To celebrate the work of its postdoctoral scholars, Caltech will mark National Postdoc Appreciation Week from September 17–21 with events including divisional town hall meetings, social mixers, career discussions, and a raffle for Amazon gift cards.
Initiated by the National Postdoctoral Association in 2009, the annual event recognizes the contributions that postdocs make to research and discovery worldwide. The Caltech Postdoc Association (CPA)—which advocates on behalf of the postdoc community and seeks to boost professional and personal developmentopportunities—has hosted events marking the occasion previously, but this year the organization is boosting the size, number, and coordination of events campus-wide to underscore the contributions postdocs make.
The weeklong event mirrors new Institute-wide efforts to provide more coordinated services that will support postdocs. Earlier this year, Caltech established the Postdoctoral Scholars Office (PSO)—overseen by Vice Provost Kaushik Bhattacharya—to represent postdocs' interests. It also established the Postdoctoral Studies Committee—made up of members from the PSO, faculty representatives from each division, the CPA, and Human Resources—to propose recommendations for improving the postdoc experience at Caltech.
CPA chair Sreeram Balasubramanian, a postdoctoral scholar in biology and biological engineering, notes that postdocs "represent a unique part of the Caltech community. They are scholars who play an invaluable role in Caltech's research enterprise by primarily engaging in research activities as part of their continued training post-graduation to help prepare for their chosen career paths." Moreover, most postdocs mentor graduate and undergraduate students: "That's an important service that most postdocs provide while pursuing their research endeavors."
Bhattacharya says that Caltech has about 700 postdocs working on campus at any given time, making its postdoc-to-student ratio as much as four times higher than peer institutions. This is why they play an "especially vital" role in research at the Institute, he says.
"The success of our alumni scholars is a critical part of our impact," Bhattacharya adds. "However, since postdoctoral scholars are deeply immersed in their research and identified with individual laboratories, they do not always feel integrated with the larger Caltech community. The Postdoctoral Scholars Office and the Postdoctoral Studies Committee seek to address their needs at the Institute and to enable them to succeed. National Postdoc Appreciation Week is an important opportunity to recognize this dedicated and talented group of scholars, and to acknowledge their contributions to the Institute."
In a letter to the campus community on September 17, the first day of National Postdoc Appreciation Week, President Thomas Rosenbaum highlighted the crucial work of postdocs, noting that "Caltech's mission of world-leading research and education depends crucially on our postdoctoral scholars. Although their time at Caltech may be short, they quickly become vital parts of the Institute's intellectual fabric."
For National Postdoc Appreciation Week, Balasubramanian says,the CPA aims to "increase awareness for postdocs, inform our postdocs about various campus resources, and facilitate interactions within the community."
In collaboration with the Office of the Provost as well as the Institute's divisions and its campus partners, the CPA will host Appreciation Week activities that include free morning coffee and informational booths, town hall meetings focusing on postdocs' needs and concerns, an ice cream social, a tech-and-industry mixer, reflections and advice from postdoc alumni, and an opportunity to get free professional headshots.
More information on the week's schedule of events can be found here.
Written by Jon Nalick