New Association Aims to Bring Postdocs Together

The GW Postdoctoral Association will focus on community, networking and career building.

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September 09, 2016

By Kristen Mitchell

Concentrated in his own world of research, postdoctoral fellow George Younes said he went months without meeting new colleagues in the Department of Physics, let alone anyone else at the university.

“Most of the interactions we have as postdocs is with our mentors, principal investigators and probably some colleagues we work closely with,” he said. “Research requires a lot of time commitment, and we don’t have the time to go out and network.”

Dr. Younes said it didn’t have to be that way though, and with support from the university decided to form the George Washington University Postdoc Association, an organization that will focus on networking, professional development and social engagement across fields and school boundaries. Postdoctoral fellows participate in temporary mentored research and training for a set length of time.

Supported by the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, School of Medicine and Health Sciences, School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Office of the Vice President for Research, the association is officially launching this month with an event during National Postdoc Appreciation Week Sept. 19 to Sept. 23.

Interested postdocs can meet in the Science and Engineering Hall room B1167 on Sept. 19 at 5 p.m. for a private kickoff event, where sweets and drinks will be served. Attendees should RSVP in advance.

SMHS is taking an active role in supporting and mentoring the association. Associate Dean for Research Bob Miller said postdocs represent the creative and innovation hub of research, and that the position is one of both learning and significant contribution.

“A strong postdoc support system will encourage the most talented young investigators to join the workforce of the university and contribute significantly to our intellectual environment,” he said.

Dr. Younes said when many Ph.D. students graduate from universities, they are entering a workforce where the faculty jobs that were abundant for previous generations are scarce. With more people than ever getting doctoral degrees, there is more competition for faculty positions, leaving many qualified candidates looking for jobs outside of academia in the private and public sectors.

The GW association will focus in part on job search skills for those seeking less traditional paths.

“It would be nice to introduce these postdocs to opening their own nonprofit organizations, their own startups,” Dr. Younes said.

The organization will also act as a link between postdoctoral fellows and the university administration, Dr. Younes said.

The university encouraged the association’s creation and has provided funding, Dr. Younes said.

"Postdocs are an important and growing part of the university’s research enterprise,” said Gina Lohr, associate vice president for research. “The Office of the Vice President for Research is pleased to support the formation of the GW Postdoc Association as well as its goals of professional development and building a sense of community among its members."
 

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