By Clinton Colmenares
April 04, 2013
The University of Alabama at Birmingham  (UAB) is the top university and eighth overall institution among those ranked in the “Best Places to Work – Postdocs ” (Download top10.pdf ) survey results published in The Scientist. UAB’s overall ranking improved eight places from its 2012 spot.
In its web-based survey, The Scientist , a magazine for science professionals, asked postdocs to assess their working environment based on 38 criteria in nine areas, including quality of training and mentoring, communication, funding, facilities, pay and benefits, as well as family and personal life. The magazine ranked 53 U.S. and eight non-U.S. institutions.
Strengths cited for UAB include the quality of training and mentoring, as well as career development opportunities and networking.
“It’s wonderful to see our postdocs like what we’re doing, and I think we’re doing well in providing them with training that they need and that they’ve asked for,” said Lisa M. Schwiebert, Ph.D. , associate dean for postdoctoral education in the UAB School of Medicine . “They’re a very important research force here at UAB who provide the hands-on and intellectual input for driving science.”
UAB was among the first universities in the country to establish an Office of Postdoctoral Education  (OPE) in 1999. The OPE works to continually improve benefits and career opportunities for the 230 UAB postdoctoral scholars training in dentistry, engineering, health professions, medicine, natural sciences and mathematics, public health, optometry and social and behavioral sciences. More than 80 percent of the university’s postdocs are in the School of Medicine.
The OPE encourages UAB research mentors to follow the National Research Service Award stipend level guidelines, and postdoctoral scholars qualify for health, life and other insurances. The scholars also have the right to participate in the university’s 403(b) program and enjoy vacation, sick leave and benefits.
OPE encourages feedback from postdocs and provides one-on-one career counseling through partnerships with the graduate school and the Office of Career and Professional Services, as well as through the UAB Postdoctoral Association , a volunteer organization that gives a voice to postdoc issues.
The OPE and the UAB Postdoctoral Association work together to develop career opportunities to enhance the training experience of all postdoctoral scholars at UAB, including providing courses in grant writing, lab management and job skills and awards for career enhancement, grant incentives and internships.
“We get input and feedback from a variety of groups and areas, and I think that only helps us to strengthen our programs,” Schwiebert said. “We encourage our postdocs to step up and take control of their career development, while fulfilling the role they have in their specific lab.”
Read at UAB News .