This fall I had the opportunity to participate in Compass (Wash U Compass: Elevating Biomed Professionals (, a leadership and management training and mentoring program for early career researchers. An NIH-funded program led by a team at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, Compass is open to all biomedical junior faculty and postdocs in the United States for FREE! The program “trains individuals to lead and manage successful teams, navigate career challenges, and balance life and science by providing mentoring, practical tools, and other resources.” It is a fully remote program, which makes it easy to fit into your schedule, and I found it incredibly helpful. The program runs multiple times a year and applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

Compass provides a TON of information and resources. Here are just a few key highlights I found especially helpful:

  1. Learning Content. The Compass program is divided into three units: Leading Others, Managing Scientific Work, and Leading Self. The team has put together incredible Coursebooks for each unit that share a wealth of information on topics such as cultivating a positive work environment, building relationships, giving and receiving feedback, resolving conflict, hiring and managing team members, setting boundaries, and managing wellness. There are also several videos throughout the learning platform that highlight some of the best practices found within the Coursebook material. The learning platform is sleek and easy to use.
  2. Expert Advice. In addition to the main content shared throughout the course, expert mentors are invited to share their experiences through short videos, case studies, and live events. It was nice to hear from successful lab leaders on what has (and hasn’t) worked for them as they’ve developed their careers.
  3. Putting it into Practice. One unique aspect of this program is the ability to practice new skills and receive feedback. There are several opportunities to video yourself responding to situations you might encounter in your career where you can get instant feedback via an Auto Analysis tool. Though a bit uncomfortable, it was great practice! Additionally, the main “deliverable” of the program is to complete a Lab Manual. This assignment, which you work on over the entire course, really gets you thinking about how you would like your lab to operate. There are multiple chances throughout the course to receive written and oral feedback on the manual.
  4. Peer Mentoring. Another fantastic aspect of Compass is the ability to connect with peers. This is partially done through topic discussion boards in the learning platform, but the most helpful, in my opinion, is meeting regularly with a peer mentoring team. My peer mentoring team clicked really well, and we enjoyed seeing each other each week. Some of the weeks had guided activities, some we worked on or discussed Lab Manuals, and others we bounced ideas off each other and helped each other work through challenges. We found our meetings to be so helpful that we have decided to continue meeting monthly.

I would highly recommend this program to anyone leading or planning to lead a research group. The course is geared more toward the academic track, but the skills learned would be valuable to any biomedical scientist leading a lab.

For more information or to submit an application, visit the Compass website at Wash U Compass: Elevating Biomed Professionals (

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