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Professional Development Beyond the Bench: Look to the National Research Mentoring Network
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Sarah Gluck and Meldra Hall


Advocating for postdoctoral scholars since 2003, members of the NPA have served as advisors, educators, and activists throughout the organization’s tenure. A growing concern among postdocs in recent years has been the lack of available tenure track positions and research funding.


Making the transition from postdoctoral fellow to independent investigator is no easy task. While 33 percent of NIH research grant applications were funded in 1970, that number dropped to 20 percent by 2016 (NIH Report). Lack of academic funding is an even greater problem for people of color. A 2011 report showed that black scientists applying for an R01 are a third less likely to receive one than white scientists (Ginter Report). As a result of that report, the National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN) was established in 2013 as part of the NIH Diversity Program Consortium.


Since then, NRMN has been supporting diversity in biomedical science by providing mentorship and grantsmanship coaching, while establishing NRMNet, an online network for scientists who can be matched with a mentee or mentor. NRMNet has grown to over 7,000 individuals of diverse backgrounds: 33 percent of mentees identify as black, 20 percent as Hispanic. The additional support has proven useful for Elise Lamont, PhD, a Ford Fellow and postdoc at the University of Minnesota, who learned that “NRMN is an extended family that you can go to for advice on how to navigate an academic career.”


Catch the NRMN executive director at the 2018 NPA Annual Conference


Rafael Luna, PhD, executive director of NRMN and principal investigator of the Administrative Core of NRMN at Boston College, will close out NPA Annual Conference, being held April 6-8, 2018, in Cleveland, OH. To find out more about what’s planned for the Annual Conference, check out the Annual Conference preview in this edition of The POSTDOCket.


As of June 2017, NRMN coaches have trained over 500 individuals in four different grantsmanship training programs, ranging from four to twelve months in length. A number of postdocs have joined NRMN-CAN (Cooperation Academic Network), a grantsmanship program aimed at Big Ten Universities. After joining, Kristina Martinez, PhD, a postdoc at the University of Chicago, stated, “The grant writing workshop [helped me be] aware of the target audience and how to achieve a writing style that it is clear to someone outside my area of research.”


Success from these programs isn’t limited to grant writing skills. After participating, Erika Merriweather, PhD, an assistant professor at NYU, said, “I have useful strategies to adapt my mentoring style to mentees at different stages and with backgrounds different from mine.” The network allows one to be exposed to people of diverse backgrounds and provides a Culturally Competent Mentorship program. When asked how NRMN changed the way he approaches a career in the sciences, Tyson McDonald, PhD, a research scientist at Hampton University responded, “I am more cognizant of my own role as a mentor in my lab and at my university.”

NRMN and the NPA share a common goal—to keep science moving forward, while keeping it accessible. After participating in the NRMN P3 Grantsmanship Program, Tomas Cabeza De Baca, PhD, a postdoc at UCSF, said, “I immediately felt welcomed and a part of the NRMN family.” Consider joining the NRMN family—reach out for more information on extra programs and resources. All training programs, webinars, and other opportunities are announced in the monthly NRMN Newsletter.


Sarah Gluck is the assistant director of communications at NRMN and the editor-in-chief of the NRMN Newsletter. Meldra Hall, MPH, is a researcher with the Research Resources and Outreach Core of NRMN at the Morehouse School of Medicine.


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