Faculty Mentors

Faculty mentors are critical to the postdoctoral experience; in fact, without faculty mentors, there is no postdoctoral experience. One of the most important ways that UA Postdoctoral Affairs can help postdoctoral scholars is to support the faculty who mentor them. Accordingly, this is part of our mission.

This page contains some suggestions and resources that may be helpful to faculty mentors. The Director of Postdoctoral Affairs, Jenny Hoit, is also available to provide additional information and individual consultations (hoit@email.arizona.edu).

Funding Your Postdoc

The University of Arizona Research Development Services offers resources for creating a Postdoctoral Mentoring Plan (National Science Foundation) or Individual Development Plan (National Institutes of Health). For assistance and examples of Postdoctoral Mentoring and Individual Development Plans, please contact Research Development Services at resdev@email.arizona.edu.

 

NIH K Applications information

Additional examples of postdoctoral applications are available here (Access: UA NetID Required)

Before Your Postdoc Arrives

If your postdoc is international, point out the International Faculty and Scholars section of the Global Initiatives website.

Keep in touch after hiring your incoming postdoc and before his/her arrival to UA. Ideally, you and the new postdoc can begin drafting or refining a plan for what should be accomplished during the next few years. Also, to help the postdoc transition to the new environment, you might begin sending the postdoc manuscripts, proposals, or other information relevant to research endeavors as well as information about department, university, and community events.

Introduce your postdoc to other postdocs in the department and university. For example, introduce (via email) your new postdoc to postdocs you know in your research group, department, and related departments. Also inform the new postdoc about the UA Postdoctoral Association, which represents the UA postdoc community.

Point out the Postdoctoral Affairs website to be sure the new postdoc is aware of university-wide resources and support.

Send a digital version of the Postdoctoral Affairs flyer to your incoming postdoc. Find the flyer here.

After Your Postdoc Arrives

Establish open and regular communication. It is often a good idea to set a regular meeting schedule (e.g., once/week) to be sure the postdoc gets off to a good start and stays on track throughout the postdoc years. Some mentors also maintain an “open door” policy, but the feasibility of this differs across mentors. Also, it is helpful to discuss the nature of other modes of communication, such as email and texting, so that both parties agree on best practices.

Be sure your postdoc understands university, departmental, and/or laboratory rules, policies, and benefits. It is not surprising that new postdocs are often not aware of all the rules, policies, and benefits that pertain to their position. For example, different laboratories are overseen by different agencies and have different compliance regulations (see RDI compliance policies), some may require responsible conduct in research (RCR) training (learn more about the RCR certificate), and some may have their own rules and policies in place. Because postdocs can be hired into different types of job positions, these positions may carry different university benefits. Sometimes it is helpful to provide postdocs with your own clear written descriptions of important policies.

Maintain a healthy research lab. As role models for early career scientists, faculty mentors play a critical role in promoting a nurturing, collaborative, and people-centered working environment. Here are some rules you can follow to foster a healthier research lab:

  • Promote the well-being of your lab members
  • Let people set their own schedules
  • Treat your lab members as your teammates
  • Remember that every lab member is unique
  • Give credit where credit is due
  • Destigmatize failure and celebrate success

Reference: Maestre, F. T. (2019). Ten simple rules towards healthier research labs.

Consider creating an Individual Development Plan (IDP). Although the UA does not require postdocs to create and submit an IDP as some other universities do, we recognize that this can be an effective strategy for establishing mutually agreed-upon goals and communicating expectations clearly in writing. You can find resources for creating an IDP here.

Discuss authorship criteria. Authorship can be a sticky issue, in part because different mentors have different criteria for what types of contributions deserve authorship. An effective way to avoid future disagreements and misunderstandings is to discuss authorship criteria before the research begins.

Discuss career goals and help your postdoc obtain the experience necessary to attain those goals. It seems that, at least historically, there has been a strong emphasis on postdocs pursuing tenure-track positions at R1 universities. Nevertheless, there are postdocs who are not interested in pursuing this career path or who are concerned that they need to broaden their career goals due to the stiff competition that exists in many disciplines for R1 tenure-track jobs. For those who have aspirations to pursue a career in teaching, you may be able to offer them some mentored teaching experiences; also, there are campus resources that may be useful (See Teaching Portfolios). For those postdocs who are more interested in a nonacademic career, you may be able to offer them advice and networking opportunities; there are also campus workshops and resources that may prove helpful (Careers and Events).

Provide professional development opportunities that are applicable to your discipline and your postdoc’s career goals. Examples include opportunities to write grants, give oral presentations, teach, mentor students, develop an effective CV/resume, and refine interviewing and networking skills. You may be able to provide these opportunities; you may also direct the postdoc to workshops and resources offered by Postdoctoral Affairs.

Additional Resources

NPA Core Competencies for Postdoctoral Scholars

NPA Mentoring Plans for Postdoctoral Scholars

Shaping Your Postdocs (The Scientist, Sept 2010)