Mentoring Resources

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 Ericka Peterson, Director of Postdoctoral Affairs at or by phone at 212-305-4073 if you have any questions or concerns with respect to your postdocs. 

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.

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:

The Postdoctoral Experience Revisited

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.

The Office of Postdoctoral Affairs (OPA), the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS), the Graduate Program at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, and the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) at Columbia University co-sponsor an annual program to assist PhD 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.

For more information about the Columbia University IDP program, including registration details, please visit: