Newsletter  Postdocs@MIT

Issue 5
June 2006



Pdf of Issue 5

What's New?

Alice Gast has served as Vice President for Research at MIT for the last five years, and has been a key advocate for postdocs during those years.  She has been an advocate for benefits enhancements, mentoring for postdocs, and was a driving force behind the new seminar series - Getting There and Getting Started.  This summer, Alice and her family will embark on a new adventure, as she departs MIT to become President of Lehigh University in Pennsylvania.

The Postdoc Advisory Council appreciates all of Alice's efforts, and wishes her well in her new position at Lehigh.  We dedicate this issue of the Postdoc Newsletter to her, with our profound thanks and appreciation.  We are taking this opportunity to feature a brief interview with her, as follows.

photo of Alice P. Gast

Question 1:
Alice, you have advocated for and witnessed the establishment of the postdoc community and Advisory Council over the last four years at MIT.  What do you see as the most important initiatives that have taken place to date, and what do you think the Council should focus on in the next year or so?

APG: I think that it is great that the postdocs at MIT established the Advisory Council and gave the community resources and opportunities to learn more about each other and about MIT.  I think that the Professional Development Series is a tremendous asset to the community as well as the web resources and policy issues that they have brought out into discussion.  Going forward I would recommend that the Council continue their professional development work with some emphasis on the roles and responsibilities of principal investigators in academic research settings.  The level of complexity in regulatory and administrative duties that comes with PI status has grown in recent years and postdocs would greatly benefit from some initiation in this area.

Question 2:
What advice do you give your postdocs (other than advice on their experiments)?

APG: I try to advocate that postdocs use their time well to both pursue their postdoctoral research but to explore other related areas that they are going to want to move into.  A postdoctoral position is a particularly good time to develop future career plans and to become conversant with related areas of research that may be helpful for future collaborations and research proposals.

Question 3:
What will you miss most about the MIT community and the Boston/Cambridge areas?

APG: I'll miss the wonderful energy and collegial spirit that pervades the hallways at MIT.  I am sure that I'll greatly enjoy the same kind of atmosphere at Lehigh and I am very excited about going there.  I have greatly enjoyed working with the research community here and will miss friends and colleagues and the occasional visits to Fenway Park.

PAC:       Thanks for these thoughts Alice, and all good wishes to you and your family!


Library Transitions

Increasing open access to research has been a rapidly growing trend in recent years.  Fueled by rising costs of publication and subscription fees, concerns of how to distribute scientific findings to researchers unable to afford these fees have escalated.  A prime example of this is the recently introduced Coryn-Lieberman Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006. 

This bill, brought to Congress in May 2006, has at its core the statement that "each Federal agency with extramural research expenditures of over $100 million shall develop a Federal research public access policy that is consistent with and advances purposes of the Federal agency".  The summary of the bill is that researchers who receive funding from such agencies (which includes most agencies that MIT researchers acquire funding from) will submit to the agency a final manuscript of work that has been accepted to peer-reviewed journals.  The public will then have free access to such final manuscripts no later than 6 months after publication in the accepted journals.  This bill would supplant a previous NIH Public Access Policy that encouraged, but did not require investigators to submit final manuscripts for open-access databases such as PubMed Central.

Currently, this bill is under consideration, but what does this mean for you, the postdoctoral research community here at MIT?  MIT has been committed to generating and distributing scientific knowledge to the community as one of its central policies for some time.  One example of this has been the creation of DSpace, an MIT Libraries based repository of primary scientific research, such as theses and other works.  While these efforts are excellent, it ultimately requires researchers to deposit information into these public repositories. 

Part of the difficulty in building these databases is that once accepted, manuscripts often become property of the publisher rather than the author.  After months of peer-review and experimental verifications to satisfy reviewers, authors of accepted manuscripts are asked to sign a copyright agreement that many of us simply sign and send back in order to get our work published.  However, these agreements can transfer a large number of rights to the publisher.   These rights include using your own work for educational purposes, posting to websites or depositing the work in public repositories.

The MIT libraries have come up with an amendment that authors can include with their copyright agreement for the publisher.  This amendment (available at allows the author to retain a number of rights, such as use of the work for academic and professional activities, ability to deposit the work in a public digital repository, and giving MIT the ability to distribute the work for academic and professional activities.

As we become more and more connected to the global research community, the onus is on the researchers to make sure that our results are conveyed to the largest audience in as affordable method as possible.  These trends, including the Coryn-Lieberman Act and the efforts of the MIT Libraries, suggest that we at MIT must take leadership in ensuring that our research is broadly and openly distributed.

Peter Chien


Our Members

Andrea Adamo (Chemical Engineering), Penny Beuning (Biology), Yu Chen (Research Lab for Electronics), Peter Chien (Biology), Sheryl Krevsky Elkin (Center for Cancer Research), Sidharth Jaggi (LIDS), Kathryn Jones (Biology)   Shiva Kalinga (Biological Engineering), Elizabeth Mann (Math), Michael Moore (Chemical Engineering), Amanda Mower (Picower Center for Learning & Memory), Rory O’Shea (Sloan School of Management), Kristine Rosfjord (EECS), Peter Tarsa (Biological Engineering), Wilton Virgo (Chemistry),  Luis Vives de Prada (Sloan School of Management), Yongting Wang (Biology). We try to represent postdocs across all disciplines of MIT, as space permits.  If you are interested in joining the Council, please contact us at the email address at left.



Summer 2006 Activities


In Summer 2006, the GSC, Postdoctoral Advisory Council, and MIT Careers Office will once again co-sponsor a series of panels on academic careers, with all new panelists. (This award winning series has been offered four times previously).  The series  has been well attended by both grad students and postdocs.  This summer’s lineup includes the following sequence of panels:

June 7th
Why Choose an Academic Career?

June 28th
Nuts and Bolts of the Academic Career Search

July 19th
Surviving the First Year as an Assistant Professor

August 16th
Navigating between Academia and Industry and Vice-Versa
Yongting Wang, Andrea Adamo, Michael Moore, and Sid Jaggi of the Postdoc Advisory Council are part of the planning team for the Academic Career Panels, and may serve as moderators during the summer.


The third annual postdoc BBQ, will be held on Friday, July 21st from 4 to 7 PM, on Walker Lawn, featuring Blue Ribbon Barbeque.  Stay tuned for the announcements on the listserv.  Special thanks to bbq pitmasters Rory O’Shea and Peter Chien!!

PUB NIGHT continues at the Muddy – usually the first Thursday of each month, but the schedule does vary!  All pub nights are announced on the listserv.  Free food for postdocs, and a cash bar is available.


Did you know . . . ?

Check out:

This wiki-based effort founded by MIT students shares information about biology and bioengineering among a number of labs.  It includes, but is not limited to, basic research findings, general scientific ideas, and practical protocols for those in the biological sciences.  Take a look, or simply join up!


The Postdocs@MIT Newsletter is published by the
MIT Postdoctoral Scholars Advisory Council
Editors: Peter Chien and Janet Fischer