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postdocs -- ask your mentor

Judith Gibber jrg43 at columbia.edu
Mon Aug 18 06:14:39 EST 1997

On Fri, 15 Aug 1997, Bart Janssen wrote:

> Judith Gibber wrote:
> > I think that the postdoc should be a training period, and we should
> > focus on changing it back to what it was:  a) a short-term position
> > and
> > b) a chance to broaden one's scientific skills by learning something
> > new.
> Agreed.  What we don't agree on is the fact that having obtained a PhD a
> scientist is already a highly skilled and highly valuable worker.  

No, we DO agree about that.  Maybe I can convey my opinion more clearly
by omitting the word "postdoc":

I think there are two general options after grad school:

A.  grad school ==> job
B.  grad school ==> traineeship ==> job

I agree that after getting a PhD, people are skilled enough to be hired
immediately in a job (A).  But some people have had the opportunity to do
B, to experience an intensive period of research in a lab that uses
different techniques or approaches than the grad school lab, before
beginning the first job.  Not that they NEEDED to be trained before
they could be trusted to work well, but that they wanted to and were
given the chance to take advantage of a short period, free from other 
commitments, to broaden their knowledge and skills.  This chance seemed
more of a gift than an obligation.

What I understood (or, perhaps, misunderstood) from the comments of some 
here, was that you saw yourselves as being in A, and were (rightfully)
upset about the low pay of your jobs, and I merely was surprised that you 
were not also upset about not having the chance to do B.

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