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Postdoctoral Programs

The Wistar Institute is committed to training the future scientists of the world to engage in rigorous, collegial, high-caliber and compassionate research, in their pursuit of better outcomes for human disease.

Dave and Lisa, happy postdocsAt any one time, there are between 75–100 postdoctoral fellows and 45 graduate students in training at the Institute. Our graduate students and fellows have gone on to highly successful independent academic careers at institutions like the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Harvard Medical School, and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, as well as careers in industry at major pharmaceutical companies such as GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, and Novartis.

Postdoctoral fellows come to The Wistar Institute to carry out research under the mentorship of one of the Institute’s faculty members. Typically, postdoctoral fellows are accepted directly into the mentor’s laboratory with the concurrence of Wistar's Training Committee.

The Wistar Institute, in scenic University CityWhile the Institute provides a highly collegial and intimate setting for research training, it is also located in the middle of a larger, thriving academic community, which includes the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.  Funding is available from two different NIH training grants at Wistar, and there are several awards for trainee excellence. (Please contact Cheryl McFadden with any questions about funding and awards.)

The Wistar Institute is located in Philadelphia, the sixth largest city in the United States and home to many important cultural and historical sites. The city also hosts a vibrant nightlife, music scene, and several professional sports teams. About 50,000 people are employed in the life sciences at universities, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies in the greater Philadelphia region.

Wistar trainees are offered a well-rounded training program aimed toward successful independent research careers. Some of the components of this training program are noted below:

1. Grants Writing Workshop

This 6-week writing-intensive course is team-taught by Wistar faculty, and is offered every fall.  This course includes a 90-minute lecture on the five rules of clear writing, and each week the components of a grant are analyzed, including Specific Aims, Introduction, Results, Research Design, and Figures/Figure legends. Writing samples are submitted and evaluated every week. Additionally, in the final week, the rules for preparing a quality scientific manuscript are addressed. This class is limited to 12 participants per section, in order to facilitate individual attention.

Having a break in the Pavilion

2. Career Symposium

This 2-hour symposium is offered every spring. In alternate years, this symposium focuses on either the strategies for success in academia, or on career options for biomedical researchers. In the career options component, five scientists in various “alternative” careers in biomedical research (technology transfer, science writing, medical communications, regulatory affairs, and sales and marketing) are invited to present their views on keys to success in these career paths. 

3. Symposium on Grant Mechanisms

This 2-hour symposium is offered every spring at Wistar. An overview of the grant mechanisms available for trainees is presented, with focus on the F32 and K99/R00 application. This symposium is held in conjunction with the Biomedical Postdoctoral Program at the University of Pennsylvania.  A “Question and Answer” period and a mock study section are included.

4. Research-in-Progress Series

The Research-in-Progress series runs throughout the academic year. There are two formats for trainee presentations; these formats alternate yearly.

In the first format, every week, two Wistar trainees present their research in 20-minute talks to the faculty and other trainees. There is a faculty moderator, and the speakers are offered written evaluations of their seminar.

The second format is a mini-symposium, which is a one-day affair that includes a seminar by an outside speaker, a poster session, and three talks from trainees. In the latter format, there are three mini-symposia per semester, one for each of the three Cancer Center Programs (Molecular and Cellular Oncogenesis, Gene Expression and Regulation, and Tumor Microenvironment and Metastasis).

5. Biomedical Postdoctoral Program (BPP) at the University of Pennsylvania

Trainees at the Institute are eligible to join the Biomedical Postdoctoral Program at the University of Pennsylvania. Up to 20 trainees per academic year are enlisted in this program, which offers classes on three focused career pathways: biomedical communication, commercialization and technology transfer, and teaching. There are also weekly workshops in networking, business etiquette, negotiation skills and scientific writing.

Working in the lab6. Training in the Responsible Conduct of Research

Training in the Responsible Conduct of Research is required for all trainees at The Wistar Institute. The core of this program is a seminar/discussion series held every four months, with each session including discussions led by faculty mentors. Faculty discussion leaders are selected on a rolling basis, and all faculty members at Wistar are required to lead discussion sessions. Topics of the seminar/discussion series include:

  • Conflicts of interest
  • Policies regarding human subjects
  • Live vertebrate animal subjects in research
  • Safe laboratory practices
  • Mentor/mentee responsibilities and relationships
  • Collaborative research including collaborations with industry
  • Peer review
  • Data acquisition and laboratory tools
  • Sharing and ownership of data
  • Research misconduct
  • Responsible authorship

Other covered areas include the scientist as a responsible member of society, contemporary ethical issues in biomedical research, and the environmental and societal impacts of scientific research. Seminars and discussion periods are led by expert faculty members of diverse backgrounds; all discussions include panels of multiple faculty members to increase the livelihood of discussion. Three lecture/discussion sessions are scheduled as part of the annual series, and each is 2.5 hours in duration, plus 30 minutes for discussion.  A minimum of 9 hours of live instructional time is provided.

7. The Wistar Institute Distinguished Lecture Series

The Wistar Institute sponsors a Distinguished Lecture Series wherein the top research scientists in the world give seminars about their recent findings. Notably, one of these slots is reserved for the postdoctoral fellows; postdocs vote on and invite their choice for Distinguished Lecturer, and spend the day interacting with this person.

8. Cancer Biology Journal Club

Postdoctoral trainees with a particular interest in cancer biology can also supplement their formal education by participating in an annual Cancer Biology course as well as biweekly “Topics in Cancer Biology” meetings.


For available positions, please contact Principal Investigators individually, or search for available positions here.