Mentoring philosophy
for graduate and postdoctoral trainees

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What I expect from you

• Be honest, ethical, and enthusiastic

• Openly share your data and research outcome with your labmates

• Learn how to plan, design, and conduct high-quality scientific research

• Learn how to present and document your scientific findings

• Be engaged within the research group and broader research community on campus

• Treat your lab mates, lab funds, equipment, and animals with respect

• Be responsible for your lab job

 

Take ownership over your educational experience

Ensure that you meet regularly with me and provide me with updates on the progress and results of your activities and experiments. Make sure that you also use this time to communicate new ideas that you have about your work and challenges that you are facing. Remember: I cannot address or advise about issues that you do not bring to my attention.

Actively cultivate your professional development. UC Davis has outstanding resources in place to support professional development for trainees. I expect you to take full advantage of these resources, since part of becoming a successful scientist involves more than just doing research. Attendance at conferences and workshops will also provide professional development opportunities. When you attend a conference, I expect you to seek out these opportunities to make the most of your attendance. I also encourage you to engage in public outreach, as a way to enhance your communication skills and also give back to the community.

 

Be a team player

Attend and actively participate in all group meetings, as well as research seminars. Participation in group meetings does not mean only presenting your own work, but providing support to others in the lab through shared insight. Do your part to create a climate of engagement and mutual respect. I expect you to attend the Perspectives seminar series at the Center for Neuroscience, and other seminars across campus that are relevant to your research.

Strive to be the very best lab citizen. Take part in shared laboratory responsibilities and use laboratory resources carefully and frugally. Maintain a safe and clean laboratory space where data and research participant confidentiality are protected. Be respectful to, tolerant of, and work collegially with all laboratory colleagues: respect individual differences in values, personalities, work styles, and theoretical perspectives.

Be a good collaborator. Collaborations are more than just publishing papers together. They demand effective and frequent communication, mutual respect, trust, and shared goals. Effective collaboration is an important component of the mission of our lab. The efforts of collaborators, including other members of the lab as well as those outside the lab, should be acknowledged.

 

Develop strong research skills

Take advantage of your opportunity to work at a top university by developing and refining stellar research skills.

Present your work at meetings and seminars and publish scientific articles that effectively present your work to others in the field. The “currency” in science is published papers: they drive a lot of what we do. We have an obligation to complete and disseminate our findings. I will push you to publish your research as you move through your training, not only at the end. Students pursuing a doctoral degree will be expected to be lead author on at least one research paper publication prior to graduation.

Keep up with the literature so that you can have a hand in guiding your own research and participate in journal clubs.

Be responsive to advice and constructive criticism. The feedback you get from me, your colleagues, and, for students, from your committee members and your course instructors, is intended to improve your scientific work.

 

Communicate clearly and frequently

Remember that all of us are “new” at various points in our careers. If you feel uncertain, overwhelmed, or want additional support, please overtly ask for it. I welcome these conversations and view them as necessary.

Be prompt. Respond promptly (within 24 hours) to emails from anyone in our lab group and show up on time and prepare for meetings. If you need time to gather information in response to an email, please acknowledge receipt of the message and indicate when you will be able to provide the requested information. Respond promptly to lab slack messages, which should be used sparingly and only when an immediate response/action is needed (or if there is an ongoing group discussion)

Discuss policies on work schedule, sick leave and vacation with me directly. Consult with me and notify fellow lab members in advance of any planned absences. I believe that time away from the bench/rig is essential for creative thinking, good health and refocusing on the “big picture”, so I will encourage you to take regular breaks. I also believe that the notion of “work-life balance” is misconstrued. Work, and especially scientific work, is part of a fulfilling life; not an activity that opposes it.

Assist/train/mentor other trainees and help cultivate a positive work environment. Undergraduates working in the lab should be encouraged to contribute to all aspects of a project. New lab members should be made to feel welcome and receive all the help they need to hit the ground running. I strive to build a lab culture that satisfies, enriches and energizes our lives. I expect you to actively participate in and cultivate this culture through positive attitude, enthusiasm for your work and healthy, meaningful relationships with your coworkers.

 

Yearly evaluation (IDP)

Each year we will sit down to discuss progress and goals. At that time, you should be sure to tell me if you are unhappy with any aspect of your experience as a trainee here. Remember that I am your advocate, as well as your advisor. Similarly, we should discuss any concerns you have with respect to my role as your advisor. If you feel that you need more guidance, tell me. If you feel that I am interfering too much with your work, tell me. If you would like to meet with me more often, tell me. At the same time, I will tell you if I am satisfied with your progress, and, for students, if I think you are on track to graduate by your target date. It will be my responsibility to explain to you any deficiencies, so that you can take steps to fix them. This will be a good time for us to take care of any issues before they become major problems.

 

(Adapted from MacMahon and Chung)

What you can expect from me

I will work tirelessly for the good of the lab group; the success of every member of our group is my priority.

I will be available for regular meetings and informal conversations. I will try to be meet with every lab member at least once weekly, and we will hold regular lab meetings and journal clubs.

I will be your advocate. If you have a problem, come and see me. I will do my best to help you solve it.

• I am committed to mentoring you, even after you leave my lab. I am committed to your education and training while you are in my lab, and to advising and guiding your career development - to the degree you wish - long after you leave. I will provide honest letters of evaluation for you when you request them.

I will lead by example and facilitate your training in complementary skills needed to be a successful scientist, such as oral and written communication, grant writing, lab management, mentoring, and scientific professionalism. I will also encourage you to gain practice in mentoring undergraduates. For graduate students, I will encourage you to TA one quarter per year (unless you are on a fellowship that indicates otherwise) so that you can strengthen your teaching skills.

I will encourage you to attend scientific/professional meetings and will make an effort to fund such activities. You should generally aim to attend at least one major conference per year, when you have material to present. Use conferences as an opportunity to further your education. If you register for a conference, I expect you to attend the scientific sessions and participate in conference activities during the time you are there. Travel fellowships are available; I will help you identify and apply for these opportunities.

I will strive to be supportive, equitable, accessible, encouraging, and respectful. I will try my best to understand your unique situation, and mentor you accordingly. I am mindful that each trainee comes from a different background and has different professional goals. I set the same high professional standards for all my trainees and I will do my best to customize my mentoring to your needs, foster your professional confidence and encourage your critical thinking and creativity.

 

For graduate students specifically:

I will help you navigate your graduate program of study. You are responsible for keeping up with deadlines and being knowledgeable about requirements for your specific program. However, I am available to help you interpret these requirements, select appropriate coursework, and select committee members for your PhD training.

•  I will be upfront about my expectations for graduation. During our annual Individual Development Plan (IDP) meeting we will set milestones for your training and decide on timeline to graduation, which will be based on research achievements and progress, and not years of study. Ultimately, it is up to your thesis committee to approve the timeline to graduation, but I will be your advocate so long as training milestones are met.   

 

If my attempts to achieve any of the above are not effective for you, I am open to talking with you about other ways to achieve these goals.