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Excellence Everywhere - National University of Ireland, Galway

Excellence Everywhere - National University of Ireland, Galway

n Offer criticism and

n Offer criticism and correction in a way that conveysyour message but does not shame or discouragepeople.n Keep abreast of laboratory record-keeping. Thisis a key management responsibility and an aspectof mentoring. As the person responsible for thework being done, you are also responsible forseeing that your people keep meticulous recordsdocumenting their work and meeting regulatoryrequirements. This habit will serve them well lateron. By reviewing lab notebooks frequently, youalso guard against falsification of data.Impart Skills. Do these things to encourage yourlab workers to learn new skills:n Involve everyone in the scientific publishing andgrant-writing process. Part of your job is to teachyour trainees how to write publishable scientificpapers and successful grant proposals. For papers,have the first author write the first draft, and thensend the paper around the lab for review. Forproposals, have each person write a piece of theproposal, and then have everyone review successivedrafts of the whole package. By doing this,everyone will gain invaluable experience and get achance to see the big picture of the lab’s activities.n Impart technical skills. As a manager, you need toknow the skill sets of each member of your lab, andmake sure that each important skill is passed onto several people in the laboratory, for their benefitand yours. If only one person in the lab can performa particular technique, you are risking your futureon an assumption that this person will not leave.n Teach lab management explicitly. Give the peoplein your lab managerial responsibilities, at leastwithin the confines of the lab space. For example,have them coordinate among themselves thesharing of equipment in the lab, or ask them todraw up a list of routine lab jobs to be rotatedamong lab members.Provide Networking Opportunities. One ofthe most important benefits you confer uponthe people you train is entrée into the networkof scientists in your field. Your reputation opensdoors for those associated with you, and theconnections are not likely to be made withoutyour involvement. So take steps to facilitate theintroductions, including:n Allowing trainees to meet with seminar speakersinvited to your institution.n When possible, take trainees with you to meetingsand introduce them to your colleagues.n Encourage trainees to approach your colleaguesabout scientific matters, using your name, as byemailing “I am a student in Dr. ’s lab,and wonder if I might ask you some questionsabout your recent work on hemoglobin transport.”n Encourage trainees to make presentations atmeetings when they are ready.Provide Moral Support. You can help the peopleyou train and mentor estimate their own potentialand chart their life course. To do so, you must besupportive and honest. Try to convey to each ofyour trainees that you have a commitment to himor her and that when a problem surfaces, youhave an interest in helping to solve it and will doeverything you can to do so.Different Needsat different stagesEach type of individual who may ask you for advice—for example, a student, a more experiencedscientist training in your laboratory, a clinician, atechnician, or a cousin who hopes to go to medicalschool some day—is on a different professionaltrajectory. As you work with them, you need tokeep in mind their path and their location on thatpath.Educating Undergraduate Students. The seedsof a scientific career are planted in the undergraduateyears or even earlier. Undergraduate studentscan be invited to take part in research throughan academic program at your institution or at anearby university. They may be eager to find paidwork during the school year or during schoolbreaks. Take their interests and their work seriously,and set high standards for them. You might placethem under the day-to-day guidance of a welltrainedperson in your lab, but you should maintaina strong role in overseeing their training and theoverall flow of their work within the lab. Keep inmind that these beginning researchers may needextra encouragement when their experiments arenot going smoothly.140 excellence everywhere

One of the best ways of hiring good anddedicated researchers is to screen students inyour lab during rotations and thesis dissertationsand retain the best ones.”Abdoulaye Djimdé, MaliTraining Graduate Students. In science as inother fields, graduate education is vastly differentfrom the undergraduate experience. Perhaps themost important difference is that undergraduatesare expected to be primarily engaged in absorbingknowledge, whereas graduate students areexpected to begin to make their own contributions.An advisor helps new graduate students make thistransition. A graduate student may have severalmentors, but the most important person for astudent’s success is the head of the laboratorywhere the student is working.A typical graduate student follows this trajectory:n First year(s). As the head of the laboratory, yourmain task is to provide a coherent plan of study forthe student. The student faces a steep learningcurve. Basic techniques must be learned, and oftencomprehensive exams taken, and a thesis topicchosen. The principal investigator keeps tabs on thestudent’s progress. The student’s success dependson your effective communication of expectationsand help with clearing certain formal hurdles.n Middle year(s). At some time during these years,the student may be struggling with his or herexperimental work. Things often do not work asplanned, and the uncertainty and slow tempo mayfrustrate even very good students. You may helpthe student out of a slump by offering moralsupport and suggesting ways to tackle a scientificproblem. By the middle part of training, the studentwill have learned a lot and should be sharing informationand techniques with colleagues, youngerstudents, and postdocs. Teaching others is a goodway to learn.n Final year. The student is preparing to move on.The thesis should be near completion, and thesearch for a more advanced position should be underway. You may be asked for letters of referenceand perhaps more active job-hunting assistance.If the student wants to go abroad for further training,you may need to put some effort into helpinghim or her find opportunities, and at least shouldhelp the student by sending introductory emailsto colleagues abroad who know your work. Thiswill help keep the student’s inquiries to these labsfrom being overlooked or discarded.Working with Scientists who are FurtheringTheir Training in your Lab. You may have highlytrained professional scientists working in your labfor a limited time to conduct research within thegeneral parameters of your shared interests. Thistraining may be a stepping stone to an academicposition. Your task as an educator and potentialmentor of new scientists is complex.Keep in mind that the amount of time you canspend helping these scientists will be limited, souse that time efficiently. In addition, find ways tohave them help one another or obtain assistancefrom other sources.You must strike a delicate balance in directingtheir work. Although the scientist training inyour lab may be working on your projects, it isappropriate to treat him or her something like acollaborator, rather than just as an employee orstudent who requires close supervision. Encouragethese individuals and give them the help theyneed in setting research and career goals, but givethem sufficient independence for them to takeconsiderable responsibility for the progress oftheir projects.You do have a protective function when it comesto the politics of the larger academic world. Thescientists training in your laboratory are probablyyoung, politically inexperienced, and vulnerable.Be prepared to steer them away from projectsthat might result in conflict with researchers whoare already working on similar projects and whomight publish results before them.If a promising person has come into your lab but isnot achieving what you both had hoped, encouragehim or her to make a change, whether to anotherproject or to another lab entirely. You may be ableto help this individual find a more suitable projector position.expanding your influence: training the next generation of scientists141

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