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Back on Top: Whitehead Reclaims Title as Best Place for Postdocs to Work

For the second time in three years, Whitehead Institute has been named the best place in the country for postdoctoral researchers to work.

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For the second time in three years, Whitehead Institute has been named the best place in the country for postdoctoral researchers to work.

The Scientist magazine on March 1 released its closely followed annual rankings, which this year were based upon responses to a web-based survey of nearly 3,000 participants representing 93 research institutions. Having slipped to third place in 2010 after landing the top spot in 2009, Whitehead Institute regained the number one ranking for 2011. Whitehead first cracked The Scientist’s annual Top 15 list in 2008, coming in at 14 that year.

"The postdoctoral years are extremely important in helping young scientists mature into competent lab leaders," says The Scientist’s Associate Editor Jef Akst, who oversees the Best Places surveys. "Our survey provides information about both the strengths and the weaknesses of institutions in training PhDs for that transition—straight from the postdocs themselves."

According the magazine’s editors, Whitehead Institute received high marks in such survey categories as facilities, infrastructure, and funding opportunities.

“Our postdocs play an essential role in our scientific community deserving of our strongest support,” says Whitehead Institute Director David Page. “That they continue to rank their workplace so highly reflects our ongoing commitment to ensuring that they have the best possible experience while they are with us.”

Whitehead Postdoctoral Association Co-Chair Hannah Blitzblau credits Whitehead’s scientific and administrative leadership with providing key resources, from competitive salaries and benefits to additional educational opportunities.

“It’s important for postdocs to feel like their lives are being supported,” says Blitzblau, who cites Whitehead’s child-care benefits as an example of such support. “People feel that here, not just in things like salaries, but in other ways, too, such as grant programs that can fund travel and attendance at scientific meetings.”

Blitzblau’s Postdoc Association Co-Chair Sunny Gupta says Whitehead Institute’s uniquely collaborative culture fosters a population of active, dedicated, and, yes, happy postdocs.

“There’s a very strong sense of community here, and that’s very important,” says Gupta. “We have weekly gatherings and annual retreats that everyone participates in, so you can learn what your peers are working on. It’s very inspiring, very motivational.”

Full survey methodology and additional results, including rankings of the top 15 non-U.S. institutions, can be found in the March 2011 issue of The Scientist and online at