STEM

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

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.

We connected with an undergrad in the lab who was planning to apply for several summer research programs. They wanted to know how many recommendation letters they could ask each professor to write. As usual, we edited the conversation for brevity and to remove identifying details so the student remains anonymous.

—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.

Güray Hatipoğlu

In this guest post Güray Hatipoğlu shares how his undergrad research experiences helped him find his current career path even though it wasn't an easy journey.

Starting out

In the beginning, as a first-year chemistry student, I didn’t t know all the differences among organic, inorganic, and analytical chemistry, or have a solid interest in any branch. So, I randomly chose to specialize in organic chemistry and found a faculty member who invited me to join their lab for one half-day a week.

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