CFAR Faculty Mentoring Program


The Penn CFAR Developmental Core Faculty Mentoring Program is dedicated to providing short-term faculty mentorships (partnerships for more senior investigators) for applicants of the Pilot Award Program whether or not they receive a Pilot award.  Faculty Partnerships are encouraged for previously (and/or currently) NIH-funded investigators new to HIV research. More traditional mentorship relationships will be established for junior faculty or non-faculty young investigators who do not have prior R01 NIH funding at the time of application.  A defined mentorship plan is required for non-faculty young investigators and strongly encouraged for junior faculty. Ideally, applicants will initiate communications with a CFAR faculty member well in advance of the pilot program deadline. Interested applicants are encouraged to contact one of the Developmental Core Directors for guidance and advice. During the grant review process, additional mentorship/partnership support may be suggested and/or assigned as a condition of the award. Please see the full program description for more information about the Pilot Award Program.

The mentoring program is available to individuals who have applied for Pilot Program Awards. Participation in mentoring for unfunded applications is voluntary to ensure participation by those with a greater interest.

The goals of the program are different for each group.

Funded Applications

Individuals who successfully applied to either a General or Research Scholar Pilot Award are linked to a senior CFAR investigator for science mentoring (or partnering) and for career mentoring for the duration of their project. In the case of Research Scholar awards, where a mentor was identified at the time of award (via the required Mentoring Plan), the identified mentor will serve in this capacity but may be supplemented by additional mentors when additional perspectives and expertise are thought by the scientific reviewers and/or the Developmental Core leadership to be of likely benefit. The main goal of these interactions is to monitor and help develop a competitive application for subsequent peer-reviewed funding (NIH or other entity).  For junior investigators, this partnership should not interfere with but rather complement existing mentoring already provided by the direct scientific supervisor of the applicant.  For experienced investigators moving into a new area, a partner assignment will be expected to support this new research direction. Faculty Mentoring/Partnering program goals are short-term (18 months or until the first NIH grant submission, whichever comes first), but it is possible to renew by mutual agreement if a relationship is established between the partner/mentor and the awardee that will prove beneficial. Pilot recipients will be followed, and updates/progress reports will be sought for at least three years following pilot project completion.


Participation:   Pilot program funding agreements stipulate that award recipients agree to participate in the mentoring program, regardless of which type of award they receive. Funded applications that have not included a mentoring/partnering plan will be assigned a CFAR senior faculty member for additional support. Unfunded applicants will be invited to participate in CFAR mentoring and will be assigned a CFAR faculty mentor if they accept.

Mentor selection:

  • Initial selection of partner/mentor(s) will be done by the Developmental Core Director and Co-Director and are subject to the mentee’s and mentor’s approval.
  • Final mentor assignments will be provided in writing.

Changing Mentors or Mentees:  In cases of changing commitments, incompatibility, or where the relationship does not support program goals, either participant (CFAR faculty, mentee, or participating faculty) may request a change in assignment.

Responsibilities of the Faculty Mentor

  • The assigned CFAR faculty is to be an active advisor, counselor, and advocate.  As such, the assigned CFAR faculty is responsible for supporting the progress of the research plan proposed by the awardee/applicant and agreeing to initiate regular meetings with the administrative support of the Core. The expectation is that these meetings will be one-hour sessions and occur at least twice yearly, or more frequently as needed during the duration of this pilot program or as indicated in the mentoring plan provided in the Pilot application.
  • The main role of the assigned CFAR faculty is to provide constructive feedback and to advise the awardee/applicant in facilitating the transition of the pilot program award into a proposal for funding from the NIH or other peer-reviewed funding agency.
  • The assigned CFAR faculty should introduce the awardee/applicant to the Penn CFAR and the services it offers, familiarizing him/her with the administrative structure and all the sources of support available for establishing a successful independent career in HIV-related research.
  • The assigned CFAR faculty will actively assist with grant submissions, providing advice, assistance, and constructive criticism where appropriate.  It is expected that several versions of completed grant drafts will be reviewed by the assigned CFAR faculty if provided by the awardee/applicant.
  • The assigned CFAR faculty will complete a periodic survey distributed by the CFAR Developmental Core.  The information should be factual and focus on scientific progress and a frank evaluation of the pilot program. The goal is to identify things that work and those that do not, so the program can be improved in subsequent years of this grant cycle.

Mentorship Seminars and Feedback Workshops for Awardees

  • Pilot Feedback Talkswill feature current and/or recent pilot awardees. In each of these sessions, usually two awardees will have the opportunity to present either their plans for or the results of their research from their recent pilot award and to share plans for future efforts. The setting is informal and allows pilot awardees to present to prior awardees and senior CFAR faculty. These workshops aim to provide a venue for mentees to prepare, rehearse, and present their scientific work for open feedback from their peers and members of the CFAR community. The workshops will be held two to three times throughout the year. They will be announced to the rest of the CFAR community and posted in the CFAR website.

Other Educational Initiatives

In order to avoid duplication with other mentorship initiatives of the University of Pennsylvania, CHOP, and the Wistar Institute, the Developmental Core will create linkages to the very successful professional developmental programs available at these institutions. These programs, which can be targeted to individual needs, will provide resources for professional development through conferences, workshops, and online education programs in multiple areas, including Research, Scientific Writing, Career Management, Teaching Effectiveness, and Technology Training.