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Postdocs aren’t students

February 20, 2017 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 95, Issue 8

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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