To many young scientists, working in a postdoctoral position in
the chemical sciences can feel more like indentured servitude than
a mentored opportunity to advance their education. In this special
report, C&EN explores student and university reactions to the
challenges and opportunities for today's postdoc. We also take
a look at efforts to standardize degree granting in Europe.
First, Associate Editor Amanda Yarnell explores
the ever-widening boundaries of the chemical sciences by talking
to chemistry postdocs who have chosen not to work in chemistry
departments. For example, Yarnell interviews Ph.D.s who are honing
their biology knowledge while performing research in chemical
sciences. Other chemists are doing postdocs in materials science
or chemical engineering departments, and they believe these experiences
have worked well in getting them where they want to be.
Next, Assistant Editor Aalok Mehta explores a familiar refrain.
Instead of providing an advanced educational experience, some
postdocs are treated like glorified lab techs without the benefits
or advantages of full-time employment. To recruit and retain
good postdocs, some universities are changing their ways. Also,
a new advocacy association for postdocs has opened up shop in
Washington, D.C. And the American Chemical Society's Academic
Employment Initiative is helping postdocs connect with faculty
As a special to C&EN, Valerie J. Kuck, retired Lucent
Technologies' Bell Laboratories researcher and advocate for
women in chemistry, follows
up on a previous paper about academic hiring. She finds that
the makeup of academic recruiters' favorite hunting grounds is
changing. When the new generation of chemistry professors is hired,
Kuck predicts that there will be more women and fewer foreign-born
chemists in the professoriat.
Education standardization, from undergraduate through graduate
school, has hit Europe in a big way. Associate Editor Celia Henry
new "Eurobachelor" degree and the implications it has for
graduate education and beyond.