So, this ‘blog’ exists out of a half-baked idea that I’ve developed over the past couple years (errr. . . ~12 years now) in which I’ve been consciously trying to mentor undergraduate students. I should clarify, the twelve years includes my graduate school, post grad, and now early-faculty career mentorship. While you could make an argument that not all of those years can be considered ‘conscious mentorship’, I have data (personal observation ofc), and so I should analyze it, and make use of the results.
The findings you ask (well some of them) . . .
Not all mentorship is created the same, and thinking so is dangerous!
Younger you probably sucked as a mentor, and that’s not great, but probably ok!
Letting students clean your glassware or watch you play scientist isn’t mentorship. I would argue it’s not even opportunity.
Not everyone is ok with just going to the field and collecting data
Having students reflect on their journey as a growing scientist is critical, having them practice empathy and gain perspective, even more-so.
You as a mentor reflecting, practicing empathy, and gaining perspective . . . . Well now we’re getting somewhere, eh?
I’ve arrived at the idea that simulating training opportunities is a half measure for mentors who are afraid students will mess something up, or worse fear their students will outgrown them by exceeding beyond measure. Perhaps one of the first red flags a mentor can raise is one where they think their research ‘too important’ for an undergrad to mess it up. So being one who loves watching people screw things up*. . . I’ve decided to create a lab blog where students can legitimately practice the communication skills they will so desperately need as professionals.
This space exists as a small chainlink-fenced-in-playground for me and the students of my lab. A playground because we will explore this space, test and develop our character, and sometimes step in dog sh!t. Chainlink-fenced because we can see through it, and from the safety of our insular little lab group shout, whisper, and rattle at the fence as we see fit. All while being shielded from an often harsh world beyond. Small, because every one of our students who contributes here will surely outgrow this space. After all, that is the goal 😉
Join us here for various attempts at communicating science. Students will share their research updates, analysis of current events, and weigh in on scientific debates. Look out for our obligatory COVID posts, murder hornet musings, and the occasional deeper dive into what it’s like to be an undergraduate scientist in today’s world.
From time to time I’ll add my $0.02, and discuss mentorship, higher education, STEM, conservation bio, or some cool news from our lab!
Thanks for dropping bye! We hope to see you again soon!
*Disclaimer: it’s not so much the messing it up that I enjoy, although its sometimes good for a chuckle. Instead, it’s the observation that students when given the space to try new things, experiment, fail, reflect and try again will grow in ways you never considered. That unpredictable growth? That’s a future career, a dynamic problem solver, or a trans-disciplinary bridge builder. Now we mentors just need to practice navigating the failure, reflection, and cultivation of an environment where students want to try again.