Postdoctoral Scholar

I accumulated approximately $30,000 in student debt while completing my BSc. During my time as PhD student, I received a 3-year doctoral NSERC award, but it wasn't enough to live on. I had already taken out a line of credit (and was starting to dip into it) when I got extremely lucky and was awarded a second (private) 2-year award that brought me up to a liveable income. It is astonishing to me that I needed to receive two awards to be able to afford basic things like rent and groceries. Since finishing my PhD in 2017, I have worked as a postdoctoral fellow at three different universities on one- or two-year contracts for well under $50,000/year (it varied from $40,000 to $47,000/year). I scraped together enough savings to pay off my the student debt from my undergrad last year, which depleted my bank account. As a result, I'm now 34 years old with zero savings whatsoever (but also zero debt - so yay?).

If postdoctoral funding was CAD $60,000/yr for all postdocs, how would that change your life? If funding for postdoctoral scholars increased to $60,000/year I might be able to save up enough money in the next few years to build a $30,000 to $40,000 tiny home (something I've been thinking/dreaming about for years). I'm so used to living cheaply that $60,000/year would feel like a fortune! I would also love to be able to stay in my home province of Manitoba. I completed my PhD in Kingston, Ontario and spent approximately 3 years after graduation attempting to find a job that would allow me to move back here to be closer to family. I eventually secured a 1-year postdoc position at the University of Winnipeg in 2020 and have been able to piece together enough money in grant funding to keep myself employed here since then (which has included working as a contract instructor for only $5000 per course, which is well under minimum wage when you consider the extra time it takes to teach a course for the first time). Again, $60,000 would feel like a fortune!

Additional Comments: Honestly, I care much less about increasing funding to postdocs like myself than I do about increasing funding for graduate students. Grad students are SO vulnerable in so many ways. I've recently been involved in putting together a multi-year research grant and I experienced pushback from some collaborating professors when I suggested a stipend of $30,000/year for graduate students in the budget. I tried to argue that when you take off $8000 in tuition, it'll still put students at or below the poverty line, but they are stuck in the mentality that grad students are lucky to receive ANY funding at all, and seem to think $30,000 is an absurd ask. Although I have a lot of issues with how NSERC awards are awarded, I think increasing the NSERC awards to a reasonable amount might help convince professors that the current "norms" surrounding grad student stipends are absurd. For that reason alone, NSERC awards need to be higher.

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