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Extreme Makeover, Postdoc Edition: Individual Development Plans

Extreme Makeover, Postdoc Edition
Reported by
Karla Harby

Posted April 12, 2007

Presented By


For postdocs, writing an individual development plan can be an effective way to help guide your career. In this eBriefing, Philip Clifford, associate dean for postdoctoral education at the Medical College of Wisconsin, explains how to do so. In an effective IDP a postdoc articulates a clear and honest set of values, interests, and skills, as well as specific goals. A mentor (often a Principal Investigator) can be an essential resource in drafting an IDP. Clifford also explains why it’s important to set goals within an IDP and to revise it as your career develops.

Use the tabs above to find a meeting report and multimedia from this event.


Web Sites

Science Alliance for Graduate Students and Postdocs
The New York Academy of Sciences' career development minisite gathers exclusive resources and extensive links, covering everything from "alternative career paths" to "resumes that sell."

ACS Career Management and Development
The Web site of the American Chemical Society contains a wealth of career tools for scientists.

American Physiological Society
In addition to its list of professional skills for physiology trainees, the APS offers a section devoted to its mentoring program. Job opportunities in a wide variety of research and academic settings are also included.

The Chronicle of Higher Education: Chronicle Careers
Contains searchable job listings, news and advice about higher education careers, diversity in academic careers, and forums for discussion.

Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
The FASEB offers seminars in grantsmanship, career fairs, and a classified listing of jobs in the biological sciences. The IDP process is described in depth at this site (PDF, 43 KB).

Medical College of Wisconsin
The Virtual Career Center here provides tools and resources for self-assessment, exploring career options, individual development planning and searching for a job.

National Science Foundation Survey of Doctorate Recipients
The Survey of Doctorate Recipients (SDR) gathers information from individuals who have obtained a doctoral degree in a science, engineering, or health field. The SDR is conducted every two years and is a longitudinal survey that follows recipients of research doctorates from U.S. institutions until age 76.
Nature magazine's job listings can be searched at this site and additional career resources can be found at its career magazine. Science, Math, and Engineering Career Resources
This site contains links to articles on postdoctoral life, finding a job, and a career guide for scientists, as well as job listings.
This Web site of the American Association for the Advancement of Science is devoted solely to careers. Features include searchable funding databases, lists of career development workshops, a job search engine, and a place to post your curriculum vitae.

Science and Engineering Indicators 2006
Science and Engineering Indicators (SEI) is prepared by the National Science Foundation's Division of Science Resources Statistics (SRS) on behalf of the National Science Board. It contains quantitative data on the U.S. and international science and engineering enterprise.


Barker K. 2001. At the Helm: A Laboratory Navigator. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, Cold Spring Harbor, NY.

Fiske P. 2001. Put Your Science to Work: The Take-Charge Career Guide for Scientists. American Geophysical Union, Washington, DC.

Howard Hughes Medical Institute. 2006. Making the Right Moves: A Practical Guide to Scientific Management for Postdocs and New Faculty. Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Chevy Chase, MD.

Newhouse M. 1993. Outside the Ivory Tower: A Guide for Academics Considering Alternative Careers. Harvard University Office of Career Development, Cambridge, MA.

Rosen S, Paul C. 1997. Career Renewal: Tools for Scientists and Technical Professionals. Academic Press, San Diego.


Philip S. Clifford, PhD

Medical College of Wisconsin
e-mail | web site | publications

Philip Clifford is associate dean for postdoctoral education and professor of anesthesiology and physiology at the Medical College of Wisconsin. He has participated in discussions on postdoctoral training as a member of the Advisory Board of the National Postdoctoral Association, the AAMC GREAT Group Committee on Postdoctoral Issues, and FASEB's Committee on Training and Careers. In 2005, he was given a Postdoc Advocacy Award at the Midwest Regional Postdoctoral Symposium for his efforts in advocating Individual Development Plans. Clifford heads an active research program (funded by the NIH since 1988) investigating the physiological mechanisms regulating skeletal muscle blood flow during exercise. He is also a consultant in the medical device industry.

Karla Harby

web site

As a journalist living near New York City, Karla Harby has written for Scientific American, Discover and the Reuters news agency. In her other career, she is a professional flutist.