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Adviser, Teacher, Role Model, Friend: On being a Mentor to Students in Science and Engineering
find a "real job." That process should occur before the student begins their research with a thorough review of the student's experience and goals. Establish your expectations and "terms of employment." Set a schedule for follow-up reviews at regular intervals. Career goals, which can change appreciably over time, should be a central topic of these discussions. Another important topic is finances; postdoctoral students often enter a postdoctoral position with scant financial resources. Be aware of ethical employment practices, which include giving advance notice of layoffs and regular updates on a postdoctoral student's employment status.
Some of the basic obligations that a mentor has to a postdoctoral student are to help perform research, design a good curriculum vitae, rehearse interviews, prepare manuscripts, plan seminars, raise grant money, and learn about the current job market (see the box "Career Questions"). In addition, a good mentor will maintain sufficiently frequent contact to know about personal or other problems that could hinder progress and will generally make every necessary effort to help the postdoctoral student grow into a mature and productive colleague.
Demonstrating progress. In any field, the broad purpose of the postdoctoral experience is to gain research experience and skills that open new vistas. If you mentor postdoctoral students, make it clear that they should demonstrate independent research thinking, be productive, have their work reflected on their record, and make sure that someone in a position of authority knows what they are doing and can facilitate their next steps.
Some students find it useful to remain with a laboratory after the usual 1-3 years of postdoctoral experience. However, this should be accompanied by clear indica-