Build Your Research Community Course
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To enroll in this class, you first need to sign up to iBiology Courses as a student (or sign in if you're already a student).

Course Overview

In this free course, scientists from different backgrounds give concrete steps to building a mentoring network so you can be a more confident researcher and feel supported by your graduate school research community. You'll develop a detailed plan to complete your degree and meet your career goals. You’ll also learn evidence-based techniques and strategies for finding and building productive relationships with your primary research advisor(s), thesis committee, and other mentors during graduate school.

By the time you're finished, you'll have completed a plan to build a research home to help you succeed in graduate school and beyond.

Course Features

  • 17 vibrant short videos that introduce you to relevant topics and are fun to watch.
  • Over 20 reflective, or interactive activities that help you think through and develop a plan for building your own mentoring community.
  • A mentor mapping tool to help you visualize your mentoring network.
  • Strategies for choosing a good research group and thesis committee
  • Handouts, infographics, and reading materials for a deeper dive into the topics

Course Details

Enrollment Starts Enrollment is open
Course Starts Anytime, self-paced
Course Ends
May 31, 2024 9 p.m. PDT
Jun 01, 2024 04:00 UTC
Estimated Effort 2 to 4 hours/week
Certificate Yes
Badge Yes

About This Course

You need mentors to succeed in your graduate training and beyond. Mentors can support you, give advice, introduce you to others, share essential information, and ask good questions to help you to clarify your thinking and progress along your scientific research journey in school and future career path.

Build Your Research Community is a FREE, 5-module course (with a bonus 6th module!) that will guide you through the steps of identifying mentors and building and maintaining mentoring relationships. Scientists from a variety of backgrounds give concrete steps and strategies to help you build a mentoring network to be successful.

At the end of this course you will be able to...

  • Use your understanding of the academic research environment to develop your individual pathway to success in graduate school.
  • Find a research advisor & research group that matches your mentorship needs.
  • Build a healthy relationship with your research advisor based upon communication and aligning expectations.
  • Develop a community of mentorship from your thesis committee, peers, research colleagues, academic staff, and supporters outside of academe.

A course for anyone starting or already in graduate school

This course is designed for anyone who is thinking about, planning to go to, or already in graduate school in biological research. This list also includes (but is not limited) to advanced undergraduate and early graduate students in the life sciences. While most of the instructors have a background in the life sciences, the lessons are broadly applicable to other disciplines.

Includes 5 comprehensive modules and an optional IDP plan

  • Module 1, UNDERSTANDING GRADUATE RESEARCH TRAINING: This module introduces you to the academic research training environment, and the roles and responsibilities of your primary research advisor(s). This module will also help you understand imposter phenomenon and become a more confident researcher.
  • Module 2, FINDING YOUR GRADUATE RESEARCH LAB: This module presents strategies to help you create a plan of action for choosing a research advisor and lab. This module will also help you identify your preferred mentoring styles.
  • Module 3, ESTABLISHING A POSITIVE MENTORING RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR RESEARCH ADVISOR: In this module, you will learn strategies for cultivating healthy and productive professional relationships with your research advisor(s). This module will also help you assess your preferred communication styles, practice strategies of effective communication, and align expectations for your research training experience.
  • Module 4, YOUR MENTORING NETWORK: This module will help you understand the importance of mentors. You will create a plan to build your mentoring community to support your research, professional development, career goals, and health and wellness.
  • Module 5, EXPANDING YOUR MENTORING NETWORK: Some tips and best practices on communicating and building professional relationships with prospective mentors, including your thesis committee.
  • Module 6, OPTIONAL IDP ACTIVITY: This optional module is to identify your career and long-term goals and create an Individual Development Plan (IDP).

Built with your schedule in mind

You have lots of things to do, so we built this course to focus on concepts and activities that directly apply to your life as a scientist. Each of the 6 modules in the course averages 3 brief videos per module and takes about 2 to 4 hours of work.


There are no requirements needed to take this class.

Course Format & Certification

Build Your Research Community is an on-demand, self-paced course. This means that, as soon as you enroll (and the course has started), all course content is available to you and may be consumed at your own pace. You will receive an iBiology Courses Certificate of Completion if you pass the course. If you opt-in to badges, you will also get a digital badge upon passing that you can share on social media. Passing requires that you complete all of the required activities for the course, which equals 64% of the total activities.

Course Development

All contributors listed in alphabetical order.

Course Speakers

Leaders in the scientific community talk about building the perfect research home and mentor community to be successful in graduate school and beyond. Speakers include:

  1. Bruce Birren
  2. Janet Branchaw
  3. Bria Castellano
  4. José Dinenny
  5. Erin Dolan
  6. Johnna Frierson
  7. Joanne Kamens
  8. Steve Lee
  9. Judith Simcox
  10. Ying Sun

Course Directors

  • Shannon Behrman
  • Janet Branchaw
  • Amanda Butz
  • Elie Maksoud
  • Alexandra Schnoes
  • Rosa Veguilla


Amanda Butz

Training Community Lead

Thi Nguyen

Discussion Guides

  • Thi Nguyen
  • Ryan Valdez

Platform Development & Management

  • Daniel McQuillen
  • Benjamin Van Renterghem

Graphics and Editing

  • Rebecca Ellsworth
  • Chris George
  • Maggie Hubbard
  • Lee Rossoff

Curriculum Content Editor

Helene Engler

Video Production

Eric Kornblum

Music and Sound Design

Marcus Bagala (Muse Light Music)

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Review

  • Lorenzo Lones
  • Thi Nguyen

Executive Direction

  • Sarah Goodwin (Executive Director)
  • Elliot Kirschner (Executive Producer)

Beta Testing

Special thanks to those who volunteered their time to review and test this course. You all gave such great feedback!

  • Sarah Goodwin
  • Noah Green
  • Anthony Harris
  • Doug Koshland
  • Lorenzo Lones
  • Maia Reyes
  • Elçin Ünal


We’d like to thank the following iBiology Team members for their support in the creation of this course:

  • Doug Koshland (President)
  • Evan Reeves (Director of Operations)
  • Ron Vale (Founder and Board Member)
  • Lobsang Wangdu (Wordpress Developer)


This work is supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under award number R25GM139147.

Frequently Asked Questions

What web browser should I use?

The iBiology Courses platform works best with current versions of Chrome, Firefox, Edge or Safari.

What do I get at the end?

When you complete the course, you will receive a printable certificate from iBiology Courses to commemorate your participation in the course. If you opt-in to badges, you will also get a digital badge upon passing that you can share on social media.

Sign Up Sign In
To enroll in this class, you first need to sign up to iBiology Courses as a student (or sign in if you're already a student).