In 2001, Dr. Christine Des Jarlais, EdD, became the first assistant dean for postdoctoral affairs and graduate outreach at UC San Francisco. Today, with the slightly different title of assistant dean for postdocs and career development and as the director of the Office for Postdoctoral Scholars (OPS), her overarching mission — to improve the quality of training and academic life for UCSF’s 1,100 postdocs — is unchanged.
Within the framework of that mission, one of Dr. Des Jarlais' primary and continuing goals is to heighten postdocs' visibility as a major constituency and to help postdocs garner the respect that they deserve at UCSF, at UC as a whole, and at the national level. Over the course of her tenure at UCSF, she participated in the development and implementation of UC’s 10-campus postdoc policy (introduced in July 2003) as well as the comprehensive benefits plan that is unique to UC’s 6,400 postdocs (2005). She also developed the first website specifically for postdocs at UCSF, initiated postdoc and postdoc administrators listservs, established a “postdocs” link on the UCSF homepage, and developed postdoc mentoring guidelines for faculty.
In November 2008, the United Auto Workers union became the exclusive representative of the 6,400 postdocs in the UC system. As a knowledgeable trailblazer in postdoctoral affairs across UC, Chris was appointed to the UC bargaining team that negotiated the UC-UAW contract, which was ratified August 2010.
In 2012, the then newly appointed Graduate Division Dean Elizabeth Watkins, PhD, specifically added career development responsibilities for postdocs to Chris's portfolio. The emphasis aligns perfectly with UCSF’s NIH BEST grant, which supports career development and exploration activities for both doctoral students and postdocs in the life sciences. With career development activities for postdocs taking on increased importance as postdoc career trajectories have become broader, Chris initiated a very popular "speed-mentoring" event for postdocs in 2012 and 2013, in which a total of 70 postdocs and 41 different mentors participated.
In addition to serving the UCSF postdoc community as a whole, Chris also served as the program administrator of the UCSF IRACDA program from 2008 – 2016, organizing monthly meetings and special events such as a writing retreat, and counseling/advising the postdocs in this program. (Read more about the IRACDA program.) For the 2015-16 academic year, she developed a series of workshops aimed at helping postdocs to achieve research independence, and she organized a two-day course entitled "Scientific Leadership and Management Skills" for postdocs, clinical fellows, and junior faculty. This highly popular course will be held every other year going forward.
Chris continues to work closely with the UCSF Postdoctoral Scholars' Association to ensure their success as an important focal point for postdocs at UCSF. She also makes sure that postdocs are represented on every major campus committee and advocates for postdocs with the senior leadership.
Chris is a leader among the growing group of educators and administrators in higher education who work with and on behalf of postdocs, and she has twice played a key role in organizing the annual conference of the National Postdoc Association.
Chris's EdD degree is from the University of Hawai'i. She brought the spirit of aloha with her from the islands to California and embodies that spirit in her position at UCSF, where she still conducts a warm and welcoming postdoc orientation to new postdocs several times a year.