Optimizing the Postdoc-Advisor Relationship: Advice from Faculty & Postdocs

Sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Research

Learn from faculty members and fellow postdocs how to maximize the mentor-mentee relationship during the postdoctoral period and beyond. A postdoc is "engaged in a temporary and defined period of mentored advanced training to enhance the professional skills and research independence needed to pursue his or her chosen career path," per NIH.

  • How can you help ensure that your supervision and mentoring are as productive as possible?
  • How can you be an effective mentor throughout your career?

In this panel, seasoned postdocs and dedicated faculty will share their experience and perspective. Audience members will have the opportunity to ask questions and seek advice from the panel. MIT postdocs, graduate students, and other MIT community members are welcome.


  • Nancy Kanwisher, Walter A Rosenblith Professor, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences
  • Wasifa Jamal, Postdoctoral Associate, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences
  • Francisco Martinez, Research Scientist, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (formerly a postdoc)
  • Nir N. Shavit, Professor, Department of Electrical Engineering


Bob Dolan, Assistant Director, Career Services, MIT Postdoctoral Scholars

Panelists' Biographies

Professor Nancy Kanwisher received her B.S. in biology and Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from MIT. After a postdoc as a MacArthur Fellow in Peace and International Security, she held faculty positions at UCLA and then Harvard, before returning to MIT in 1997, where she is now an Investigator at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research, a faculty member in the Department of Brain & Cognitive Sciences, and a member of the Center for Minds, Brains, and Machines. Kanwisher’s work uses brain imaging to discover the functional organization of the human brain as a window into the architecture of the mind. Kanwisher has received the Troland Award, the Golden Brain Award, and a MacVicar Faculty Fellow teaching Award from MIT, and a NIH Director’s Pioneer Award. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. You can view her short lectures about human cognitive neuroscience for lay audiences at www.nancysbraintalks.mit.edu. Dr. Kanwisher also received the MIT Brain and Cognitive Sciences Community’s 2015 Outstanding Postdoc Mentor Award.

Dr. Wasifa Jamal is a Postdoctoral Associate in MIT’s Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences (BCS) Her research interests include signal processing, machine learning, computational neuroscience science, complex networks, and statistical analysis. She received her PhD in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from the University of Southampton, School of Electronics and Computer Science, UK, in 2015. She served as the MIT PDA president from 2015-2016 and was also co-chair of the BCS building 46 postdoc community in 2015-16. She is actively involved in the fundraising committees of various charitable organizations. 

Dr. Francisco Martinez is a Research Scientist in MIT’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE), working with Professor Markus J. Buehler. Prior to this position, he was postdoctoral Associate in CEE, and postdoctoral associate at Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) in Brussels, Belgium. He earned his MSc in Chemical Engineering and his PhD in Chemistry at University of Granada (Spain). Dr. Martinez is also a member of the advisory board of Sweetwater Energy, vice-president of the Association of Spanish Scientists in the US (ECUSA), and former president of the Spanish Federation of Chemical Engineers (FEIQ). His research integrates bio-inspiration and multi-scale material modeling with process engineering and waste reutilization. 

Professor Nir Shavit received B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees in Computer Science from the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology in 1984 and 1986, and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1990. Shavit is a co-author of the book The Art of Multiprocessor Programming. He is a recipient of the 2004 Gödel Prize in theoretical computer science for his work on applying tools from algebraic topology to model shared memory computability and of the 2012 Dijkstra Prize in Distributed Computing for the introduction of Software Transactional Memory. He is an ACM fellow. His current research covers techniques for designing scalable software for multiprocessors, in particular concurrent data structures for multicore machines. Professor Shavit is also the faculty coordinator for Postdoc6, a program to help postdocs develop leadership, teamwork, and other skills.