To discuss mentoring issues, we had multiple 'breakout' style discussion sessions where we submitted questions we had and examples we wanted to talk about, and then spent significant time digging into our own junior faculty perceptions on them and getting the more senior faculty and PO perspectives. The quality of the senior faculty "workshop mentors" was outstanding: they were all engaged and engaging, enthusiastic and contemplative. They gave us their candid but also well-considered takes on stuff from how to recruit good graduate students to how to deal with misconduct observed during the review process. They all offered their continued support, too, if we ever run into situations in the future where we don't have local senior people to help us (or just want some alternative perspectives). SO worth it.
UPDATE 10-24-09: To address a good point that CPP made but also highlight what the workshop was really about, I updated the wording about "a compelling human health relevance."
UPDATE 10-23-09: This workshop was particularly focused towards junior faculty in synthetic organic chemistry, bioorganic/bioinorganic chemistry and chemical biology. I'll give snippets of stuff about different things we learned/talked about and experiences we had as I have time. Right now I have 5 minutes, so I'll tell you about the major NIH R01 take-home message from the workshop. The key, especially for chemists and anyone who does basic synthetic research that is not necessarily easy to connect to a disease, is to establish a credible, compelling human health relevance through developing a depth of understanding and solid rationale within the biology you want to study.
If you love inventing new ways to make complex natural products, it is NOT ENOUGH to just say "this natural product is interesting because it kills a cancer cell line with a potent IC50 and came from a sponge." Nor is it quite enough to say "This methodology is interesting because it would allow access to chemical structures or information about biological function that is hard to get otherwise." You really have to craft a strong argument for WHY your particular methodology or hypothesis is fundamentally important to the study or treatment of a human health problem at whatever level your work can fit, for example:
- tool-development for basic biological research
- novel methodology for accessing difficult molecular architectures that can probe or affect biological function