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Mentoring Resources

bulletBest Practices for Finding the Right Postdoc

bulletRoles and Responsibilities of the Postdoc and the Adviser

bulletMentoring Resources

bulletIndividual Development Plan (IDP)

bulletCompact Between Postdoctoral Appointees and their Mentors


The Office of Postdoctoral Affairs was created, in part, to provide administrative support to postdocs, faculty and administrators in all facets of a postdoc’s experience while at Columbia. We hope to be a starting point to identify resources available to you while hiring your postdoc, the resolution of any problems that you may have, and of course, a resource for your postdoc.

Please do not hesitate to contact Rory Flinn, Director of Postdoctoral Affairs at rf2531@columbia.edu or by phone at 212-305-4073 if you have any questions or concerns with respect to your postdocs.


Best Practices for Finding the Right Postdoc

The relationship between the adviser and the postdoc is of prime importance if the postdoctoral experience is to be beneficial to both parties. Therefore, when choosing a Postdoc you need to find a Postdoc that will be the right fit for your lab, not just the right fit for your research but also the right fit with your work ethics and your mentoring style.

Best Practices

Have a face-to-face interview with a perspective Postdoc. If that is not possible then a video conference is a good alternative.

When contacting the applicant’s references make sure to get feedback on the applicant’s work ethics, communication style, and how he/she had handled stressful work situations or research set-backs.

Discuss your expectations about the Postdocs role in your lab and the responsibilities that you expect the Postdoc to take on.

Discuss your work ethics and your mentoring style with the perspective Postdoc.

Have a colleague and/or current Postdoc in your lab interview the perspective Postdoc to get a second opinion.


"At the Helm: A Laboratory Navigator” by Kathy Barker.

Barker gives practical advice on how to interview and select technicians, postdocs, and students in addition to training, motivating, and mentoring them. She also touches on how to deal with the toughest personnel issues: fixing communication problems, resolving conflicts, helping lab members’ deal with stress and depression, keeping up lab morale, and knowing when to let someone go who isn't working out.

“Making the Right Moves” by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute
and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund

This lab management book includes a chapter on recruiting, screening, interviewing, and evaluating applicants.


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Roles and Responsibilities of the Postdoc and the Adviser

A number of organizations, recognizing the importance of this relationship, have prepared reports and weighed-in on the respective roles of the adviser and the postdoc:

Enhancing the Postdoctoral Experience for Scientists and Engineers - A Guide for Postdoctoral Scholars, Advisers, Institutions, Funding Organizations, and Disciplinary Societies

The Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy (COSEPUP) of the National Academy of Sciences has prepared a report that addresses five primary populations, all of whom participate in the postdoctoral experience: the postdoctoral officers themselves, their advisers, their host institutions, the agencies and organizations that support them and professional disciplinary societies. It is also intended for senior-level graduate students who may be contemplating postdoctoral work. The report states that the postdoc “has a quid pro quo relationship with the research community”.

In order to enhance this relationship we are also providing, a “Roles and Responsibilities” document for both postdocs and their advisers.

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Mentoring Resources

Internal Resources

bulletNSF Mentoring Requirements

bullet Quick Reference Guide for Faculty(.pdf)

bullet Columbia University Faculty Mentoring Guidelines

External Resources

bullet AAMC Compact Between Postdoctoral Appointees and their


bullet Nature's Guide to Mentors

bullet Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Burroughs Welcome Fund

    "Making the Right Moves: A Practical Guide to Scientific

     Management for Postdocs and New Faculty" Chapter 5:     

     Mentoring and Being Mentored

bullet National Postdoctoral Association's Mentoring Resources


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Individual Development Plan (IDP)

To learn about what an Individual Development Plan (IDP) is and why they are critical for Postdocs to develop, please read "A Spotlight on Individual Development Plans (IDPs)."

The Office of Postdoctoral Affairs and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Columbia University co-sponsor an annual program to assist NIH-funded graduate students and postdoctoral researchers with the implementation of Individual Development Plans (IDPs). The IDP program developed at Columbia University has been designed for NIH-funded graduate students and postdoctoral trainees, with a particular goal of reaching graduate students in the third and fourth year of training and postdoctoral researchers in the first two years of training. However, the program will be applicable to non-NIH-funded graduate students and postdocs, particularly those in science, technology, mathematics, and engineering (STEM) fields.

Following the IDP seminar series, a monthly career panel and networking reception will allow trainees to learn about a variety of career opportunities both within and beyond academia. Postdoctoral researchers may also join peer mentoring groups to discuss their IDPs, career goals, and career exploration activities, and to receive support and feedback from their peers.

For more information about the Columbia University IDP program, including registration details, please visit: https://www2.gsas.columbia.edu/idp/ .

Additional IDP resources:

In 2003, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) put together an IDP template for postdocs in the sciences. This paper form can be completed by postdocs and their advisors.

Building on the FASEB IDP template, Science Careers, FASEB, AAAS, and several other organizations came together and created a free online career planning tool specifically for graduate students and postdocs, ‘myIDP’. Trainees go through through four steps 1) self evaluation of skills, values, and interests, 2) exploring and evaluating career opportunities and identifying career options, 3) setting career development goals & 4) implementing a plan of action in myIDP. myIDP also allows users to share their IDP or portions of their IDP with their mentors.

To access myIDP please go to: http://myidp.sciencecareers.org . To learn more about myIDP please read “You Need a Game Plan”, which is the first in a series of articles regarding myIDP that is published in www.sciencecareers.org.

Postdocs who would like more information on how to get the most out of using myIDP as well as mentors who would like more information on how to incorporate the use of myIDP into their mentoring plan can contact Rory Flinn at rf2531@columbia.edu.

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Compact Between Postdoctoral Appointees and their Mentors

The Compact was drafted by the Association of American Medical Colleges’ Group on Graduate, Research, Education, and Training and its Postdoctorate Committee. Its intent is to “initiate discussions at the local and national levels about the postdoctoral appointee-mentor relationship and the commitments necessary for a high quality postdoctoral training experience.”

According to this Compact, core tenets of postdoctoral training include:

The Compact Between Postdoctoral Appointees and their Mentors details necessary commitments of both postdoctoral appointees and mentors.


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