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Mentoring Program for Postdocs

The goal of the UMass Lowell Postdoctoral Researcher Mentoring Program ("Postdoc Mentoring Program") is to provide a list of centralized resources and best practices for the provision of skills, knowledge and experiences necessary to prepare postdoctoral researchers to excel in their chosen career path. The Postdoc Mentoring Program should help create a conversational framework for faculty mentors and postdocs to discuss expectations, opportunities, and professional development.

Several funding agencies require investigators to support the development of their postdoctoral researchers in six key areas: career counseling and advising; experience writing grant proposals, publications and presentations; teaching and mentoring skills; instruction in professional practice; and technology transfer. Best practices and links to UMass Lowell support for each of these areas is broken out, below:


I. Expectation Setting / Onboarding

Faculty mentors are encouraged to offer a welcome letter top their postdoc that outlines general policies, expectations, and roles and responsibilities within their mentor-mentee relationship. Subjects might include the following (not exhaustive):

  • Lab Meetings - schedule, location, typical agenda
  • Communication - how, when, about what
  • Vacation/Sick Time - procedures and considerations for time off/calling in sick
  • Lab Safety
  • Experimental Techniques
  • Teaching opportunities
  • Supporting resources (computers, supplies etc.)

II. Career Counseling/Advising

  • Faculty mentors should engage their postdocs in robust discussions about the postdoc's desired career trajectory so that their fellowship can be best tailored to meet their unique professional goals. The faculty mentor and postdoc should work together to create an Independent Development Plan (IDP) document.
  • UMass Lowell Research & Innovation provides individual career counseling appointments for postdocs. To sign up, please fill out a Career Consultation for Researchers request form and you will be contacted to set up an appointment.
  • The UMass Lowell Research & Innovation group also hosts annual professional development workshops (independently and as part of the E-Bites seminar series) and Career Mapping workshops.

III. Experience with Grant Proposals

  • The postdoc should have direct involvement in proposals prepared by the PI (e.g., identification of key research questions, definition of objectives, description of approach and rationale, and construction of a work plan, timeline and budget).
  • The UMass Lowell Research and Innovation group offers several proposal and research idea related activities during the year, including an annual summer six-session workshop on writing grant proposals. Postdocs are strongly encouraged to attend. Registration opens around the beginning of March each year.

IV. Publications and Presentations

  • Publications and presentations are an expected result of postdoctoral fellowships, and faculty mentors should support and encourage the collaborative and independent pursuit of scholarly outputs by their postdocs.
  • The UMass Lowell Research and Innovation group hosts annual professional development activities focusing on presenting research activities, including the Faculty Symposium, Proposal Pitch Sessions, and E-Bites seminars. Postdocs are encouraged to participate in these activities.

V. Teaching and Mentoring Skills

  • Faculty mentors should enable and encourage postdocs to mentor graduate and undergraduate students in the lab and department.
  • Faculty mentors should work with their department to find opportunities for their postdoc to gain teaching experience through guest lectures and other teaching opportunities (as appropriate).

VI. Instruction in Professional Practices

  • Faculty mentors will provide regular formal and informal instruction to their postdoc, within the context of their own research work, on the fundamentals of the scientific method, laboratory safety, and other standards of professional practice.
  • Postdocs are encouraged to complete the responsible conduct of research training modules available to UMass Lowell postdocs for free through the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) training website.

VII. Technology Transfer

As appropriate, faculty mentors will provide their postdoc with the opportunity to become familiar with the university-industry relationship, including applicable confidentiality requirements and preparation of invention disclosures.


VIII. Annual Re-evaluation of Mentoring Plan

Faculty mentors and postdocs should meet at least annually to discuss and refine the mentoring plan and IDP (separate and apart from any performance management conversations).