First and foremost, mentors need to understand that postdoctoral scholars and fellows are trainees, not employees. If you need a Ph.D. -level employee in your research program and you do not want to commit to training and professional development then you should hire a Research Associate. The ultimate measure of your success as a mentor is whether or not the trainee is employed in a permanent position appropriate for his/her career path after working with you. The mentor is responsible for developing, in concert with the postdoctoral scholar, a plan of research and the goals, objectives and expectations of the training program. Expectations include:
- A commitment to advancing the career of the Postdoctoral Scholar. This involves regular and thoughtful discussions of the strengths and limitations of ongoing research in the mentor's laboratory as well as attention to the development of skills and experiences that will advance the individual's career. Normally, this will include helping the Scholar learn to write successful grant proposals and research papers and to develop mentorship skills; often it will also include opportunities to teach one or more courses as part of a guided program.
- A commitment to a collaborative process of identifying clear and achievable research goals for the Postdoctoral Scholar. This includes setting timelines and assessing progress towards them in a regular and collegial manner.
- Provision of the resources necessary to conduct the agreed upon activities.
- Provision of freedom for the Postdoctoral Scholar to achieve research and training objectives, with mentor guidance.
- Recognition and publication of achievements of the Postdoctoral Scholar within the laboratory and the broader scientific community. Normally this will include sponsoring the postdoc to present research findings as the first author at professional meetings and introducing him/her to your professional peer network.
An important tool to help you achieve supervisory responsibilities is the Individual Development Plan, or IDP. By the end of the first quarter of the internship, you and your postdoc should work together to create an IDP created especially for the trainee. After it is signed by both you and the postdoc, it should be submitted to the Office of Postdoctoral Programs for approval. Before the end of the first and second years of your appointment you will need to conduct an annual review that assesses the progress and development as defined by that plan and submit it to the OPP before the postdoc can be reappointed for another year.
While you should try to provide mentoring and experiences to help with the professional development of your postdoc, there are plenty of other resources at OSU and elsewhere you can rely on. Workshops are offered by the Office of Postdoctoral Programs, the Graduate School, the Center for Teaching and Learning, the Career Center, the OSU Library, among others. Also, the University Honors Program encourages postdocs to submit proposals to teach or co-teach an honors course on a one-time basis and the Center for Teaching and Learning offers support and training in university teaching that can be tailored to help postdocs teach successful honors courses. It is a commonly believed that postdoctpral scholars are not allowed to engaged in teaching if they are supported 100% by a research grant. However, because OSU has a policy that 15% of the time of all postdoctoral scholars should be devoted to professional development, and teaching a single undergraduate or graduate course is an important component of professional development for many early-career PhDs, this type of teaching is allowed for federally funded postdoctoral scholars. In addition, the Graduate School will consider nominations for limited Graduate Faculty status for postdoctoral scholars to teach a graduate-level course or participate on a graduate committee, when appropriate. Likewise it is commonly believed that postdoctoral scholars are not allowed to submit research proposals, even though this, too, is an important component of professional development. The OSU Research Office will accept research proposals from postdoctoral scholars as long as they are signed by the department chair/head and dean of the unit where the postdoc works.