I am starting my lab as an Assistant Professor at a Big Research University (summer 2010). I have a super partner and an adorable kiddo, Mini-G. I tend to rush into things and then figure them out as I muddle along. I'm sure that will be true here, too. I hope to use this space to maintain my sanity and share my perspectives on science and academia. These perspectives may sometimes qualify as rants. There will undoubtedly be some crazy times on the tenure track. Gmail me [at] primaryinvestigator
My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.
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I have been thinking a lot about what makes a good mentor recently. Being in my new position, I am in the process of developing a whole new set of mentors. But more importantly, now that I have my own lab peeps I want to be a good mentor. It turns out, much like parenthood, you are not required to show any aptitude for mentoring before you can have mentees.
I can't claim to have a "mentoring style", anymore than I have any other kind of style.
favorite non-running shoe
Instead, I am trying to make my lab the kind of place I would have wanted to be as a student or postdoc:
-I give students room to fail, but not so much space they feel abandoned.
-I encourage my students to be curious and excited, but focused.
-I expect folks in my lab to both give and receive constructive criticism.
These are based loosely on experiences that I have had as a mentee (both good and bad). More accurately, they are based on what I remember from those times. It has become pretty apparent to me recently that I do not actually remember what it is like to be a first-year grad student.
In the end, I think the best advice that I give my mentees is not to rely on me too much. I have never had one good mentor-because I always had more folks that I could talk to for different perspectives. If you need advice, get as much of it as you can. Then decide what sounds best for you, in your situation. So I encourage the students (and postdocs) that I talk to to develop as many mentoring relationships as they can. And then take advantage of these. You can only ever get as much out of the relationship as you put in.
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Just noticed your preview image for this post--hilarious!!
It sounds like your head is in the right place, here. Especially good advice to encourage students to seek out multiple mentors, not just their PI. More relationships, more perspective, etc, always a good thing. Apparently I can't write full sentences anymore. It's Yoda's influence!
I noticed that good mentors will vary their approach when directing different people. E.g. giving me a reasonable deadline works for me ( i call it a small kick in the b***), but polite persuasion is what keeps a fragile /sensitive colleague going. I really admire people who are good judges of character and can pull this off. Nice post- regardless of how you do it, you seem to care about your people- and that's mot important of all.