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Mentoring is the key to building a successful research career

Research Activities, October 2009

Getting college graduates to pursue careers as researchers can be challenging, particularly if they come from minority backgrounds. Various academic programs are in place to foster scholarly productivity and promotion within emerging careers.

Spero M. Manson, Ph.D., from the University of Colorado, Denver, has developed a conceptual framework that identifies various factors relevant to a successful research career. He concludes that proactive mentorship is critical during postdoctoral and postresidency training to encourage successful research careers. Even at such advanced stages of training, the young researcher's college experience and family support also play important roles in their future success. The quality of their undergraduate education may help someone appreciate and pursue a research career. Dr. Manson has also found that many of the features characterizing undergraduate institutions are important at advanced training levels. These include academic support, peer networks, counseling resources, formal training programs, and research infrastructure.

On the personal side, young researchers need to feel a sense of control and mastery, as well as believing they can have a positive impact on people and things. Positive feelings and self confidence promote persistence in their research career and help them cope with adversity. Finally, training programs should expose young researchers to tasks in a way that allows them to master the key elements of a successful research career. Further research is needed to measure elements that naturally belong in career development programs, including evaluating their short- and long-term effects. The study was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS10854).

See "Personal journeys, professional paths: Persistence in navigating the crossroads of a research career," by Dr. Manson, in the 2009 American Journal of Public Health 99(Suppl 1), pp. S20-S25.

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Page last reviewed October 2009
Internet Citation: Mentoring is the key to building a successful research career: Research Activities, October 2009. October 2009. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.