If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.



Turnabout On Postdocs

September 23, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 38

I am writing regarding the article “Postdoc Pains and Gains” (C&EN, May 20, page 41). I am a retired polymer scientist and still active in my field as a consultant. I empathize with those graduate students who, after years of hard work, have to settle for postdoctoral assignments and live on meager salaries. Some students might enjoy doing postdoctoral work, but the majority would like to find a rewarding career. I worked as a postdoc back in the early 1970s when my salary was $10,000 per year. Compared with that, today’s postdocs are lucky in terms of pay.

Otherwise, postdoctoral work is a waste of time—except to show off some publications. Sure, there may be some instances where a postdoc has done some breakthrough research, but most of the work is just an extension of graduate research projects. Besides, a majority of companies don’t care about postdoctoral work. In fact, I would change the whole postdoc category.

I strongly support the idea of hiring retired industrial scientists as postdoctoral researchers in academe. With their years of exposure to industrial problem solving and product development, many retired scientists and engineers could contribute a lot to the research programs of principal investigators at universities. And the presence of a retired industrial scientist in a research group would benefit graduate students. Retired industry scientists could nurture grad students by, for example, holding informal sessions on industrial problem solving, thinking in terms of improving a company’s bottom line, addressing applied research problems, and so on. I am interested in contributing as a postdoc.

Sitaram Rampalli
Orland Park, Ill.



This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.