The Richards Society, established in 2016, is an active and engaged group of tenure-track assistant professors who are current and future PSOM leaders. The Society provides assistant professors with outstanding career development, networking, and peer support opportunities. Our activities are integral to the support of junior faculty in PSOM and provide a model for ways to promote assistant professor achievement.
Major achievements include:
Faculty development: The steering committee organizes one or two educational workshops per year that are open to all Richards Society members. The seminars and networking events held so far have provided Richards Society members with opportunities to learn about grant review, lab budget management, personnel hiring and management, networking and outreach, inclusive mentoring practices, tenure dossier preparation, and how to prevent and manage conflicts of interest and scientific misconduct.
Networking: The Richards Society hosts approximately two networking/social events per year. These events provide assistant professors with informal opportunities to meet and to learn about research and academic life at Penn. Networking events are sometimes hosted and/or attended by senior leadership and recently promoted faculty, providing additional opportunities for junior faculty to connect with PSOM leaders and colleagues. In 2019, the Richards Society hosted an exciting and well-attended university wide social event open to assistant professors from all 12 schools at Penn.
Grant Proposal Success (GPS): A flagship achievement of the Richards Society is the GPS program, which was started by Matthew Weitzman in 2017. Richards GPS groups bring together tenure track faculty members spanning all Departments and Divisions in PSOM with the mission to improve grantsmanship through feedback from colleagues with diverse scientific backgrounds. We accomplish the mission via critical review and discussion of specific aims pages, schematics, biosketches, and other grant sections. Joining a Richards GPS cohort builds community and creates a timeline for grant completion and accountability. The peer-to-peer format is enhanced through input from experienced faculty members who attend each week, as well as experienced faculty guests invited by GPS participants. Since 2017 there have been 10 cohorts that have reviewed over 107 grants for 68 assistant professors
Mentoring and outreach: A recent program helps Richards members to support activities initiated by biomedical student and postdoc groups, particularly groups of trainees traditionally underrepresented in the biomedical sciences. In summer 2020 we identified an initial cohort of PSOM assistant professor volunteers for outreach activities, then hosted a mentoring workshop and connected student and postdoc leaders with our volunteer cohort. So far, the following programs have benefitted from Richards member involvement: Mentoring Circles of the Biomedical Postdoc Diversity Committee (20 Richards member participants), IGG/CAMB Minority Support Network (6 Richards member participants), PennVIEW Postdoc Networking (13 Richards member participants), Postdoc applicants to the Intersections Science Symposium (8 Richards member participants).