Postdoc mentoring guidelines

Mentoring of postdoctoral faculty members (postdocs) plays an important role in helping them meet departmental and university expectations of teaching and research. Mentoring also provides guidance toward the next stages of their career. The mentor should be a tenured or tenure track faculty member working in the same research area (or reasonably close).

The mentor and postdoc are expected to meet regularly each semester to discuss research and publications, grant proposals, teaching, and future plans. Both parties can take the initiative in developing and sustaining the relationship.


The mentor will encourage the postdoc’s research and include them in the life of their research area both locally and inter/nationally. Mentors often

  • work closely with their postdoc on joint research projects,
  • recommend the postdoc for invitations to conferences,
  • provide feedback on research presentations,
  • co-organize sessions at conferences.

The mentor can encourage the postdoc to publish:

  • in a timely fashion – it is wise to break large projects into smaller parts;
  • in a variety of journals, both general and specialized;
  • with a variety of collaborators, including other junior researchers, and in solo papers. Such variety makes clear the postdoc’s role as a major contributor to projects, which is important when applying for future academic positions.
Grant proposals

The postdoc should gain experience writing grant applications with guidance and feedback from the mentor. A solo proposal to a disciplinary program at NSF is one possibility. Another would be for the postdoc and mentor to write a joint proposal. The mentor should read and critique any proposal well in advance of the internal departmental deadline.

The Grants and Funding page provides examples of successful proposals and links to grant deadlines and information about who to see in the department for budget and submission assistance.


The mentor is expected to visit the postdoc’s classes at least once per year (unless the postdoc has arranged someone else to do this) and send notes on the visit to the Associate Chair for Instruction (Vadim Zharnitsky), which he can incorporate into a teaching letter when the postdoc applies for academic positions in future. These notes should include the course number and the date of the visit.

There is no official format for a teaching observation. Personally, I like to frame my observations around Rishel’s “Three levels of teaching”.

The mentor can also serve as a source of advice about teaching issues in the department and training workshops on campus (eg CITL programs). The postdoc should document their teaching work, including ICES scores and any special activities such as supervision of undergraduate research groups, because these materials will be useful in later job applications.

Future plans

Mentors are encouraged to spend a significant amount of time listening to the postdoc in order to understand and support their needs and aspirations for the future. Career resources are available at the Postdoc page.