Frequently Asked Questions: Faculty Mentors

Finding a Mentor

Q: What are the expectations of the faculty mentors during the fellowship?

A. President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship mentors are usually tenured faculty members who have demonstrated a commitment to inclusion, equity and diversity in higher education as well as an ability to successfully mentor postdocs for faculty positions. They are expected to (1) take an active role in helping the fellow to plan and achieve his or her research goals, (2) assist the fellow in establishing a visible presence in a department, (3) facilitate opportunities for the fellow to participate in national and international research meetings, (4) encourage the fellow to focus full-time on research and avoid other commitments such as teaching or outside employment, (5) assist the fellow in seeking opportunities to present papers and to interview for faculty positions, and (6) attend professional development activities offered by the program, such as initial mentor training and the annual PPFP gathering.

The program encourages each mentor to meet with their fellow at the beginning of the fellowship to discuss their working arrangements and consider appropriate long- and short-term goals for the term of the fellowship. The mentor should not expect to meet all of the fellow’s career development needs personally but should provide an overall framework to ensure that the fellow has access to a broad academic network to support his or her work.

Mentors may also play an important role in advising fellows about the academic job market and making connections to related departments at other campuses that may be interested in the fellow for a faculty appointment. At Penn State, departments that are interested in considering applicants for faculty appointments should contact the fellowship program office (

Q: Are assistant professors allowed to be faculty mentors?

A: The program encourages applicants to select a tenured faculty member as their mentor. However, in some cases assistant professors can be excellent prospective mentors.

Q: May an applicant select a faculty mentor from their current department or campus?

A: The program encourages applicants to look for a mentor outside their current department and their home campus unless they can articulate a strong reason for remaining in the same academic location in their research proposal and/or education background statement. For the Penn State program, this FAQ only applies to current Penn State Ph.D. students, postdocs, etc. who are interested in applying to the Penn State postdoc program; applicants from other institutions (i.e., not Penn State) should identify a mentor in the most appropriate Penn State academic department.

Q: Can an applicant select a retired faculty member to be their faculty mentor?

A: The program encourages applicants to select an active faculty member as their mentor. However, in some cases retired faculty members who are still fully involved in their department and their research program are excellent prospective mentors.

Q: Can a faculty member serve as a mentor for more than one applicant?

A: Yes, a faculty member may serve as a mentor for more than one applicant for the President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Program.

Q: What should be covered in the faculty mentor’s letter of support?

A: The e-mail sent by the application system to faculty mentors will ask them to address the following in a letter of support:

  • Applicant’s planned research.
  • Expected coursework, if any.
  • Extent to which the applicant will participate in departmental and campus academic activity (e.g., seminar programs).
  • Extent of applicant’s anticipated participation at national/international research meetings;
  • Facilities and resources available to the fellow; and
  • Mentor’s involvement in mentoring for other programs designed to increase access and opportunity in higher education.

Q: Does the applicant need a letter of support from the department head?

A: Yes. The Penn State President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Program office, in concert with the proposed faculty mentor, will request a letter of support from the department head. This separate letter from the department head should comment on: the expected effectiveness of the mentoring plan; the mentor’s demonstrated commitment to inclusion, equity and diversity; the mentor’s history of postdoc advising; and the potential for a near-term opening for a faculty position in the disciplinary area of interest. The letter may also or alternatively identify a potential fit with another Penn State department, if appropriate.

Q: What is the application deadline?

A: The deadline for submitting the online application is December 1. The deadline for faculty mentor, department head, and reference letters is December 15.

Funding Support

Q: Does the support from the University administration include space?

A: No. The annual award provides a salary of $53,000-$60,000, depending on the field and level of experience, and $10,000 for research, professional development, and moving expenses. The award also includes enrollment in a health plan for the fellow and dependents (with some contribution from the fellow), and other benefits as included at the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs website. Penn State also has guidelines for postdoc parental leave. (Please note: Departments and mentors will make appropriate arrangements for space and other necessary resources).

Q: What are the expectations of Penn State host departments?

A: Host departments are encouraged to welcome the fellow into the department and make every effort to ensure that the fellow is included in communications about departmental colloquia, seminars, and social events. Host departments are expected to provide the fellow with information about salary and benefits and administer the fellow’s research and professional travel funds. Host departments are expected to provide the fellow with appropriate office and laboratory space, as well as computing and routine administrative support. In addition, President’s Postdoctoral Fellows should be provided with opportunities for career development.

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In 2021, Penn State joined in a collaborative partnership with the University of California and other leading universities to offer postdoctoral fellowship opportunities for promising scholars. In this program, Penn State now offers postdoctoral research fellowships in most academic disciplines, coupled with faculty mentoring, professional development, and academic networking opportunities.

President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Program

Office of Postdoctoral Affairs

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802