Composition of the Team. Mentoring teams will include at least three individuals. In rare cases, an additional mentor may be included, but in most cases three will suffice and more may be cumbersome. One of the three mentors will be designated the primary mentor and, as the name implies, take primary responsibility for mentoring the trainee. The primary mentor must be from one of the 14 primary mentors identified in this application. The remaining two co-mentors can be selected from either the primary mentor list, the affiliated mentor list, or the collaborating mentor list. By including the collaborating mentors in this, an added benefit is that the mentorees get additional mentors who are often younger, have more time available, and to whom trainees may more easily relate. Moreover, this affords opportunities for the senior mentors to mentor the younger mentors in mentoring, as has been shown to be so important . Finally, one member of the mentoring team must have expertise in the quantitative domain (e.g., statistics, computer science, physics), one must have expertise in the behavioral sciences (e.g., psychology, sociology), and one must have expertise in the biomedical realm (e.g., medicine, physiology, genetics).
Roles and Functioning of the Team. The mentoring team collectively serves three overarching purposes for the mentoree. The first is to provide a conduit for and supervision in the hands-on research experience that forms a fundamental and essential component of the research training. That is, mentorees are expected to work shoulder to shoulder with leading active investigators and learn their scientific skills as much by doing as by sitting in classrooms. This is not to diminish the role of the didactic education, but we believe that there is no substitute for being immersed in an active research program. It is the mentors’ responsibility to provide that active research program in which the mentorees can work toward developing their skills as independent investigators and build their curricula vitae. Second, the mentoring team provides an interdisciplinary hub and microcosm of the overall interdisciplinary training program. As described below, the team is constructed specifically to have investigators from different disciplinary domains who collectively can expose the trainees to approaches to obesity research from many perspectives and help them partake of, appreciate, and integrate those diverse approaches. Third and finally, the mentoring team is there to monitor the individual trainee’s progress on a day-to-day basis and ensure that he or she is effectively partaking of the overall training program offered. Whereas the directors of the program take responsibility for ensuring that the overall program is implemented, the formal offerings are available, and follow up with individual trainees occurs at least every six months, it is the mentors who provide the true mentoring in the classic sense of being a sounding board and a guidepost for our young and rising scholars.
Expectations of Mentors. The primary modality of training is the mentor-trainee relationship and their interaction via ongoing research. Material research support (software, hardware, reagents, supplies, etc.) are provided either by the school, by the department, or by the mentors’ research grants. Institutional resources, as well as resources from the NORC, are also available to the mentors and students participating in this program. All faculty members have adequate access to such resources. Various potential research areas are available to trainees, and, an effort will be made to select trainees with varied backgrounds and interests to lend diversity and strength to the program. Trainees may choose training that emphasizes basic research or clinical/translational research but must have some exposure to both. By the assignment of a mentoring team, all trainees will be exposed to an interdisciplinary experience through the educational and research training proposed below. In addition, projects conducive to students’ dissertations must be directed toward the overall emphasis of this application, which encompasses obesity and HLB disease. The trainee-mentor relationship is expected to be close and to involve substantial interaction. Trainees are expected to learn by doing, side-by-side with their mentors, which facilitates mentoring in networking, managing real-life career decisions, balancing work and personal life, and identifying and working through ethical dilemmas.