Driving excellence on the tenure track: senior Queen’s researchers guide younger faculty in career development program

Posted on February 19, 2021


Early career researchers in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science will now have easier access to professional guidance, thanks to a new initiative that connects them with experienced faculty researchers and peers from other engineering disciplines.

After intensive hiring in recent years, close to 30% of faculty members are now tenure-track assistant professors. While these newly minted professors generally excel as researchers and some already come with teaching experience, many feel much less prepared for the many other roles of an academic, such as managing groups of students, grant administration, or engaging with research sponsors.

Early Career Researcher intiative graphic

To fill this gap, Associate Dean (Research) Dr. Amir Fam launched a new online Research and Career Development series late last year that gives new engineering faculty members practical, hands-on tips and advice on common challenges of new faculty members. The series is meant to complement the orientation and individual mentorship programs offered by Faculty of Engineering departments. Each event in the new series features speakers from different disciplines so that attendees can learn from a range of perspectives and approaches to a given topic. A significant part of each event is dedicated to Q&A and peer discussions, so that attendees have plenty of opportunity to discuss with the speakers and other new faculty members how to navigate and handle various challenges.

Associate Professor Kevin Mumford was a speaker at the second event of the series, a panel discussion directed by questions submitted earlier by the early career researchers in attendance. He found the hour-long virtual meeting moved effortlessly, and also casually enough to encompass tangential discussions beyond the scope of the original questions.

“There are so many opportunities for mentorship, especially early on,” said Dr. Mumford, “and it’s nice to get that advice from different points of view. There are multiple paths to success and multiple approaches, so it’s good to get advice from a variety of people across the faculty as well as from your department.”

Dr. Ehssan Koupaie joined the Chemical Engineering Department in July 2020. As he navigates this first year, amid a worldwide pandemic, he’s found occasions for engagement like this illuminating.

“Overall I think it's great to be involved in any workshop, networking, or mentorship that allows you and others to get feedback,” he said.

“I firmly believe that Early Career Researchers represent the Faculty’s most valuable resource and investment,” said Dr. Fam. “Our mission is to provide all the necessary support that would empower our very talented faculty and enable them to reach their full potential. Initiatives taken by the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science such as this one serve precisely this goal.”

At the next event on February 22nd, three experienced researchers will provide advice and tips on recruiting graduate students. Interested new engineering faculty can register online.