Among the many roles that scientists play, mentoring younger scientists is one which researchers are rarely trained for. In the current STEM research environment, where lack of funding is but one of the systemic issues faced by young scientists, the roles, responsibilities, and career trajectories are changing. Organizations such as Future of Research and Rescuing Biomedical Research have been formed in recent years to address systemic issues facing academic research. Others, such as the National Mentoring Research Network, have arisen to address the training needs of those who wish to remain in academia but receive no formal training in how to supervise and mentor students. Still, there are gaps in the cultural awareness and value of being an inspiring leader, promoting a positive work environment, and in having happy, mentally fit employees. Where other industries recognize these benefits, academic culture lags.
On September 21st 2017, Future of Research will join the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs in the Graduate School at the University of Maryland to host a day long mentoring conference in conjunction with National Postdoctoral Appreciation Week. This conference is co-sponsored with Labmosphere and will focus on ethical, effective, and inspiring Mentoring in STEM. The meeting will be held at the UMD College Park campus.
The symposium has four primary goals:
- to recognize and discuss the issues surrounding mention in STEM fields;
- to discuss effective mentorship and advocacy techniques at all levels: PhD, Postdoc, Faculty;
- to provide a platform to connect like-minded young scientists who wish to effect change at their own institutions at the grassroots level; and
- to inspire participants to practice effective mentorship practices and promote these skill sets to their peers and colleagues at their own institutions.
As a taster, proposed workshops currently include:
Effective Mentorship Practices Distilled
While there might not be enough time in one workshop to run through the entire training that organizations such as NRMN put on, distilling the effective practices as well as providing lists of resources that can be tapped into by those currently mentoring or looking to do so in the future will provide a useful platform for discussion.
Mentorship across the industry/academia divide
Most STEM trainees earn their education and degree in an academic environment from mentors and supervisors who have undergone the “academic” path. With the number of students seeking career pathways outside of academia increasing, how can traditional mentors provide guidance in other career paths, or how can those outside of academia mentor those training within it?
Local Advocacy and Organization
What are the issues that students and Postdocs find most pressing regarding mentorship? How can FoR and other organizations provide guidance and advocacy for these students at the grassroots levels, and how can students and Postdocs themselves organize to provide such representation?
Support Networks: Dealing with Mental Health Issues as Mentees and Mentors
Though potentially uncomfortable to talk about, the reality is that situations on both sides, both as mentee and mentor, can take a turn for the worst. This module will cover the basics of techniques such as Nonviolent Communication for preventing from situations from arising, as well as discuss ways in which students can seek help and protection when faced with difficult situations they find themselves seemingly alone in. Given the time, Peer Support Networks and Active Listening skills will also be discussed.
This meeting is supported by an American Society for Cell Biology Early Career Meeting Grant and is a Genetics Society of America Career Development Symposium: