Friday, February 28, 2020

Does anyone have experience doing a postdoc at the NIH?

A friend of the blog would like to know what it is like to postdoc at the NIH. Anyone know anyone who has worked at NIH as a postdoc? Care to comment?

If you'd like to do so anonymously via e-mail, send me an e-mail at and I'll connect you. 


  1. I have a couple of coworkers who did a postdoc at NIH, and none of them enjoyed their time there. A coworker got informed that his PI won't renew his contract on a presentation day and in front of everyone (the PI said something like, "this is his final seminar here at the NIH" while introducing him to the audience).

  2. Did predoc work at NIH a long time ago... lab experience is critically dependent on PI: some good, some brutal. The cost of living in Bethesda is pretty ugly, and the traffic makes it tough to commute.

    Having said that, it can be a great place to get work done (lab resources can vary, but NIH resources are awesome), and the Maryland suburbs have a lot going on (lots of good restaurants, most of DC is a Metro ride away, etc.).

  3. I have a friend that had a postdoc at the NIH and she echoed the comment above; hugely dependent on advisor. She went in with absolutely zero knowledge of biochem and her position was as a biochemist. Her advisor was spectacular in dealing with her slow progress in coming to grips with biochemistry. Her gamble paid off pretty well as she has a somewhat high position at the FDA.

  4. I was a fellow, not a postdoc, but it's close to the same beast. I will echo the advice given about your happiness being tied heavily to your lab head. This is not just in terms of your project and productivity standards, but also about the other people they chose to make up the lab team. That being said, NIH has very strong resources for trainees. Beyond having cores and potential collaborators for any technique or application area, there is a constant stream of seminars in Bethesda, on almost any biomedical topic you could imagine. Also, the training and education office puts on a lot of professional development programs that are oriented towards helping postdocs move to the next level. They do a (large) career day every year that brings back alumni to discuss how they got hired out of the NIH ecosystem.

    One thing to remember is that there are other NIH sites besides Bethesda. The largest of these are in Frederick, Baltimore, RTP North Carolina, and Hamilton Montana. Be sure of where the postdoc is located when you start investigating it. There are good labs and opportunities in all of the locations, but obviously the breadth of programming and the frequency of post-doc oriented programming will vary greatly. You will probably be able to teleconference to many of the seminars and training programs, and for things like the career day they will organize shuttle buses from the other Maryland sites, but it obviously takes more planning than just walking across the campus.


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20