position.
2.More frank career advice. In particular, every grad student can be a post doc, and every postdoc can't stay in academia and every academic can become a professor. There are rewarding career paths aside from that traditional route.
4.More guidance on what is available, what choices graduating students have, by having a web site with postings and so forth
5.There is no correlation between the advice that faculty gives to graduate students and postdocs and the reality of the job market, both academic and industrial. Students/postdocs work hard and find themselves with no skills to compete in the job market. I think that the faculty body as a whole must wake up to the reality of the job market and learn to give real advice, rather than advice mired to swell the ranks of their choir. While many research activities are scientifically relevant, not all of them lead to learning skills that are relevant outside of academia. Students must be at least aware of this before embarking in a decade of studies.
6.The APS should work with the community to ensure that theorists whom work on QCD and phenomenology are hired by academic institutions in this country; even at the expense of experimental positions. If they do not, then fairly soon there will be no one left to do the necessary calculations.
8.I would like some insight to the politics of academic hiring committees. I found the article in the recent Physics Today on the academic job search pretty useless because it gave no insight into how to gauge such issues as whether a particular department is really going to hire someone that year, if they have actually decided on a research field to hire in, and if they will jump on the bandwagon and offer the job to the one "hot" candidate this year.
9.Encourage universities to increase the salary for incoming professors.
11.Provide mentoring service for graduate students and postdocs
12.if not already done, possibly have an organized session (or two) for postdocs at conferences
14.My salary isn't that great (much better than grad school but doesn't compare with industry), but the benefits are very good (I'm actually a "research associate," not a postdoc. APS should work towards having more postdoc positions have reasonable benefits, to make such positions more equitable.
15.Mentors need mentoring about how to be successful mentors
16.Try to get more people with the same problems. This survey is a very good idea. From there we could start to see how to solve the situation. Put more adds about this, bigger adds, at the APS meetings. Put some in the "job interview" area. Also, in the free e-mail area.
17.More specific job advice early in grad school. It's not enough to know that industry jobs exist, one needs to know what specific skills have to be acquired, i.e., what programming languages, machine skills, etc. Also, help with non-traditional career paths for people other than condensed matter theorists and laser people. What positions are there outside of academia for someone in particle astrophysics? In the postdoc, how do you prepare for the fact that you will have to leave? What MUST you accomplish in your postdoc to be able to get another job? (i.e., papers written, proposals made, etc).
19.Job fairs, contact information in research and industry.
20.POST-DOC SHOULD BE A BETTER DEFINED POSITION
21.(please see Q31) Perhaps indicating our concerns in your publication/reports and thus raise more awareness in the community.
22.APS and physics today can provide and has provided information on job prospects. the same could be done for professional development: writing grants and papers. Also, APS could help funding agencies focus there grant money better. I think it is easier to get money for grad students than postdocs which in general is not a good thing. Also, it feels as though the postdoc market is saturated and there are more postdoc positions than good people for those positions. As stated in physics today: universities and colleges are becoming more selective in their hiring of tenure track faculty. If this is the case then Post Docs are being used as temp workers, which is fine, but we should get more money, given our job insecurity versus the results we produce. I don't think Post Doc salaries for basic science research should necessarily have to compete with the DOT-COMs but they should at least compete with tenure-track teaching positions.
23.Seems like the right things are being done
24.Encourage talks by postdocs at APS meetings.
25.I realize my postdoc experience was atypically positive. I think the biggest service the APS can perform in this regard is to ensure that people entering postdocs are well-informed about career development. For example, would-be postdocs need to understand that reaching a high-profile academic position at a top-20 school is extremely difficult to do if excessive time was spent in grad school and/or as a postdoc.
26.Set suggested limits to maximal post-doc terms
27.I would like to have more information about how to apply to jobs which lie outside of my research specialty. I received my Ph.D. in physics, but my work is in an area that is more often considered engineering than physics, and this puts me in an awkward position when applying for jobs. Perhaps, it would be useful to collect some case studies for people to read in case they don't have a role model that they know directly. I'd also like some more information about how to get started applying for grants. It seems like you have to be "in the know" to find out about opportunities and meet agency funding officers. Finally, I appreciated the articles in the recent special issue of Physics Today; they look like they will be useful for planning for the future.
28.Make sure that the postdoc position is a training ground for getting more permanent employment, and not an end in itself. Better professional mentoring of postdocs in the skills they need (job hunt, teaching, service) to move to next level. Postdocs need to understand that the burden of making the postdoc experience a good one may rest entirely on them--they know their career goals, their PI may not--and this may at times put them in conflict with their PI.
29.I would suggest that once a year or so, the APS organizes a special issue of Phys. Rev. or other journals, where young researcher without a permanent position can review their recent work. The papers should be one-author only. Of course the papers would need to be severly refereed and only the best ones would be published (otherwise a single issue would not be enough). More, the bests in each field may receive an award.
31.Being a recent successful ex postdoc I saw a lot of postdocs make tragic mistakes in their careers. Getting into conflicts with their supervisor because they didn't agree with their suggestions (which were all good). I.e. they didn't believe that the more first author publications you have the better. and that teaching experience wasn't so necessary to land a faculty position. I have never taught and got three offers this year for tenure track faculty positions. Maybe a post doc handbook that would say publish publish publish and don't teach.
32.As a non-citizen, APS could perhaps help lobby for removal of certain visa restrictions
33.Giving information about job openings, how to apply to positions, what is expected of you in US to apply for a job, many postdocs come from abroad and it is hard to get the information how to apply for other positions in US: what information that is supposed to be sent and so on...
34.I think APS is doing a good job in providing information about careers. In the end these things must be researched on your own.
35.Either eliminate the whole institution or double salaries, extend length of appointments, and improve career counseling and development resources
37.increase average salary level
38.The quality of my postdoc experience has been great because my advisor really considers what is in my best interests. He has encouraged me to teach and given me feedback on how to improve my teaching even though there is little immediate benefit to him. Anything that can be done to reward advisors for taking this approach rather than just maximizing their prestige would be helpful. Partially this involves education because good managers realize that treating their people well is really in their best interests also in the long term, but not all advisors understand or have the personal skills to do this.
39.Treat postdocs as students when it comes to membership and conference fees. This would encourage professors to always send their postdocs as well. I only attended 1 out of 3 APS March Meetings during my postdoc because of this.
40.Do more to educate graduate students about how funding is obtained. This is not obvious and it seems to be an important job skill for aspiring faculty.
43.I think that resources such as job listings, advice about the applications process, job market and so on are valuable and important roles of the APS, I was lucky enough to get a good position without having to do a difficult search but I feel that when I was finishing my PhD I really didn't have the skills and resources to compete on the job market (through no fault of the APS I might add, it's just that some advisors are more careful about these things than others and it is good to have other easily available sources of information).
44.Keep in mind that a PhD is not a liberal arts degree. The current custom in our educational system that an undergraduate degree is in many cases in a field not necessarily related to one's career, but postgraduate training is directly focused on one's career is a good one and should be kept. Simply because physics PhD's are able to find jobs in other fields does not mean that they are as well off as they would have been had they trained directly for those careers. I believe many professors of physics are excusing an overproduction of PhD's on the basis that a PhD in physics allows finding a job in fields, such as finance. I believe that this is a fine argument for a bachelor's degree in physics, and a terrible one for a doctorate in physics.
46.I am wondering if the unofficial rule that post-doc experience is required for a professor position is good. I could imagine that if the trend continues that more and more experience is necessary to obtain a faculty position, that the overall research quality in the US could decrease. Europe has the problem that faculty positions are only open to scientists with many years of post-PhD experience, which lead to a big loss of many talented scientists, usually called "brain drain". This may possibly happen to the US also. Would it be worth to bring this topic up in APS news, physics today, or at APS meetings? What is the best system / career-path that leads to good quality research but at the same time does not discourage young talent and drives young researchers into non-science careers or other countries?
47.More job opportunity announcements
48.I liked the issue on physics careers at Physics Today; nevertheless I felt it was somewhat meant for Americans
49.keep arranging job interviews at APS meetings
50.I think that a survey of "non-traditional" careers for physicists could be undertaken. For example, I have just accepted a position as a technical software engineer with a major corporation. I only stumbled on the position by posting a resume on monster.com. If I had know such opportunities were available, I may have opted to skip the postdoctoral experience completely.
51.I haven't yet utilized the APS resources as much as I could. I would like more information about alternative careers in physics. I also have a difficult time making contacts, which, from what I have seen, is the best way to get a job. I don't know how APS could assist in this process, however.
52.Help make connections with companies interested in hiring Ph.D's.
54.From my academic postdoc friends, it seems to me that academic postdocs often feel in limbo in terms of their status in a university. They are not students and so cannot take advantage of all the attendant discounts, student health centers, etc., but neither are they treated like staff members (at least this was true where I was a student). I think it would be useful if the APS could promote awareness of this and perhaps persuade universities to create a better administrative structure for postdoc positions, including health benefits, etc. Also many postdocs at universities are completely at the mercy of their advisors, without much recourse if things don't go well. It seems to me that the postdoc position should be a staff position with a written contract of employment for a specified length of time.
55.Provide a central place where postdoctoral opportunites are advertised.
56.working on improving the idea of a postdoc job, as the job that contributes to most of the scientific research of this country, as opposed to a temporary learning position. For example by a competitive, outstanding pay, closer to the one of permanent positions.
57.Publish surveys of career paths of graduates/postdocs by institutions/research groups/subfields, with information such as type of next job, number of postdocs before permanent job, etc.
58.Develop/Improve contact between postdocs and grad students - before starting my postdoc, I had no exposure to other postdocs and didn't really understand what was expected.
59.Give each and every faculty supervisor a handbook on postdocs-- what we are, how to supervise us, etc. The National Academy of Sciences recently came out with a report that should be required reading.
61.The APS should expand its coverage of industrial and applied topics in its journals, especially Physics Today. Stop celebrating (or complaining about) the job market or the postdoctoral experience, and please start covering what the majority of physicists do, i.e. what a grad student or postdoc can expect to be doing for a living. I got into physics because it is fun. If I had wanted to worry over my career all the time, I would have gotten an MBA and become a manager!
64.Improved directory of physics departments and their statistics on the web!
67.Make agencies that grant postdocs aware of the results of your survey.
68.I agree with the report that institutions need to formalize the postdoc experience and discuss the status of their postdocs on the departmental level. I'm thoroughly enjoying my postdoc experience but the department does almost nothing for its postdocs, leaving their well-being entirely up to the individual professors who hire them. We've even been systematically left off of departmental mailing lists, not out of malice, but from oversight. The department pays far more attention to grad students especially in terms of providing them with people other than their advisor that they can talk to and get advice from.
69.APS should inform everyone who intends to become a postdoc that they will be underpaid slaves especially if they are foreign citizens and if they find a professor and get tenured, this will come at a very high expense such as ruined health or absence of family or personal life. This should be written in capital letters in the very beginning of the brochure about being a postdoc. It should also be emphasized that being a postdoc is quite different for US and canadian citizens and foreign citizens
70.Perhaps an "attitude campaign" so to speak. The APS took on the campaign to reduce the stigma of physics PhDs working in industry or any non-academic position. Perhaps the APS can take on a minor campaign to help raise awareness about postdocs and how to treat them more as colleagues and less as glorified students or temporary trained help. Postdocs tend to slip through the status cracks - some institutions do not know how to clasify postdocs and some people don't know how to best utilize postdocs while supporting and promoting them as opposed to treating them like advanced students.
71.The APS careers search engine is very helpful. Expand if possible
72.The main issue, of course, is job security. Abstractly, a postdoc could be the best time of one's life: no restrictions, unlimited research, no teaching requirements (though teaching possibilities, if desired), no committees, no funding issues, etc. In practice, however, postdocs seem to spend most of their time in a frothing panic -- what will happen next? Any way to alleviate this? Maybe there are just too many postdocs, and not enough faculty positions? Or too many grad students? Whatever the cause, as it is now there is so little job security that I can't think of any postdocs that I would describe as pleased with their life situation. All my peers in other professions seem happy enough, though...
74.The worst problem I see is rushing to find a job while writing a thesis. This leads to people taking positions not suited to them. I did not have this problem, as my advisor hired me briefly as a post-doc, which allowed me time to find a good position.
75.Increased interaction among postdocs and between postdocs and senior members of the field (I am in particle physics - theory), especially between institutions, would be very helpful: this would facilitate the starting of collaborations to work on problems and also help more postdocs to know what are the most important problems to work on in the field.
76.A better venue for interdisciplinary work. It is tradition that "physicists can do anything" but it would be good to have a forum for physicists engaged in cross-disciplinary work. Specific sessions at APS meetings would be good for this - the APS currently has no role for physicists who are applying physics concepts to other fields. This will also help curb the entrenched position that "he/she would have stayed in physics if he/she were good at it" - a damaging attitude in today's world, where biology and technology are becoming more linked.
77.lower registration fees at conferences for postdocs
78.Post-doc position listings tend to read like technician positions: "need person with experience focusing microscopes to do the experiments we tell him to do." It seems unlikely that the person who takes that slot will ever get tenure. I tried to get into a slot where I would be able to work on new ideas - I approached a professor who wasn't even advertising a post-doc opening. On the other hand, I also wanted to change subspecialties, from surface science to carbon nano-tubes. I thought that wasn't such a long jump, but the professors I spoke to mostly refused to consider accepting someone whose primary experience was ion-scattering into a field where ion scattering isn't a primary method - even though I think I could have contributed significantly. (I ended up working on biologically based nano-technology.)
79.Organization of joint meeting including industrial and academic researcher/workers would help to choose more adequately the intended careers of "young" researchers. This would help to answer question like the following : Am I working for money ? If yes should I spend more time in PhD/Postdoc positions ? What is the exact purpose of an industrial job ?
80.I'm slightly pessimistic about the job market. I know several very good postdocs that had a tough time finding a suitable faculty position. I'm also slightly pessimistic about getting funding as a young faculty member. I would like to have some information or assistance on how to apply for funding and where.
81.The position that I hold now is a one-year position, that implies that a couple of months after I arrived I had to start looking for another position for next year. I learnt that I will have a second year a couple of days ago. All the process is very stressing and it's very difficult to do a good job while moving so often and looking for jobs. It would be helpful if the universities could offer only two year contracts, so one knows that at least the job is for 2 years minimum. I think that that fact alone could take away a lot of the stress and pressure involve in the process.
82.Encourage departments to offer more longer term (e.g. 5 years versus year-by-year) positions. For most of my colleagues the pay is bad already, but lack of predictability is even worse.
84.There is far more politics in research than was ever clearly explained. Who you know is often more important than what work you do. These could be made more clear when people are considering their career path (at least than it was when I entered grad school). It would be interesting to see what would happen if a journal hid the names of the authors of a paper from the editors and the referees. It might make for more professional criticisms(and less personal) attacks in reviews. [It is nice when the editors of journals can at least get your name right]
85.email job opportunities
86.Facilitate the contact with industries
87.Advice needs to be given in grad school about publishing as much as possible. My advisor gave me bad advice, and I still haven't published my dissertation work. I don't think I will because I don't have my advisor's support. If your advisor doesn't take your career seriously, and you have no other network, it can be very difficult. I have succeeded where I am currently because I now have a super mentor.
88.APS could initiate special programs/meetings where postdocs will be able to interact with various employers.
89.My situation is probably as good as it gets for a postdoc, and I am expecting to move into a potentially-permanent position within a few months. But the big problem I have with being in physics right now is that the whole field is underfunded. Facilities are underutilized, few new facilities are being built, funding for new things in general is pathetically low, and exciting opportunities in general are very limited. As a result, compared to most of last century, nowadays there just aren't as many areas where the spirit of revolutionary adventure (which is what makes doing physics research fun as a career) is still alive. When this situation is compared with the entrepreneurial spirit and ongoing technological revolutions in most other high-tech fields, it really is no wonder that fewer students are choosing to go into physics.
91.I think disseminating statistics about career successes/failures, usual course of a postdoc in various fields, etc., will help people evaluate their career paths better. In addition, workshops or web pages about how best to use a postdoc as an effective jumping board could be useful.
92.Articles/interviews/columns etc. by senior physicists on the hiring process. Particularly what they look for in successful candidates (for junior professors in my case).
93.to help members to get jobs by having their resumes posted on site so that employers can access them easily. Also APS could try to encourage interactions between Profs requiring postdocs and postdocs requiring jobs
94.Let graduate students know that a postdoc should only be pursued if one is doing it in a well-known institution/group or a hot area of research. If one is going to industry a postdoc phase is wholly unnecessary
95.-more information what others are experiencing (workshops, surveys, etc.)
96.Support increase of salaries in line with the highly skilled work done at postdoctoral level
98.job statistics for graduate students
99.yes, but come on! In a questionnaire?!
100.Successfully finding one's niche in Physics remains a very personal endeavor. Self-awareness plays a significant role. Does one seek collaborative or individual work? How much "mentorship" is enough? What does it mean to do nuclear physics? What is the scope of my field? Ideally one finds many of these answers in graduate school, but that does not necessarily happen. I have no idea what specific role APS can play in illuminating the mind of the young physicist. Perhaps emphasizing in some way that it is fine to question senior physicists on issues beyond the discipline. But our field fosters the release of this information in ways typically less direct than the young physicist would like.
101.My personal experience is that the PhD and postdoc working situation is quite good. The problem lies in getting a permanent position after some years of postdoc work. Anything the APS can do to pressure universities and other science institutions to have interviews for openings with an open outcome and not pseudo-interviews where it is clear from the beginning that a faculty member's friend is the one who gets the job will help. (Not an easy task, I admit).
Q31: Do you have any further comments that will amplify the answers you have given to any of the previous questions?
3.I recently took a position as an asst professor. The above answers are relevant to my postdoc position
4.My one and only postdoc was in during 1998. I have tried to answer these questions as I would have if I had been asked them when I was a postdoc.
7.Just to clear up the "health benefits" question - because my salary is drawn in the U.K., and I am a British citizen, I have access to the British National Health Service. So when I answer "yes" to Q29, I am not referring to benefits provided from within the United States.
8.I have been an assistant research physicist since March, 2001.
9.I felt I had an unusually good postdoc experience. My boss was an excellent mentor for me.
10.For a postdoc, I am paid well--but I'm finding that it is not enough to support my family-- and an assistant professor position at most universities would be even less. Therefore, I will most likely pursue a career in industry, despite the fact that I would like to teach.
12.I appreciate the APS's interest in improving the postdoctoral experience!
13.I have a great postdoc position at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The pay is great and I'm with a good group. The town almost burned down last year but I can't complain too much. The market for postdocs (those seeking positions) is a very favorable one. I had many offers and all of my recent PhD friends have also. And from what I see the academic job market for faculty positions is looking better recently as well.
15.I have secured a tenure-track position at university and thus answered more positively than I might have otherwise to question relating to satisfaction with current situation and direction. My postdoc boss did nothing to help me secure the job.
16.The situation of foreigners is different in many cases. We normally have grants from our countries. Our income is even lower. It would be very valuable if the results of this survey could reflect that special situation.
17.I have an "enviable" postdoc at a prestigious university with plenty of opportunities to go to conferences and give talks. I also get zero advice about preparing for a career and little feedback about how my work is going. I came in from another field and have had a tough time getting accepted. Job prospects are poor in this sub-specialty. Do I stay in? Do I try to go back to my thesis research after three years? How does one know?
19.Some international tax treaties require clarification. This can only be achieved by political action. As far as international bureaucracy is concerned, nobody knows the details. APS can name contact persons for these questions.
20.I see the problem only with postdocs on temporary visa. They do not have that many opportunities as the their colleagues who are permanent residents or US citizens. Foreign postdocs totally dependent on the adviser, who very often use "the visa" card. In general postdocs do not get adequate salary, nevertheless they have better opportunity to do the research their really like and to publish as well as communicate with their colleagues at conferences and meetings. In my oppinion one should not stay too long as a postdoc. One have to pay a price anywhere. If you want to have a good salary, you should go to industry. If you want to do what you like to do, choose the academy. APS should work on improving the situation of foreign scientist working in the US, they could really use some help to be treated comparably to the US resident/citizen colleagues.
21.After becoming a mother I strongly feel the issue of women in Science is non-trivial. First of all it has become much more difficult to keep up with the competition in doing good research work for the next stage of career. The second issue is some people would doubt whether such women would be able to perform well in a junior faculty position, and sometimes they would give us an unfair judgment before any evaluation. The third factor that has been affecting seriously my job hunting was the fact that my husband is also a physicist. People now would like to know about such a factor BEFORE a decision is made. I think the general ideas for the academic career path at my current stage, i.e. try to become a junior faculty member in a research orientated institute are still quite family unfriendly.
22.Your survey didn't quite anticipate individuals doing applied research at LLNL, LANL, or Sandia
23.My postdoc is now ending; I have recently been accepted into an asst. professor position, starting in 8/01
24.Note that I answered the above survey as if I was still a postdoc at an industrial company.
25.With regards to being fully-informed of job prospects, my thesis advisor informed me of post-doc opportunities and provided feedback to my questions. However, I didn't understand the trade-offs with choosing one advisor over another, or have an overview of hot areas to enter. It may have been personal naivete - I don't blame anyone - but I didn't appreciate all the issues that are important.
26.It would be nice if the post-doc salary better reflected the cost of living in the area where I am working
27.I'm in my second postdoc now. I took the first one because I was waiting to hear about the second one, and needed a job in between. I think that I've been treated and paid well in these positions, but I'm concerned that I am not developing a niche for myself which will make me marketable in the future. My dissertation topic was *not* in a "hot area," so now I am trying to transition what I know into applications so that I can continue to be funded. The first half of my graduate school experience was not good (poor advisor), and so I ended up having to switch topics and spent 7.5 working on my Ph.D. (way too long!) In retrospect, I don't think that I was proactive enough in finding out about what areas would have the best job opportunities. I think it's hard to see outside of your world while in grad school, especially given the basic research topics which go on in the academic environment. I think an internship could have helped in this regard. Also, more practical training on how to get funding would have been very helpful. (I know these comments aren't directly about my postdoc experiences, but obviously a person's graduate school experiences has a big impact on what a person does as a postdoc.)
28.I am a Canadian citizen who did a post doc in Canada, so some of the questions (especially health care) may not apply to me.
29.I am in a tenure-track position, so I have answered the above questions in respect to this position. I don't believe that I should have received this survey.
31.In general I have had pretty positive experiences as a postdoc. I have learned a great deal as well as had the opportunity to work with some great people. I enjoyed my first postdoc and would have stayed indefinitely in that or a similiar position if possible. My salary and benefits have been excellent relative to other postdocs. However, I have a hard time accepting the fact that I spent 5 years getting a phd and then I need to spend 3-6 additional years in training as a postdoc to even have a decent chance for a stable, long-term academic and/or research position. I would not recommend getting a PhD in physics to anyone unless they truly loved the discipline and were willing to make what I see as unreasonable personal and professional sacrifices. An MBA or law degree seems to make a great deal more sense as far as finding a rewarding career is concerned.
33.I recently joined a tenure-track position.
36.In answering question 23 I have assumed that you are asking about my career in physics. The answer as to whether I would choose my career prior to physics if I had *it* to choose over again is probably not as simple as yes or no.
38.I answered that the salary is adequate, this answer is only correct, if I will find the desired faculty position within 1-2 years. Otherwise I would answer no, since I could earn nearly twice if I would accept a position in industry.
39.I'm almost 34 and still no contribution is made toward retirement on my behalf. This is because I'm not permanent staff. Thankfully I'm not having to take a second postdoc! Most postdoctoral salaries are not sufficient as family incomes. However, I am single so this has not strictly been a problem for me.
41.My answers have mostly applied to my current postdoc position, but most also apply to my first postdoc which was in industry. I believe my situation is much better than that of a typical academic postdoc because in both positions I have had normal employee benefits--i.e. the same health plan as regular employees, a relatively high salary, a one-year written contract, etc.
42.All of the above answers apply to a postdoc position that ended in March 2001. Since that time I have been employed in industry. Regarding postdoc salary: Academic postdocs positions are notoriously low paying. Despite the fact that I was paid an above average postdoc salary, I tripled my annual pay upon taking a "real" job. There is at least anecdotal evidence that such salary increases are common. This would seem to be an indication that postdocs are underpaid. On the other hand I recognize that research funding is not infinite and it is not at all clear where additional funds to improve postdoc pay would come from.
44.This last issue of Physics Today was very timely
47.I am a postdoc in experimental particle physics, which is probably quite different from many other subfields. In particular, I work on a very large experiment, with collaborators from institutions from around the world. Thus, I naturally have contact with a large number of people, a venue for presenting my work, and opportunities to show off a variety of skills. In many ways, it is the postdocs who keep the whole experiment up and running, and faculty members know this and respect it. I would also say that in this subfield, the faculty are known for who their students and postdocs are. If we do well, it reflects well on them, so they are motivated to help us all get to the next step. I've just started looking for faculty jobs (no one biting yet, but a few nibbles), and my patrons have been very helpful in that process. This survey would have been better if there had been finer gradations for some of the answers than just yes-no.
48.A postdoc-experimentalist should be prepared to the worst case scenario:when he comes to the lab, the equipment he will have to work with will be almost ruined and he will have to rebuild it completely, there will be no competent enough people around and his advisor will only be interested in outstanding discoveries. This is true if he has no "connections" to his future postdoc advisor by the time he graduates. If he has connections, the situation will be very different. This has been my personal experience in a group of a well known professor in one of the top US universities.
49.There are some universities which do not offer "adult" working health benefits to postdoc