APS News


Postdocs Speak Out

Editor's Note: These comments were culled from the recent postdoc survey.

  • 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. ... Students must be at least aware of this before embarking on a decade of studies.
  • Mentors need mentoring about how to be successful mentors.
  • It's not enough to know that industry jobs exist, one needs to know what specific skills have to be acquired.
  • APS could help funding agencies focus their grant money better.
  • Encourage talks by postdocs at APS meetings.
  • I think the biggest service the APS can perform is to ensure that people entering postdocs are well-informed about career development.
  • 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.
  • I have never taught and got three offers this year for tenure track faculty positions. Maybe a postdoc handbook that would say publish publish publish and don't teach.
  • APS could perhaps help lobby for removal of certain visa restrictions.
  • Treat postdocs as students when it comes to membership and conference fees. This would encourage professors to always send their postdocs as well.
  • The APS could perhaps persuade universities to create a better administrative structure for postdoc positions, including health benefits, etc.
  • 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!
  • The department does almost nothing for its postdocs, leaving their well-being entirely up to the individual professors who hire them. ... The department pays far more attention to grad students.
  • 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 seem to spend most of their time in a frothing panic-what will happen next? Any way to alleviate this?
  • 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.
  • There is far more politics in research than was ever clearly explained. Who you know is often more important than what work you do.
  • 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.
  • If one is going to industry, a postdoc phase is wholly unnecessary.
  • We foreigners normally have grants from our countries. Our income is even lower. This survey should reflect that special situation.
  • 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.
  • APS should work on improving the situation of foreign scientists working in the US.
  • I strongly feel the issue of women in science is non-trivial. 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 judgement before any evaluation. ... my husband is also a chemical physicist. People now would like to know about such a factor BEFORE a decision is made.
  • 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!
  • There are some universities which do not offer "adult" working health benefits to postdocs and I strongly think that this is a serious mistake. We are now older and in need of normal benefits-requiring postdocs to use student health centers I believe is not right. I also think postdocs should be receiving retirement benefits.
  • I have a J1 visa at this moment, which gives my wife a working permit. However, next year I have to switch to an H1, which means my wife is sort of doomed to sit on the sofa. It would be nice if she can keep her working permit as long as I have temporarily employment in the US.
  • "Teaching-postdocs" positions are dangerous for people with no permanent jobs. We are 'cheap labor' for universities since we're paid a postdoc salary while doing a professor's jobs. I wonder if there is a way to regulate that.
  • APS should have a resume database, much like monster.com
  • Surveys like these are incredibly valuable and I hope the APS does more!

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Editor: Alan Chodos
Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette