Professional Development Opportunities

Postdoctoral fellows today pursue a wide range of career paths, including positions in education, government, non-profits, industry, and business. No matter what your career goals are, there are skills you can develop during your time at Northwestern that will better prepare you for what comes next. The professional development opportunities collected on this page are targeted to help you develop four of the six core competencies identified by the National Postdoctoral Association. Each competency consists of a set of skills critical to career success but rarely cultivated through graduate and postdoctoral training. These four competencies are:

  • Communication, the ability to effectively convey your thoughts and research to a variety of audiences through a variety of media. This includes teaching, mentoring, grant-writing, interpersonal communication, public speaking, and writing for academic and non-academic audiences.
  • Professionalism, an understanding of the etiquette, standards, and practices within your workplace and discipline. This includes the ability to comply with rules, regulations, and institutional norms; forming productive working relationships and partnerships; advocating on behalf of the discipline through professional and public service; and identifying and managing violations of professional behavior.
  • Leadership and Management Skills, or the strategies and techniques required to facilitate effective teamwork, manage personnel and projects at your workplace, mentor others, and assume leadership roles in your discipline.
  • Responsible Conduct of Research, or an appreciation of the range of accepted research practices; an understanding of the regulations, policies, statues, and guidelines governing research; a knowledge of best practices in organizing, sharing, and owning data; and an ability to make ethical and legal choices about your research.

The remaining two core competencies, discipline-specific conceptual knowledge and research skill development, are areas of training that postdoctoral fellows should pursue with the help of their PI, their mentors, and their programs, and are not addressed by the resources found here.


Center for Leadership

Leadership isn't something you're either born with or without; the best leaders, collaborators, and team members improve through intentional practice and reflection. Northwestern University's Center for Leadership coaching program enables postdoctoral scholars to do just that. Their coaches will guide you through a process of experimentation, reflection, and action that is based on where you are now. Previously only available on the Evanston Campus, the Center for Leadership is excited to expand this program to postdocs on the Chicago campus for the first time. You'll meet with your personal Leadership Coach one-on-one for four sessions to discuss your goals, current issues, and personal development. Postdocs who complete the Leadership Coaching program are also eligible to apply for the Fellowship in Leadership through the center. A list of articles and texts relevant to leadership can also be found on their What We’re Reading page.

  • Core Competencies: Professionalism, Leadership and Management Skills

Business for Scientists Executive Education Program

The Business for Scientists Executive Education Program is a five-day certificate program led by faculty members at Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management. The program provides postdoctoral fellows with an introduction to business concepts, industry-specific tools, accounting, strategy, finance, marketing, and management programming. The next session will be held on July 8-12, 2019 on the Chicago campus.

  • Core Competencies: Professionalism, Leadership and Management Skills


The Collaborative Learning and Integrated Mentoring in the Biosciences (CLIMB) Program is a professional development program that guides a diverse group of biosciences PhD students to develop advanced skills for collaboration, communication, conducting research across disciplines and accelerating their scientific careers.  Postdoctoral scholars are able to access and utilize their resources, tutorials and videos on professional development, oral communication skills, and written communication and grant-writing skills.

  • Core Competencies: Communication, Professionalism, Leadership and Management Skills

Ready, Set, Go

Ready, Set, Go is an intensive summer workshop for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The program improves the communication of graduate and postdoctoral researchers by helping them build confidence, refine their message, and form a connection with any audience.

  • Core Competencies: Communication, Professionalism

Grantsmanship for the Research Professional

Offered by the School of Professional Studies during the Fall and Spring quarters, Grantsmanship for the Research Professional is a two-day workshop open to all postdoctoral fellows interested in learning effective grant opportunity identification, preparation, writing and submission for early to mid-career investigators engaged in research. The next session will be held on November 8-9, 2018 on the Chicago campus.  Please note that postdoctoral fellows classified as Northwestern employees are eligible a for significant (85%) tuition discount on courses through the School of Professional Studies. Contact the NU Human Resources Department Benefits Division for more information. 

  • Core Competencies: Communication, Professionalism

Searle Center for Advanced Learning and Teaching

The Searle Center promotes a teaching practice that is grounded in pedagogical scholarship. Postdoctoral fellows are welcome to register and attend Searle Center seminars and workshops. They are also eligible to apply for the Searle Center's Graduate Teaching Certificate Program which offers workshops, teaching projects and the opportunity to develop a teaching portfolio.

  • Core Competencies: Communication, Professionalism

Navigating the Research Enterprise

Navigating the Research Enterprise is an annual seminar series for early-career faculty and postdoctoral fellows at Northwestern University who have protected research time. It’s designed to provide them with the support they need to focus on developing the key skills young scientists require in order to progress beyond just doing good research. Attendees will be introduced to issues such as finding sources for research funds, writing effective grants, and building a network of professional colleagues. The current series runs from September through December 2018.

  • Core Competencies: Professionalism, Responsible Conduct of Research

Computational Skills for Researchers

Research Computing Services offers workshops on programming, data analysis, and other technical skills for Northwestern researchers. All members of the Northwestern research community, including postdocs, are welcome. There is no cost to attend most sessions, but registration is required. Workshops are in Mudd Hall on the Evanston campus unless otherwise noted.  Intro to Quest and Intro to the Command Line are held quarterly. An up-to-date list of events can be found on the Research Computing Services site.

  • Core Competencies: Responsible Conduct of Research

Invo Practicum

The INVO Practicum is an unpaid internship program open to all Northwestern students and postdocs who are interested in learning more about the technology transfer process and gain exposure to the vast areas of innovation at Northwestern. The interns will gain hands-on experience in evaluating Northwestern technologies for palatability, marketability and commercialization readiness. Interns will also be expected to effectively communicate their findings with INVO staff and faculty inventors.

  • Core Competencies: Responsible Conduct of Research, Communication, Professionalism