Mentoring Skills for Scientists

The mentoring and training of scientists is an important goal at the National Institutes of Health. The key components of mentoring outlined below represent training that enables senior investigators at NIAID to foster the careers of their trainees.


  • Meet with trainee individually and as part of the laboratory staff regularly
  • Clarify expectations for how the lab functions
  • Provide opportunities for communications and interaction between trainee and laboratory staff
  • Encourage opportunities to communicate orally and in writing
  • Inform trainee of available resources, including
    • Individuals with complementary knowledge and expertise
    • Core facilities, including Research Technologies Branch services
    • Human resource support and availability

Research/Skills Development

  • Assist trainee in selecting a project
  • Help plan, identify, and prioritize projects based on short- and long-term goals
  • Discuss the trainee's Individual Development Plan initially and periodically
  • Set guidelines for best practices and expectations for ethical conduct in science
  • Ensure understanding of research techniques, record-keeping, analysis, and interpretation of data
  • Encourage initiative and development of increasing independence
  • Involve trainees in discussions within the laboratory
  • Increase awareness of resource management (e.g., supplies, staffing, and budget)
  • Provide opportunities to critically review literature
  • Explain how authorship works in the laboratory


  • Offer opportunities for successful collaborations
  • Encourage attendance at seminars, forums, and professional meetings
  • Encourage presentations at meetings
  • Encourage original and innovative thinking
  • Assist in the development of writing skills (e.g., grant writing)

Career Advice/Assistance

  • Provide solid input regarding education and career development
  • Allow time for education and career development activities (e.g., interviews)
  • Provide career contacts and promote networking
  • Forward appropriate position ads to trainee
  • Contact the Office of Training and Diversity for resources and advice

Evaluation/Review of Work

  • Establish goals and objectives with the trainee at the onset
  • Monitor and provide verbal feedback to the trainee at regular intervals
  • Initiate yearly evaluations where progress is discussed face to face
  • Obtain feedback about the trainee from other laboratory staff
  • Review the trainee's Individual Development Plan
Content last reviewed on August 12, 2015