Topic: Postdoctoral Training
Comments by Matthew Cook
University of California, San Francisco
More than ever, postdocs need excellent guidance and mentorship from their PIs. But is that the reality in research labs across the country? I would argue that mentorship is deeply lacking in many training environments because tenure-track faculty are hired primarily based on a track record of excellent scientific success even when they are expected to lead a lab where their major responsibilities include managing large teams of people and mentoring many trainees. The vast majority of incoming faculty have no background in management and receive no formal mentorship training.
I propose a mandatory, structured 5-day training upon new faculty hiring, and another session after earning tenure. Along with the benefit of residing in a cohort, these faculty will learn about effective management techniques, how to provide career support for all backgrounds, how to ha ndle crucial conversations, how to balance lab finances, etc. The benefit of including faculty who have just received tenure in the same group includes organic mentorship by peers. Offering this program once a year (or once every half-year) minimizes the costs and maximizes the cohorting of social learning and peer support. In addition, all trainees (postdocs especially) will fill out exit evaluations of their mentors that will be kept confidential and used for faculty training purposes only. Feedback provides a source of accountability as well as a source of data for tailoring training programs to the local needs of incoming generations of faculty.