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Postdocs Speak Out

Conquest - Spring 2007

What makes M. D. Anderson the best workplace in North America for new scientists?

Collaboration, superior mentorship and research independence, according to The Scientist magazine’s fifth annual survey of postdoctoral research fellows.

Postdoctoral fellow Cara Benjamin, Ph.D., works alongside her mentor Honnavara Ananthaswamy, Ph.D., in unraveling the genetic causes of melanoma.

M. D. Anderson postdocs cited these qualities as the institution’s strong points, driving M. D. Anderson’s ranking from 29th in 2006 to first place in 2007.

Fourth-year postdoctoral fellow Cara Benjamin, Ph.D., was not at all surprised with M. D. Anderson’s top billing. “This is a phenomenal institution with many opportunities to conduct important and independent research.”

Benjamin, who earned her Ph.D. in veterinary anatomy at Texas A&M University, says she feels “extremely fortunate” to be working with Honnavara Ananthaswamy, Ph.D., professor in M. D. Anderson’s Department of Immunology, on research to understand the genetic mutations that cause melanoma.

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 really comes from our postdocs, and that makes this ranking most gratifying,” says Stephen Tomasovic, Ph.D., senior vice president for academic affairs and vice president for extramural programs ad interim at M. D. Anderson. “These results reflect the commitment of our research faculty and 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.”

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.

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center