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Postdoc Pains And Gains

The experience may be getting more difficult, yet many chemists find it is both necessary and fulfilling

by Bethany Halford
May 16, 2013 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 91, ISSUE 20

Credit: C&EN
The path for researchers who do two or more postdoctoral stints is littered with tough choices, reports Senior Editor Linda Wang from the ACS National Meeting in New Orleans.

After five to seven years of working 70-plus hours per week and subsisting on a stipend that makes ramen noodles a staple of their diet, most chemistry graduate students see getting their Ph.D. as the light at the end of the tunnel. But they could be in for a rude shock when they begin looking for a job.

For Michael A. Tarselli, now a principal scientist at Woodbridge, Conn.-based Biomedisyn, the news that he would have to do postdoctoral research came just before he started graduate school, during a stint as an intern with a biotech company. “On the last day of my internship, my boss turned to me and said, ‘Listen, you might think getting a Ph.D. is going to get you a job back here. Well, it won’t. I won’t write you a letter of recommendation unless you do a postdoc too,’ ” he recalls.

So in 2009, after Tarselli finished his Ph.D., he spent the next year-and-a-half as a postdoc at Scripps Research Institute Florida. “I probably could have gotten a couple of jobs right out of my Ph.D.,” he says, “but I don’t think any of them would have met my career goal to be in pharmaceutical research.”

Many Ph.D. chemists find themselves in the same position as Tarselli. Some 41% of new Ph.D.s took a postdoc in 2012, according to the annual survey of new graduates in chemistry and related fields conducted by the American Chemical Society, which publishes C&EN. Since 2005, that percentage has generally hovered in the mid-40s. And according to the National Science Foundation, roughly 4,000 people, give or take a couple hundred, did a postdoc in chemistry each year from 2003 to 2010.

The ACS and NSF data seem to indicate that not much has changed for chemistry postdocs recently. However, observers have spotted some trends that are cause for concern.

For one, although there are no hard numbers to point to, some say people are spending more time in postdoctoral positions. In chemistry, one to two years used to be the norm, but that time frame may be creeping up. Some chemists tell C&EN that they are spending five or more years doing postdoctoral studies.

Salaries reflect another disturbing development: Postdoc chemists seem to be making less money than they used to. According to the ACS survey, in 2005 the median salary for postdocs was $36,000. In 2012 it was $40,000.

Although those numbers suggest that salaries are edging upward, they’re not when adjusted for inflation, says Gareth S. Edwards, senior research associate with the Department of Research & Member Insights at ACS. “Unfortunately, real dollar value—what that salary will buy you—is slowly decreasing, meaning that postdocs are earning less each year,” he says. From 2005 to 2012, salaries increased 11.1%, while the Consumer Price Index rose 16.1%.

Credit: Khalen Morehead
Georgia Tech postdoc Hira studies cellular processes in cancer cells using gold nanoparticles, spectroscopy, and imaging.
Credit: Khalen Morehead
Georgia Tech postdoc Hira studies cellular processes in cancer cells using gold nanoparticles, spectroscopy, and imaging.

Despite these worrisome trends, the current and recent postdocs who spoke with C&EN say the experience has largely been a positive one in which they’ve grown as scientists and broadened their professional horizons. Some see this phase as a last chance to pursue scientific research without being beholden to an employer or without the burden of running one’s own lab. Others regard it as yet another necessary step toward the career they want in chemistry research.

But after several years of doing research, do grad students really need to toil away as a postdoc? Although there are exceptions, the prevailing opinion is that doing a postdoc is a requirement for anyone who wants to be a professor running his or her own research group. “Even when I became a postdoc in the early 1970s, it was basically a necessity for getting an academic position,” says Paul L. Houston, a chemist and dean of the College of Sciences at Georgia Institute of Technology.

Industrial employers’ opinions are more variable, but they still give postdocs an edge. “It is a slight positive but by no means necessary for our jobs,” says Gary S. Calabrese, senior vice president at Corning. “If there is a particular technical need we have and someone has the right skills, it does not matter if it came through their Ph.D. or a postdoc. Having said this, of course those with postdoctoral experience are by definition broader and have a greater chance of being a technical match for us.”

Pat N. Confalone, vice president of DuPont Crop Protection, tells C&EN that although a postdoc isn’t a requirement to get a job at DuPont, it is a definite plus. “All things being equal, someone who has a postdoc is going to be more attractive to industry than someone without a postdoc,” he says.

“The majority of applicants that we see have postdoctoral experience,” adds Mark Namchuk, senior vice president of research for North America with Vertex Pharmaceuticals. “A postdoc is not essential, but it is becoming the norm. Aside from the additional experience, it often provides diversification of a scientist’s skill set.”

Unfortunately, the postdoctoral interval sometimes stretches beyond a reasonable time frame. The problem of extended postdocs has been around for a while in the biomedical sciences, says Stacy L. Gelhaus, a research assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh, who served as the National Postdoctoral Association’s chair of the board from 2008 to 2011. But the problem appears to be trickling into the physical sciences as well, she says, probably because of the dearth of tenure-track positions.

“A lot of places have a five-year time limit on postdocs,” Gelhaus says, “but not a cumulative time limit.” And that leads to another troublesome trend: multiple postdocs.

In its December 2012 report, “Advancing Graduate Education in the Chemical Sciences,” the ACS Presidential Commission on Graduate Education in the Chemical Sciences notes a “bulge” at the postdoc level because of the weak economy. “Particularly in more biological areas of chemistry, many current postdocs have previously been postdocs for one or even two appointments,” the report says. “For these individuals, the second, or later, postdoctoral appointment serves largely as a buffer zone in the ebb and flow of the job market; it is not a position that significantly improves one’s job chances.” It’s possible that this bulge isn’t apparent in ACS and NSF statistics because many chemists who are postdocs in biological areas of chemistry are classified as life scientists, whose numbers have grown dramatically in recent years.

Credit: Sam Lord
Lord aligns three laser beams into an optical fiber to study living cells for his postdoctoral research at UC Berkeley.
Credit: Sam Lord
Lord aligns three laser beams into an optical fiber to study living cells for his postdoctoral research at UC Berkeley.

“The challenge that postdocs are facing is probably the same that everyone is facing: a weak job market,” says Kelly O. Sullivan, who manages the Linus Pauling Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellowships at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and is the current president of Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society.

In terms of supply and demand for postdocs, the system is out of equilibrium on the supply side, and that state of affairs is driving postdoc salaries down, notes Paula E. Stephan, an economics professor at Georgia State University and author of “How Economics Shapes Science.” “There are many Ph.D.s being trained outside the U.S., who apply for postdoc positions in the U.S., so there’s practically an infinite supply of them,” she says.

Complaints of financial hardship are common among the chemistry postdocs who spoke with C&EN. “I wasn’t making much more than I was as a graduate student, and yet all of my student loans came due immediately,” Tarselli says. Postdocs also have to pay social security tax, whereas graduate students do not.

Samuel Lord, who has been a postdoc at the University of California, Berkeley, for two-and-a-half years, says that although he now earns a little more than he did as a graduate student, his cost of living in the expensive Bay Area takes a much bigger bite out of his paycheck. Also eating away at Lord’s earnings: Last year he started a family. “Having a kid on a postdoc salary is tough,” he says.

Credit: Yuhan Zhao
Breen is using her time as a postdoc at Leeds to expand her skill set as an organic chemist.
Credit: Yuhan Zhao
Breen is using her time as a postdoc at Leeds to expand her skill set as an organic chemist.

Because of the transient nature of the position, many postdocs end up putting off major life decisions, such as getting married and having children, until after they’ve finished their studies. “I have a twin sister, who I think is a good example of a normal person my age who is exactly like me but who isn’t a postdoc,” says Jessica Breen, a second-year postdoc at the University of Leeds, in England. “My sister is married. She’s got a mortgage and a house. She’s just had her first baby. I haven’t even thought about buying a house. I can’t even think about getting married because I don’t have money to do so.”

“I think postdocs are really underpaid,” says Stephan. Most universities use the National Institutes of Health’s Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award stipend as a benchmark of what their faculty should be paying postdocs. In 2012, the entry-level stipend for postdocs was $39,264.

“NIH is recommending what I think are very low salaries,” Stephan says. She estimates that a postdoc working 53 hours per week earns an hourly wage of about $16. For a principal investigator to hire a postdoc costs relatively little, Stephan says, because the adviser doesn’t have to pay for tuition as they do for graduate students who serve as research assistants. Some argue that postdocs are getting training, and the way they pay for that training is to have a low salary, she notes. “I do think some postdocs get training, but there are a lot of postdocs out there who do very repetitive kinds of things and who are not receiving that much training.”

“There are many policy options that might improve the situation, but one that would certainly help would be to increase the salaries of postdocs, thereby lowering the incentives for faculty to employ postdocs as cheap labor and reflecting the expertise and skill they possess,” Stephan adds. She suggests raising postdoc stipends to around $50,000.

“I think there are situations where postdocs are basically being regarded as rather cheap employees to get research done and are not getting the benefit of career development they should be getting,” adds Georgia Tech’s Houston, who headed the working group on postdocs for the ACS commission on graduate education. Although some agencies, such as NIH and NSF, require postdoctoral advisers to have a mentoring plan, other agencies, such as the Department of Energy, are more focused on seeing deliverables from the projects they fund, Houston says.

The ACS presidential commission also expresses concern about postdocs’ incorporation into the university fabric. As neither students nor staff, their status and benefits can be somewhat murky, depending on the institution where they work.

Most academic postdocs are a result of an agreement between a principal investigator and a postdoc, with little involvement from the university. “Postdoctoral associates find themselves sometimes treated as employees, sometimes as students; often, they have the worst of both worlds,” notes the commission.

Patrick S. Barber, a postdoc in his second year at the University of Alabama, agrees with this assessment. Many postdocs, he says, simply don’t get the benefits that permanent employees take for granted. “Having universities provide basic documented benefits in line with those of regular university employees, such as paid vacation and maternity leave, would relieve some of the stress associated with postdoc positions,” he says.

To Take, Or Not To Take … Another Postdoc

Credit: C&EN


“Postdocs are starting to become a substitute for real jobs.”—William F. Banholzer, executive vice president and chief technology officer of Dow Chemical

The mismatch between the number of available jobs in the chemical sciences and an oversupply of Ph.D. graduates seems to be driving up the number of years people are spending as postdocs. In a video produced by C&EN, postdocs and employers discuss the potential consequences of taking on serial postdoctoral assignments. Watch it at

As if the low salary didn’t make saving for the future tough enough, postdocs who are classified as trainees or who are on fellowships can’t have 401(k) retirement plans, notes Pittsburgh’s Gelhaus. “If you’re postdoc-ing for a year or two, it’s not such a big deal,” she says. “But now that people are doing postdocs for five years, it’s become more of an issue.”

“Prepare to sacrifice financially and move temporarily for your postdoc,” advises Xin Chen, a chemistry professor at Boston University who finished his second postdoc in 2011. “It’s a continuation of your intellectual investment in your future.”

Despite their complaints, the current and recent postdocs who spoke with C&EN say they have enjoyed the experience. “A postdoc is a unique opportunity to fine-tune the skill set you learned during your Ph.D.,” says Steven Hira, a postdoc in his second year at Georgia Tech. “It’s a tremendous time of learning and growing and an important component of intellectual development.”


“There is a lot of flexibility in the postdoc work schedule,” UC Berkeley’s Lord points out—a fact that made having a child while he was a postdoc somewhat easier. “I work a lot, but my hours are flexible.”

Others see the transitory nature as a positive aspect of the position. Matthew Remy, who just completed a two-year postdoc at Pennsylvania State University, says, “That limited time at the outset gave me the freedom to be open to any possibility for a postdoc. My wife and I thought, ‘It’s only going to be two years. We can go where we want and experience something new.’ ”

“To the extent that a Ph.D. is training you to plan and conduct original research, a postdoc offers you the chance to put that training into practice with the least amount of administrative burden,” says Christopher J. Cramer, a chemistry professor at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.

He suggests graduate students start looking for their postdoc about a year before they intend to graduate. The ideal postdoc experience expands a chemist’s skill set and offers a high degree of intellectual freedom. Also, Cramer recommends that students looking for a postdoctoral mentor should pay attention to the rumor mill and avoid applying to people with a reputation for being difficult.

A postdoc, Cramer says, is the final opportunity a scientist has to be intensely focused solely on doing research. “People should try to take advantage of that last chance and appreciate how much fun it can be to be a pure scholar,” he says. “But I certainly also understand that anxiety of not knowing what comes next.”



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Jon Burt (May 17, 2013 3:49 PM)
39K/year for a person with so many years of education, with no benefits (such as retirement) is an utter DISGRACE. NIH is in particular at fault for this model. It is best described as a slave wage for the highly technical work being conducted and is creating a cheap slave labor force for what is undoubtedly the backbone for the technological advantage the US has over the rest of the world. This is just not right and it needs to improve, otherwise why would anyone follow in this career path when they could easily earn double working more menial jobs with better benefits?
Joe (May 20, 2013 3:02 PM)
Karl (May 21, 2013 8:37 AM)
Its not just in america though, so you can't just blame NIH, here in the UK the average starting salary for a postdoc is around $42k with general contract lengths of 1-3 years. I decided that i'd had enough of academic life after my phd and went into industry, however I haven't be able to find a job that gives as much as a postdoc salary, ofc i get more benefits and a shorter working week but its hard getting well paid work as a chemist. I've even seen job adverts asking for someone with a phd in organic chemisty and only offering a starting salary of £18k (~$27k). I look to my friends who went straight into work after graduating from their undergraduate course (we graduated in 2006) and they are all doing much better financially than myself and many of my friends who went on to do a phd. This is mainly because they all managed to get employment before the recession hit of course and have managed to not get made redundent. Its stupid that after 8 years of university and nearly 2 years of work experience I don't even make $45k a year!
Beth (May 21, 2013 8:45 PM)
The so-called post-doc job is a sham!!! And a big one at that! For most supervisors, a postdoc is simply a highly skilled workhorse. Doing bits of work on several different projects, helping PhDs, writing research grants for supervisors and so forth. There is absolutely no room for intellectual freedom. My supervisor even bluntly told me one,"You have to earn your space". Meaning as long as I draw salary from his grant I simply have to do what he says. And after so much hard work, you get several 2nd author, 3rd author papers!! from my personal experience if one has to get established as a researcher, one should try hard for independent fellowships. It's totally frustrating for me that I can't work on ideas that I have picked up over the years and instead have to waste my time doing mundane research for my supervisor - all for a livelihood!
Sk Md Towsif Abtab (May 24, 2013 5:27 AM)
I totally agree the above view. Many times supervisors blame scholars for the failures regarding research,as they are not trying. Many Supervisors depend totally on their Scholars but won't give credit to scholars for their hard efforts but delivers pressure on so many things.
Zoe (October 12, 2013 7:30 PM)
as mentioned in the paper, there is always " infinite supply of postdocs ". It is the unbalance supply-demand market need to be solved.
Steve Jurow (May 21, 2013 12:15 PM)
US tech corporations and educators complain that people do not want to study math and science, and we are therefore losing our technological edge. At these pay rates and with these job prospects, why would anyone want to pursue so difficult and challenging a program? There is nothing more difficult in the world than chemistry (particularly organic) as those of us who've been tested well know. Yet after 4+2+(2-to-3) = 8-9 years of study in this extraordinary area, we see nothing wrong with an effective hourly rate of $16/hour? And with no prospects for significant improvement? And a shrinking pool of tenure track positions? Why would anybody want to do this?

If the US government really wants more people in the sciences, make it worth their while.
Cait (May 29, 2013 11:40 AM)
My fiance and I were saying exactly this, this morning. We're both near completing grad school (I defend next month, he's got about half a year left), and honestly? There's no impetus to continue in academia. Out of all the biomedical grad students I've met in my years at school, I can name one that plans on attempting to find a tenure track position. There's no surprise as to why there's fewer kids going into the sciences. The outlook is so bleak- those of us who started my year (2009) had picked up on that within a few months of getting into grad school. Looking at our own prospects, how can we encourage the undergrads that we come into contact with, whether we teach them or work with them in lab, to pursue higher level sciences/math education?
Joe Smith (May 23, 2013 11:07 AM)
It is pretty clear from chemistry job market that there is no need to graduate more chemistry students. Clearly universities are accepting more grad. because they need cheap labor to do the hard work and their Prof. sit in their offices. Then once you are in ur 4th year as grad. you are more experienced and Prof. would not let it go since now you are an experienced hard worker (slave) trying to convince you if you do this and that you will get the job you want (all lies). The same is taking place in postdoc. prof are bluntly using postdoc without trying to help them develop or enhance their skills. These days anytime I talk to a researcher it is more trial and error rather than science. Example lets try all kinds of nanoparticles to form solar cell. If you ask the prof. why? how did you decide that? he would say do it when it works we will analyze it. THIS IS NOT SCIENCE, THIS IS TRIAL AND ERROR.
Balaji (May 26, 2013 3:23 AM)
@Joe Smith, I agree with your remarks, professors dont have the great idea and they dont want his student should explore the good ideas. They want post docs should work like bull(as per prof. guideline). Few post doc are very intelligent and they rally wanted to contribute to the science, because of the improper guidance (from Prof.), poor lab facilities, poor salaries and lots of unnecessary burden. so. they could not get the mental and family satisfaction. Really if prof./institutes expect the good research form the post doc,they should provide the good salaries, facilities,freedom of research and as well as there must be surety of the job. Then post doc will work calmly and they would help for the very good innovation in the science.
Kapoor Chem (May 31, 2013 9:05 PM)
It's true. Prof. Need spaces to do work on some stupid projects. Of ourse the project will not work out and that is dtudent mistake that he didn't did hard work. But if student do by themselves, then prof. Will ask what is the significance. Later on that project only they are getting funding and going to abroad to roam as a participants in different conference. So why in conference our project get good applause, Bcoz prof got benefit to go abroad and our project get worthy enough. Is bullshit.
rsck (May 23, 2013 12:13 PM)
It's been 2 years in postdoc..earning 28k/annum..everybody is interested in cheap labor..looks to be no respect for science anymore..
RK (May 24, 2013 3:47 PM)
you are correct
David (May 23, 2013 11:32 PM)
It's shame that postdocs are having such bad time. I too did postdoc, but was determined to do only for 2 years. If I did not get job after postdoc, I would straight head to my home country (Brazil). I completely agree with the observation that supervisors use postdocs like slaves and make them to work on mundane jobs. The postdocs dont get any new skills and training, but waste their time in the process of making supervisor happy. In UK, where I did my higher studies, few old professors were v good. These prof teach you new skills and they open up a new research area. This doesn't happen now a days. It could be that current professors dont know their research very well.
Dr. Dinesh Sawant (May 24, 2013 9:20 AM)
In this regards I would suggest King Abdullah University saudi arebia is best option here minimum salary for Postdoc is >50,000 $ per annum, tax free, housing free, medical free. And the most important is excellent research facility and work freedom.
former_Postdoc (May 26, 2013 2:07 AM)
all STEM jobs including Chemistry are continued to be shipped out overseas, so no wonder post-doc salaries go down and unemployment rate of recent graduates goes up.
lkv (May 26, 2013 6:21 AM)
postdoc definitely is a sham these days, in the past it was more like being an apprentice to a real intelligent scientist trying to learn first hand from an expert. now its like slogging to death, all for a 2nd or nth authorship. my Japanese postdoc supervisor once interrupted me while voicing my opinion, "I will think, not you". i used to think that ph.d was actually meant, a doctorate in patience, but then a postdoc is like a voluntary service to the community of science. and after a postdoc then what? armed with all that knowledge and not having a real job position, no designation, no visiting card, can take a hard blow on your self esteem.
Annonymouse (May 27, 2013 3:07 AM)
I just finished my PhD six months ago and I am already beginninge to regret it. Went to a good school had a respected advisor.... and I am living at my parents house.
AL (May 22, 2015 12:43 AM)
I am in the exact same boat because I refused an academic post-doc, I know that isn't what I want and I won't be frightened into it.
Andrew (May 29, 2013 1:31 PM)
With a little over a year left in my PhD, I am considering prospects and have been completely shocked. Previously with a BSc in materials engineering and a few years of work experience, I could have easily expected a starting salary of $50-60K. How is it possible that after four years of PhD work I am looking at the same salary range, if I am lucky? It makes we wonder if I should have just stopped when I was ahead, and started working three years ago. In that case, three years with a company rather than doing a PhD, I imagine I would have already had a couple pay increases, not to mention having been able to settle down. PhDs truly are for those who like research, and perhaps are slightly masochistic!
Athimoolam A (June 4, 2013 2:34 AM)
I was a post doc student during the period of 2003-2006 in the University of Ottawa. My neighbour is truck driver from India too and he is not even a graduate. He was earning almost two times of my salary!!. I do agree that for an industrial position you do not need a more years of post doc experience but I do not agree that post doc is a training period since the job nature is same as that of Ph.D.
David (June 13, 2013 9:56 PM)
If you have your brain, don't do postdoc. If u have to, do only one, and not more than one any cost.
David (June 13, 2013 9:56 PM)
If you have your brain, don't do postdoc. If u have to, do only one, and not more than one any cost.
Mark (June 15, 2013 12:22 PM)
Thanks for publishing this article - it describes exactly the situation in which I was in for about seven years in four different postdoctoral positions. I gained a lot of experience during this time in different research areas, but looking back I can clearly say that this was not appreciated, neither from academia nor from industry. As mentioned in the article and in the video, it lead to disbelief in my capabilities during interviews instead. Why did I do so many postdocs? Because I wanted to stay in the science field and didn't want to go to IT or consulting jobs! I was supported by several grants with high reputation, but everything is short term and not permanent. I had to move four times during this time and couldn't establish myself in any of those areas because I had to stay flexible.

Do I have regrets? Not about taking the postdoctoral opportunities which I simply got and took (one at a time), I was never unemployed. But what I sometimes regret is that I started in chemistry in the beginning not knowing how the situation is after finishing the PhD. Now I know better! I always enjoyed chemistry and studying, but likely I would start in medicine now if I could turn back time. I don't know any graduate in medicine who is unemployed neither in Europe nor in the US, but I know many PhD chemists who struggle finding more permanent positions.

Too many profit from this bad habit of graduates circulating in the postdoctoral slope. First there are the professors, some build more than 60% of the research group with postdocs they don't even need to pay for because they only provide a position if the postdoc brings her/his own funding. This often happens at top 10 Universities. If suddenly postdoctoral stays wouldn't be necessary anymore due to a better job market, all those academic research groups would suffer a lot. I wouldn't have any mercy to see this happening (but it won't, I know!).

Second there is industry. There are also postdoctoral positions, but they are much more rare than in academia and much harder to get either through connections or you need to work during your PhD in a more applicable science field which exactly fits to the need of industry so that no training is required. Chances are much higher from such position to be hired as regular employee after 1-2 years of industrial postdoc. I personally was never lucky to find an industrial postdoctoral position since I always worked in basic research in academia.

Finally I made it - I applied in parallel both for positions as assistant professor and in industry. I landed twice on rank No. 2 in my academic searches, but I was finally hired as scientist 7 years ago by a known chemical company. I am working in industry since.
Maureen Rouhi (July 31, 2013 10:24 AM)
Thank you for sharing your experience, Mark. Your optimism despite the real difficulties you went through is admirable.
Mark (August 1, 2013 5:54 PM)
Thanks, Maureen! As you correctly said, I went through a lot of difficult situations in my career, and I could write a book about some of those experiences (with changed names of course). Interestingly the things which we are commenting here are never really spoken out loudly in articles. Everything there aims for making chemistry attractive for prospective students etc. Nobody likes to talk about the hard reality after graduation.
katy (July 26, 2013 1:19 PM)
I agree to all what said. The situation is even worse in the UK. Professors not only use postdocs to climb on their shoulders while sitting in their offices, they contribute to destroying their career in science. A friend of mine applied for an academic job while working at Leeds university, his professor said to him that the department does not need him. My fried found out later that this professor was helping an external candidate to get the job--very unfair! The other problem, is that many postdocs are struggling to get academic jobs because of the dirty politics in HE.. in the UK we tend to be a bit polite and call it 'the small community' or 'links'. These are the very links that are accessible to professors and senior academics who play Gods are causing smart postdocs to suffer for years waiting to settle in a long-term job! I really look forward to this to change some day.
Mark (August 1, 2013 5:48 PM)
@katy: Unfortunately I experienced similar things quite a few times in academia. It is shocking first but then you realize that this is unfortunately common both in academia - and also in industry. Politics counts, much less the skill you have. The big dogs in academia are mostly not the smartest scientists but the best connected and "liked" ones in their community. To become professor at a research University, you need to have at least one advisor who supports you a lot and (pre-)determines your career path. Anything else is simply useless spent time for your career (not for your own personal experience and wisdom of course). Sounds hard but it is the truth, this is how the system works.
Arnold (September 30, 2013 10:07 PM)
For the situation in Japan, most post-doc are found by a competitive scholarship. Private labs are hard to find. sending a CV and ask for a job just won't work.
But here I am, working in Japan as a part-time (post-doc level) for a short-term period. My contract stipulate that I m paid 1300 yen/hour, with no time limit or conditions whatsoever.
But at the end of the 1st month, where I accumulated 180 hours of works in a month, I am told that I can't legally work more than 7h30 hours a day, and that I can't be paid more than 100 hours by the lab, so my salary is just cut off. Same thing happened the next month. well it is surely not legal.

Japanese are good to mix what is legal and what is not to confuse you. And because you have comes all the way for being in Japan, you can't say no...

Sad, isn't it...
Jamal (October 30, 2013 3:49 PM)
All of you guys should stop complaining. This is your decision to go into this career and not anybody else's. In fact, I strongly believe you should get a pay cut instead of a boost. I'd say the ideal starting salary should be 34k. I mean science is interesting and everything but if you want to do a postdoc for the money, then don't do it. I assuming most of you didn't do into it for that, so you should even be talking about it since you made the decision. If your not happy with your job, then get out and do something else instead of whining like babies. There are more than 2 billion people starving everyday and all you think of is a pay increase. Please be realistic. At least you guys don't have to live on the streets and build homes from junk materials. If your complaining about your postdoc in any way, then this career isn't for you.
Jon Burt (July 17, 2014 1:42 PM)
Jamal, the merits of how to better anyones life situation is worthy of discussion. It is the only way to improve the grievances of those in difficult situations. I doubt very much that you understand the toll of a graduate school track, a postdoc period and what an early career in science involves. Had you read the article you will see that this labor force provides an invaluable foundation for numerous technological developments in the US work force. Because of this it merits a fair market wage and accomodation of a sound career path as associated with other professions. Improving this aspect will not only enhance the strategic objectives but sustain a happier and more productive workforce. So quit being a troll and try to use your brain to rationalise the probelm.
life is beautiful (October 30, 2013 3:56 PM)
You guys clearly new what you were getting into. Please stop complaining and making science look bad. If you think money buys you happiness, then don't come into this career and making the rest of us look whiny. For those of you who want to start families during a postdoc (especially women), I'd suggest you put it off until your mid forties. Besides research has shown that women can have healthy babies until 45-48. So make your choice. Don't go into it and complain about the career.
Juan (May 31, 2014 12:29 PM)
Postdoc seen as simple cheap labor, what a disgrace, after all those many years of study and cheap labor, you get... more cheap labor. With the difference that now you're probably over 30, with no savings, no retirement, of course no house and forget about a family!
Bokka (February 24, 2016 10:13 PM)
Think 10 times before joining a PhD. You are going to invest at least 8 years of your valuable time on research with very low wage and no guarantee of getting job after your PhD and postdoc. I have seen people working as a postdoc for 10-15 years and getting retired as a postdocs... One more time be careful. Survival is very hard. Highly qualified cheap labor. Until 40 years you will save nothing. Lot of stupid politics...

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