Wednesday Open House

On Wednesday, March 21, we hosted an informal discussion among former and current postdocs about the success of the NCEAS postdoctoral program, as well as our personal experiences as postdocs here.

**Perhaps you didn’t know this, but the postdoctoral program is one of the most unexpected positive results of NCEAS. Early worries were that the postdocs would suffer from lack of mentoring, wouldn’t land jobs, and would be intellectually isolated. That worst case scenario didn’t happen.

We talked about what worked, what didn’t, and what could have been better?

Thank you all for coming and see below for a summary of the discussion!

If you’d like to post more comments or ideas, please do so here….

And hope to see you again soon in the NCEAS lounge!

Mary Turnipseed, Stacy Rebich Hespanha, Carrie Kappel, Katie Longo, and Jennifer Balch


*Themes that Emerged from the Postdoc Open House during TREAS*


The culture of NCEAS is collaborative, collegial, social, and carries “gravitas,” where it’s important to “be engaged in the [continued] success of a place.”

“Here, collaboration is the culture.”

You get spoiled while here, it’s “mint on the pillow” science.


The importance of independence cannot be understated, critical to postdoc success is the time and capacity to pursue work.

Freedom is not a hindrance due to “NCEAS phenotype”: postdocs here are independent thinkers. Thus they have initiative to seek what they need if it’s not already provided (e.g., teaching experience, grad student management experience, advice from mentors or colleagues).

Lack of mentorship is replaced by “mothering” among peers: support by fellow postdocs going through same challenges but not competing for same intellectual spaces.

Impact on Careers

Question: How did NCEAS change your career or influence how you do science now?


“It’s almost like I’m training my students now to be NCEAS postdocs.”

The level of confidence fostered here probably helped us get good jobs.

Synthesis is a definitely a different type of scientific skill, which I try to teach to my students.

Several former postdocs have developed weekly meetings of postdocs and grad students in the vein of EcoLunch and open house and one has created a grad student course on career development that was inspired by Open House.

“Profession development and skills transfer at NCEAS is unparalleled” in other postdoc experiences.

The “world comes to you” at NCEAS, with the constant flux of scientists, which provides incredible networking opportunities.

“What NCEAS does for women” is pretty remarkable: most of us are now at universities with few senior women. All the women coming through NCEAS for working groups served as invaluable mentors.

Synthesis is family-friendly.

Looking Ahead

Question: Going forward what should NCEAS try to maintain?

Answer: Independence, continuity of postdocs to preserve institutional culture, regular working groups coming through.

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