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FelCom - Mentoring

What is a mentor?

Choosing a mentor

Nih mentoring resources

other mentoring resources

upcoming events


The Mentoring Committee is committed to ensuring that the mentoring system at the NIH provides assistance to strengthen mentor-mentee relationships, allowing fellows to successfully conduct independent research, improve their scientific and personal communication skills, and develop and achieve their career and training goals.

NIH Intramural postdoctoral fellows inhabit a unique environment: surrounded by thousands of other postdocs, members of labs filled with world-class talent, working under the tutelage of renowned PIs. Time at the NIH has the potential to be incredibly rewarding and productive, in terms of both scientific achievements and professional development, if you take advantage of the multitude of resources available to you. One way to do this is by engaging mentors to help you identify and achieve your scientific and career goals.

What is a mentor?

The word "mentor" has come to mean an experienced and trusted advisor, one who imparts knowledge and wisdom to someone less experienced. Mentors can be your peers, a supervisor, people you work with, or other professionals in your field. In science, "mentor" is often synonymous with "PI." However, not all PIs will act as mentors to their fellows, and even if your PI is a great mentor you may find that you need guidance in an area where your PI lacks expertise. To make the most of your time at the NIH, it's to your benefit to seek out multiple mentors with a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences in order to maximize what you learn from them.

A good mentor will:

  • Teach you about specific issues
  • Coach you on a particular skill set
  • Facilitate your professional growth by sharing resources and networks
  • Challenge you to move beyond your comfort zone
  • Create a safe learning environment for taking risks

How to choose a mentor

Basic steps for finding a mentor:

  1. Figure out what you want from a mentor
  2. Research people who are experts in the area(s) in which you need help
  3. Approach a potential mentor and explain why you're asking her/him to mentor you.

Looking for more information? This blog piece from takes a light-hearted but practical approach to laying out what you should look for in a mentor and how to recruit her/him. Here are a few more pieces with good advice on picking and working with a mentor from The New York Times and The Washington Post. The American Physiological Society and NIH's OITE offer advice specifically for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) postdocs and grad students on choosing a scientific mentor and lab. And remember, you can—and should!—have mentors outside your PI.

Mentoring resources at the NIH

The NIH Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE) offers a number of mentoring seminars and workshops for fellows. Your Institute/Center may also have its own mentoring services, so get in touch with your Training Director to find out what's going on! And, as members of the NIH community, Intramural fellows are entitled and welcome to take advantage of resources offered through the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, Employee Assistance Program (health and wellness issues), and the Ombudsman's Office (work-related issues).

For members of communities traditionally underrepresented in biomedical science research, there are numerous organizations and societies at the NIH that offer mentoring resources and activities to their members:

You can also check out these NIH guides:

Blogs and articles

Other mentoring resources

  • myIDP Science Careers provides this service to help you create your own Individual Development Plan (IDP), a document in which you define short-and long-term research and career goals and outline steps for reaching them. IDPs can be extremely helpful for holding yourself accountable and moving on to the next stage of your career. Some ICs already have their own IDPs/training plans in place but if yours doesn't, myIDP is a good place to start.
  • National Postdoctoral Association: NPA is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving all aspects of the postdoctoral experience through education and advocacy. Their page dedicated to mentoring has helpful information on making a mentoring plan (aka IDP) as well as resources from other organizations.
  • Association for Women in Science: AWIS offers webinars, workshops and a wealth of other information on the benefits of, and getting involved with, mentoring. Additionally, AWIS has chapters in Bethesda and DC (and elsewhere around the country, if you're not on the main NIH campus) that you can join to take advantage of in-person networking and events, like Mentoring Circles.
  • Office of Personnel Management: OPM has a great Guide with definitions of mentors, types of mentoring and steps for implementing a mentoring program. OPM also has its own Training and Development page with great information on IDPs and the difference(s) between mentoring and coaching.
  • MENTOR, The National Mentoring Partnership: This site has anything and everything you've ever wanted to know about mentoring-being a mentor, being a mentee, nationally available resources, starting a program, etc.

Upcoming mentoring events (NIH main campus)

OITE seminars and workshops:

  • Speaking Up: How to Ask for What You Need in Lab and Life
  • Workplace Dynamics (series of five workshops)
  • Management Bootcamp (requires application AND completion of WD series)
  • Improving Mentoring Relationships
  • Planning for Career Satisfaction and Success
  • Mentor Training

Please check the OITE website for dates, times and places of upcoming events.


  • Co-chairs:
    Nivedita Sengupta - NICHD
    Gloria Laryea - NIMH

    Committee Members:
    Afrouz Anderson - NICHD
    Camila Coelho - NIAID
    Alireza Ghahari - NEI
    Jennifer West - NIDDK
    Fany Messanvi - NIMH
    Lori Conlan - OITE