The Computing Community Consortium and the National Science Foundation are very excited to announce the recipients of awards for the Postdoc Best Practices program.  In September, an RFP was released by the CCC to create programs to develop, implement, and institutionalize the implementation of best practices for supporting postdocs in the computer science and engineering field.  The recipients of the awards are:

A Foundational Model for Postdoctoral Programs in Computer Science & Engineering at Large Universities
Arizona State University; Chitta Baral, Lead PI

The PostDoc BP-Arizona program will build upon existing best practices and implement innovative programs designed to build an Arizona-wide post-doc “community” in the broadest sense of the word.  We seek to transform the training of postdocs in computer science and engineering (CS&E), and in so doing, provide a model for postdoc training across disciplines. In partnership with Science Foundation Arizona (SFAz), a non-profit promoting research excellence across the state, and local industries, we want to foster both individual leadership and trans-disciplinary collaborations through a CS&E Postdoc Leadership Academy. This academy, with support at three participating Arizona universities (ASU, UA, NAU), will eventually contribute to best practice across fields, feeding a critical pipeline of better-prepared postdocs.

The CS&E Postdoc Academy will comprise three elements: a Synthesis Center; the mentoring and advisement of its Champions; and its Curriculum. The Synthesis Center will provide a “safe space” for postdocs to dialogue and access resources. Champions are faculty members who are not the primary advisors/mentors and have no reporting responsibility for the postdoc, but who take responsibility for them, provide career advice, and communicate regularly with their advisor/mentor. The Champions will provide active mentoring that attempts to understand the complete arc of a postdoc’s educational needs and trajectories. Through the Arizona program, postdocs will never cease their professional development, moving further along leadership pathways that include: (a) a broader vision of CS&E that includes grand challenges as well as grand innovations in CS&E at both academia and industry; (b) providing skills enhancing career development, opening new areas of possible research, insight into the normally opaque world of networking, intellectual property, publications, conference activities, professional leadership, management of research projects and ability to grasp the big picture from a research context; (c) defining social issues in CS&E, and science in general, such as ethics, diversity, cultural and gender issues; and (d) providing a community of peer mentoring, social networking (digital as well as face-to- face) that will facilitate and encourage cross-pollination of ideas.

Taking Collective Responsibility for the Postdoc Experience
University of Washington; Gaetano Borriello, Lead PI

At the University of Washington’s Department of Computer Science & Engineering (UW CSE), as at other major programs across the nation, we have experienced a dramatic growth in the number of postdocs in recent years. And, as is the case with most of our peers, we have failed to develop processes by which the department as a whole–vs. individual faculty members–assumes a reasonable measure of responsibility for the experiences that these scholars have while they are members of our community and for their success in moving on to the next stage of their careers.  We are focusing our efforts on how to do a  far better job of taking collective responsibility for our postdoctoral scholars. We have begun with collecting the experiences of the UW CSE postdoc community and plan a nationwide survey.  We will then embark in creating a national resource for postdoc best practices focusing on a mentoring and communication checklist as well as experimenting with helping post-docs embark on their own independent research agendas.

ASCENT: Advancing computer Science Careers through Enhanced Networking and Training
Columbia University, City University of New York, Cornell University, New York University, Shih-Fu Cheng, Lead PI

A longtime recruiting rival to Silicon Valley for the best and brightest Computer Science graduates, New York City is turning its focus to strengthening its own technology economic sector and fostering a technological innovation culture.  City University of New York, Columbia, Cornell and New York Universities have joined forces to create NYC ASCENT: Advancing Computer Science Careers through Enhanced Networking and Training, with the goal of connecting Computer Science and Engineering postdocs with the city’s burgeoning community of entrepreneurs, technology professionals, and senior researchers.  This consortium will apply best practices in postdoctoral training to cultivate a city-wide CS&E community, provide career services, and share year-long professional development and entrepreneurship training programs across campuses.  The collaborative effort will recognize economies of scale, increase networking opportunities, and ultimately make CS&E postdocs more competitive for positions within academia, industry, government and non-profit organizations.   Equally important, the consortium intends to create virtual organizations and resources that can be extended to postdoc communities outside the NYC region.

NYC ASCENT proposes three strategies for strengthening the training and career readiness of its constituency.

  • Introducing the individual development plan as a guiding structure for each postdoctoral researcher
  • Augmenting technical skills with a curriculum of “soft” skills such as leadership and management workshops, as well as providing an entrepreneurship bootcamp
  • Offering career services through networking events that feature professionals in various sectors of Computer Science and related Information Science disciplines, as well as an annual CS&E postdoc career symposium

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