Penn Center for AIDS Research

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HIV/AIDS Research Mentoring

The Partnership/Mentorship program of the Developmental Core of the Penn CFAR is dedicated to providing short-term mentorship for applicants to the CFAR Developmental Core Pilot Awards Program. The program is designed to assist both faculty applicants and union non-faculty applying for Mentored Research Scholar Awards in launching a successful career as independent investigators in HIV-related research.

All individuals who receive funding are linked with a senior CFAR investigator carefully chosen by Drs. Lowenthal and O'Doherty. This partnership/mentorship complements traditional mentoring provided by the direct scientific supervisor of the applicant and lasts for 18 months, or until first NIH grant submission. Mentoring is also available and strongly encouraged for applicants whose pilot projects were not funded.

All partners/mentors are experienced CFAR faculty familiar with the Penn CFAR and the services available in its cores. They are recognized and mature scientists who are highly respected in both the local and international scientific community with clear records of accomplishment in research as well as in training graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. Non-CFAR senior faculty may also be selected if their expertise supports the successful completion of the pilot project.

Pilot Feedback Talks

The Developmental Core also sponsors opportunities for junior investigators and awardees. These Pilot Feedback Talks provide a venue for junior investigators to prepare, rehearse, and present their scientific work for open feedback from their peers and other members of the CFAR community.

Additional Resources

  • Faculty Partnership/Mentoring Plan
  • "Writing a first grant proposal" - A workshop organized by the Society for Leukocyte Biology offered advice to young scientists on how to decipher the grant-submission process of the US National Institutes of Health and compose a clear, compelling, and fundable grant. (Link may require a subscription to access)


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 who are 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.  As stated in the Pilot Award Program description, 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. For more information about the Pilot Award Program, please see the full program description.

The mentoring program is available to individuals that 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 that successfully applied to either a General or Research Scholar Pilot Award will be linked to a senior CFAR investigator for science mentoring (or partnering) and for career mentoring (referred to as a Transmentor) for the duration of their project. In the case of Research Scholar awards, where a mentor was identified at time of award (via the required Mentoring Plan), the identified mentor will serve in this capacity.  The main goal of these interactions is to monitor and help in the development of 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 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 sought for at least three years following pilot project completion.


  • Unfunded applications

Interested junior investigators whose applications were not successful are also eligible for CFAR mentoring and if interested, will be linked with a senior CFAR investigator mentor. The main goal of this interaction is to address reviewers’ comments and help with the submission of a future CFAR pilot award, NIH award, or other award to other Centers of the University of Pennsylvania (if the application was considered meritorious enough in the opinion of the external review committee and the Director and Co-Director of the Developmental Core). As above, the goals of the relationship between the applicant and the mentor will be short term (12 months or until next CFAR developmental or NIH grant deadline).  The term is renewable by mutual agreement if a specific time-line towards an NIH grant submission is identified.  Non-awardees will also be encouraged to seek advice and guidance of other CFAR faculty members as needed.


Participation:   Pilot program funding agreements stipulate that award recipients agree to participate in the mentoring program, regardless of which type of award they receive. Recipients who identify a CFAR scientific mentor as part of their mentoring plan will be assigned a Transmentor, as previously stated.  Funded applications that have not included a mentoring/partnering plan will be assigned a CFAR senior faculty member as well as a Transmentor for career mentoring as appropriate. Unfunded applicants will be invited to participate in CFAR mentoring and if they accept, will be assigned a CFAR faculty mentor.

Mentor selection:

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

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


  • 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 awardee/applicant, as well as agreeing to initiate regular meetings with the administrative support of the Core. The expectation is that these meetings will be one-hour sessions and will 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 take an active role in assisting with grant submissions, providing advice, assistance, and constructive criticism where appropriate.  It is expected that at least several versions of completed grant drafts will be reviewed by the assigned CFAR faculty if provided by awardee/applicant.
  • The assigned CFAR faculty will be asked to verify the progress report provided by the mentee. This information will be submitted electronically to the administrative staff of the Developmental Core.
  • 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 things that do not work so the program can be improved in subsequent years of this grant cycle.  



    In addition to the ongoing yearly mentorship workshop designed to familiarize junior investigators with services available through CFAR cores (available as a webcast in the CFAR website), the Developmental Core will organize mentoring seminars and workshops during the year.

    • Pilot Feedback Talks will be held featuring current and/or recent pilot awardees. In each of these sessions, 2 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 offers pilot awardees an opportunity to present to prior awardees and senior CFAR faculty. The goal of these workshops is 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 three times throughout the year. They will be announced to the rest of the CFAR community and posted in the CFAR website.


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 these institutions.

These programs, which can be targeted to individual needs, will provide resources for professional development in the form of conferences, workshops, and online education programs in multiple areas, including: Research, Scientific Writing, Career Management, Teaching Effectiveness, and Technology Training.

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