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How to be a good mentor?

Dr. Ione Fine

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I'm a professor at the University of Washington and I wanted some input from graduate students.


I've been asked to give a talk to encourage diversity in science. I'm thinking of tackling 'how to mentor' (something none of us professors are trained in, as you may have noticed).


The problem we as professors have is that we want to give students their privacy, but we also want to be able to mentor the intersection between the personal and work.


The issue I am most familiar with (being a female academic with kids) is women scientists thinking of having kids. For example, I know lots of female graduate students who are scared to even raise the topic of having kids in graduate school with their advisor because they feel their advisor will be 'disappointed' or not take them seriously.


But I am guessing that other types of diversity (mental health issues, LBGT, coming from an atypical socioeconomic background, being in a racial minority, conflicts between lab members) raise other kinds of additional stresses that could be helped by good mentoring.


What I'd really love is examples of good mentoring, crappy mentoring, and how you wish you had been mentored - (e.g. I dealt with X all on my own and it would have really helped if my mentor had done Y).


I'm also really interested in ideas for how we as PIs can make it clear that topics are 'on the table'. I feel that one of the biggest issues is that graduate students often feel that many topics are 'off-limits' when actually they probably aren't.


Just email me ionefine@uw.edu and put 'mentor' in the subject line so I don't get overwhelmed. Of course everything will be completely anonymous.






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