As professors struggle to recruit postdocs, calls for structural change in academia intensify

Katie Langin:

“For the first time I feel my type of job is less rewarding, more frustrating,” says Donna Zhang, a professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Arizona who is trying to hire multiple postdocs. “To find qualified people, it’s way more difficult than it used to [be]. … It’s very bad.”

For junior faculty members such as Mason, who is going up for tenure next year, the frustrations are even more acute. Her research was already impacted by pandemic-induced lab shutdowns and supply chain disruptions. Cost increases for lab supplies ate into her startup funding. She was excited when she received two grants last year, but now recruiting challenges are adding to her worries. “Any slowing of hiring people is a big stress,” she says.

The current situation is counter to what some predicted 2 years ago when the pandemic hit and faculty job openings dried up. At the time, the fear was that postdocs would stay in their positions longer, leaving few openings for new Ph.D. graduates. But that doesn’t seem to be a concern today. The faculty job market rebounded in 2021, according to a preprint posted on bioRxiv last month. And the wider labor market has seen dramatic changes because of what some are calling “the Great Resignation.”

Leave a Reply