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UI establishes postdoctoral office

BY KATHRYN STINSON | FEBRUARY 16, 2010 7:30 AM

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UI postdoctoral research scholar Erik Rader said he and his colleagues have lacked an identity on campus.

But with the establishment of the UI Office of Postdoctoral Scholars, he said, they won’t have to feel an identity void any longer.

Postdoctoral scholars aren’t classified as students, faculty, or staff. They are researchers stuck between the realms of student and professional. Their work is similar to an internship, Rader said, and they’re working toward completing the last phase of their education to become independent researchers.

The office opened behind the scenes last month, creating a website and laying some basic groundwork, said Graduate College Associate Dean Minnetta Gardinier, who administers the new office. The creation was a joint initiative for the UI Graduate College and the Office of the Vice President for Research.

Until the opening, the postdoctoral community didn’t have a professional or administrative home on campus. Appointments were managed through UI Human Resources and the Graduate College. The two units dealt with hiring potential postdocs and providing the hirings with benefits.

The new office will provide more extensive services to UI postdocs, Gardinier wrote in an e-mail.

The new services include an orientation workshop for postdocs new to campus. Currently, postdoctoral scholars do not receive any type of uniform orientation program, Gardinier noted.

The new office also aims to help the postdocs in their career ambitions.

Officials said they plan to offer a professional-development seminar to assist the postdocs in enhancing career skills, such as networking, lab management, and job searches. The office will also encourage postdocs and their faculty advisers to use a professional-development plan to set goals and ensure an “active dialogue” between the two, Gardinier said.

Discussion about developing the new office developed after the 2007 issue of the magazine The Scientist named the UI as one of the best places to do postdoctoral work, said UI Graduate College Dean John Keller.

That acted as a springboard for UI officials to establish a task force, designed to formulate the new incentives postdoctoral scholars would receive during their stay, Keller said.

A growing number of universities are developing similar offices, and UI officials said they wanted to stay competitive.

“I would argue that a top university is at a disadvantage without a postdoctoral office, because its peers will have one,” Gardinier said. “It is becoming something that postdocs consider when they are deciding where to pursue their postdoctoral work.”

In addition, national organizations such as the National Postdoctoral Association were established to improve the postdoctoral situation in the United States.

The Postdoctoral Office will hold question-and-answer sessions on Feb. 23 at the Bowen Science Building and on Feb. 24 in the Chemistry Building to provide an opportunity for postdocs to learn more about the new office.


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