Guidelines for conversations with tenure-track faculty

Tenure track Years 1 – 3 Physician-scientists

Primary emphasis: Establishing reputation as an independent investigator

“Penn has a strong research infra-structure, and mentors should bring it to mentees’ attention.”

~ Deborah A. Driscoll, M.D., Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology;
Chair, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Physician-scientist faculty need to establish their reputations as independent investigators as early as possible. To provide enough time to do so, they should work with their chiefs or chairs to establish clinical schedules that allow them sufficient time for scholarship.

Like their counterparts in the basic sciences, physician-scientists need to get their research programs up and running quickly. Mentors can help by bringing Penn’s strong research infrastructure to the attention of their mentees. For example, they can alert mentees to relevant core laboratories and biostatistical services. A number of physician-scientists at Penn make use of the genotyping and DNA sequencing facilities. In addition, mentors may want to bring shared resources such as tissue banks and expensive lab equipment to mentees’ attention. Finally, they should let mentees know about shared personnel for clinical research, including statisticians, research nurses, and data managers.

While traditionally graduate students have worked in the labs of basic scientists, there is no reason that physician-scientists should not strive to attract them too, using any of the suggestions listed below:

Coaching Tip

Competition for graduate students can be intense.
Mentors can help mentees make themselves visible
to graduate students by encouraging them to do the following:

Crossing departmental and school boundaries, these groups of faculty within Biomedical Graduate Studies can provide you with exposure to a wide range of grad students in addition to colleagues with whom you may want to collaborate.
Less formal than graduate groups, a number of joint lab meetings have sprung up around shared interests including HIV, virology, immunology, and cardiac development. These groups meet regularly for brown-bag lunches at which grad students present their data.
Generally about 10 minutes long, these talks provide you with a forum to “advertise” your lab’s research to grad students.
Students have not yet committed to an area of research at this point. Now is the time to reach them! If given the choice, opt to teach seminars rather than lectures. Seminars give you more chance to interact with students.
When you get rotation students, work with them – go over papers with them, and talk with them frequently.
Biomedical Graduate Studies maintains a complete list of these institutional training grants, along with their PIs.

Join at least one graduate group.

Join an affinity group
Give chalk talks
Volunteer to teach first-year seminars
Cultivate rotation students
See whether there are T32 grants you can join


Physician-scientists may also want to take advantage of several funding mechanisms specifically for physician-scientists who want to attract medical students or medical fellows in their research training years to their labs. For example, the Doris Duke Clinical Research Fellowship Program and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute fund medical students to take off up to a year to do mentored research under the direction of physician-scientist faculty. For information, contact Gaye Sheffler <>, Director of Admissions in the School of Medicine.

Perhaps the most important resource available to physician-scientists is their colleagues. As the NIH and the School place an ever-greater emphasis on translational and multidisciplinary research, mentors can play a key role in facilitating collaboration and cross-fertilization of ideas. They can bring their mentees together with potential collaborators either by making initial individual contacts for their mentees or by organizing retreats where mentees can network and share ideas with colleagues at all stages of their careers. As a first step in identifying potential collaborators, mentors and mentees should search the Faculty Expertise Database. To access the database, visit the School of Medicine home page at and click on “faculty.”

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