Informal Mentors for Graduate Students and Postdocs

ROLE OF INFORMAL MENTORS: Informal mentors aim to provide a supportive environment for graduate students and postdocs and are available for informal discussions on professional development (e.g., feedback on applications for jobs, observing time, grants; bouncing research ideas; guidance for giving good talks and being effective teachers); perspectives on different career paths; advice on work-family-life balance; and help in overcoming diverse challenges. Students or postdocs considering jobs in specific cities, countries, and institutions may also find it useful to chat with mentors who have worked there.

In our model, a graduate student or postdoc is not rigidly asssigned to one specific mentor, but has access to the whole pool of mentors shown in the table below.

Informal mentors complement, rather than replace, the more formal research-centered advising channels for graduate students (e.g. the graduate advisor, the research supervisor, the research committee for the second year project, and the thesis committee).


  1. Semester mentoring lunch: Each Fall and Spring semester, the Chair's office will fund one mentoring lunch for graduate students and one for postdocs, where students/postdocs invite a group of mentors to lunch (or vice-versa). The graduate student and postdoc representatives should coordinate with the Chair's office at least 2 weeks prior to the lunch so that we can get CNS approval on expense accounts.
  2. One-on-one mentoring: Each mentor is available ~1 hour each month (at times/location in table below) to discuss informally with any graduate student or postdoc who drops by.
  3. Attend a research talk together: A mentor can invite a graduate student/postdoc to attend a research seminar or colloquium together and then talk about it briefly afterward. This is a good way to introduce the graduate student or postdoc to broader topics in their discipline and discuss effective strategies to give good talks.
  4. Attend a class or discussion session together: A mentor can invite a graduate student/postdoc to attend an undergraduate class by an outstanding teacher or a discussion section directed by an effective TA and talk about it afterwards. This will give a good start to students and postdocs interested in pursuing careers with a teaching component and also help them identify effective teachers and TAs to go to for help when they TA or teach a class for the first time.
Mentor Mentees Monthly Office Hours/Location Previous Affiliations/Connections Research Areas Comments
Boylan-Kolchin, Mike Graduate Students, Postdocs 2-3 p.m., First Wednesday of every month, RLM 17.212 UC Berkeley, Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics (MPA), UC Irvine, University of Maryland Theory, Computation, Galaxy Formation, Cosmology  
Bromm, Volker Graduate Students, Postdocs 3-4 p.m., First Wednesday of every month, RLM 16.214 Germany, Cambridge (UK), Harvard, Yale, Italy Theoretical and Computational Astrophysics How to be competitive for the postdoc market. How to prepare for non-academic careers
Casey, Caitlin Graduate Students, Postdocs 1-2 p.m., First Wednesday every month, RLM 16.218 University of AZ, Steward Observatory, University of Cambridge, Institute of Astronomy, University of HI, Institute for Astronomy, University of CA, Irvine, Department of Physics and Astronomy Galaxy Evolution Happy to discuss anything that mentee would like to discuss
Cochran, Anita Graduate Students, Postdocs, Undergraduates Anytime, RLM 15.212   Planetary science, National service, soft money positions  
Evans, Neal Graduate Students, Postdocs Available on request ESO, ALMA, ASIAA, KASI Star formation, molecular clouds, astrochem, circumstellar disks Interested in helping those with an extra burden (women, first in family to get to college, minorities, etc.)
Finkelstein, Keely Graduate Students, Postdocs 1-2 p.m., Third Tuesday of every month, RLM 16.228 Texas A&M University, Arizona State University, University of Washington Extragalactic, Astronomy Education & Outreach  
Finkelstein, Steve Graduate Students, Postdocs Available for drop in meeting or by appointment. RLM 16210 University of Washington, Arizona State University, Texas A&M University Galaxy Evolution  
Jogee, Shardha Graduate Students, Postdocs 10-11 a.m., Third Thursday every month, RLM 15.214 Cambridge University (England), Yale University, Caltech, STScI/NASA, MPIA and MPE (Germany), UT Austin Galaxy Evolution Happy to discuss science, academic and non-academic careers, work-family balance, overcoming adversity, leadership skills, and anything else mentee wants to discuss.
Kraus, Adam Graduate Students, Postdocs 1-2 p.m., First Friday every month, RLM 15.310B Caltech, University of HI at Manoa, Harvard-Smithsonian Cfa Exoplanets, Star/Planet Formation, Stellar Astrophysics  
Kumar, Pawan Graduate Students, Postdocs Please contact for appointment IAS, Princeton University, MIT High Energy Astrophysics Happy to mentor outside of research area too.
McQuinn, Kristen (Kristy) Graduate Students, Postdocs 2-3 p.m., Second Tuesday of every month, RLM 17.224 University of Minnesota, Boston University Stellar populations, Dwarf Galaxies, Local Group galaxies, Star formation histories, Local Volume distance measurements, Extremely metal deficient galaxies I worked in business and consulting for 10 years prior to getting my PhD. I'd be happy to answer questions about careers outside academia.
Robinson, Rob Graduate Students, Postdocs Anytime   Any  
Wheeler, Craig Graduate Students, Postdocs Available on request, RLM 17.230 MIT, University of Colorado, Caltech, Harvard, various offices of the AAS including President, Aspen Center for Physics, NRC Space Studies Board Theory and observations of supernovae, stellar evolution, astrobiology, technology development, writing  
Winget, Don Graduate Students, Postdocs, Undergraduates 1:30 p.m. every Friday, RLM 16.236 University of Texas (35 years +) Compact objects, cosmochronology. Observations, theoretical and experimental physics and astrophysics  

22 June 2016
Astronomy Program · The University of Texas at Austin
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