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Postdoc conversation continues

April 3, 2017 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 95, Issue 14

I’m on the side of Andrew Lovinger in viewing that postdocs are not students (C&EN, Feb. 20, page 4). I am a postdoc in a federal lab, but I seem to have an experience similar to other non-postdoc contractors.

Those who hire postdocs must say it’s an educational, and hence student-like, experience for one simple reason: It makes the postdocs cheaper. If there is no educational benefit, there is no FICA exemption. With the option between one Ph.D. researcher (including Social Security and Medicare taxes, benefits, etc., beyond the salary) or two postdocs (only a stipend) for the same cost, which would you choose?

In short, I don’t believe postdocs are students, but for tax purposes, it is advantageous for our sponsoring institutions to classify us as such.

Ian McAninch
Abingdon, Md.

That explains the rejection and nonpublication of what the octogenarian Donald McCartor might have learned from his observation or experiment about “quantum mechanics and free will” by Physical Review Letters because he “has no current academic affiliation” (C&EN, Jan. 9, page 3). Affiliation is to those whose profession is to learn new things every day and share such learning with their peers and ultimately the larger society.

And in any case, how many people have ever been addressed as postdoctoral students, how many are currently being so addressed, and how many more will ever be so addressed in the entire world? To me, to be so addressed is a privilege and honor for the outstanding few.

Bunmi Agboola
Amassoma, Wilberforce Island, Nigeria


Feb. 27, page 10: In the science brief about the mode of action of unusual antibiotics, the structure of the reduced-holomycin/metal complex had a sulfur atom in the incorrect spot. The correct structure is shown.

March 6, page 31: In the cover story on aging, a quote from an expert in aging science says: “Age is the greatest risk factor for nearly every major cause of mortality in developing nations.” It should be “developed nations.”

March 13, page 34: The feature story about J. Fraser Stoddart incorrectly stated when he co-earned the 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Jean-Pierre Sauvage and Ben L. Feringa. They won the Nobel last October.


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