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Blogs

Dr. Mitch Anstey (he/him/his) is an assistant professor at Davidson College (Davidson, NC) in the Department of Chemistry. Davidson College is a primarily undergraduate college with a student body of roughly 2000. As with many institutions concerned with student and staff safety, Davidson College enacted a blanket policy in early April prohibiting student research on campus for the upcoming summer. Connect with Dr. Anstey on Twitter @theyneedacraned or through email mianstey@davidson.edu

For me, being able to say yes to mentoring undergrads in remote research projects this summer was not easy.

I am a parent of three children below the age of five. I am also a college professor teaching a full course load. Even when school and childcare line up perfectly, I still feel like I’m working two full-time jobs. But school and daycare closures and a fear of COVID exposure from childcare providers mean that my spouse and I are now the only support our children have.

19
May

Summer Isn't What it Used to Be

—from the Lab Manager's bench and the PI's Desk

If you’re feeling abandoned by your research project because of COVID-19-related cancelations, you’re not alone. This summer, many undergrads who thought they would be participating in an intensive undergraduate research experience in a lab, clinic, or field are finding it difficult to reconcile that their program has been shuttered or their experience has been moved to an online format.

In the last few weeks, we’ve answered concerns from students and mentors alike on how to best navigate summer research experiences in this uncertain climate. To our undergrad readers, know that it’s understandable to be disappointed. It doesn’t make you selfish or inconsiderate of what’s going on in the world to feel let down because your summer research experience is no longer what you imagined it would be and it’s currently falling short of your expectations.

And to our mentors—the same. We’re right there with you with all the fears and frustrations connected with watching our projects hibernate or derail along with informing our mentees of the consequences and the lack of control we have over the situation.

15
Apr

Mentoring Matters with Dr. Brian Cohen

Dr. Cohen and some members of his lab group celebrate on graduation day

—from the Guest Mentor's Desk

Dr. Brian Cohen is a Senior Lecturer in Biological Sciences and Co-Director of Biochemistry at Union College in Schenectady, NY. In his 16 years as a faculty member thus far he has mentored 86 senior thesis students. Connect with him on Twitter @profbdcohen.

Q1: Why is mentoring undergrads in research important to you?

Because I didn't have that mentor as an undergraduate. By the time I expressed an interest in pursuing a career in research, I had missed out on opportunities to get involved.

—from the Lab Manager's bench and the PI's desk

We know that mentoring is challenging, surprising, rewarding, & so much more. On Twitter, we often use #ProudMentor or #ProudPI to retweet when a mentor tags us in a tweets about the undergrad members of their research team.

If you want to share a few words on why you mentor, the impact it's made on you, or other thoughts were listening. And we’d like to share it with others, too.

Our goals for creating the Mentoring Matters series are straightforward.

1. We want to show undergrad researchers that mentors are "real people" and not wholly mysterious creatures.

—from the PI's desk and the Lab Manager's Bench

There are some wonderful things about writing a blog: It’s easy to get started, you publish articles on your schedule, and you can bring attention to topics that you care about. But there are some difficult things about blogging too—such as crafting a story that you’re really proud of and then trying to get more people to read it.

This year, we’re planning to publish more guest posts on Undergrad In The Lab.com. This will expand the perspectives we offer our readers and give us the opportunity to promote others’ blogs on our site and through Twitter.

We specifically want articles and stories from bloggers who have already published their piece elsewhere. Think of this as recycling or repurposing your article. We're also interested in sharing your best twitter threads as a longer blog article on our site (more on this below).

Guest posts are open writers at all career stages— undergrads, postdocs, grad students, staff scientists, principal investigators…you get it. Articles that share beyond the undergrad experience are especially welcomed. We've connected with far too many people who have regretfully said, "I wish I would have known that others [experienced, struggled with, thought, tried, ignored...] when I was in career stage Y" to restrict contributions based on a professional title.

— from the PI’s desk

No matter if your career track is a pre-X (pre-med, pre-grad, pre-dental, pre-vet, etc.), or you're headed for the job market after graduation, you'll need recommendation letters along the way.

Invest 1 hour of your spring break to do a little prep work so it's easier to secure those recommendation letters before your professors are crushed with the pre-summer activity rush.

Here's a breakdown of how to spend that 1 hour.

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