Research Mentor Guide

What is FIRST?

Fellowships in Research and Science Teaching (FIRST) is a model for post-doctoral education.  It is designed to provide postdoctoral fellows with rich experiences in intensive laboratory research integrated and in-depth pedagogical training.  This NIH-funded, 3-year fellowship combines the faculties of Emory and the Atlanta University Center to increase the quantity and quality of post-doctoral fellows pursuing careers in biological/biomedical sciences.  The program provides the foundation for investigating basic and clinical sciences and a teaching mentorship that includes instruction in pedagogy, classroom technologies, guidance of undergraduates, and course development and implementation.


Research, which is the major component of the fellowship, is carried out with a Research/Faculty member at any of the consortium schools (Emory University, Morehouse School of Medicine, Spelman College, Morehouse College, Clark-Atlanta University).  Over the three years of the fellowship, FIRST fellows spend 85% of their time in the lab and 15% in teaching related activities.

Fellows carry out a program of high quality experimental research and should publish their research at least annually in abstracts submitted to scientific meetings and/or research articles in high-quality, peer-reviewed journals.  While the first paper may not be submitted until near the end of their first year, it is expected that at least three publications of high quality will be submitted during the fellowship period.


The ideal underlying FIRST is to train the next generation of professors, especially those from under-represented groups, for a career in academia.  Fellows will enter their professions with added value by being better prepared teachers, bringing a deeper experience and appreciation of science education that has been integrated with their specific research interests. Research Mentors are vital to FIRST and its mission.


FIRST Research Mentors have been selected by the Director and are listed on the FIRST website.  These mentors are exemplars of research and mentoring excellence.  Their research projects and areas of expertise vary and lie within the various Basic Science Departments in the School of Medicine, School of Public Health, the College.

Fellows  who do not find a Research Mentor matching their particular area of interest, may choose a Mentor not on the list.  This alternate selection process is only recommended on a case-by-case basis and should be done in close consultation with program directors.

Matching FIRST fellows and Research Mentors is based on:

 Personal comfort level between fellow and mentor;

 A clear understanding of a proposed research project for the fellow;

 Adequate laboratory funding provided by the Mentor;

 Adequate desk and lab space provided for the fellow to perform at their required level of proficiency.


In addition to the usual expectations of any successful mentoring relationship, FIRST mentors are specifically expected to:

 At the onset, clearly state the Specific Aims of any proposed research projects;

 Monitor the fellow’s research experience regularly (i.e. weekly) to discuss the results of experiments and plans for next steps;

 Evaluate the fellow’s research and general progress periodically;

 Support the 15% of the fellow’s time spent in teaching-related activities.

 Complete formal FIRST evaluation forms annually. 

Research and Teaching Mentors are also invited to join the fellows at the annual meeting of the IRACDA programs along with the other 15 similar NIH-sponsored programs.


Fellows should keep Research Mentors updated on their teaching schedules and activities.  Otherwise, in general, expectations of fellows in the research laboratory are the same as those expected of fellows on an NIH sponsored National Research Service Award (NRSA).  Specifically, these include:

 Fellows should attend all lab meetings.

 Fellows should plan, execute and record their experiments and write them up for publication-revisions and rewrites to be done with their mentor.

 Fellows should attend relevant journal clubs and seminar series.

 Fellows are expected to follow standard laboratory protocol regarding space, equipment, clean-up, etc and will do their share of routine Laboratory work.

 Fellows must comply with the University and government's rules on the use of animals, radioactive isotopes and the non-use of illegal drugs.


Each fellow has FIRST support for a maximum of three years.  The annual amount of each stipend is based on the recommended stipend levels for individuals receiving support through institutional or individual National Research Service Awards (NRSA).  In addition, all fellows will be eligible for the benefits package offered to all Emory employees.

There is an allotment of $1,000 per fellow for allowable travel expenses to scientific meetings: transportation, hotel registration, and meals. Fellows also are allotted $3,500 each year to spend on research and teaching related materials.  The monetary allotment should be spent by July 31st each year.