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New Scientists Rank M. D. Anderson First as Place to Start Career

M. D. Anderson News Release 03/02/07

The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center is the best workplace in North America for new scientists, according to The Scientist magazine's fifth annual survey of postdoctoral research fellows.

M. D. Anderson "postdocs" cited opportunities for collaboration, superior mentorship and research independence as the institution's strong points, the magazine noted, driving M. D. Anderson's ranking from 29th in 2006 to first place in 2007.

A postdoctoral appointment is the first step in a scientist's career after earning a doctorate. Both a first research job and an extension of scientific education under the guidance of a senior scientist, it can be thought of as the scientific version of the residency undertaken by new physicians.

"The Scientist makes the great effort to compile this survey each year, but the recognition here really comes from our postdocs, and that makes this ranking most gratifying," says Stephen Tomasovic, Ph.D., M. D. Anderson senior vice president for academic affairs. "These results reflect both the commitment of our research faculty and of our academic affairs departments to ensure postdocs have a full opportunity to advance research in their field while really learning the fine details of what it means to be a scientist."

Tracy Costello, Ph.D., and past chair of M. D. Anderson Postdoctoral Association, told The Scientist that postdocs are treated with respect and have access to what they need to succeed. "If there's something you need to do or something you need to learn, there's someone here who knows how to do it, and lab space to teach you how to do it," says Costello, whose mentors are Carol Etzel, Ph.D., assistant professor, and Sara Strom, Ph.D., associate professor, both in the M. D. Anderson Department of Epidemiology.

"We are thrilled that M. D. Anderson has received this distinction," says Toya Candelari, Dr.P.H., associate vice president for trainee and alumni affairs. "Although the Department of Trainee and Alumni Affairs and the Postdoctoral Association are celebrating this honor, we recognize there are many departments and individuals who contribute on a daily basis to making this institution an outstanding place for postdoctoral training."

Candelari noted a decision several years ago by M. D. Anderson senior leaders to commit funds to support postdocs was an important change. The Postdoctoral Association was re-established four years ago and an association steering committee works closely with trainee and alumni affairs staff.

"The Postdoctoral Association Steering Committee is the voice for postdoctoral fellows at M. D. Anderson," says Martha Skender, associate director in Trainee and Alumni Affairs. "Based on the results of this survey, it is clear that our postdocs recognize that they are valued, that the institution is listening."

The Scientist survey covered 11 categories, with postdoc respondents judging their institutions on such criteria as communication, mentoring, facilities, training, career preparation and compensation. The most important factor cited was the quality of training and career preparation offered by an institution.

According to The Scientist, those institutions that made significant jumps in the magazine's rankings - as M. D. Anderson did - may have done so partly because of a growing recognition of the importance of postdocs on their campuses.

"Postdocs are the lifeblood of academic science," says The Scientist editor Richard Gallagher. "Our survey is one of the few nationwide efforts to assess their needs and desires and to recognize excellence in postdoc programs."

The Scientist's March issue features full survey results and a listing of the 40 best-rated North American institutions. Here are the top 15:

  1. M. D. Anderson Cancer Center
  2. The J. David Gladstone Institutes, San Francisco
  3. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Research Triangle Park, N.C.
  4. Genentech, South San Francisco
  5. The University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa
  6. National Jewish Medical and Research Center, Denver
  7. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Research Triangle Park, N.C.
  8. Emory University, Atlanta
  9. Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research, Ithaca, N.Y.
  10. Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle
  11. Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, Calif.
  12. University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia
  13. National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Md.
  14. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.
  15. Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tenn.

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center