MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth
Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences



Starting in 2015, the GSBS requires the use of IDP's for all GSBS students on an annual basis.

Getting Started

The GSBS myIDP is an interactive tool modeled after the AAAS IDP for students in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines. 

For Graduate Students

An IDP enables both students and their mentors to best chart a path for an individual student’s development needs. Importantly, it recognizes that we are all unique and have a different mix of strengths, developmental goals, and career ambitions. Therefore, this process is highly tailored to each individual trainee to facilitate:

  • Communication with your mentor about your professional development goals and career planning needs and intentions to others, which can lead to helpful advice and resources.
  • Communication of you and your mentor’s expectations so that there are no big surprises, particularly at the end of your training.
  • Structured career planning to achieve greater career success and satisfaction.

It is the responsibility of the student to engage in the IDP process—although your mentor, PI, and/or program director may encourage and support you in doing so.

Importantly, the IDP itself remains confidential between you and the GSBS Career Development Office. Through the IDP process, you may decide to identify various mentors with whom you can interact for expertise and advice.

For Mentors

An IDP enables both students and their mentors to best chart a path for an individual student’s development needs.  Importantly, it recognizes that we are all unique and have a different mix of strengths, developmental goals, and career ambitions. Therefore, this process is highly tailored to help graduate students:

  • assess their skills, interests and values;
  • determine a plan for meeting academic and professional goals; and
  • communicate with their mentor(s) about evolving goals and related skills.

The mentor’s responsibility

It is the responsibility of the graduate student to engage in the IDP process.  However, having conversations with a mentor or mentoring team is an essential step in implementing and completing the IDP process.

If a graduate student has indicated you as a mentor in the IDP reporting system, you may be asked to engage in this process at some of all of the various points:

  • After conducting the self-assessment as they begin to develop goals
  • After defining their goals
  • For advice about various career paths

While it is up to the graduate student to develop IDPs, it is also important for you to encourage them to interact with you regarding the IDP. They may choose to share certain parts of the IDP with you and keep other parts (such as the skills assessment, or personal goals) private. 

IDP mentor resources

The following links will help facilitate your role as an IDP mentor:

  • Research Mentor Training

    The GSBS provides mentorship training to improve research mentorship relationships, assessment tools and resources relevant for mentors and mentees.

  • Questions about the process


For Principal Investigators and Program Directors of NIH Grants

To better prepare graduate students for careers in the biomedical workforce, the NIH issued a NIH Notice and NIH Revision encouraging NIH grantees to develop an institutional policy requiring an IDP for every graduate student on NIH funding.

In response to this notice, the GSBS has adopted a policy that will begin in the fall of 2015 requiring all GSBS students to complete an annual IDP. Click here to read the full policy [add link to policy here].

Suggested Text Regarding IDPs for NIH Progress Reports

We offer the following suggested text to address IDP usage in the NIH Research Performance Progress Report, section B-4. Individual PIs should feel free to modify the text as needed, and to elaborate on the ways in which mentees are encouraged to use IDPs.

Individual Development Plan

An individual development plan (IDP) is a tool to assist students in career and personal development. Its primary purpose is to help students reach short and long-term career goals, as well as improve current job performance. An IDP is not a performance evaluation tool or a one-time activity. It is a partnership between the student and a mentor. It involves preparation and continuous feedback. The Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (GSBS) actively promotes the use of IDPs; we provide workshops and small group sessions to assist with IDP utilization and analysis, and each new student that matriculates into the GSBS produces an IDP as part of their first week orientation program.

To enable trainees and their mentors to chart a path for the trainee’s goals, graduate students are encouraged to produce a yearly IDP. An IDP can help trainees develop a career plan, formulate realistic steps to realize their plan, build the desired skills, and potentially modify the plan as their talents and skills are strengthened. Importantly, production of a yearly individual plan will allow the GSBS to track how the trainee’s career plans change through the course of the program and identify areas where the school can provide additional support.

The GSBS uses myIDP from because it offers an online version of skills, values, and interests assessments that are appropriate for biomedical science careers, resources with which trainees can investigate various career paths, as well as a mechanism to track completion of the online plan. Once a student has completed the online IDP a certificate can be sent to Academic Affairs in the Deans’ Office, and an individual session can be scheduled to discuss the results of the IDP with either the student’s research mentor, an academic dean, or an alternate faculty member from a list of faculty that have agreed to provide individualized mentoring.

Implementation in individual GSBS Programs:

The GSBS admits students through an umbrella admissions program. Following research rotations during their first year, students affiliate with one of thirteen GSBS programs that are focused on particular areas of biomedical sciences. At the onset of enrollment in a specific GSBS program, in addition to updating myIDP, each trainee completes an initial assessment of their knowledge about, and interest in, career options in their field of interest. Following completion of both surveys, trainees schedule a meeting with a faculty advisor to assess their needs on an annual basis to ensure that the trainee is on track to achieving their goals. The initial assessment is designed to help the trainee and mentor focus on developing general skills the student may need to pursue their career goals. In this way, the initial assessment serves as a modified penchant and gap analysis as well as a baseline of career path interest. Results of this assessment are used in three ways: (1) to help matriculating students select mentors that are compatible with their needs and goals, (2) to help current students identify non-traditional pathways to achieve their goals, and (3) to serve as a baseline with which to assess programmatic impact for all trainees.

Questions about the IDP process: Contact

Frequently Asked Questions

Am I required to complete the IDP process?

Starting in 2015, the GSBS requires the use of IDPs for all GSBS students on an annual basis.  This requirement comes in response to an NIH notice issued in 2013.  Read the full policy here. (add link with letter from Mike and Shelley here)

Does the completed IDP need to be submitted to the mentor, PI, or grants administrator?

No, the IDP remains private to the graduate student.  It is to the discretion of the graduate student to share all or part of the IDP. 

As new NIH-funded graduate students arrive on campus, how much time do they have to create their IDPs?

Entering GSBS students will complete their fist of the series of IDPs during Orientation Boot Camp. 

Following the first year of graduate school, at a minimum, the IDP should be completed on an annual basis.

Are NIH-funded graduate students who are the final semester of their degree programs required to have IDPs?

Yes, all graduating students will be required to complete their annual IDP upon graduation

What if a graduate student doesn’t have a mentor?

All graduate students are required to have a faculty advisor; this person may also be their IDP mentor but not in all cases. Thus, all graduate students, including those that are in the process of joining a lab or switching labs, can seek additional mentors for guidance.

Does the completed IDP need to be submitted to the NIH?

No, the NIH is not requiring the actual IDP. This document remains private to the graduate student. The NIH asks that use of the IDPs be indicated on the NIH Research Progress Report (RPPR) each year.