NextProf Nexus: Cultivating a new generation of engineering faculty

For aspiring faculty in engineering, the academic career track can be a steep climb — and that path can be even more challenging for candidates from underrepresented communities. That’s why Berkeley Engineering has partnered with the colleges of engineering at the University of Michigan and Georgia Tech to sponsor the annual NextProf Nexus mentoring workshop, held this week on the Berkeley campus.

UC President Michael Drake and Berkeley Engineering Dean Tsu-Jae King Liu sitting on stage with arms raised.
UC President Michael Drake and UC Berkeley College of Engineering Dean Tsu-Jae King Liu welcome attendees to NextProf Nexus 2022 in Berkeley, Calif. (Photo by Adam Lau/Berkeley Engineering)

The three-day program is part of a nationwide effort to strengthen and diversify the next generation of academic leaders in engineering, helping senior-level Ph.D. candidates, postdoctoral researchers and young scientists explore and prepare for faculty positions. Those who support greater representation in engineering and other STEM fields are encouraged to apply each year. All applicants are asked to commit to the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion as part of the acceptance process.

This year’s in-person event includes 10 Berkeley Engineering graduate students who are learning about the academic job market, meeting potential mentors, attending panel discussions and hearing about building successful research programs. Current faculty searches will also be announced, including those at the three partner institutions.

“Much of the digging and demystifying of getting a faculty position is left for the student to explore, and what they find can vary wildly depending on their background and mentorship experiences,” said Andre Montes, a Ph.D. candidate in mechanical engineering and NASEM Ford Predoctoral Fellow at Berkeley. “Programs like this provide a welcoming and inclusive opportunity for underrepresented students like me who are looking for guidance and ways to meet scholars with shared lived experiences.”

In another example of changing attitudes in academia, at least two participants have brought their new babies to the workshop. “Women and childbearing engineers provide essential perspectives into reproductive care needs — an important and often understudied part of the field,” said Ciana Lopez, a Ph.D. candidate in bioengineering at the University of Washington and mother of a two-month-old infant. “Such perspectives are missed if we don’t support them so they can be successful in these spaces.”

Dean Tsu-Jae King Liu is joining Berkeley Engineering faculty members Mark Asta, Oscar Dubón, Dan Garcia, Grace O’Connell, Lydia Sohn and Mark Stacey as presenters to discuss such subjects as the faculty recruitment process, the rigors of first faculty positions and how to prepare for the academic job market.

“Berkeley Engineering is delighted to host the NextProf Nexus program this year,” Liu said. “Our faculty are pleased to be able to engage with the next generation of academic leaders in engineering. We welcome and value a diversity of perspectives and foster an inclusive culture to maximize our collective potential to effect positive change toward a more equitable, healthy and sustainable future for all.”

Berkeley Engineering will host the NextProf Nexus workshop again in 2025.

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