What post-docs bring to the table

Post-doctoral researchers have been common in the College's research labs for years, and the Mellon program extends a special "teacher-scholar" post-doc combination into our interdisciplinary environmental science and policy program.

"Everybody's talking about undergraduate research right now, but I think that William & Mary is distinctive in that the faculty are doing very serious research with undergraduates, and this post-doc program just seems to fit," said Mike Tierney.

VIMS researcher Elizabeth Canuel said that she has worked with post-doctoral students before, but the new program is unique because she is mentoring Yuehan Lu on both her research and teaching.

Randy Chambers said that the Mellon-supported program gives a post-doctoral fellow "virtually everything that a faculty member has to do, in terms of mentoring students, designing classes and conducting research."

Canuel added that post-doctoral programs like William & Mary's add a lot to an academic institution.

"Post-docs can allow a department or a program to explore new areas. Departments may not be able to make a hire in a particular area or they may be thinking about several potential areas to make hires in, so a post-doc can allow departments to try out how that area of research fits into the department or program," she said. "Post-docs are generally energetic and fresh and bring perspectives from their previous institutions. This type of melding creates a stimulating and vibrant academic community."

Additionally, she said, post-doctoral programs also create new collaborations. In Lu's case, she sparked a first-time collaboration between Canuel and Chambers.

"Jim Bauer and I here at VIMS have collaborated in the past, but neither of us had collaborated with Randy Chambers, and he sort of brings a more terrestrial, wetland and ecological component to the project," Canuel said. "So that's been fun, just to develop new collaborations, and using the post-doc as the vehicle for doing that."

Collaborations beyond the confines of William & Mary have also been made as a result of Lu's involvement at the College. Chambers introduced her to a colleague who researches organic matter that comes from the freshwater that dumps into the coastal Everglades system.

"So he's doing a very similar project, and now he and Yuehan are collaborating on a project, and he and I are already collaborating on a project," said Chambers. "So there's this nice academic mix going on between the Chesapeake Bay and the Everglades now."

"We never know when these kinds of connections are going to be made," said Chambers.