Postdocs unite could well be the rallying cry for the
new Homewood Postdoctoral Association, an
organization that seeks to support the thriving community
of nearly 200 postdoctoral scholars at the
Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and the Whiting School
The association was founded in September to foster a
sense of community, provide information
and offer resources for career and personal development for
all postdoctoral scholars during their
time at Johns Hopkins. Surprisingly, such an organization
had never existed at Homewood.
The group will officially launch this month with a
"meet and greet" event to be held at 4 p.m. on
Wednesday, Dec. 12, in the Sherwood Room of Levering
Judith Mitrani-Reiser, a postdoctoral fellow in Civil Engineering and
co-founder of the
association, said that the entire effort began with a
"I wanted to know how I could use the [O'Connor]
Recreation Center. It was difficult to get a
straight answer, and I was getting frustrated because I was
not officially staff or faculty and they
didn't even consider me a student, either," said
Mitrani-Reiser, who came to Johns Hopkins in
February. "I felt stuck. But it was not the only case;
there were a lot of issues like this that come up
for us fellows, like where are we allowed to park, and can
I get a JHU e-mail alias? Nobody seemed to
know how postdocs are categorized."
A postdoctoral fellow is a research position,
typically lasting two or three years, held by a
person who has completed doctoral studies. Fellows, who are
often supported by grants, have several
responsibilities, primarily teaching courses, conducting
research and mentoring students. They are
legally considered students and fall into that pay
Currently, no orientation service is offered for this
group. Unlike undergraduate and graduate
students who arrive at the beginning of an academic term,
postdoctoral fellows come to Johns Hopkins
at all times of the year.
Mitrani-Reiser, who also had questions about health
insurance and commuter tax breaks,
approached her adviser, Engineering Dean Nicholas Jones,
about the concerns she had, and he
encouraged her to form a group. She followed through.
The association, co-founded by Alessandro Rettura, a
postdoctoral fellow in the Department of
Physics and Astronomy, has received support from the Dean's
Offices of the two schools, including
guidance from Edward R. Scheinerman, associate dean for
education at the School of Engineering, and
Eaton Lattman, dean of research and graduate education at
the School of Arts and Sciences.
Scheinerman said that a postdoc association at
Homewood is long overdue.
"Postdoctoral fellows need a way to communicate with
each other and share information,
experiences and advice," he said. "There is no natural
mechanism that would bring postdocs together
with other postdocs from different departments or centers.
There's a great benefit to them to be
able to connect with their peers, so this organization
creates that venue."
The group recently launched a Web site that will
provide a forum for postdocs to find answers
to common questions and share concerns and opportunities.
The HPA will also host events, both social
and professional, and operate an e-mail listserv and
Mitrani-Reiser said the Dec. 12 event will be an
opportunity for people to meet one another and
learn about the association and its goals. The meeting
organizers will also lead discussions about
possible governance structures and how the organization can
meet the needs of the community.
"We're hoping it will then build a life of its own and
go on for many, many years," Mitrani-Reiser
said. "We want to provide a source of information for
postdocs, and an association like this can help
make it easier for all of us. It will hopefully give us a
sense of community by bringing together people
who are all in the same situation."
Rettura, an Italian national who did his graduate
studies in France, arrived at JHU in
September 2006. He said he struggled to find information
needed to settle into a new country.
"The only way out was to ask other foreign postdocs in
my department that could have possibly
already been through similar issues, such as getting health
insurance and a driving license," he said.
Determined to find answers, he created a "mini
astronomy postdoctoral association" that has its
own mailing list and weekly morning coffee meetings, mostly
for scientific discussion. It was through
this group he connected with Mitrani-Reiser and they
discussed creating a campuswide postdoctoral
"We're hoping the association will be instrumental in
improving the personal and professional
experience of the existing postdocs and be a primary source
of information for all the upcoming ones,"
The Homewood Postdoctoral Association is not the first
such group at Johns Hopkins. In 1992,
postdoctoral fellows at the School of Medicine formed the
Johns Hopkins Postdoctoral Association to
improve the daily life and morale of fellows at the Johns
Hopkins Medical Institutions. The JHPDA
supports clinical and research fellows by bringing their
concerns to the attention of the
administration and by sponsoring various events to
facilitate the social integration and career
development of the population it serves.
Mitrani-Reiser envisions some future interactions
between the two associations.
For more information about the Homewood Postdoctoral
Association, go to
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