The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has selected Chris Smith, Virginia Tech’s postdoctoral affairs administrator, to serve on its Roundtable for Mentorship, Well-being, and Professional Development.

Sponsored by Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Burroughs Wellcome, and the National Institutes of Health, roundtable committee members represent higher education, nonprofit organizations, and government thought leaders who are charged with exploring ongoing improvements and innovations in effective mentorship and professional development practices and programs. They will collectively examine how to create and maintain an inclusive and equitable higher education and science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine research ecosystem and focus on the role of identity, inclusion, personal agency, and well-being (mental, financial, and social) in mentoring relationships and career development of graduate students and postdoctoral scholars.

“Serving on this roundtable will allow me to expand my knowledge regarding best practices in mentoring and professional development of graduate students and postdocs from peer leaders and innovators across the country,” said Smith, who will serve a three-year committee term. “The roundtable will work on ways to foster well-being among early career researchers to allow them to thrive and contribute to the nation’s research and innovation ecosystem. My hope is to bring these best practices to the Virginia Tech community and in the process elevate graduate and postdoctoral training across the institution in the years to come.”

According to the roundtable’s website, Smith and committee members will regularly convene to discuss, research, compile, and report best practices and findings in addition to organizing mentorship, well-being, and career development workshops designed for graduate students and postdoctoral scholars.

Early last year, Smith was appointed to his current Virginia Tech role in an effort to continue to further improve the postdoctoral researcher experience and provide more assistance through a combination of building community, mentoring, and professional development. Housed in the Office of Research and Innovation, Smith has led the establishment of the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs at Virginia Tech, supporting postdoctoral associates across the institution, including those based on the main campus in Blacksburg, the Virginia Tech Carilion Health Sciences and Technology campus in Roanoke, and in Northern Virginia.

Smith currently serves as a board member, the treasurer, and chair of the finance committee for the National Postdoctoral Association, where he engages with a variety of stakeholders that represent postdoctoral communities across the U.S. Also, as an advisor to the Virginia Tech Postdoctoral Association, Smith collaborates with the association to plan and execute programming including events during Postdoctoral Appreciation Week and throughout the year.  

Over the last year, Smith has helped successfully launch the Presidential Postdoctoral Fellowship program, the Research and Innovation Postdoctoral Scholar program, the Postdoctoral Associate Travel Award program, and numerous workshops and events.

Prior to joining the Virginia Tech community, Smith served as North Carolina State University’s postdoctoral affairs program manager in the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs at the Graduate School, where he supported the university’s postdoctoral scholars regarding current training roles, career and professional development, and developed and improved policies and procedures.

Smith has published research on the faculty job market and mentorship as part of collaborative efforts with faculty, administrators, and postdocs in higher education. He is a neuroscientist by training, spending over 10 years studying the neurocognitive and neurobiological bases of individual differences in reward processing and decision making as they relate to risk for substance abuse disorders.  

Smith received his doctorate in neurobiology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience from Furman University, and conducted postdoctoral training at Vanderbilt University.

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