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undergrad-admin's blog

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.

15
Dec

Tips for Pushing that Thesis (or other Manuscript) Out

—from the Lab Manager's bench

I originally wrote this post to answer the question, "What tips do you have for a student with 6 months left for PhD thesis submission?" However, this version is slightly different from the one I posted on Quora. Many of the tips were also adapted from my Instagram account

Whether you love or hate them writing and editing in some form are probably part of the science communication responsibilities that accompany your research position. When writing journal articles on a collaborative research project, you might be responsible for creating the majority of a manuscript (with co-authors and your PI weighing in) or your PI might write the bulk of it but require your input. But if you're writing a student thesis (undergrad or graduate) the bulk of the writing will come from you.

—from the Researcher’s bench

The big motivation killers get top billing--and for good reason. If a labmate has created a toxic working environment, your PI is unsupportive, you're struggling to manage a disability (invisible or obvious), your mental and physical health are all put at risk. These are all serious issues and it's critical that you find support in navigating through them.

However, it's also important to recognize that there are issues or work habits that can destroy your motivation but they do so in such a subtle way that you might not be aware of what's happening until you're burning out. Many of these don't seem serious and it's easy to think "Oh, I'm just being sensitive. I shouldn't complain because others have real problems."

But a motivation barrier--even a small one--doesn't take much to grow into a much larger issue. It's dealing with these sneaky motivation killers that are the subject of this article.

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