Carnegie Mellon University
December 21, 2022

ASCEND Mentor Network Supports NSF Postdocs

By Kirsten Heuring

& Sara Vaccar

Jocelyn Duffy
  • Associate Dean for Communications, MCS
  • 412-268-9982
Sherry Stokes
  • Senior Marketing and Communications Manager
  • 412-268-5976

Carnegie Mellon University is leading an effort to create a mentorship network to support National Science Foundation (NSF) postdoctoral fellows.

Michael Young, associate dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the Mellon College of Science, is the primary investigator for a collaboration that received a $1 million award over the next three years from the NSF to create the ASCEND Mentor Network.

Young and Alaine Allen, associate dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the College of Engineering, will represent Carnegie Mellon on the ASCEND leadership team.

"Mentoring has been an influential part of my career, so I know the impact that it can make on this group of fellows who are at the beginning stages of their careers," Young said. "Alaine and I have been working with the provost's office to build a better postdoc community filled with mentoring, developmental opportunities and resources. There is a significant overlap in knowledge and operations between the ASCEND Mentor Network and what we want to do here at CMU."

The network is designed to assist postdoctoral fellows with NSF ASCEND grants. The program, which is sponsored by NSF's Directorate for Mathematics and Physical Sciences, is intended to recognize beginning investigators of significant potential and provide them with experience in research that will broaden perspectives and help expand participation within chemistry, astronomy, mathematics, physics and materials sciences. Fellows are funded for two to three years. The first group of fellows began in 2021, and the second group started in 2022.

The ASCEND Mentor Network is separate from the fellowships but will connect the fellows with interdisciplinary interactions, mentorship and diverse perspectives. The network will span four universities with Carnegie Mellon being its home. The partnership includes Iowa State University, Tuskegee University and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

"I joined this leadership team because engaging with the NSF ASCEND Postdoctoral Fellows connects the Carnegie Mellon University community to a pool of equity-focused scholars who will utilize an inclusive approach to their future roles as faculty or industry leaders," Allen said. "Additionally, my involvement on this project allows me to collaborate with a team of educational experts across institutions to learn new strategies that will strengthen the programming and support we offer to our CMU postdoctoral fellows."

The network will connect ASCEND fellows with mentors in their fields. Mentors will meet with fellows once a month to offer advice on topics like job applications, grant writing and navigating challenges, so fellows can determine their next steps in either academia or industry.

Besides mentorship, the network will host both virtual and in-person workshops. The first in-person workshop be at Carnegie Mellon from Feb. 8-10, 2023.

Young and Allen will be the primary leaders, and they encourage professors across Carnegie Mellon to get involved with the network to serve as mentors for fellows or speakers at workshops.

Young said he is excited for the future of the program.

"I am most looking forward to being a positive part of the narratives of each of the fellows," Young said. "They are all doing innovative research and contributing to the scientific and national communities, and it will be a reward to be a small part of their story as they go on to accomplish greater things."

— Related Content —