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October 2008 Issue

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Postdoctoral Fellows Working to Organize Group to Help Address Common Goals and Concerns

Published October 2008

As postdoctoral fellows at UC, Jamie Baird-Titus, PhD, and several colleagues are interested in sharing information with other UC postdocs and forming a more dynamic community to help address common goals and concerns.

Thanks to support from administrators in the office of research and the graduate school, and a $1,000 seed grant from the National Postdoctoral Association, they are well on their way to achieving that goal.

“There are a lot of issues that face postdocs that need to be addressed, such as responsible conduct of research, career development and navigating interpersonal relationships,” says Baird-Titus, who works in the lab of Mark Rance, PhD, in the department of molecular genetics, biochemistry and microbiology.

“They’re all complicated issues, and postdocs don’t really have an organized, campus-wide group that is helping them deal with those issues.

“We’re kind of on our own and separated from one another, by both physical distance due to havingmultiple campuses and because of the wide variety of academic disciplines at UC.”

Sandra Degen, PhD, vice president for research at UC, and Paul Bishop, PhD, associate vice president for research, began taking steps earlier this year to change that.

They invited postdocs to a meeting designed to discuss the issues they face and gauge interest in forming a group, and Baird-Titus attended the meeting. Subsequently, she attended the yearly meeting of the National Postdoctoral Association (NPA).

“One of the things the NPA does to promote postdoctoral training is award $1,000 seed grants to different universities based on an application process,” Baird-Titus says. “We wrote an application for that seed grant in June and were selected for funding in July.”

Baird-Titus and her colleagues plan to put together a faculty panel that will discuss issues of interest to postdocs in a moderated forum.

“The idea is to bring everybody together in a centralized location, get a discussion going and hopefullymotivate both the faculty and the postdocs to support the development of a vibrant postdoctoral community,” she says.

The grant money will go toward technological support of the forum, including videotaping it and possibly translating it into other languages, says Baird-Titus, who notes that she has surveyed UC postdocs and found that about 70 percent of them are here on a visa.

“A lot of times English is a second language for our postdocs, and effective communication can be problematic,” she says.

Baird-Titus says about 170 postdocs were identified at UC as a result of the survey.

“But we think there are slightly more than that because they’re such a constantly changing group that it’s difficult to identify them,” she says.

Baird-Titus and her colleagues, including Pamela Heckel, Elizabeth Kopras, Anand Selvaraj, Annamaria De Sanctis, Hala Elnakat and Jacque Daugherty, are exploring the technological issues involved in setting up the forum and hope to conduct it in mid- November.

For more information about the upcoming programming or to get involved, contact Baird-Titus at

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