City of Hope leaders have created a new office to help recruit and support postdoctoral fellows, a move designed to improve and streamline offerings for researchers embarking on their scientific careers.
In addition, academic leaders have selected a new program manager to oversee that office, said Susan Kane, Ph.D., senior vice president for academics.
Laurett Rivera, who previously worked as a scientific recruiter in the Human Resources Department, assumed her post as postdoctoral studies program manager on March 5.
The new Postdoctoral Studies Office will help faculty recruit postdoctoral fellows and support them while they work at City of Hope. The Postdoctoral Studies Office is part of the new Center for Graduate and Professional Studies, headed by Kane.
Postdoctoral fellows, or “postdocs” for short, are investigators who have earned a doctorate in medicine or a scientific field and are undertaking further academic training (typically lasting three to five years) in the laboratory of an established investigator in preparation for starting their own lab. Nowadays, many postdocs also pursue alternative scientific careers in biotechnology companies, law, teaching or writing.
In creating the Postdoctoral Studies Office — and Rivera’s new position — City of Hope responds to a trend in the training of young scientists. “There has been a national movement in recent years to raise the status of postdocs as a whole,” said Kane. “The Postdoctoral Studies Office and postdoctoral studies program manager position were created to serve the needs of postdocs and support our research faculty in an effort to attract high-quality postdoctoral fellows to their labs.”
Rivera, who grew up in San Dimas, Calif., holds a bachelor of science degree in cellular and molecular biology from UC Riverside. Although her new job responsibilities are evolving, Rivera already has goals for the position.
“A lot of postdocs coming here are lost,” said Rivera, speaking not just metaphorically. “We have had postdocs who just arrived at the airport who called and said they didn’t know how to get here.”
Many of these logistical issues, she noted, can seem particularly daunting at City of Hope, where about 80 percent of the 119 postdoctoral fellows come from abroad.
Co-chair of the City of Hope Postdoctoral Association (PDA) Dave Finger, Ph.D., agrees that it would have been nice even for him, an American, if peers had assured him that they had experienced what he was going through when he first arrived. “That would have been a great welcoming present from City of Hope,” he said, “especially to postdocs who come from outside the United States.”
Rivera will provide that welcome by addressing important issues, from helping postdocs with immigration issues to identifying fellowship opportunities. Duties also include assistance with finding affordable housing. She also will establish an alumni database to follow careers of former postdocs and will work with City of Hope’s career counselor to set up workshops in networking and public speaking.
PDA co-chair Adina Vultur, Ph.D., sees Rivera’s office as a temporary haven for young scientists. “Similar to travelers, postdocs are here for a short time and need to make the most of their experience,” said Vultur, a Canadian. “Having an ‘embassy’ to help them will take away a lot of worry and allows postdocs to focus on what they came here to do — good science.”
Postdocs also noted that prior to Rivera’s appointment, City of Hope’s Ileana Abich, research faculty support administrator, performed many of the duties of a postdoc officer. Abich, a strong advocate for postdocs, helped establish the PDA in 2000 and set up a budget to support postdoc travel and a speaker series.
For more information about the PDA, visit www.cityofhope.org/pda. More information about graduate school programs is available at www.cityofhope.org/gradschool.