Mentoring

Mentoring

Effective mentoring by faculty is critical to the success of postdocs and to the career development of the faculty. Mentoring entails an institutional commitment by the University of Notre Dame towards a meaningful postdoctoral training experience, towards a high quality of training which entails mentoring opportunities and sufficient extent of experiences to allow for preparation and exposure to a variety of career choices. Below are tips and information to assist faculty with mentoring postdocs

Writing a Mentoring Plan for Grants

The below language is developed for mentoring plans to be included in National Science Foundation proposals, however the verbiage can be used for other agencies, i.e., NIH.

As of January 2009, all NSF grant applications that include funding support for postdoctoral fellows MUST include a mentoring plan. The specific language of the requirement is:

Chapter II, Section C.2j:

Each proposal that requests funding to support postdoctoral researchers must include, as a supplementary document, a description of the mentoring activities that will be provided for such individuals. In no more than one page, the mentoring plan must describe the mentoring that will be provided to all postdoctoral researchers supported by the project, irrespective of whether they reside at the submitting organization, any subawardee organization, or at any organization participating in a simultaneously submitted collaborative project. Proposers are advised that the mentoring plan may not be used to circumvent the 15-page project description limitation.

Examples of mentoring activities include, but are not limited to: career counseling; training in preparation of grant proposals, publications and presentations; guidance on ways to improve teaching and mentoring skills; guidance on how to effectively collaborate with researchers from diverse backgrounds and disciplinary areas; and training in responsible professional practices. The proposed mentoring activities will be evaluated as part of the merit review process under the Foundation's broader impacts merit review criterion.

The Office for Postdoctoral Scholars provides the following guidelines and example mentoring summaries to help you in preparing this section. The NSF recommends against the use of ‘boilerplate’ language and expects PIs to tailor their mentoring plans best suited to their own laboratories and research programs. Accordingly, the guidelines, template and examples below are intended as helpful starting points.

General Guidlines MentoringTemplate Mentoring Examples Additional Background Information

General Guidelines

  • The goal of the mentoring program is to provide the skills, knowledge, and experience to prepare your postdoctoral associates to become independent researchers and to excel in their chosen career path. Simply put, your mentoring efforts should be directed at enhancing the postdoctoral experience through a program of structured activities.
  • Open and clear communication with postdocs is essential to a mentoring program.  You may want to utilize the Association of American Medical Colleges’ Compact Between Postdoctoral Appointees and Their Mentors as a guide for setting clear expectations with your postdocs.  This guide is intended for PIs to initiate discussions regarding the postdoctoral appointee-mentor relationship and the commitments necessary for a high quality postdoctoral training experience.
  • Indicate that establishing and implementing an Individual Development Plan and an Annual Review are integral components of the mentoring process for each of your postdocs.
  • You should indicate that you encourage/require your postdocs to attend relevant seminars and workshops offered by the Graduate School Professional Development or other providers. Below are workshops from the Graduate School Professional Development that are designed to address the needs of postdoctoral scholars in the areas of research, career services, teaching and ethics. These workshops are offered on a regular basis and can be implemented into you mentoring plan.  Click here for a list of relevant professional workshops provided by the Graduate School. For a complete listing, please see the Professional Development Catalog of Recurring Workshops.
  • Indicate if you’ve provided forums (e.g., meetings, lab sessions, seminars, conferences) for postdoctoral researchers to give formal or informal presentations of their research. One example of an opportunity is the GSU and Office for Postdoctoral Scholars Annual Research Symposium.  Please note this symposium allows postdoctoral scholars at the University of Notre Dame an opportunity to present their work to an audience outside their academic discipline and compete for awards.
  • Indicate how frequently you meet individually with each postdoc to address the following areas:
    • research results
    • (weekly, biweekly, monthly) lab meetings, in which postdocs have the opportunity to present and discuss their research with the rest of the laboratory
    • the postdoc’s specific career goals
  • You should indicate if you’ve provided structured opportunities for your postdoc(s) to acquire both teaching experience and an understanding of faculty roles and responsibilities.
  • Indicate if you provide travel support for postdocs to attend local, regional, national, and/or international scientific meetings to facilitate their training and provide networking opportunities.
  • You should also indicate that the success of your mentoring plan will be evaluated by tracking postdoctoral scholars through their Individual Development Plans, conducting periodic interviews to assess scholars’ satisfaction with the mentoring program, and tracking progress toward career goals after finishing their postdoctoral training at the University of Notre Dame.

Mentoring Template

The following is a template to guide you in creating your mentoring plan.  Pick and choose the sections which are appropriate for your plan.

Mentoring Examples

Below are two sample mentoring plans to help you get started. The two very different sample mentoring summaries below reflect adaptations of examples provided in 2008 by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). Although the examples are discipline-specific, you can readily adapt the content––or include your own specific aspects––to fit your research field. What’s important is that the overall plan clearly illustrates an effective, structured, and persuasive mentoring program. 

Additional Background Information

Office for Postdoctoral Scholars

  • At the University of Notre Dame, the postdoctoral experience emphasizes continued research training and career development under the oversight of a faculty mentor.
  • In support of postdoctoral training and mentoring, the Graduate School and the Office for Postdoctoral Scholars sponsors a variety of workshops each academic year on a range of postdoc career development interests including, but not limited to, curriculum vitae and cover letter writing, and interviewing for academic and industry positions.
  • The University of Notre Dame Graduate School and Notre Dame Research offers a range of workshops open to postdoctoral researchers as well as to other researchers on various topics related to finding research funding opportunities and writing competitive research proposals.
  • The University of Notre Dame Graduate School and Notre Dame Research offers a range of workshops open to postdoctoral scholars on topics related to mentoring undergraduate and graduate students in the laboratory, faculty roles and responsibilities, and enhancing communication skills.
  • The Office for Postdoctoral Scholars maintains a website that provides resources and support for both new and current postdocs and their PIs.
  • The University of Notre Dame is a sustaining member institution of the National Postdoctoral Association. All Notre Dame PIs, faculty, and postdoctoral appointees are eligible for free membership in the organization and to access the extensive mentoring materials on the organization’s website.
  • The University of Notre Dame Office of Human Resources presents a bi-monthly New Employee Orientation for all postdoctoral scholars; the International Students and Scholars Office meets individually with all international postdoctoral scholars.
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Regular Mentor Meetings

Regular meetings are strongly recommended activities that postdocs and faculty are encouraged to do. While not a requirement, this process ensures that a dialogue in areas other than regular scientific discussions between the postdoc and his or her faculty mentor takes place, and serves as an opportunity to discuss deficiencies in performance or adjustments in future plans or expectations. 

Towards that end, the University of Notre Dame encourages every postdoctoral faculty mentor to have three meetings:  

  • Initial Meeting:  A formal discussion within the first four weeks of the postdoc appointment.  Meeting Goal: Career-orientation, objectives, research project definition, and appraisal of needed skills. 
  • Annual Progress Meeting:  A formal discussion at the anniversary of the appointment. Meeting Goal: Progress is evaluated and goals are set for the following year. Annual Review
  • Exit Interview: A formal discussion at the end of the appointment.  Meeting Goal: Address future research trajectories; differentiation strategies if the postdoc is pursuing the same lines of research as the PI; and possible opportunities or plans for collaboration or future mentoring. 

Suggestions for Notre Dame faculty in a mentoring relationship with postdoctoral scholars:

  • Encourage postdocs to seek secondary mentors who could provide them with opportunities in new areas of research, foster collaboration and offer them with guidance and support to assist with their career goals
  • Seek the participation of these secondary mentors or multiple other faculty members in the annual progress reviews with their postdocs
  • Encourage postdocs to participate in career development activities (workshops, pre-conference events), recognizing that the short postdoc training period means seeking such information early in the training period
  • Encourage postdocs to engage in networking opportunities, such as attendance of talks and seminars in the department or University-wide
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Additional Resources

  • Avoid creating a "mini-me": Train now to become a good mentor. By Donna Kridelbaugh. BioCareers. July 21, 2014.
  • American Association of Medical Colleges’s Compact Between Postdoctoral Appointees and Their Mentors highlights the commitments by both the postdoctoral appointees and their mentors when entering into a mentoring relationship.
  • Coaching and Mentoring: How to Develop Top Talent and Achieve Stronger Performance. Harvard Business Essentials series.  HBS Press. Boston, MA. 2004.
  • At the Helm: A Laboratory Navigator. By Kathy Barker.  Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press. 2002.
  • Adviser, Teacher, Role Model, Friend: On Being a Mentor to Students in Science and Engineering. National Academy of Science/National Academy of Engineering/Institute of Medicine. National Academy Press. 1997.
  • Managing Scientists: Leadership Strategies in Scientific Research. By Alice Sapienza. Wiley-Liss. 2004.
  • Getting the Most out of Your Mentoring Relationships: A Handbook for Women in STEM.  By Donna J. Dean. Springer.
  • Guiding Your PhDs to Nonacademic Careers - website
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