The goal of the faculty mentoring program is to ensure both the success of new faculty and their retention at the institution. Our primary measure of success is based on the quality of scientific contributions to a field of inquiry, as judged primarily by the quality of peer-reviewed publications and by attracting extramural funding. We also value success in communicating scientific knowledge to peers, to students and to the lay public, through invited lectures and teaching.
The mentoring program provides a formalized mechanism by which junior and advancing career faculty can obtain advice and feedback as they establish their scientific program. The mentor serves the role of a seasoned, experienced advisor on topics ranging from scientific strategies of the mentee to the mechanics of navigating bureaucratic requirements of the institution. The mentee should expect to enjoy the confidence of the mentor. Likewise, the mentor ideally does not serve an administrative or evaluative role for the activities of the mentee.
Prior to beginning the mentoring process, both mentor and mentee are asked to indicate to each other the expectations of their relationship. Of critical importance is that the independence of the junior investigator is always respected and that scientific competition between mentor and mentee is avoided. Discussion of conditions under which the relationship might be disengaged should occur. Any problems in the mentoring relationship are discussed with our Director.
Upon arrival at WVU, faculty attend a formal orientation session about the procedures of promotion and tenure, including annual review procedures. Each fall semester, the School of Medicine holds a social event for all faculty, hosted by the Dean, at which Department Chairs introduce their new faculty members. This social event provides an opportunity for new faculty members to meet other members of their entering class. New faculty are made aware of the Faculty Development Program at the Health Sciences Center, which sponsors special seminars that cover such topics as time management, writing exam questions for students, and updates on promotion and tenure policies. The Faculty Development Program also offers a teaching scholars program. New faculty are scheduled by our Director to meet personally with senior administrators at the Health Sciences Center, including the Vice President, the Senior Associate Vice President, the Dean of the faculty member’s school, and the Associate Vice President for Research. These meetings begin the development of an effective working relationship and useful communication channel between new faculty members and senior administration.
Laboratory space and any required renovations are negotiated with the director and department chair. The design of space is coordinated with the new faculty member and renovations are contracted and managed through the department office. Essential laboratory equipment should be purchased prior to arrival of the new faculty member. Experienced planning and consistency in vendor relationships contribute to our goal of providing a workable laboratory from the first day of arrival on the campus.
Investigators using experimental animals participate in an orientation and training session offered through the Office of Laboratory and Animal Resources, and meet the director of the facility. Critical steps in setting up a laboratory such as establishing e-mail and telephone accounts and getting listed in directories should be accomplished through departmental offices. Each new faculty member meets with the neuroscience web site manager to provide information for launch of their web site. Faculty web sites follow a general template for ease of creation and updating by the web site manager. Each faculty member is provided a copy of “At the Helm, A Laboratory Guide,” by Kathy Barker, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, 2002, which we find to be an effective “field manual” for their new challenges.
Each new member meets with the Research and Grants Coordinator for their particular focus area or through their department to review procedures for ACUC, IRB and biohazard protocol submission. Application deadlines for competitive internal funding sources for research are available through links on the neuroscience web site. We encourage each faculty member to utilize two of these funds in particular, one specifically allocated for Health Sciences Center faculty and another for all faculty at the university. Preparation of these proposals begins the process of crafting their presentation of ideas that will eventually be submitted to the NIH. Participation of the junior faculty member in a grant writing seminar will be scheduled.
Timetable and Process
The director, in consultation with research focus directors and department chairs, makes the initial assignment of a mentee to a mentor. Request of a mentor by the mentee will be strongly considered in making this assignment. Mentors are chosen from extramurally funded investigators within the neuroscience research community, so that mentors will better understand the professional challenges of mentees and provide more meaningful career and scientific advice. Pairing of individuals must have the agreement of both the mentor and mentee.
- Objectives of Initial Meetings Between Mentors and Junior Faculty
- Set one-year and five-year goals for the scientific program
- Determine a five-year time line to establish these projects and pursue funding
- Discuss timing for submission of initial NIH or K-series (for clinician investigators) grant
- Consider the eventual number of personnel required to sustain the desired size of the mentee's research program
- Review procedures for hiring technical personnel
- Discuss how to structure laboratory rotations to attract graduate students
- Evaluate publications to date and evaluate initial experimental plan for the new laboratory
- Additional Topics
- Regulatory Issues: Review IRB, ACUC, Biohazard protocol approvals
- Grant Review Prior to NIH Submission (Internal vetting of initial proposal is required)
- Determine internal reviewers: one major, 1-3 minor reviewers; major reviewer need not be but typically is the mentor. This committee should meet at least six times to discuss scientific ideas (initial meetings) and finalize specific aims, then at later meetings provide detailed stylistic critique of the application.
- Identify at least one external reviewer
- Schedule deadlines to avoid last minute effort and sufficient time for external reviewer
- Schedule at least one Works in Progress presentation at least 3 months prior to grant deadline
- Discuss relationship/competition with previous scientific mentor
- Review strategies to keep abreast of the latest research in the mentee's field (examples listed):
- PubMed searches and library visits
- e-mail with former lab mates and contact with scientific mentor
- Personal journal subscriptions
- Attendance at meetings. The mentee should be made aware that sometimes it is better to meet deadlines for lab setup or grant submission during the first year rather than attend all professional meetings in which they typically participate.
- Teaching Assignments
- Review department and program-specific requirements
- Review appropriate teaching topics and relevance of faculty development program offerings to improve ability and make preparation more efficient
- Committee Work (As guidelines, we have established these categories of committees, in decreasing order of importance for junior faculty)
- Graduate student committees, departmental research committees, and search committees all provide important insights into the development of research programs, and are appropriate in good measure even for new faculty.
- Departmental and center retreats, if constructively planned, represent annual activities that are important to the research careers of all faculty. These events provide networking opportunities, often with invited speakers from outside the university.
- Curriculum planning committees and strategic planning committees, admissions committees, institutional review committees, and other committees requiring extensive time commitments, should be the responsibility of established faculty. The topics under discussion typically require multiple meetings to resolve, and can absorb considerable amounts of a junior investigator’s time.
- Continuing to build the laboratory after technician, student recruitment
- Review time management strategies
- Keep an honest log of their activities for one week and discuss with mentors some of the challenges to efficient use of time. Allocation of time to consider the larger directions of their work, and not fall into patterns of short term immediacy to satisfy deadlines, should be explored.
- Manuscript writing
- Organization of ideas for initial publication from new lab
- Time management for efficient manuscript writing
- Selection of appropriate journals to submit work
- Evaluate competition with scientific mentor
- The mentee should feel free to discuss particular challenges in balancing their personal and professional lives, and develop strategies that address these issues to permit career building.
- Gaining national exposure
- Mentors should encourage junior faculty to seize opportunities for manuscript and grant reviewing.
- Presentation at appropriate national, international scientific meetings
- Hosting seminar speakers and meeting with other speakers, including dinners, should be encouraged
- Recruitment of postdoctoral fellows: expanding the laboratory
- Mentors should make sure that mentees network with visiting faculty, participate in dinners with these guests, and present work at national or international meetings. The mentors can advise about when such activities are excessive and detract from the fundamental objective of completing and publishing research projects.
The following list provides a brief summary of the evaluation criteria for promotion and tenure and the activities of the junior faculty member to compile their personnel file. The junior faculty member should review together the guidelines for promotion and tenure on an annual basis, because these may change subtly from year to year.
- Promotion and Tenure Preparation
- Knowing scientists at peer institutions from whom letters of recommendation can be requested
- Preparation of file
- Teaching evaluations
- Service contributions
- Documentation (of everything)
- National and International exposure (examples of relevant experiences):
- Manuscript reviews
- Grant reviews
- Editorial boards
- Invited seminars
- Scientific meetings
- Hosting seminar speakers in field