Postdocs aren’t students | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 95 Issue 8 | p. 4 | Letters
Issue Date: February 20, 2017

Postdocs aren’t students

Department: Letters
Keywords: letters

It is sad to see the words “Graduate & Postdoctoral Student Chemistry Research” in the title of a symposium to be held at the next ACS meeting. And not just any symposium, but a presidential event, no less. C&EN in its coverage goes on to refer explicitly to “postdoctoral students” (C&EN, Feb. 6, page 65).

Postdocs are scholars, not students. They have completed the longest and most advanced courses of study available in their fields and earned the highest degrees attainable—degrees that qualify them to be professors. Far from being students, postdocs are highly trained scholars who assist faculty in teaching students, guiding projects, and supervising research groups under the leadership of their principal investigators.

Postdoctoral scholars are frequently used as cheap academic labor and at least one recent study, based on longitudinal data over more than 30 years, has shown that doing a postdoc is injurious to their long-term career earnings (Nat. Biotechnol. 2017, DOI: 10.1038/nbt.3766). To this injury, ACS is now adding the proverbial insult by calling them students. ACS and its president owe an apology to this underappreciated group of our colleagues.

Andrew J. Lovinger
Arlington, Va.


Jan. 30, page 27: The feature story about China’s investments in new light sources incorrectly described a field served by synchrotrons as condensed metaphysics. The field is condensed matter physics.

Feb. 13, page 28: The cover story about the challenge of delivering CRISPR inside the body incorrectly stated that Casebia Therapeutics is a joint venture between Novartis and CRISPR Therapeutics. It is a joint venture between Bayer and CRISPR Therapeutics.

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James S. Nowick (February 23, 2017 12:48 PM)
I appreciate your concern that my title "LGBT Graduate and Postdoctoral Student Chemistry Research Symposium" may have come across as disrespectful of the status postdoctoral scholars. I had not intended to do so, having only chosen this title out of concern for brevity. Please accept my apologies.

Although it is too late to change the title in the program booklet and other published materials, I will plan to use the title "LGBT Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Scholar Chemistry Research Symposium" in slides and other informal materials that can be changed. This title accurately aligns the title of the symposium with ACS usage, such as that found at

I invite you to attend the symposium on Sunday and Monday April 2 and 3 at the San Francisco ACS meeting. Thirty graduate students and postdoctoral scholars will give talks on their research. I am proud to have raised support for each of these young scientists and hope you will be able to join us.

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