Once again, Whitehead Institute is the best place for postdocs

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Image: Courtesy of The Scientist

March 29, 2012

Tags: Awards + Announcements

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – For the third time in the past four years, Whitehead Institute has been dubbed the best place in the United States for postdoctoral researchers to work.

The honor was announced today by The Scientist magazine, which conducts an annual survey of postdocs at research institutions internationally. This year, more than 1,500 postdocs provided their input.

In the survey’s 10 years of existence, Whitehead has ranked in the top 15 five times. In addition to its three first-place rankings, Whitehead placed third in 2010 and 14th in 2008. This success is far from coincidental, as Whitehead has implemented a host of benefits programs appropriate for the changing demands and lifestyles of its postdocs.

“We’ve always recognized the vital scientific contributions that postdocs make to our community,” says Whitehead Institute Director David Page. “But several years ago we also made a firm commitment to ensuring that our postdocs not only have the best possible environment in which to work, but also the kind of support they need at a juncture so critical to their personal and professional success. The consistently high marks they continue to give their workplace affirm that our efforts are having their intended effect.”

Whitehead’s efforts reflect the evolution of the postdoctoral researcher’s role, both in and out of the lab.

“It used to be you’d do one or two postdocs after you graduated, then you’d find a tenure track position in your early 30s,” says Renaud Desgraz, a postdoc in Page’s lab. “Now you do one long postdoc and then transition into a position in your late 30s.”

Today’s postdocs are older and more likely to juggle leadership roles in their labs while supporting their young families. By being one of the first institutions to offer postdocs subsidized childcare, health insurance, and retirement planning, Whitehead endeavors to help these scientists succeed in the lab without sacrificing their personal life.

The key to Whitehead’s success, however, may be more difficult to replicate elsewhere.

“I honestly think Whitehead is a fantastic community at every level—its limited size actually makes for a really neat community to do science in because you can know all of the labs and the people in them,” says Hannah Blitzblau, Co-Chair of the Whitehead Postdoc Association and a postdoc in Whitehead Founding Member Gerald Fink’s lab. “This might sound like I’ve drunk the Kool-Aid, but you know everybody, when you come in the morning, when you leave at night.  And that really is unique to Whitehead. I’ve never seen it anywhere else I’ve been.”

Full survey methodology and additional results, including rankings of the top 15 institutions, can be found in the April 2012 issue of The Scientist and online at www.the-scientist.com.

Whitehead Institute is a world-renowned non-profit research institution dedicated to improving human health through basic biomedical research.
Wholly independent in its governance, finances, and research programs, Whitehead shares a close affiliation with Massachusetts Institute of Technology
through its faculty, who hold joint MIT appointments.

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