Where do UCSF Postdoc Alumni Work?

Dean Watkins

On September 23, Graduate Dean and Vice Chancellor of Student Academic Affairs Elizabeth Watkins shared the results of a new study conducted by the Graduate Division about the career outcomes of UCSF's postdoctoral scholars.

Watkins explained that the impetus for doing the study was, first, to figure out what kind of programming UCSF should be offering for postdocs, bearing in mind the wide range of careers postdocs are choosing to pursue across academia, private industry, and the public sector. Secondly, she said, "To our knowledge, nobody else has done a study like this, so it gave us at UCSF a real opportunity to be national leaders in thinking creatively about the postdoc experience and the best kind of co-curricular training and programming we can give in addition to research training."

The postdoc study was based on an earlier (2012-2013) study, also conducted in the Graduate Division, into the career outcomes of UCSF's basic science PhD alumni. Both studies used the basic career categories defined in the NIH Biomedical Workforce Report, published in 2012, and both studies used the national data in this report for comparison.

UCSF's postdoc study reflects the career outcomes of over 1,700 postdocs who separated from the University between 2000 and 2013, representing roughly 40% of all postdocs who left the University over that time.

Rather than relying on surveys, the study pulled data from the information submitted to the NIH from 28 "T32" training programs across 303 faculty labs at UCSF. It was practical to look at this group, since T32 programs are required to report postdoc and graduate student career outcomes to the NIH for ten years out. The T32 data were verified using a combination of online resources, such as LinkedIn, employer websites, and so on.

The study revealed that 85% of all UCSF postdoc alumni during the period examined have landed in research-related careers. This breaks down to about 62% remaining in academia, about half of these being in tenure-line faculty positions; 19% in an industrial setting; and 4% in government research, at institutes like the NIH and state-run departments of health. Another 9% of postdocs in the study went on to science-related positions not in research, such as biotech business development or clinical work. This means that 94% of postdocs are still engaged with the research enterprise.

UCSF has one of the largest postdoc populations of any university, and the UC system as a whole has the largest multi-campus postdoc community in the nation. Postdocs at UCSF are supported by a dedicated Postdoc Office, which is part of the Graduate Division. As Dean Watkins pointed out, postdocs at UCSF have full access to the services off the Office of Career and Professional Development, which is not true at all UC campuses or at other universities.

The Postdoc Career Outcomes Study was conducted by Dr. Christine Des Jarlais, assistant dean for postdocs and career development; Ugo Edu, a Rosenberg-Hill Fellow and PhD candidate in the Medical Anthropology Program; and Erik Rotman, analyst in the Graduate Division.

The UCSF community can see a video of the presentation online or view the relevant slides in UCSF Box. (You will be prompted to enter your MyAccess credentials.)

In slider photo on homepage, postdoc alumnus Tigwa Davis, now a senior scientist in neurobiology at ATCC Cell Systems, speaks at an alumni event at UCSF in 2011. Photo of Dean/VC Watkins above is by Susan Merrell.