Postdocs — more formally, postdoctoral fellows — are the key to the scientific discoveries that are made at JAX and research institutions around the world.
In recognition of the essential role of postdocs in scientific discovery, The Jackson Laboratory recently announced a salary increase for its postdocs.
“Like many postdocs, I enjoy doing science and I love to work in research,” says Max Presa, Ph.D., a postdoc in the lab of Dave Serreze, Ph.D. “I am glad to see how JAX recognizes the work and contribution of postdocs to the institutional goals.”
Postdocs are scientists who have earned a Ph.D. degree — or an M.D. or a D.V.M. — and are continuing their scientific training under the mentorship of a more experienced researcher. It’s an apprenticeship that allows a scientist to gradually gain independence and shape their own research program within the supportive structure of an established lab and its resources.
Presa has been a postdoc at JAX for about four years. He came to work in Serreze’s lab after earning his Ph.D. in Barcelona, Spain. Presa, who studies type 1 diabetes, wanted to gain more experience and expand his research in preparation for establishing his own lab.
With the benefit of Serreze’s expertise in immunological tolerance, Presa investigates how autoreactive immune cells survive in type I diabetes patients. Normally, these “self-attacking” cells would be eliminated. In patients, they survive and destroy the pancreas, and with it, insulin production.
Postdocs at JAX receive full benefits, have access to year-round career development programs, undergo annual reviews by their mentors and a lab-wide training committee, and are encouraged and supported in planning to move on to independent careers.
These elements of JAX’s postdoc program align with the 2014 recommendations of the National Academies. Now, JAX has also adopted the National Academies’ salary recommendation, which exceeds both the Fair Labor Standards Act overtime requirement and the proposed 2017 NIH scale by more than 10%.
For Kira Young, a postdoc who studies how aging affects blood cells, in Jennifer Trowbridge’s lab, this was good news.
“It’s great to see JAX go beyond the NIH recommendations,” Young says. “I know a lot of institutions are sticking with the NIH scale, but JAX increased our salaries throughout the experience scale. That will make a big difference.”
“By acknowledging postdocs’ critical contributions to JAX, we are making JAX an attractive place for early career scientists to pursue their careers and join the search for tomorrow’s cures,” says Tom Litwin, Ph.D., Vice President for Education.
With these steps, JAX achieves an institutional goal of recognizing and rewarding postdocs through competitive salaries, full benefits, and career services.