Career + Professional Development

Professional development in the biomedical sciences involves defining career goals and building professional skills in addition to research. Trainees can expect career development from their advisors, committees, colleagues, professional societies and from seminar and workshops provided by the SOM Office of Graduate Education.

Sessions of the Professional Skills Program have included grant writing skills, issues concerning international scientists in labs, intellectual property, writing a development plan, exit strategies for leaving the postdoctoral program, and research in small colleges.

In addition, the Biomedical Graduate Student Organization (BGSO) organizes career development workshops that focus on different career tracks, selection of postdoctoral positions, CVs, preparation of fellowship applications and networking.

Trainees benefit by using Individual Development Plans in goal setting. CWRU has adopted the use of an Individual Development Plan (IDP) as a way to ensure these conversations take place at least annually. The IDP is prepared by the trainee, highlighting research goals, presentations and skills training and then discussed together periodically. We strongly suggest that trainees complete this process within three-six months of appointment and re-visit the IDP at least annually. Please visit the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs for more information and instructions.

Independent Development Plans (IDP)

The  School of Medicine recognizes the benefits that postdoctoral scholars and graduate students experience by using Individual Development Plans (IDPs) in setting career goals and in ensuring that conversations between the trainee and mentor about these goals occur on a regular basis. Recently, the significance of IDPs in training of the biomedical workforce has been emphasized at the national level by the National Institutes of Health (NOT-OD-14-113). Thus, the school has adopted the following policy to ensure that all NIH-supported trainees utilize IDPs to aid in setting professional development goals and planning their future careers.

School of Medicine IDP Policy 

All PhD students in the school will complete an IDP within six months of arrival in their permanent mentor’s lab. Postdoctoral fellows and scholars will complete an IDP within three months of their initial appointment.Completing an IDP is an interactive process that involves face-to-face meetings and frank discussions between the junior researcher and mentor.  The IDP will evolve through annual meetings between mentee and mentor during the trainee’s tenure at the SOM. Copies of all graduate student and postdoctoral IDPs as well as all annual updates will be submitted electronically to the CWRU SOM Graduate Education Office through the SOM IDP Portal (  


Department Chairs and Graduate Program Directors in the School of Medicine are notified annually of trainee compliance with this policy. A SOM Graduate Education Office website tracks compliance in each department.  

Recommended Format

The recommended format is available at the on-line submission site ( final submission process requires that both the trainee and mentor have viewed the document and have met to discuss its contents. Departments and programs may develop their own IDP formats. However, all IDPs must be submitted through the SOM IDP Portal and they must include a career planning component as well as assurance that the trainee and mentor discussed the content of the IDP.

The SOM strongly encourages trainees to develop content for their CWRU SOM IDPs by exploring the myIDP web tool package.

Training and Implementation

A workshop developed by the School of Medicine Graduate Education Office in conjunction with the Postdoctoral Office in the School of Graduate Studies is held in September and January of each year to familiarize students, postdoctoral researchers, and faculty with the policy and the IDP process.