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Scientists Rate University of Rochester a Best Place to Work

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Not only is the University of Rochester the region’s largest employer – it’s also one of the best places in the nation for scientists to work, according to The Scientist magazine.

The University was rated among the top 10 non-profit institutions in the nation in the magazine’s annual ranking of “Best Places to Work” for scientists in the life sciences, which includes medical research and related areas such as biology.

“It’s gratifying to be recognized for the research environment that we’ve worked hard to create,” said Bradford C. Berk, M.D., Ph.D., CEO of the Medical Center. “This is an institution founded on the principle of interdisciplinary collaboration. Our scientists’ satisfaction plays an important role in the ultimate success of our research enterprise, and helps us truly achieve ‘Medicine of the Highest Order.’”

Such recognition is appropriate, said Peter Lennie, Ph.D., dean of the College faculty. The College includes areas of the life sciences such as Biology and Brain and Cognitive Sciences.

“The faculty are at the heart of what we do, and creating the right environment for them to flourish is essential to our success,” said Lennie. “We are delighted that The Scientist has discovered what we know ourselves – that Rochester is the kind of place in which faculty thrive.”

The University has long been recognized for its collaborative environment, where people from different disciplines come together to work effectively to address complex scientific questions. Scientists rated the University highly in this area, citing the professionalism and collegiality of their peers. The University also received high marks in the areas of teaching and mentoring, and the magazine prominently featured an example of strong mentoring at the Medical Center.

“We've known all along that our scientists view the medical school as a great place to work,” said David Guzick, M.D., Ph.D., dean of the School of Medicine and Dentistry. “Why? The survey results speak for themselves – our own scientists report that the major strengths of the University of Rochester environment are the excellence of peers, the spirit of collaboration, and the excellence of our teaching and mentoring. It’s great that the word is getting out.”

Developing the talents of younger scientists is crucial, said Stephen Dewhurst, Ph.D., senior associate dean for basic research at the Medical Center. While the bulk of life scientists at the University work at the Medical Center, many work in other areas, including several departments on River Campus.

“It’s part of the ethos of the University of Rochester that you look out for your colleagues,” said Dewhurst. “We have many programs to help scientists grow and develop and build their careers, such as a class to help scientists learn how to write grants to gain funding to do their work. The mentoring of young scientists is extremely important, and it’s something that is done well here.”

Like the mentoring of new faculty colleagues, the teaching of newer scientists – graduate students – is a high priority as well.

“Our strong graduate program, with serious and enthusiastic students who do a great deal of the work involved in our research enterprise, is a strong draw for scientists,” said Edith Lord, Ph.D., senior associate dean for graduate education at the Medical Center.

Indeed, just this summer two outstanding researchers, the husband-and-wife team of Troy Randall, Ph.D., and Frances Lund, Ph.D., came to the University partly because of the opportunity to work with and mentor graduate students. The scientists, both immunologists, brought with them full research teams and several thriving projects from the Trudeau Institute in Saranac Lake. Their research touches upon conditions such as flu, bird flu, asthma, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Their recruitment came as part of a strategic plan for the Medical Center that will feature a major investment in facilities and people, including the expansion of Strong Memorial Hospital and construction of a Clinical and Translational Science Building.

The ready availability of sophisticated technology is also attractive to scientists, Lord said. Such tools are necessary for scientific discovery, and oftentimes they are out of reach for a single investigator. So the Medical Center has established several shared resources, such as a laser flow cytometry system that can pluck out precise cells of interest, an array of the latest imaging instruments, and biomolecular tools to manipulate genes and DNA as efficiently as possible. These are available to all investigators.

More than 2,300 scientists nationwide responded to the magazine’s annual survey, which included scientists working in educational, government-sponsored, or other non-commercial research institutions. Respondents were asked to assess their work environment according to 41 criteria in eight different categories—job satisfaction, peers, infrastructure and environment, research resources, pay, management and policies, teaching and mentoring, and tenure.  

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