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Psycasm

Psycasm is the exploration of the world psychological. Every day phenomenon explained and manipulated to one's own advantage. Written by a slightly overambitious undergrad, Psycasm aims at exploring a whole range of social and cognitive processes in order to best understand how our minds, and those mechanisms that drive them, work.

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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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

As a kid people would ask (adults, mostly) who is your hero?

All the little boys would name some rugby player, and all the little girls would name some actress. Some of them might name a dancer, if they were into that kind of thing.

I played sport, I played music, I had access to the opportunity to form an opinion toward some target of admiration. I just never did. I never saw the point. Not in a "I'm going to be independent" kind of way, I just didn't; it kind of made me sad that I didn't have a hero and everyone else did.

In some sense I think that’s what a mentor is, for a child. Again, as a teenager and a growing adult I never really had a mentor either. I’m not sure why – I even signed up for a mentor programme. I’m not sure if it was my ‘mentor’s’ failing, my own, or the programme’s, but I never got much out of that.

Perhaps I’m defining ‘mentor’ in a fashion too rigid. I imagine a mentor-relationship to be 2-way street. I, the underling, working under the benevolent gaze of a wizened mind, knowing that even if I make a mistake I will not be reprimanded, but will be encouraged to learn from the experience. I imagine the relationship not to be too stressful, because the mentor should be able to handle it all. I don’t know if that's what a mentor is, if that’s what anyone thinks a mentor is (except maybe Harry Potter*), but I’ve never had it. I

 have had two separate things though, which might qualify. One was the conspiring of circumstance, and the other was of my own device.

The first is my Taekwondo-Do instructor. I come from a fairly formal organization, where etiquettes and ranks are observed. I try to be an exemplar of such things, and in a fashion, so too does my instructor (a well respected and relatively senior member of the organization). My instructor is an extremely intelligent man (A PhD in Robotics, no less), and is not afraid to disagree with me (or I with him) on a number of topics. It’s not a particularly close relationship, and is bound in a degree of formality, but he checks in often enough to know exactly when I might need attention. Be it in my training and commitment, or in my personal/professional life. I’m not sure he’s a mentor, but he’s definitely someone I respect a great deal and will seriously consider their opinion when it’s offered.

The second is a relationship of my own work. Well, a relationship might be too much? I don’t know. Again, this all comes back to previous posts – how I’m approaching my education and professional prospects. Making myself indispensible. This is definitely not a stress-free relationship, it’s hard work, and I’m not in a position to accept it as a 2-way thing. I choose someone who’s doing something I want to do, then try to help. At the moment I’m a volunteer RA and doing some really interesting research. But I’m not an honours student, it’s all on my own time, it’s all of my own learning (I don’t have the same education as a graduate), and it’s all up to me to balance it. It’s hard. If I was an honour student it would be easy [easier?] – I’d have the knowledge that even if I F’ed-up, I’d still be their responsibility, as it were. As a volunteer RA I have the feeling I have to keep up or beat it. I stand to gain the most in the relationship, while the more senior member could replace me with another monkey to do the same work at short notice. It’s not easy, but it is exciting and rewarding. The ever present inferiority complex makes it so in the first instance, and my delusions of ambition make it so in the second. It’s not a mentorship, and it’s not a hero. I’m not sure what it is. It’s an opportunity perhaps.

But what I look for in someone in that position is someone I would like to be. Perhaps to accomplish above and beyond what they have. And in many respects achieve as they have as a person, and not necessarily as a professional. I hope I’m working towards something like that. It’s hard to know – only time will prove it out.

So I don’t know if I have, or have ever had, a mentor. In some ways it seems a luxury. I’m just hoping hard-work will save the day.

Or maybe that’s just a rationalization. Who knows?

 

*How I loathe Harry Potter. Colour me a death-eater if it means I can kill that whiny tool…

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Prabodh Kandala
Texas Tech University Health Science Center
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"working under the benevolent gaze of a wizened mind, knowing that even if I make a mistake I will not be reprimanded, but will be encouraged to learn from the experience."

This is what exactly I am under. My first 15 months were horrible. My mentor had high expectations on me because of my previous profile, but my productivity was very less unlike my post docs. Obviously.

But, I am his first graduate student and he initially expected me to catch the pace of post docs.

My PI was patient enough, to give me enough time to learn.  I am pretty sure, he is a happy man now.

Bashir

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I actually just wrote a similar post. Though I think I called them role models ( jbashir.wordpress.com ).

My experience was similar to yours. I had no idea how to answer that question as a kid. I think I'd just name the author of whatever book I'd just read (often Beverly Cleary).  Even now it's difficult to name one person. I don't know if that's necessarily a bad thing. There have always been a few people I'd consider good at giving advice. That may be more useful than one specific mentor.

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