UKCMRI founders provide some of the best places in the world for postdoctoral scientists to work

01 March 2011

Image of three scientists at the Systems Biology Lab at the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR).

Image: Mary Wu with colleagues at the Systems Biology Lab, NIMR.©  Noel Murphy

A survey by the American magazine The Scientist has placed UCL (University College London) as the best international institution to be a postdoc. UCL scored highly for its facilities and infrastructure, and funding opportunities. The MRC National Institute for Medical Research (now part of the Francis Crick Institute)  was placed eighth.

The Scientist compiled its findings by inviting readers who identified themselves as non-tenured life scientists working in academia, industry or non-commercial research institutions to take part in a web-based survey. There were 2,881 responses. Those surveyed were asked to assess their work environment and experience. The results showed rankings for the best US and international institutes.

"The postdoctoral period is an incredibly important time in a scientist's career," said Jim Smith, Director of the National Institute for Medical Research. "We believe it's a great opportunity to nurture the next generation of scientific leaders. Support, guidance, independence and trust are essential to providing the best environment for scientists in the earliest stages of their career. This is a philosophy that will be intrinsic to UKCMRI."

Mary Wu, a postdoctoral fellow in Systems Biology completed her PhD at Cancer Research UK's London Research Institute (also now part of the Francis Crick Institute) before moving to NIMR. She says: "NIMR is a great place to work - it's incredibly open and supportive.  It's easy to speak to other divisions and labs and there are regular seminars and discussions on research going on within the institute which allows for feedback on your work from a range of in-house experts. The institute also invests in the most cutting-edge technology, allowing postdocs to be inventive with their approach to anwering scientific questions. We are given the independence, resources and mentoring needed to develop our research interests."

Rodrigo Young is a postdoctoral researcher in Professor Steve Wilson's laboratory in UCL Cell & Developmental Biology, studying the cell signalling and genetic mechanisms that drive eye development. He says the diversity of research at UCL helps to create an outstanding environment for postdocs: "In my field of biomedical research, this spans the full spectrum from fundamental, basic studies to medical and translational research. This makes the environment very conducive to establishing fruitful collaborations that cut across different fields and approaches.  In my case, this has enabled me to establish collaborations in new research areas with colleagues working at the Institute for Child Health that, I think, have really brought benefits to all involved in the projects."

Professor Sir John Tooke, Head of UCL School of Life & Medical Sciences, said: "We strive to provide an exceptional research environment for early-career researchers and to that end have recently formed an Academic Careers Office to enhance further the experience of postdoctoral fellows and ensure an integrated academic experience from studenthood through to principal investigator status.

"At UCL opportunities for graduate students to work with world-renowned researchers exist in all areas of investigation from fundamental science to applied research. Collaborations within the School and with other UCL faculties and external research bodies extend beyond the traditional subject boundaries and provide exciting training opportunities in interdisciplinary research areas. UCL's involvement in the UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation (UKCMRI) will also provide exceptional opportunities for UCL post doctoral researchers, cultivating the next generation of top quality biomedical scientists."

  • UKCMRI will be based on the world-class research at the MRC's NIMR, Cancer Research UK's London Research Institute and in UCL's laboratories. The Wellcome Trust intends to fund research at the institute
  • 2,881 postdocs responded to The Scientist's survey. They assessed their work environment and experience through 38 criteria in 9 different areas
  • To be built at St Pancras in London, UKCMRI is at the heart of local, national and international clinical, scientific and transport networks