Office of Research Search

Mentoring and Training

What is mentoring?

Scientific mentoring is a personal, one-on-one relationship between a more experienced scientist and a junior scientist through which the trainee receives guidance and encouragement that contributes to professional development.

Why should you be a good mentor?

Good mentoring should be viewed as an essential ingredient for ensuring that the postdoctoral-mentor relationship is professionally productive. Mentors also often mention deriving personal satisfaction in helping nurture the next generation of scientists.

Traits of a good mentor
  • Accessibility: An open door and an approachable attitude.
  • Empathy: Personal insight into what the trainee is experiencing.
  • Open mindedness: Respect for each trainee's individuality and for working styles and career goals that may be different from those of the mentor.
  • Consistency: Acting on your stated principles on a regular basis.
  • Patience: Awareness that people make mistakes and that each person matures at his or her own rate.
  • Honesty: Ability to communicate the hard truths about the trainee's chances of success.
  • Savviness: Attention to the pragmatic aspects of career development.
  • Trust: As a mentor you are privy to considerable information about your trainee, including accomplishments, failures, financial situations and possibly even personal information. Information should be treated as confidential so your trainees feel they can trust you and share their ideas and problems with you.
Strategies for Effective Mentoring in your Lab
  • Make everything a learning opportunity
  • Set specific goals and measures of accomplishment
  • Encourage strategic thinking and creativity
  • Uphold professional standards
  • Impart skills
  • Provide networking opportunities
  • Give moral support

The Postdoctoral Mentoring Plan
Each proposal that requests funding to support postdoctoral researchers must include a supplementary document that describes, in no more than one page, the mentoring that will be provided to all postdoctoral researchers supported by the project, irrespective of whether they reside at the submitting organization, any subaward organization, or at any organization participating in a simultaneously submitted collaborative project. It should be clearly titled "Postdoctoral Scholar Mentoring." This template is designed to meet the specific needs of each PI:

My/Our current research will include XX postdoctoral scholar(s) who will be working in the areas of XXX, XXXX, and XXX over the next XX years of the project. While these scholars will contribute significantly to the science, I/we also recognize my/our responsibilities to them as apprentices as they continue their training and professional development.

At the initial orientation, the PI(s) will meet with the postdoctoral scholar to formulate an Individual Development Plan containing specific long-term career goals and short-term goals they wish to accomplish during the research grant. The Plan will include areas of training or professional development in the following categories:

  • the amount of independence the postdoctoral scholar requires,
  • interaction with coworkers,
  • productivity and the importance of scientific publications,
  • work habits and laboratory safety, and
  • documentation of research methodologies and experimental details.

The PI(s) and postdoctoral scholar will hold regular meetings to discuss issues related to professional development, career growth, and scientific developments. This will also serve as a time to assess progress toward individual goals and update/modify the Plan.

Training will include both professional scientific growth and professional development in the areas of grant proposal preparation, ethics, and teaching. Each postdoctoral scholar will attend a SPIN Plus database training session for grant searching techniques. Direct involvement with the PI will give the postdoctoral scholar the opportunity to learn the best practices in proposal preparation (including the identification of key research questions, the definition of objectives, the description of approach and rationale, and the construction of a work plan, timeline, and budget). UT Dallas provides a course in Research Ethics and Scientific Integrity to cover critical issues related to human subjects, animal welfare, research design, accountability of scientific actions, and fraud. This course was designed for individuals intending research careers in academia or industry and strongly supplements the in-lab training postdoctoral scholars receive. If teaching is a career goal, the postdoctoral scholar will participate in programming offered by the UT Dallas Office of Education Enhancement including teaching large classes, instructional design, using instructional technology, and assessment procedures.

Career support will vary depending upon the goals of the scholar and his/her individual needs. Some examples include meeting with university administration and/or industry partners regarding the skill sets they seek in hiring new tenure-track professors and scientific hires, resume writing and interview skills training. All postdoctoral scholars will be encouraged to participate in at least one professional organization for professional development and networking.