Argonne National Laboratory


Why mentoring?

As one of the largest laboratories in the nation for science and engineering research, Argonne National Laboratory is home to some of the most prolific and well-renowned scientists and engineers. To maintain an environment that fosters innovative research, we are committed to ensuring the success of our major players on the frontlines of our research—our Postdoctoral Scientists.

The Argonne National Laboratory has a long-standing reputation as a place that offers postdoctoral researchers the opportunity to:

  • Perform in a rich science and technology environment
  • Present and publish research
  • Contribute to the overall research efforts of the Laboratory
  • Advance knowledge in the areas of basic and applied research
  • Strengthen our national scientific and technical capabilities.

Postdoctoral appointments at Argonne and elsewhere are temporary by design. These appointments are meant to be a periods of enrichment that allow young professionals the opportunity to build their skills and work towards achieving long-term career goals. Since the postdoctoral scientists here at Argonne make major contributions to the bulk of the Laboratory’s work, it is beneficial for all that their tenure at the Lab be as productive and rewarding as possible. In turn, it is the Lab’s responsibility to ensure that our Postdocs are successful in the next phase of their careers. The Lab-wide postdoc mentoring program was implemented to help us fulfill this goal.

The Mentoring Program’s chief objective is to ensure that all postdocs have access to broad and sound advice about their career and personal development.

A set of guidelines are available to ensure effective use of the mentoring program. The mentoring program guidelines are tailored to each division to ensure that both the postdocs’ and divisional goals are met. The guidelines, necessary documentation forms and additional resources are linked above. Each division has an internal Mentoring Program Coordinator, linked below.

Who is a mentor?

  • A teacher, by enhancing an individual's skills and intellectual development.
  • A sponsor, by facilitating an individual's skills and intellectual development.
  • A host and guide, by welcoming the individual into a new occupational and social world and acquainting the individual with its values, customs, resources, and role players.
  • An exemplar, by providing role-modeling behavior.

Who is a mentee?

  • A student, by striving to enhance knowledge and skills to advance development.
  • A protégé, by seeking guidance of mentors with more experience in the field.
  • A colleague, new to a division, but eager to grow professionally and contribute to the overall success of a team.
  • An exemplar, by providing role-modeling behavior.

How does the Mentoring Program work?

To encourage as much interaction with our diverse staff as possible, Argonne postdocs are paired with a mentor other than the research supervisor. While it may be ideal to select a mentor within the home research division, some postdocs find it beneficial to select mentors in related divisions.

Advice for the mentee

The Mentee should:

  • Communicate the goals for the mentoring relationship
  • Be proactive in initiating mentoring interactions
  • Be flexible and considerate of your mentor's time and commitments
  • Be open to feedback and criticism
  • Thank the mentor for their guidance and time
  • Take responsibility for achieving their goals

Some things you should ask of yourself:

  • What do I hope to obtain from this mentoring relationship?
  • What can I and my mentor do to help meet the expectations?
  • What are my career goals? In what environment do I feel most comfortable working?
  • What skills do I already possess that will be useful in meeting my career goals?
  • In what areas do I need improvement?

Some things you may want to ask of your mentor:

  • What is your story—what is the career path your mentor took to become a staff scientist or engineer at Argonne.
  • What other affiliations does your mentor have? Are they a faculty at a local university? Have they served on committees in professional societies?
  • What advice does your mentor have as you prepare for an interview or a major presentation at a conference? Can he/she provide feedback on your presentation?
  • Can your mentor help you get more connected in your field?
  • What steps and practices does your mentor take to maintain satisfaction in both work and life?
  • What recommendations does your mentor have for helping you in areas that need improvement—i.e. communication skills, time management, organization?
  • How do you deal with overly critical manuscript reviews—i.e. “Reviewer Number 3”?
  • How can I learn more about the culture of our division and Argonne?

Advice for the mentor

The mentor should:

  • Provide constructive feedback to the mentee
  • Be honest, open and conscientious
  • Be positive, but realistic
  • Encourage the mentee to drive his/her own success
  • Assist the mentee with finding the right resources to help them attain their goals

Some things you may want to discuss with your mentee:

  • Ask your mentee how he/she is doing—in both life and work. While this is a fairly open-ended question, it may get the conversation rolling.
  • Ask your mentee what he/she hopes to gain from the mentoring relationship. This will help guide your conversations and make them more productive.
  • Tell your mentee your story—how did you get to where you are today? What challenges did you face and continue to face in your career?
  • Offer a constructive critique of your mentee’s writing or presentation skills. A second pair of eyes and ears never hurts.
  • Be honest if your time is limited. This is understandable and even expected in our demanding fields.
  • Offer to introduce your mentee to colleagues in your field.
  • Point out articles and talk that may be of interest to your mentee—this may give you both something to talk about.
  • Seek the guidance of your divisional office, the postdoc office or HR if you are uncomfortable with a situation or conversation. Do not try to handle potential conflicts or crises on your own.