Donders Wonders Blog

Peer-mentorship in Academia: The International Online Mentoring Programme within the Organization for Human Brain Mapping

This post is also available in Dutch.

Is peer-mentorship in academia possible? A programme within OHBM brings together mentors and mentees from different geographical locations, fields, and levels of expertise, making peer-mentorship easy and accessible.


In academia, ‘mentorship’ is typically seen as just one more aspect of a day-to-day communication between students and their supervisors. However, in fact, ‘mentorship’ is a much broader term. Multiple types of mentors and mentorship styles exist: you will most probably contact a different person when it comes to applying for financial support from the government compared to when it comes to overcoming every day little frustrations at the workplace. As it is hard to obtain answers to all the career-related questions from just one person, it is beneficial to reach out to multiple mentors at various career stages. However, it is often hard for students to find independent mentors from outside their research environment, especially when they study in developing countries where the local research community is small. At the same time, mentoring young researchers is a skill which should be trained by anyone who is planning to develop a career in academia – yet often, there is little opportunity to develop these mentorship skills. All these issues can be addressed by the concept of peer mentorship.


The Organization for Human Brain Mapping (OHBM) Student and Postdoc Special Interest Group (SIG) is a council that represents interests of doctoral students and young postdoctoral researchers within the OHBM. One of the main initiatives of the council is organizing the International Online Mentorship Programme. In this programme, every member of OHBM can become a mentee, a mentor to another member of the programme, or both at a time. We are matching mentor-mentee pairs on the basis of years of research experience (at least 3 years’ difference) as well as declared expectations. As mentoring happens online, there are no geographical limits; anyone can apply. Mentors and mentees then manage the relationship on their own by scheduling a series of face-to-face online meetings, and cooperation lasts for at least one year. Participants are given a free hand to chat about any aspect of career development, from managing emotions to writing scientific papers and applying for jobs.


In the first two rounds of the programme, over 450 participants from all around the world joined us. The feedback received from participants of the previous two rounds of the programme is overwhelmingly positive. Therefore, this upcoming September, the third round will be launched. Just as before, this initiative is open to every member of the Organisation of the Human Brain Mapping. However, this upcoming new round of the programme is special; since the demand for industry jobs among PhD students is rapidly growing, we would like to respond to this demand and invite external participants from the industry to join us and to mentor young researchers. Therefore, if you are currently working in the industry and have developed a happy life outside academia, you are most welcome to join the programme and help young researchers in looking for their first job in industry and in adapting to the new environment outside academia.


For more information, please visit the website of the OHBM Student and Postdoc SIG:, follow our Twitter account @OHBM_Trainees and contact us at









Round 1 (2016-2017)                                     Round 2 (2017-2018)

Fig 1 The origin country of the programme participants in the first two rounds of the programme. Graphics by Marzia Scelsi.





Featured image: by garnett (CC0)

Written by Natalia Bielczyk, MSc. She is now completing her thesis within the Donders Institute Graduate School. She is also the current Career Development and Mentorship manager within the OHBM Students and Postdoc Special Interest Group and the current coordinator for the programme.

Edited by Marisha.

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