Montana State University
Postdoctoral Scholars Program
While the importance of graduate student training requires no justification, postdoctoral training is often misunderstood in terms of its relative importance to career development. Federal funding agencies conduct annual postdoctoral fellowship competitions that are highly prestigious, extremely competitive, and are clear evidence that these funding agencies recognize the importance of postdoctoral training to career development and the training of America’s next generation scientists.
The Postdoctoral Training Program at Montana State University offers participating postdoctoral fellows the opportunity to acquire real and important experience in aspects of career development that go beyond the traditional research activities associated with a postdoctoral appointment. This program is intended to enable young scientists to grow professionally, such that they will look back on their experience here at MSU as an important career-building step.
MSU takes great pride in the fact that faculty research activity places this university in the top 100 in the United States. And as success breeds success, placement of postdocs into career-level positions is a source of pride for all faculty involved and for this university. As postdoctoral scientists make significant contributions to MSU research prowess, this university in turn provides these early career scientists with opportunities to grow and mature in their respective disciplines.
Dr. Tim McDermott
Professor, Soil & Environmental Microbiology
Dept. Land Resources & Environmental Sciences and
Thermal Biology Institute
Tel. ext. 2190
I. Mandatory: Responsible Conduct of Research. All MSU postdocs must receive RCR training at least once every four years. Formal seminars will be announced by the VP-Research Office.
II. Voluntary: Postdocs must have approval from their mentors to participate in any or all of the following activities, and time devoted to training activities different from those designated by their funding source must adhere to federal requirements regarding allocation of time and effort. The following training opportunities will be available.
1) Teaching Experience
- Lecture. Participating postdocs will be linked with faculty teaching undergraduate courses appropriate to the postdoc’s career. Interested postdocs should contact the program coordinator, who will arrange for instructor’s permission and coordinate an initial meeting with the instructor to discuss lecture topics to be covered. For first-year postdocs, the lecture material will be provided by the host instructor so that the postdoc (and mentor’s) research program would not be unnecessarily burdened with time-consuming activities. Second year postdocs would be required to prepare lecture material that would be approved by the host instructor.
In each case, the postdoc will be allowed to present a minimum of three lectures, with the upper limit ultimately set by the postdoc’s mentor and based on whether there might be funding available from the participating department. The host instructor will meet with the postdoc to critique all elements of the lectures so that the postdoc will have some type of evaluation.
- Education-Outreach. While not all faculty engage in education-outreach activities, there are numerous and varied programs, both formal and informal, in which the interested postdoc can participate. Possibilities include work conducted by the Thermal Biology Institute, The Astrobiology Biogeocatalysis Research Center, the Center for Bio-Inspired Nanomaterials, Center for Biofilm Engineering, The Spectrum Lab, and the Montana Water Center. Interested postdocs should contact the program coordinator who will serve as a liaison to aid interested postdocs in connecting with relevant programs or counsel postdocs as to how they might initiate their own activities. Examples of the latter might include: field instructor for the Yellowstone Park Association; one-day elementary school, middle school or high school biology or physics programs; or one day instructional programs at one of Montana’s seven tribal colleges.
- Undergraduate Research Mentoring. This programmatic element is the easiest to arrange because most, if not all, postdocs already engage in this kind of activity as part of their routine research duties; i.e. undergraduate students are often assigned to their research program and help the postdoc achieve their research goals. Nevertheless, many postdocs might not have had the opportunity to have worked closely with undergraduate students during their own graduate training and thus would likely gain from some formal guidance here. If requested, the program coordinator will organize a formal meeting with new postdocs (once per semester) in order to counsel the postdocs on important aspects of undergraduate research mentoring.
2) Oral Communication Skills
As participants of the program, postdocs are required to present at least one seminar per year. First year postdocs will present their PhD thesis defense seminar. Thereafter, the postdoc would participate in one of the several formal seminar programs already in place here at MSU (e.g. seminar series sponsored by departments, centers, and institutes), wherein they will discuss their current research.
3) Grant Writing
Gaining experience in competitive grant writing is a critical skill that requires practice and which can best be garnered by working closely with experienced faculty. The formal programmatic element here will require the postdoc to work with their mentor in preparing grant proposals. The Program Coordinator will also provide postdocs with copies of successful proposals as a template for them to consider when preparing their own.
4) Postdoctoral Excellence Awards
MSU VP for Research McCoy and Interim Provost Fedock are sponsoring the first annual Postdoctoral Excellence Competition. Its primary purpose is to recognize excellence in Postdoctoral scientific activity here at MSU. In addition it is meant to illustrate MSU's institutional commitment to enhancing Postdoc training and helping to provide additional opportunities for professional growth and learning. Postdocs must submit a two-page abstract of what they might present at a conference. Alternatively, the recipient of these MSU awards can use the funds to participate in the annual Kadner Institute (http://www.asmgap.org) or other similar training program. An awards committee will judge the two best abstracts for these scholarships ($1,500 each). Abstracts should contain appropriate detail so as to explain and argue the significance of their research and the relative impact their work has on science. The relative funding level of the sponsoring mentor will not be a factor in the committee’s recommendation. Abstract submissions information:
MSU VP-Research McCoy and Provost Fedock sponsor an annual awards competition for postdocs. Postdocs must submit a two-page abstract of their work to be presented at a conference. Alternatively, the recipient of these MSU awards can use the funds to participate in professional training programs ( e.g. ASM Kadner Institute: http://www.asmgap.org). An awards committee will judge the two best abstracts for these scholarships ($1,500 each). Abstracts should contain appropriate detail so as to explain and argue the significance of their research and the relative impact their work has on science. The relative funding level of the sponsoring mentor will not be a factor in the committee’s recommendation. Abstract submissions information:
Annual Due Date: To Be Announced
Submit electronically to Tim McDermott (firstname.lastname@example.org)
5) Industry Internships
Montana State University faculty enjoy excellent research collaborations with the Montana Bioscience Alliance (MBA) (http://www.montanabio.org). The MBA represents a wide range of private sector activities engaged in biological, chemical, and physical sciences. In this program, postdocs are matched with the MBA on an “as needed basis”. One goal is to direct top talent to Montana’s private sector, helping to further strengthen Montana economic development.