It’s national postdoc appreciation week, which means you are absolutely going to have to buy some donuts.

Not these!



Seriously, make these.

After you are done making these awesome unicorn donuts, we can get down to business.

Here’s the business. You can be doing better for your trainees. I see you’re trying. You want to be a good mentor. Everyone does. But postdoc appreciation week is a great opportunity to check yourself.

Even the best bosses have trainees covering for PIs way more than you think. They laugh at your jokes, get you a last minute grant figure when you were sure you the other one would be okay and print out that paper for you for the fifth bloody time (seriously, where do you put all those papers? Is there a black hole in your house?).

After you get busy with those delicious unicorn donuts here are some protips on things you need to be doing all year long to show trainees what being a good boss looks like.

  1. Respect. Show it. Schedule a standing one-on-one meeting with them every week (or two). Let them pick the topic – data, next steps, papers they love. Just be super present for 30 minutes. Treat them like they are an invited guest speaker – be on time for the meeting. Offer them coffee or tea. Be organized and professional.
  2. Opportunities. Give them. Give your trainees a chance to train others. A big part of being in science is passing on knowledge and this can’t start soon enough. This doesn’t necessarily mean you pipette alongside them, but if you are at an undergrad institution, hire an undergrad and have their primary mentor be a post doc. It is a humbling and invaluable learning experience.

    This kid needs a lot more safety gear before he can come to lab.

  3. Plans. Make them. Make sure you have a mentoring plan you both agree upon. FASEB offers some lovely examples here. This plan is the cornerstone of their experience and will include techniques they need to master, meetings they will attend, their vacation plans as well as plans for manuscript and grant submissions. There’s a lot to it, and it will take you awhile. Have a donut and get busy.
  4. Introductions. Make them. Network your trainees like it’s your job (it is your job). Send post docs to national meetings and have them talk to your colleagues. Meet scientists you respect at your trainees’ presentations then involve them in the conversation. Have your trainees send follow up emails to the bigwigs.
  5. Health. Check it. Make sure they know about health and financial resources on campus. Do you know if your postdoc gets vision and dental? Do they have to use student health? Are there counseling resources? Do you know if they can get a matching contribution to a retirement plan? You should. These are just a few of the things are incredibly important to their well being.
  6. Reality. Visit It. The best way to figure out what you can be doing better as a boss (and you can always be doing something better) is to ask, “What can I do more of to help you/the lab?” And then take notes.
  7. Spines. Have one. Advocate for them like crazy. Don’t put them in the path of creepy and crappy people. Read my BFF Melissa Wilson Sayres post on reminding students they are worthy.

Your trainees are your lasting majestic alley-oop, friends. Show em some ROPIEHRS! That’s Respect, Opportunities, Plans, Introductions, Health, Reality and Spine.

You’re welcome for the acronym. There’s a reason I don’t get paid to make acronyms.


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