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International Opportunities for Life Scientists


Established to support life science research in Europe, EMBO provides two-year postdoctoral fellowships, as well as short-term fellowships (of up to three months) for predoctoral scientists or scientists who completed their Ph.D. within the last 10 years. Recipients must use the fellowship to support their time in a research laboratory outside of their native country. 

Between 2007 and 2011, long-term fellowship applications from U.S. nationals increased from 2 percent of the total applicant pool to 8 percent, according to fellowship program manager Andrea Hutterer. The most popular destinations for U.S. nationals participating in the fellowship are Germany, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and France. “EMBO fellowships are competitive and prestigious,” Hutterer says. “Therefore having been awarded a fellowship is a mark of distinction and contributes positively to one's CV. Working internationally broadens both professional and personal horizons.”

The Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP)

The France-based organization supports cutting-edge basic research in the life sciences, awarding research grants to scientists for work involving international collaboration and postdoctoral fellowships to researchers who arrange to work in a foreign laboratory.

“Gaining foreign experience is a healthy thing for any young professional,” says Guntram Bauer, HFSP director of Scientific Affairs and Communications. “For scientists it opens the view on how science is done in different systems (grant writing, science management, etc.). Working overseas, for example in Europe, also creates a mindset of international collaboration which is an important element of science in Europe. The old argument that still prevails in many U.S. supervisors’ minds — If you go to Europe, you will never make it back to the United States — is truly outdated and a very bad piece of advice.”

Kelly Services

The employment agency has an active scientific workforce branch, which matches scientists and employers (such as drug companies, medical device and diagnostic firms, biotech companies) in the United States and throughout the world.
“If a scientist is interested in international opportunities, those opportunities are out there,” says Mark Lanfear, the company’s global practice leader for life sciences. Hot regions for life science jobs include the United Kingdom, Germany, France, India, Japan, China and Brazil. Especially desirable, says Lanfear, are scientists with cross-training, for example someone who has both a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering and a business degree, or a professional with a background in science as well as IT. He adds that many companies also prefer to hire scientists with a few years of work experience. Lanfear’s advice for scientists eager to work overseas: “Find yourself a position in the United States with a company that has an international reach. Then after a few years, you might have an opportunity to secure an international position with the company.”

The National Science Foundation Office of International Science and Engineering (OISE)

Maintains a database of funding opportunities throughout NSF that emphasize or encourage international research and education.

The National Institutes of Health

Provides information about international funding opportunities through individual institutes and centers. For example, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has a page on international opportunities. The NIH Fogarty International Center supports global health research.

--Melissa Hendricks

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