- Introduction to the survey data summary
- Experiences of ECRs with their mentors
- The overall spectrum of experiences
- Commonality of experiences within a group
- The impact of the mentor to the next career stage
- Factors that are associated with positive vs negative outcomes
- Gender of the mentee or the mentor
- Mentor group size
- Awareness of mentors on their strengths and shortcomings
- Mentors asking for feedback
- Are mentors making it easy to raise mentorship concerns
- Mentor has a lab culture or code of conduct document
- Final words
- The words of early career researchers
Purpose & Quick Summary
The purpose of this blog post is to make available responses collected through an anonymous survey that aimed to capture experiences of early career researchers (ECRs) with an academic mentor.
In addition to preliminary visualizations of the survey responses, the post contains voices of ECRs as they describe their positive and negative experiences associated with the mentorship they have received.
You may find this article (or at least some sections of it) useful to your journey if you are,
- A Mentor who is advising mentees and actively thinking about how to do better
- A Mentee who is having a very negative or very positive experience and wondering if these experiences are common
- Someone who is planning a career in research and wishes to learn about experiences of others to determine what to look for in a prospective mentor
- An administrator at an academic institution actively thinking about how to improve mentee-mentor communication, identify potential issues in mentor/mentee relationships, and/or aim to address these shortcomings through innovative strategies.
Visualizations in this blog post are fully reproducible and generated by this R markdown file from the survey results stored here. By cloning this repository you can investigate the results yourself. If you are interested, you can send me a pull request on GitHub to improve the representation of the survey.
Warning: Reading experiences of many ECRs in their own words made me realize that while the details of very positive experiences of mentees can be very uplifting, very negative experiences can be extremely difficult to go through and may trigger strong emotions. If you are an ECR, please feel free to skip quotes marked with red sections altogether. That said, I also came to the realization while I was working on this material that if you are someone who is in a position of power in academia like myself, learning about the experiences of ECRs and trying to appreciate the diversity of ways by which mentors can influence the lives and well-being of their mentees in very positive or very negative ways is nothing less than a responsibility for us.
If you have any suggestions or concerns, please feel free to get in touch with me via the comments section below, by sending an email, or contacting me through (@merenbey). I thank Jessika Fuessel, Bana Jabri, and Tao Pan for discussing this work with me patiently. I also thank Evan Kiefl, Karen Lolans, Emily Fogarty, and Iva Veseli for proofreading the final product, and Mike Yu for improving the accuracy and readability of the text and figures.
Mentor: An experienced person who advises and helps somebody with less experience over a period of time.
Sounds straightforward enough. Yet, effective mentorship in academia is extremely difficult. If you are reading these lines, you probably already know that mentor-mentee relationships in science are not always happy and productive.
We as mentors find ourselves in positions of power with little to no preparation to understand what is expected of us or truly appreciate the impact of our actions on trainees who work with us. We as trainees do not recognize the critical importance of identifying mentors that match our needs and expectations, and the long-lasting impact of the mentorship we will receive on our well-being and careers. We all find our way over time through positive and negative experiences, but these occasionally very costly lessons rarely transcend to the next generation effectively.
A large number of resources make suggestions or offer insights into how to create a healthy research environment (1, 2, 3), how to be a good mentor (4, 5, 6), or how to find one (7, 8). A lot of actual research has been done on the topic of mentorship, as well (9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15).
Given the existing resources that are already available both to mentors and mentees, it would have been naive to expect an anonymous survey of relatively small sample size and no research value to make a notable contribution to the pool of suggestions mentors and mentees are already given. Well, why this survey, then, at the expense of pretty much everyone’s time?
Existing resources for mentees and mentors typically lack voices of trainees and their experiences. Existing resources are for sure well-written and well-curated. But they are also washed clean of emotions and turned into abstract notions and suggestions –mostly because it is extremely difficult to summarize people’s experiences into categorical values. If you know any early career researcher who had a very positive or a very negative experience with a mentor, you already know that outcomes of mentor-mentee relationships are often filled with extremely deep emotions, which sometimes linger with everyone involved for much longer than the official period of the relationship.
I strongly believe that reading good and bad experiences of trainees in their own words with a current or a past mentor in full anonymity is one of the most effective ways to encourage current or future mentors to reflect on the real-world consequences of mentorship decisions and practices on people’s lives. Thus, the primary purpose of this article is to amplify the words I received from ECRs about their experiences with their mentors.
On the one hand, I hope that by providing a platform for mentees, this resource will shed light on the dark and often unspoken corners of the experience spectrum in mentor-mentee relationships in academia. On the other hand, as the following survey participant wisely and eloquently puts it, perhaps it is far too naive to imagine that a real change may emerge by trying to change individual mentors who are willing to change:
Rather than offering advices to mentors, I suggest that universities to re-evaluate metrics considered for tenure and promotion: down-weight big grants and journal impact factor, and place greater weight on training, support, and teaching for undergrads and grad researchers. Let you mentees anonymously review the program and professors in their department, and strive to identify gaps based on well-being surveys of grad students and address them.
Common advice students are given prior to selecting a PI or program is insufficient to navigate the system.
We need systemic change.
I agree that it is the system that needs to change.
But even if a systemic change is the only way forward, the desire for that only comes from empathy and understanding that goes beyond bits and pieces of abstract notions of good and bad. In that vein, I hope that this article will at least serve as an additional drop in our bucket of empathy by enabling its readers to recognize the aspects of mentee experiences that are often absent in the public discussions of mentorship.
Introduction to the survey data summary
The survey is located here. You still can take the survey or encourage others to do it. Since the workflow that generates the figures and text below is fully reproducible, it is possible to update the results with additional data relatively quickly. If that ever happens, this note will reflect that with dates and significant changes in results if there are any. The data below cover a snapshot of the survey results. For your reference, the time stamp of the last answer in the survey at the time of the analysis was 6/1/2021 9:25:16 (MM/DD/YYYY HH:MM:SS).
This section offers a general summary of mentees and mentors.
The survey results analyzed below includes a total of 338 responses that reported a single experience between a mentor and an early career researcher (ECR). The definition of ‘ECR’ in the survey includes PhD students, post-doctoral researchers, and assistant professors (i.e., those who typically are advised by others in academia and do not typically have ‘job security’), and the text often uses the terms ‘ECR’ and ‘mentee’ interchangeably. In contrast, the term ‘mentor’ defines someone who was officially responsible for the training of an ECR and include PhD or post-doc advisers, or more generally the principal investigator (PI), the group leader, or the director of a group affiliated with an academic institution. All data, including data for mentors (such as their career stage, gender, and minority status), are reported by their mentees.
The vast majority of those who filled the survey were early career researchers in sub-disciplines of Life Sciences:
This is likely due to the limits of my reach on Twitter.
Another limitation of the survey is the geographic representation. Although the survey was filled by individuals from a total of 36 countries, the number of individuals from each country was heavily skewed, with the vast majority from the United States
The figure below displays the list of countries with five or more survey results, but for the sake of posterity, each country and the number of responses looked like this: United States: 164 / Germany: 36 / United Kingdom: 20 / The Netherlands: 12 / Canada: 11 / France: 8 / Austria: 7 / India: 7 / Belgium: 6 / Finland: 5 / Italy: 5 / Turkey: 5 / Australia: 4 / Denmark: 3 / Greece: 3 / Japan: 3 / Norway: 3 / Portugal: 3 / Sweden: 3 / Switzerland: 3 / [none entered]: 2 / Chile: 2 / China: 2 / Ireland: 2 / New Zealand: 2 / Poland: 2 / Singapore: 2 / Slovenia: 2 / South Korea: 2 / Spain: 2 / Colombia: 1 / Czech Republic: 1 / Estonia: 1 / Indonesia: 1 / Mexico: 1 / Saudi Arabia: 1 / Togo: 1.
Most participants mentioned their experience as graduate students, and the large fraction of mentors mentees have reported on were full professors:
A larger fraction of the mentees were women, and a larger fraction of the mentors were men.
While mentees who were men were shared equally between men and women mentors, a larger proportion of women worked with mentors who were also women.
The survey question offered the following choices: ‘Man’, ‘Woman’, ‘Genderqueer / Gender Non-Conforming’, ‘Questioning’, ‘Other’, and ‘Prefer not to say’. I used this set of choices based on the advice given on this page for Limited Lists. Another note worth highlighting is the fact that sexual orientation was not a question in the survey. The reason for that was the following: the more data one collects in a survey, the more likely it becomes that the combination of information can identify someone. As I planned to make the lightly processed raw data available along with a reproducible workflow, I decided to not collect any data on sexual orientation to maximize the anonymity of participants (even if I lost control of my online accounts) despite the fact that I believed that it may have been an important source of additional information.
The survey also collected data on the minority status of mentees and mentors they worked with. The question was aimed to identify those who, except their gender, were a member of a minority group in their workplace based on ethnic background and/or religion. While 34.1% of mentees were members of a minority group, only 11.6% of mentors belonged to a minority group, to the best of the knowledge of their mentees.
The bars below show the matching of the minority status between mentees and mentors. Among mentors who belong to a minority group, 40.0% of their mentees also identify as a minority. However, among mentors who do not belong to a minority group, only 23.8% of their mentees identify as a minority.
Each column of the figure groups mentors based on their minority status (Yes/No answers on the x-axis are given to the question “was your mentor a member of a minority group”), and each color reports the minority status of the proportion of mentees who are working with these groups of mentors.
So far, the data show that the vast majority of people who filled the survey were life scientists from the United States, most of them were women, most of them reported their experience as graduate students, and most mentors were full professors during the mentor-mentee interaction. In addition we see that women are slightly more likely to be mentored by women, and those who identify as a member of a minority group are more likely to work with mentors they identify as a member of a minority group.
Experiences of ECRs with their mentors
This section offers a general summary of how ECRs felt about their previous experiences.
The overall spectrum of experiences
Since one of the main goals of this survey was to capture the nature of experiences of early career researchers with their past or current academic mentors, the most critical question the survey asked to its participants was the following: Considering its entirety and its influence on your well-being and career, how would you characterize your experience with your mentor?
Here is how the responses looked like:
This shows that 58.9% of all 338 participants reported a positive experience with their mentors, and very negative experiences were no more than 8.0% of the responses.
OK. I will take a break here and tell you that I wrote the following part until the next subsection only after reading the experiences of mentees. I had not done it before to make sure they did not influence the direction of my preliminary analyses. After doing it, though, I had to come here and add the following text retrospectively.
Most scientists are aware that mentor-mentee relationships can occasionally go either extremes of the experience spectrum. And considering all the stories I personally have witnessed as an ECR either through social media or by watching the journey of other ECRs as mentees, I did not know what the distribution of experiences was going to look like. But my interpretation of these results changed as I continued to work on the blog, especially after I started reading the words of mentees.
First, I found the large proportion of positive experiences pleasantly surprising. I even thought that it will likely serve as a relief also for you to learn that the vast majority of experiences among mentee-mentor pairs were positive.
Only later I realized that these numbers are not anywhere close to where we should set the bar as scientists. In fact, 8.0% is astonishingly large when one realizes the significance of very negative experiences on others’ life and well-being. Here is an example that shook me:
She was a covert narcissist who changed the goalposts to suit her narrative on a daily basis. Being in her lab made me suicidal. I can barely talk about this as it is still so traumatizing.
As I went through the responses, my initial relief started to feel more and more embarrassing. The reason I decided to share this relatively off-topic personal experience of mine openly is because I believe this attitude is probably a significant part of the problem, and likely more common than those who did not suffer from the consequences of very negative experiences typically appreciate. It is much easier for those who are in the lucky majority to see the proportions of those who found themselves in the unlucky minority as mere statistics. 8.0% indeed makes a small fraction of all mentees in science. But people who are assaulted, or people who suffer from rare diseases make up a very small fraction of the society, too, and much less than 8.0% in most societies. But for those small number of people who are assaulted or diagnosed with a rare disease, life changes irreversibly.
This personal experience convinced me that this is the true power of this survey. The power of this survey is not the opportunities for data analyses or summary of positive or negative experiences as a function of categories the survey fits people into. It is the words of those who lived these experiences, and the power and the magnitude of those words that can convince us the importance of working towards an ideal where all mentee-mentor experiences are positive or very positive, and that there is a lot more to do to achieve that.
This section still exists as I managed to fight off the desire to delete everything I’ve done until this realization, and let the text continue to try to offer a general summary of the data for posterity before leaving you with the words of early career researchers.
Commonality of experiences within a group
In the most general sense, ECRs believe that their experiences were common to all other mentees trained by the same mentor:
But interestingly, the extent of commonness of experiences was related to mentorship outcomes. Only 11.4% of mentees who had a very positive mentoring experience thought their experience was specific to a few others trained by the same mentor (defined as “Very specific” or “Somewhat specific” survey responses). In contrast, as much as 54.2% of mentees who had a very negative experience believed their experience was specific to a few:
I find this to be an important result.
The following is one way to interpret these data: mentors who are able to provide positive experiences to their mentees do it consistently, as most of the mentees who reported very positive experiences also thought that their experience was common to most remembers of the group. Even if the data in this survey is powered enough to make a statement on this, there may be multiple perceptional biases here. For instance, those who are having a very positive experience with their mentors may be unable to appreciate what some of the other mentees may be going through. In contrast, it may be easier for those who are suffering with their mentors to recognize others are not suffering from the same problems.
Nevertheless, the marked increase in the proportion of mentees who report very negative and yet specific experiences suggests that even mentors who generally are able to have positive experiences with some of their mentees can have very negative experiences. Putting this into words almost sounds like a tautology to me since it should not surprise anyone that a single mentorship strategy will unlikely work for everyone equally well. Going through mentee experiences later, I could find evidence for this obvious point in survey results itself where while some mentees praised a behavior, others saw it as a shortcoming. For instance, the following is reported by a post-doc who believed the very hands-off approach was the biggest shortcoming of their mentor’s mentorship style:
He was very hands off. He would not insist about deadlines for example. This made me miss some deadlines for fellowships etc. because he did not reminded me or helped me made the deadline.
In contrast, this one is reported by a graduate student who believes the same strategy, albeit challenging, was the most admirable trait of their mentor:
Completely hands-off approach, which was really difficult at first, but in the end I believe made me a more self-sufficient researcher and ready to establish myself in academia
I think this foreshadows that some of the negative experiences may be due to the mismatch between what the mentee is expected from their mentor, and what the mentor is able to offer to their mentees. ONLY IF THERE WAS A WAY for mentors to be upfront about their mentorship strategy, so mentees could have an opportunity to find better matches.
We will get back to this at the end of this section.
The impact of the mentor to the next career stage
Of all 338 ECRs who took the survey, 240 had a major change in their career stage since the experience they reported with their mentors: graduate students became post-docs, post-docs became professors, or they left the academic life behind and moved on to other endeavors.
The subset of individuals who had a change in their career status offers an opportunity to investigate whether the data suggest anything regarding what did ECRs do next as a function of their experience with their mentors. One of the key insights one could gain here is whether or not those who had very negative experiences with their mentors were more likely to end up leaving the academic life behind.
According to the survey data, there was a very slight increase in the proportion of individuals who had very negative experiences with their mentors and left academia:
Even after negative or very negative experiences with a mentor, mentees seem to have moved on with their careers in academia in comparable proportions to those who had positive or very positive experiences. But these results on careers are to be taken with two grains of salt as this survey may be grossly underestimating the number of those who may have left the academic life (since they are less likely to see the survey and/or have the energy to fill it).
Factors that are associated with positive vs negative outcomes
This section aims to visualize associations between various categories of mentors and mentees and positive or negative outcomes of mentor-mentee relationships.
Gender of the mentee or the mentor
Does gender play a role in the outcomes of mentee-mentor pairings? Does our collective mind have room for yet another blatantly incorrect interpretation of the influence on gender on critical matters???
Well, thankfully the survey data suggest that the overall experiences of mentees with their mentors do not seem to correlate with the gender of the mentee:
The distribution of positive and negative experiences seem to be quite uniform across genders (just to note, while the x-axis shows the gender of mentees, the inline box plots highlight the distribution of the gender of mentors within a given category).
One could also ask whether the overall experiences of mentees with their mentors correlate with the gender of their mentor:
As somewhat foreshadowed by the previous data, there does not seem to be any correlation here, either.
Gender is out of the way. Moving on.
Mentor group size
Since the increasing number of mentees will decrease the availability of a mentor to each of their trainees, group size (as in the number of trainees a mentor is responsible) is a reasonable factor to consider as a function of mentee experience.
And it does seem that group size and overall mentee experience have a weak, but interesting relationship:
It seems the experiences of mentees in groups of less than five people are relatively more uniformly distributed across different outcome categories. While mentors who are responsible for more than 15 people offer very few very positive or very negative mentorship experiences. And the sweet spot seems to be those who work with 5 to 10 people.
Awareness of mentors on their strengths and shortcomings
A couple of questions in the survey asked mentees whether they thought their mentors were aware of their strengths and shortcomings in mentorship. According to mentees, the extent of awareness among their mentors were not uniformly distributed across their strengths or shortcomings:
In the eyes of mentees, mentors were much less aware of their shortcomings than their strengths in mentorship. But there was a marked difference between the overall experience of mentees based on the extent of awareness of mentors in their skills:
Mentors who were aware of their shortcomings in mentoring were more likely to have mentees with whom they had very positive relationships.
Here is a data-driven tip: If you are an ECR considering a new mentor, ask them what they think is their biggest shortcoming in mentorship. Then ask the same question to their trainees. It may be a good sign if they match. If you are a mentor, think about what might be your shortcomings in mentoring people.
Mentors asking for feedback
If mentors who are aware of their shortcomings in mentoring in fact offer a better mentorship experience to their mentees, then, as mentors, we do have quite a simple solution to recover from our lack of awareness of our shortcomings by doing this one simple thing: asking those who we mentor for feedback.
But according to the survey results, most mentors have never asked for feedback on their mentorship style:
In fact, as much as 67.2% of mentees have worked with mentors who never even once asked for any feedback on their mentorship style. This percentage is much higher than the percentage of negative experiences, which means that not all mentors who are not asking for feedback on their mentorship style are failing to provide positive experiences. But the data are very clear on the fact that almost the entirety of very negative mentee experiences seem to be associated with mentors who never ask for feedback:
It is indeed extremely difficult to establish or test any hypothesis here, and it is not the purpose of this blog post. But when it comes to asking for feedback, it seems women do it slightly more than men, Assistant Professors do it slightly more than Professors, and mentors who are considered to be ‘good’ by their colleagues (according to mentees) do it more than those who are not particularly considered good by their colleagues:
Are mentors making it easy to raise mentorship concerns
If a mentor is not explicitly asking for feedback from their mentees on the mentorship they are receiving, it may not be the end of the world, if they are at least making it easier for their mentees to raise their concerns. However, most mentors seem to make it difficult for their mentees to raise their concerns with them:
And the association between positive mentee experiences and difficulty in raising concerns with mentorship they receive is quite stark:
Almost none of the mentees had a negative experience with mentors who made it easier to raise concerns. Creating an environment where it doesn’t take much to be able to raise concerns is indeed a way to ensure negative experiences do not evolve to very negative ones.
But it seems no category of mentors seem to do it better than others. Although, those who have a code of conduct seem to be particularly successful at making their mentees feel that they can easily raise their concerns.
Which brings us to the final point here.
Mentor has a lab culture or code of conduct document
I think it is safe to assume that most negative experiences of mentees took place despite the fact that the vast majority of mentors and mentees are doing their best. But our best is clearly not enough.
Data in this survey suggest that the match between mentors and mentees play a key role in defining the outcomes of mentee-mentor relationships. Fortunately there is a way to ensure that match early on by creating a code of conduct or a lab culture & expectations document to share with perspective mentees. These documents help mentors to be upfront about their mentorship strategy and their key expectations from the members of their group, so mentees could have an opportunity to find better matches.
As of today, such documents seem to be very uncommon among mentors:
Yet, the experience of trainees with mentors that provided a code of conduct seems to be much more positive:
And finally, the likelihood of offering code of conduct does not seem to be associated with pretty much anything, even though there is a slight increase among assistant professors from the US:
I believe it is most critical for mentors to write these documents without reading documents written by others. Because I believe the most important role of these documents is that they push mentors to actually think about who they think they are (or perhaps more accurately, who they wish to be as mentors) and what they want their group to radiate as a cultural and intellectual gathering. So it is an extremely useful exercise for anyone who wishes to challenge themselves regardless of their career stage.
While I think mentors should draft their documents without reading others, here is a list of such documents I collected online that belong to various groups if you need some inspiration:
- Lab Culture and Expectations, Meren Lab, University of Chicago.
- Lab Expectations, Milligan-Myhre Lab, University of Connecticut.
- Values and philosophy, Laboratoire d’écologie fonctionnelle végétale, l’Université de Montréal.
- Lab Policies and Procedures, Marine Biodiversity Lab, UC Irvine.
- Lab Handbook, Cobey Lab, University of Chicago.
- Lab Policies and Tips, Avasthi Lab, Dartmouth College.
- Lab philosophy, Dryland Ecology and Global Change Lab, University of Alicante.
- Lab Manual & Policies, Big Data Biology Lab, Fudan University.
- Trainee Orientation Document, Microbial Systems Ecology and Evolution Lab, Institute for Systems Biology.
If you are a mentor, please consider writing a write a code of conduct or a lab culture & expectations document, and put it on your web page. I promise you that it will be an exercise that is both fun, and useful.
I hope the resources on this page will inspire mentors with actionable items to improve the experiences of their mentees, mentees with green and red flags to look out for in this difficult system, and administrators with new strategies to survey mentee well-being and improve mentee-mentor relationships at their departments and/or institutions.
Before I leave you with the voices of mentees, I thank you for coming this far.
The words of early career researchers
Mentees report on biggest shortcomings of their mentors
In this section you will find the words of ECRs to describe ‘the BIGGEST SHORTCOMING of the mentorship they have received’ from a mentor of theirs, considering how did this shortcoming influenced their work, wellbeing, and/or career. You will see that even mentees who overall had a positive experience with their mentors suffered from some aspects of the mentorship they have received.
Pitted trainees against one another, including asking them to report what others had said in confidence.
Trainees had no control of their projects, which would often and randomly change. Expected to start drinking alcohol with mentor most days around 3pm, and still stay working in the lab until late at night/early morning. Discriminated on the basis of appearance, including refusing to introduce me to professors she considered “high profile”, and telling me she just wanted “a lab full of beautiful people”, which I was not. Said racist things to other trainees. Refused to edit grant proposals that trainees wanted to submit. Asked the chair of the department to have an NDA written, and force me to sign, stating that I would never speak about any of my experiences in the lab, when I left. I could go on.
All of this deeply affected my well being. By the time I left, I was barely eating, or sleeping or functioning. I’m still working through the trauma, even though I am in a very supportive environment now.
My mentor focuses a lot on productivity, which sometimes makes it difficult for longer projects to develop to maturity in time, and they have high expectations of experiments and results being publishable. Luckily this has been okay for me, because I would rather publish multiple, smaller projects as discrete units rather than wait for a gigantic Nature paper that contains 5+ years worth of data, but the focus on productivity can be challenging.
Her indifference to the wellbeing of her mentees. Productivity was seemingly, the only thing that mattered.
Vindictive. If we spoke up or in anyway questioned her behaviour we were punished. Specifically we would lose control of a project or we would be removed from a publication. In the most extreme example, an accepted paper was scrapped (withdrawn and placed in the bin so to speak) after a colleague publication questioned her behaviour.
My advisor is impatient with students and often uses abusive or derogatory language. The students shared their difficulties with me but we are all worried that starting a conversation about this with my advisor would damage our future career. In addition, my advisor is occasionally impulsive and responds in anger without making sure she are correct in her assumptions. She has threatened to remove her name from my papers and berated me in front of colleagues.
Lack of engagement in training and direction of project. Asked for help learning skill that was denied. Wrote a nearly complete draft of manuscript that was never read or commented on.
They seemed to favour male trainees. This sometimes made it difficult, as I was afraid to speak up if I felt there was unfair treatment. I felt they would consider me to be emotional, even tho my mentor and I were both females.
They never acknowledged that I was doing something new to the lab. While I was a graduate student, postdocs supposedly helped me, but turns out they had never done metagenomics so their input was detrimental.
They left me off a paper I should have been on. No one did metagenomics, it was tough to learn. But at least when I did learn it, I worked on others’ projects and was excited to contribute so much... but then I was excluded from being an author.
Mentor is very dependent on trainees productivity (no projects of the mentors own) for their own “success” without investing very much in the projects themselves. Papers are submitted on the agenda (timing, journal choice, preprint decisions etc) of the Mentor rather than the trainee who did 99% of the work to put it all together. This creates a dynamic where failure (papers don’t happen quickly enough) is entirely the fault of the trainee but success (recognition, credit) is shared with the mentor regardless of involvement or contributions to the project.
Not setting clear expectations, continuously changing the goalpost, words and actions didn't match, no self-awareness
It was a reign of terror. My wellbeing suffered, but my work was made better by their demanding mentoring style and my career benefited greatly.
Lack of interest in the well-being of their students. Treating students as financial investments toward publications and obtaining grant funds.
Chaotic mind. Too many ideas that weren't organized well, into practice. Was frustrating at times to try manage them, and pick up the brilliant ones among the garbage. Trait contributed to mentor being unreliable due to schedule mix ups. Trait contributed to overwhelming amount of work for me and other trainees.
On the other hand, trait forced me to be way more organized, and influenced my need for and implementation of structure and planning in my current position.
Yelling at me, and even more on other colleagues, often
with getting very personal created an atmosphere you couldn’t get creative and just suggest things, ask questions...
Weakness, that made the workplace bullying grow and that I could not use equipment in the laboratory, my performance decreased Bullying, Being joking all the time and speaking in a double sense (sexual sense) made colleagues have that in mind and laboral respect is lost, and justifies it saying that we do not have a sense of humor, when that is verbal violence
Lack of time- they still lecture but are also on the governing body, getting time to dicuss can be changeling which lead to some delays1.
However when this was raised to the. They set aside office hours permanently and now I know if I need anything the best time to get them
Completely hands off, could not provide ANY training, was immature and inappropriate. I had to figure every single thing out on my own and establish basic things like the safety binder (required), undergraduate research group, lab equipment and consumables. I had zero training. My PI was never able to address any of my concerns or take them seriously.
My PI had a large startup fund but refused to fund a GSR. I never received a letter of rec for funding and job applications. It was a stressful and obnoxious time. I was not able to find a postdoc or position and am contracting sort of to make ends meet.
Not being familiar with the field: he added an additional field after becoming a Professor, but doesn't have any practical experience, nor keeps up to date with the literature, fully depends on his PhD students to keep him informed, which can be anoying Not putting deadlines: might seem easy-going (which it is), but that makes me feel pressured to finish everything asap instead of in a fixed timeframe Avoiding conflicts: obviously this can be positive, but sometimes it would be appropriate to make people aware of their shortcomings, unreasonable behaviour, them avoiding their responsibilities, etc.
Not being available/not having time. It influence my work tremendously as I need to wait for simple feedback from a paper which I work hard on approximately 2 months (asking many times meanwhile, "please, read my manuscript, I'm waiting").
In my workplace code of conduct would be more than welcome, but for the PI to develop it, he/she would have to have at least minimum of self criticism which is not the case.
Lack of mental health awareness and empathy: my mentor had no mental health awareness. To her, nothing was more important than herself. She once pushed a fellow student into having a panic attack in the middle of a meeting, banned us from going after her to make sure she was fine and complained that it was a waste of her time. This created a very unhealthy environment in which we felt that we were a burden and could not tell her our personal problems that could affect our performance. She wouldn't listen: any concerns about her mentoring style raised by us or any other faculty members was taken by her as a personal attack. As a PhD student, my project suggestions were either ignored or deemed "rubbish" (as she would say). She almost enjoyed publicly shaming people. Long-term, it made me afraid of asking questions at talks and seminars and destroyed my confidence. Not aware of my career development needs: we had a form to help us identify career development needs and raise problems. The form was submitted to the graduate school every month. She often changed the contents of my form to what she thought was good for me without actually listening to me first. She even stopped me from going to visit another researcher's lab to generate preliminary data for a fellowship application, because it was not useful to her research (yes, she explicitly asked me what the benefit was to her research). By the end of my PhD, she told me that she was unhappy about me going to job interviews, because there was no benefit to her and asked for a deduction on my allowance for the days I wasn't working for her. I was completely demotivated and lost my love for science because of this behaviour. It was pushing me away from wanting a career in science. The only reason why I took my current job as a postdoc was to get away from her, but it has helped me rediscover my love for science.
The two largest shortcomings are a consistent delay in feedback to manuscripts (even more than a year) and the lack of promoting an introduction/connection to established scientists in the field.
Not enough explanation of the projects their importance and and background. Often the projects were cutting edge, but the as a person from other fireld it was hard to gauge the importance and the most interesting scientific aspects in there.
Relatively little control over the projects. Had to do what the professor wanted.
Favoritism: stolen ideas, harder to find a job and do networking, impostor syndrome
no group meetings: competitive environment
gossips about the trainees personal life: mental health, profesional network affected
no boundaries: mental health
If you disagree you are not smart: mental health
Verbal abuse:mental health
Lack of knowledge of many of the experimental methods that are always proposed in grants: mental health
Shocking gossips about professors personal life (being very funny and kind in front of them): toxic environment, mental health
Sharing professional good news is not very well received (e.g., trainee got an internship, publications with other groups, or a new job): mental health
One of my mentors had a Short temper, was manipulative, degrading, and harassed me while working in his lab. I questioned my abilities and had low self worth.
Very long delays for feedback on written output such as manuscripts. This delays publication and creates high uncertainty regarding the research output.
Lack of support in scientific development of the project. While this can be a conscious decision in mentoring a graduate student, the strategy was never explicitly stated, which caused a lot of trouble for me in the first two years of my work. In fact before starting, when I asked about the level of support I will have I was told a that their relationship with their students is very close. Possibly this was the case before I joined, but turned out the relationship was minimal for me and others who joined after me.
Complaining about trainees’ performance to other people (various colleagues, other trainees) behind their backs but no direct feedback to the trainee to let them know something is wrong.
Lack of time. As a full professor and responsible for a big group the one-to-one meetings were limited to ~1 hour per month. In my opinion this is too little for a new student and resulted in delays or stagnation in the first months of my PhD Lack of a concrete plan/ time-schedule. Although I am extremely happy I was allowed to have control of my project and make my own choices along the way, not setting concrete goals and milestones made me at different moments fell lost No support/interest on skills/progress other than the scientific ones. Although my mentor is giving the space and time to follow courses or take part on other initiatives/projects that will
give us experience other than the scientific one, this was never planned or driven by them. That meant I had to figure out on my own what I should follow, feeling that many times I did not take the right decisions or I did not take advantage of all opportunities
I felt that sometimes she wanted to be correct and was not taking part in problems happening in the laboratory, and left it to us (PostDocs) to solve them. But, in several cases, it would have been better if she would have stepped in.
She was very busy, but always felt time for us. However, the lack of personal-working life balance was not a role model for newies starting in the lab. She knew her shortcoming and ask us not to follow her behaviour, but at the same time the message she was projecting was "you will succeed if you invest crazy hours on your work". Sometimes I was feeling bad if I did not invest those hours, although I knew I didn't want that life, so stopped myself from doing it.
Unwilling to give control of any part of the project to trained staff. I am unable to improve my skills when writing manuscripts, and have lost self esteem with my ability to conduct research properly. I am always struggling to keep up my research to the speed of the demands he sets for data. I constantly feel like I am under performing and not trusted as a scientist to design, run and interpret experiments. Unwilling to listen to criticism. I do not feel that I could raise concerns without effects on my career and wellbeing in the lab. Therefore no changes are made. Unable to give constructive criticism of work. I dread writing and editing work with him. Instead of giving clear feedback to parts he is unhappy with, he will use phrases like "this looks rushed" "this needs more work" and is then unable to clarify what about the work he is unhappy with. This makes me feel that I am failing or not working hard enough.
Maybe we are more of a mismatch than it is his shortcoming, in the beginning of my PhD I felt very lost and overwhelmed since I came from a different field and my PhD topic was not defined at all. I would have wished for more support, conversations, and help narrowing down that topic. In general I feel like I'm mostly on my own and I don't feel like I can talk to him about problems or concerns that I'm having. Also he is very blunt and I have been on the receiving end of sexist and offensive jokes (also in the company of other people) multiple times. This left me feeling powerless and angry since I believed that I can't say how this offends me since he's my superior.
Not being consistent defining what my role is and what goals I should achieve . This means that every time we talk about it I'm never up to scratch.
Not recognizing or attributing credit for ideas that come from below (i.e. grad students, postdocs) and over-weighting and over crediting ideas and opinions that come from above (i.e. other professors). While I have been able to pursue my own ideas, they were met with a great deal of resistance, and I've had to stand up for myself on numerous occasions. A less strong-willed person may have just given up, only done what was being directly asked, and also received less authorship credit as a result. However, this lack of support and credit has resulted in my own imposter syndrome.
A secondary shortcoming was micromanaging to the point of causing stress, which reduced research productivity.
Extreme favoritism toward certain members of the group. This blinded him to issues that the other people in the group were having and any complaints about his favorite people. Over time he stopped meeting with his graduate students and was most focused on one postdoc. I was doing exceptional work as a postdoc at the time, leading all of my own projects, getting grants and a science paper, and felt totally unappreciated and ignored. He didn't have time for me (the most productive member of the group), and didn't have time for anyone but his favorite people. This was extremely damaging and drove some people who worked for him out of science all together. For me personally I made a point to claim my work more and play this behavior off as him not being involved in my work. I also had to spend a lot of my time mentoring all of the graduate students that he was ignoring. This was a good experience for me to learn how to mentor, but I probably lost about a year of work over the course of my postdoc having to do things that I felt were my PIs job.
IMO, his biggest shortcoming was being too passively involved in the lab's science. It didn't impact me as a postdoc, but many of the junior grad students floundered more than was necessary. At first I thought his lack of involvement was neglect, but after discussions realized that it was a conscious choice motivated by his view of the importance of "independence." There may have been some merit to that idea, but I still think that some of the students struggled more than was necessary in a way that soured them on academic science.
I'm a minority and my mentor is not (even though she is a woman in science). This has created a gap in communication or understanding at times.
Wouldn’t give me enough time. I could barely get one meeting a month with him.
Takes forever to email me back and sometimes never does. I have to ask several times for meetings.
Forgets what my research project is.
Listens to my needs like he understands but then never changes any behavior to make it better. Says things like “we should have weekly meetings” seemingly to make himself feel like a good mentor, but then doesn’t respond to emails or actually stick to scheduled meetings.
He even gave me some mentor/mentee relationship books at the beginning of my grad school journey. But then he never followed any of those guidelines. I think he didn’t read them at all or he forgot.
He is pretty controlling about what I do for my research but then is not available to get them done. Either be hands on, or let me do it my way.
Micromanaging, putting a lot of pressure constantly, dismissing any personal concerns that could affect our work. Triggered a lot of stress and anxiety
Never available to meet in person, certain times was only once every few months
Micromanaging/power concerns: I was encouraged to develop my own ideas in conjunction with my mentor, but was limited from implementing those ideas even after approval by being told that my mentor was in charge / I could not "waste" my mentor's resources. I would regularly be told that I was not as experienced so "could not be trusted" with level appropriate tasks. Even after earning grant funds, I was prevented from using lab resources to implement ideas that were approved by my mentor.
Lack of attention: Regularly makes recommendations that are not in line with my interests/goals, makes comments for projects that are not in line with the projects' interests/goals, and loses track of project aims/deadlines in ways that are detrimental for the project completion
Lack of boundaries: Regularly contacted outside of normal work hours, insisted that people work on weekends and holidays. I was prevented from taking vacation for almost the entirety of my postdoctoral time.
Refused to allow additional mentors and regularly tried to fight the inclusion of other mentors / mentoring committees
I found my mentor's style too competitive for an environment where students should be nurtured and supported. This led to an environment of competition amongst graduate students and between the graduate students and mentor, which made open communication stressful and difficult.
Inconsistency. Often, her opinion on things changed 180 degrees, which makes finalizing things difficult
My project is vastly different from the rest of the lab, and has required more attention than was originally planned and I have not always received it
She was a covert narcissist who changed the goalposts to suit her narrative on a daily basis. Being in her lab made me suicidal. I can barely talk about this as it is still so traumatizing.
My present PI is someone I had dreamed of working for and highly respected. With that being said, I am in the process of changing labs because of the toxic atmosphere promoted, lack of guidance offered, and poor planning/communication.
Toxic atmosphere: The toxic environment is strongly linked to the enforcement of a hierarchical structure--but repeatedly we were told we were a team. As a new student in the lab I was turned in for disrespect, but when I asked what I had done no one would tell me. When I attempted to defend myself, my PI told me "You are not equal to anyone. You are to respect senior students. You can not defend this. You are the dirt." This conversation has stayed with me, and her statement that she would Master Me Out if things did not change (even though I was not told what needed to change). The senior student has since discussed that day with me and told me that our PI was getting mad at her for lack of progress, to save her own skin that day she chose to redirect our PI's anger to me. With my PI's short temper also comes unpredictable times of kindness, this pattern is mirrored by the senior students. Empathy for the events of life was also not present in this lab. Other students said this was because our PI had been chair and had seen what could go wrong when a PI knew their students past their results. The potential of having an interaction that tore down my self worth/confidence/happiness while being required to be present every day regardless of not having wet lab work to do or any space to do computer work caused me to dread lab--somewhere that had previously been the highlight of my day.
Lack of guidance: My PI relies exclusively on senior students teaching newer students for the first few years of their PhD. When I began my time in the lab I was assigned an organism that was new to the lab and a question. This project was not something anyone in the lab had done before, so no one knew what I should be doing (but they didn't say that in front of our PI out of fear or pride I'll never know). In the past a first project is passed down from a student who has graduated--so a basic heading is already lined out. I resorted to contacting another PI for a life line (I asked for advice on how to speak with my new PI and any advice they had for starting from scratch), this was a direct result of my new PI traditionally not speaking to students until after candidacy. When my PI did give me guidance, it was often accompanied by heavy critique of my ability to complete a PhD. or be published (even though I was the most published grad student in the lab), assay suggestions that she recanted and was upset that I had completed, and the ever present warning of being kicked out.
Planning/Communication: Lab meetings and individual meetings are not planned. We had been told we would have a meeting once a week as a lab. This was kept up for a few weeks, but then they became less common and notice of a lab meeting would be 10 minutes before. Tardiness was not tolerated, which was fine until I was stood up for the 4th time in two months for our individual meeting. The rules of the lab were not provided to new grad and undergrad students or made available in the lab. I had to email my PI 3 times and verbally request the rules/expectations during a lab meeting before I received them--I had been in the lab for 5 months at that point.
Differentiating our academic contributions- It is difficult to be a postdoc (with aspirations to become an assistant professor) with an assistant professor as a mentor. I felt like they wanted to build on all the work I did in their lab when I left, without allowing me to take full ownership of some of the work I did going into my own independent career
"Time management" or responsiveness. It can be difficult to communicate with my adviser as he is very busy, and more than once he has not showed up to a scheduled meeting or significantly delayed returning edits based on his own timetable. I have missed a couple of deadlines as a result, but in general it mostly requires me to plan accordingly and expect projects to take longer.
I think my mentor sometimes does not see that small changes in the way his trainees are able to work (work from home (this was before corona), work strange working times like from 11-19, having a second desktop etc) can really help them perform better and make their lives much easier and less stressful. In my opinion it would not really change anything for him and I don't always understand why he does not like or allows for such changes. He is a super relaxed dude, but sometimes with these small things he can be quite determined and not open for discussions.
He is just a really busy guy and always says that he can make time for his trainees, however as much as I appreciate him saying that, its just not true. I know he wants to make more time for us and less to politics and management, but sometimes he just has to be realistic and not get our hopes up.
I think that some people need more guidance and direction than she is able to give - especially true of grad students who usually spend time floundering around for a solid project that they fully own and aren't secondary to a collaborator on
- Arrogance: My mentor was so self confident that he knows everything, that he has never read papers I asked him to take a look. These publications were the basis of my arguments to write the discussion of my paper. - Incompetence in the field: My PI was specialist of quantitative genetics while my thesis was about RNA-Seq. He never helped me technically or entrusted me to someone competent.
All one-on-one meetings were subject to his whims and his mood at the time. If you had plans to discuss a topic that he was not interested in, he will steer the conversation to topics of his choice.
His main issue was that he was detached and disengaged. He was largely absent from the lab and deliberately ignored personnel issues. There were serious conflicts and sexual harassment that he witnessed and was told about, but mostly did not intervene and once retaliated against a complainant. I did not have scheduled meetings with him, and he did not want to set up regular meetings. I often felt like I was bothering him if I went to talk to him, so I completely stopped communicating with him and spent lots of time spinning my wheels. He only learned about research findings when I presented them in lab meeting, about 3 times a year.
My PI is almost completely uninterested and uninvolved in my project(s). It is entirely up to me to design and execute my projects, analyze the data and come to a neat and tidy conclusion before I show him anything. The same is true of drafting figures and manuscripts, if I bring him anything than a polished finished product to review he completely loses his mind and screams at me. My PI fancys himself a profoundly skilled mentor, but I have seen none of this mentorship. I'm lucky to meet with him 1-on-1 twice a year, and he is not shy about being openly hostile or ignoring any email, draft, or meeting request. I don't think it is an accident that he spends most of his mentorship time and energy on the attractive young female grad students and post docs in the lab, who whom he regularly makes inappropriate comments and jokes.
For the first two years I had a volatile mentor with highs and lows. Was only supportive of my career when it benefitted him. He would insist on writing copious review paper in controversial areas not relevant to his expertise. He was abusive to me but more so to others in the lab. He was flirtatious with younger female students and lecturers. If they were not nice to him he would find ways to stunt their careers. However, he would also be very kind on other days. Sounds confusing? It did to me too. Eventually he got worse, become head of the department, and had a breakdown all in the space of 6 months. I helped him during this time. I helped him receive his diagnosis of bipolar disorder. He still works as head of the department and still has these episodes, but less frequently. Unfortunately, this experience still impacts my career. I have a tonne of review papers that are of mediocre quality, the mentor keeps contacting me to try publish controversial topics in relation to covid now because it is topical and a postdoc that worked in the same lab as me has since become a lecturer in that department and acts the exact same way as the mentor... However, I left the lab, joined an Ivy League school and my future is brighter as a postdoc under a great mentor.
The biggest shortcoming of my mentor was his communication not only with me but the broader collaborative group. This hindered my ability to network as an ECR and created conflict across PIs because people were unaware of who was doing what.
My mentor took on a large responsibility in administration but she believed she could still manage the lab. Her attention is split and it can be difficult to get things rolling that depend on her input, such as submitting manuscripts. While these delays have resulted in better products, I think I would have benefited from getting these things out earlier. It does limit what I can put on my resume when so much of my work is still in preparation.
The biggest shortcoming would be the constant negative feedback (i.e. telling me outright that I am not good enough, not doing things quickly enough, and that my work/project is less important to her than others in my group).
Over the last 6 years this behavior has really made me question whether or not I am good enough to be successful in science, and has ultimately changed my career trajectory.
When I began this postdoc position, I was certain I would stay (or at least try to) stay in academia, but after the 'mentorship' I have received in my current position I will most likely end up in the government/industry/start up sector instead. Another shortcoming would be her constant need to micromanage every aspect of my work.
As a postdoc, I expected to have more freedom in my research and collaborative endeavors, but she simply treats me (and the other postdocs in the group) the same as the PhD students.
This has really thwarted my growth as a scientist, and is also one of the contributing factors as to why I will likely leave academia at the end of my contract.
Not being good at time management (often forgetting meetings) making it harder for me to plan my day/work in the short term.
His paranoia about other groups stealing his work meant we had no collaborators and it was difficult to establish a professional network.
Inability to chsnge his mind made all aspects ofvtge relationship impossible.
After 7 years working on this topic with him, he refused to counternance supporting me to continue to work in this organism.
There are two things: the lack of transparency between him and his lab members and his lack of priority to put mentorship and student career/scientific development.
I think the first example is lab specific but our lab do not know why a data is critical at a given moment and why something must be investigate at a particular point. We don't really know all the grants we have been trying to apply as well. The second is where my mentor has a very company minded system where everyone works for the same goal scientifically but this is coming to a point where a lot of students are falling out of the cracks because of his mindset.
Lack of exposure to collaborators. My mentor didn't have many collaborators and so I didn't interact with too many other scientists. This limited my opportunities post PhD.
Lack of positive feedback. It is very discouraging to not receive any acknowledgement for my good ideas or promising progress.
When writing grants/fellowships applications etc., I get a lot of criticism without having any guidance ahead of time. It isn't until after seeing my first draft of something that my mentor gives me any sort of advice or direction for how I should be approaching it. Then she will direct me towards helpful resources and give me really useful advice, but it would be better to get this before I wrote out a draft in the first place.
I think that my mentor can be very blunt. She says exactly what she means, so it is not uncommon for folks to take it personally.
Inadequate investment of time in own trainees, compared to our (trainees') perception of being heavily involved in external committee work and taking on external mentees.
Long turnaround times for manuscript drafts: No clear timelines on turning around written product (or self-imposed deadlines broken), making it difficult to plan or manage and giving me a sense that my work did not matter. As a result, I felt that my publication record was less than it could have been with better support, because getting each paper through my mentor was such an ordeal and a competition with my colleagues for my mentor's attention.
Little feedback early on, and heavy handed/ overly critical at submission time. Massive loss in time. Manuscripts can only be angled his way or they are prevented from submission. Tries to rewrite everything.
Conflicting messages leading to gaslighting and distrust in self / ability / work etc.
My advisor is rarely available for hands-on guidance because of other "higher priority work" (though I am their only grad student). I end up learning how to do much of the work on my own, which is slow, and I can be reasonably timid to start because of the difficulty and cost in acquiring our samples. My advisor will frequently pressure me to move faster with lab work and critique me for not taking enough initiative towards research. However, when I do things on my own, my direction and efforts are heavily critiqued for not having forethought, and the subsequent execution of the work involves a lot of micromanagement (down to which text editor I use on my own time). For example, I sought help from someone else because my advisor wasn't available to teach me how to do something new and doing it on my own was "too slow". When my advisor found out I asked for help, they said that "me seeking outside help undermines their work and ability to mentor".
The messaging from this type of advising has been that I cannot be trusted or do that right thing, and there is no space or opportunity for making mistakes and learning -- no margin of error. I have been critiqued for being too much of a perfectionist and also for being too lazy -- depends on the day. I don't ever know how I stand with them. It feels as if they don't consider me as a whole person or my work in totality, but only mentor when it is convenient for them / their self image. I find it really exhausting to constantly adjust myself to meet their newest standpoint. I don't feel encouraged to be my own scientist, have my own direction or rationale if I am not supported by my advisor in doing so.
I had too much freedom and responsibility. As a perfectionist, strickt deadlines would have helped me to achieve the goals faster. On the other hand, it likely saved me from a lot of stress.
Micromanaging that clashed with expectations of independent working. Focus on negative reinforcement.
Little focus on career development or career options outside of academia. I was not encouraged to apply for my own funding or given specific guidance on grant writing.
It was a sink or swim mentality, that actually was just laziness. While in the end I was able to swim, years of imposter syndrome and going down wrong paths made it feel like it was a huge waste of effort on my part. Don't think I ever had a deep conversation about the ideas in my work with my advisor.
I don't feel like they cared about my personal or professional wellbeing. We discussed the science during our monthly meetings, but never more.
Injustice. Some of the things like funding, supporting, training, or making life easier are given much more to some people, while rest are left alone, but in case of outputs all are considered equal, hence rewarding mechanism is working for privileged minority only. It is also influencing the race between students in a negative manner.
Disorganization. There are both academic and industrial parts ongoing in the same team under same PI. Lack of organization, professional authorization, using students like technicians, and other things not only negatively effects the yield in scientific part, but also prevents the necessary institutionalist structure in industrial part.
Not letting go of projects. Forcing minor (sometimes, major) changes to projects continuously, thus significantly delaying publication and minimising productivity for each individual student (while maintaining apparent productivity for the lab as a whole). E.g. The text and supplementary material of a manuscript was revised for over a year before submitting it to a journal
I did not have any opportunities to network, I felt really insecure, I think the biggest shortcoming beyond that might have been that he got all the credit for my work forbid me to work on it, got grants to keep working on it and awards while I was left trying to re invent myself in a different field where I fortunately met a good mentor !
Treated me like a defective machine because I could not manage 70+ hours per week for years on end with one week of vacation per year.
Criticised often, but never ever praised the behaviour he wanted to see more of.
There were times when I couldn't figure out how to contact my PI at all as a grad student. There was also at least one meeting we had where I was pretty sure he didn't remember most of the details of my project. I was concerned that I had fallen through the cracks of academia at that point. However, it was fine in the end and I graduated with nice papers in the amount of time I had planned to spend on the PhD anyway. Looking back on my time as a PhD student and my mentor, I am happy about the experiences I had.
They were very hands-off. If a project was failing or a trainee was struggling, they wouldn't put in extra time to make sure things didn't fall through the cracks. They were hard to get a hold of.
Too busy to be attuned to subtle issues and nuanced struggles with workload, and assuming that trainees know how to say no and/or set healthy work/life balance boundaries
As a foreigner in the university as PhD student, my mentor expected me to go full force and make any decision required. However, the style we raised in my homeland was different. Therefore my expectation was that he will show me the way, all the way. I learned this fairly quickly though but I had friends suffering from it.
Purposefully setting up at rat race for a permanent position between me and a second trainee in the same position. This made it difficult to set up a positive and constructive working atmosphere. Not communicating and not involving me in decisions that directly affected my work and finances. This led to a loss of trust in our relationship and a general feeling of insecurity. Criticism sometimes followed by retaliation. Led to less criticism that could have improved my life and that of others and might have prevented excellent staff from leaving the lab.
My mentor is an internationally recognized scientist. This has meant that she is rather busy and getting time with her is a bit of an issue for some people. I personally had less issues with this as we have a good working relationship and she has always made time for me but I have seen others in the lab not get the kind of mentoring I got. Being a busy person meant that certain trainees were mentored by others in the lab and there were several instances where fit was an issue.
The mentor ignored the bullying that was ongoing in the lab, thinking it wasn't his business because it wasn't science related
My mentor's biggest shortcoming was she did not prioritize time for her group. This including being available on a regular basis for meetings and being available for reading and providing input back on her trainees manuscripts in a timely fashion. By not devoting time to interact with me, either through meetings and especially by providing feedback on manuscripts, I had periods where I lacked motivation to move projects forward. This likely decreased my overall productivity in the lab and general feeling of happiness in the group. This was particularly discouraging when I went to go to apply for jobs and my mentor told me that I would not be successful as I haven't published enough.
He was too inaccessible, it was very difficult to reach out and have conversations on my project. I did too many things on my own (or according to what I thought was best) and afterwards it was a bit difficult to document/write/publish my research because we had different ideas, differents visions of the same story.
His flexibility in mentoring (style, expectations, structure) meant there were some inequities that occurred between trainees. I was funded by a merit-based fellowship open to first-generation, low-income students and those from underrepresented minority groups. Because of this, I was never funded by a specific grant which meant I was not the "go-to" student to receive opportunities through a project or grant. Overall, this meant that I was very independent in my work and expectations, and I still was able to achieve much of what I hoped. However, it was difficult for me to collaborate as usually other students were give that extra analysis to do or samples to collect through their RAs. As a result, all the other trainees were included as co-authors in at least one manuscript during their PhDs, while the only manuscripts I participated in were ones in which I was the lead author. I could have pushed harder to be included, but this is quite difficult when you're not technically a part of the project and the other PIs don't view you as a priority.
He is too dictatorial and stubborn. It seems that any time I try to put forward my own ideas or disagree with him, he sees it as me being disrespectful and becomes irate and defensive.
I think he is inherently selfish and does not seem to care about my wellbeing. I raised concerns about COVID rules not being followed in the lab and it was making me feel unsafe. I also said I felt pressured into performing procedures that required me to break social distancing. His response was less than sympathetic. He said I understand your concerns which felt very disingenuous because he followed it by saying but here's all the consequences of you not doing this. It really felt like he was trying to gaslight me into thinking that I was overreacting. At one point he said I was "in a heightened state and not thinking rationally".
It's hard for me to choose only one shortcoming! Perhaps the inconsistency of mentorship would cover the broad range poor performance exhibited by the mentor I am thinking of - she ranged from laissez-faire to authoritarian; would-be friendly to emotionally abusive. The negative outcome of this person on my life is hard to overstate. I developed crippling anxiety and clinical depression (perhaps I have a vulnerability to these mental health issues, but my experience with her definitely brought them out in full force), and I was unable to continue the PhD program I started with her as a mentor. I struggled through a prolonged period of precariousness but eventually moved to a new city and completed a PhD elsewhere, then secured my top-choice postdoc. It's still raw to me that the consequences of my former adviser's abuse - academic, emotional, financial, etc. -
appear to have fallen mostly on me rather than on her.
Came from a post-doc at MIT, from established labs, with Nature paper and might not have understood how their students' career paths would be more difficult.
Dishonesty. I was told to hide data in joint lab meetings from certain PIs and was asked to perform work that we knew other labs were doing and having difficulty with so that we could gain position in authorship on joint projects.
Harassment. My PI would routinely (daily) make inappropriate comments to and about female coworkers. Some female coworkers would want me to notify them when I was leaving so they would not be alone in the lab with the PI present.
Verbal abuse. My PI would scream at at least one person every lab meeting and would usually walk out before the meeting presentation was done and otherwise throw tantrums.
Micromanagement. My PI would disregard an entire presentation detailing how a protocol was done and invent a new protocol on the spot demanding that we did it their way. If their new protocol would not work and we found one that did, he would dismiss the new data and force us to repeat experiments with the newly invented protocol over and over, usually you would get screamed at at least once every few lab meetings if you pointed out why it was never going to work.
New PI is the main issue. I don’t think she has the experience in managing multiple different personalities. Not a bad thing, but can be challenging at times
Shortcoming: increasingly refused to have meetings with me, but increased having meetings with other students, then fired me for "not being productive". Coincided conveniently with when my full-scholarship was finished.
Influence: made me feel increasingly under valued, despite trying to complete more work. Truly a traumatic experience.
As PhD student, I felt that I did not receive enough feedback. Time spent per mentee felt deadline driven instead of routine meeting agendas. It could be weeks without group or personal meetings, and then very intense phases with long meetings for e.g. writing of manuscripts.
Lack of organization and decision making
Increase stress level at work as everything was always last minute and often with little or no planning. He didn't take any responsibility in decision making for his group and often blamed others for the consequences. Students often didn't receive proper supervision and often
relied on postdocs for guidance...
All of those above, led to a lot of frustration within his group toward him but also between group members.
It created a toxic work environment where lab member didn't feel confortable to share idea and work together.
This is the main reason that I decided to quite academia and pursue a scientific career elsewhere.
Lack of constructive criticism. Mentor would alternate between over-the-top praise and ruthless tear-downs. Nothing in the middle that could actually guide improvement or growth.
Controlling. As a postdoc, I had to fight hard for each and every bit of independence, even when working on projects where I had more expertise than my mentor (techniques I brought to lab). I felt less independent as a postdoc than during previous stages in my career and spent a lot of time and energy trying to fight for more independence. This was exhausting, frustrating, and substantially slowed the progress of my research.
Unrealistic expectations, based on what my mentor wanted for my career, not what I wanted for my career. My mentor hindered my career development by trying to convince me that I "deserved" to become faculty at a top-tier research-focused institution, even though I repeated stated that I did not want to work in that type of place. My career aspirations and the jobs I wanted to apply for were never "good enough" for me, which my mentor used as an excuse to put very little effort into helping me in my job search. This was also a strategy to keep me in lab longer--if you publish one more paper, your CV will match your actual potential. But it was always, "just one more year, one more paper" without the support to actually accomplish the work.
In my opinion, the biggest shortcomming was the portrayed lack of interest and invested time. I joined the group via add-on funding and did not feel very included into the group nor that I received feedback, guidance or relevant mentoring for my career. This made me feel frustrated and even depressed at times. Only by building a supportive network of my own, via other postdocs and former mentors, I overcame this lack of interest and mentoring to proceed my career in academia.
The ability to estimate how much time is needed for certain experiments or analyses (in general), especially for newbies that do not have developed a routine (in particular). For me this meant that I had to defend being late on delivering a result, a figure, or a manuscript section, which is not exactly a motivational boost.
Although I indicated that my PI meets with me now, this was not true for most of my PhD. My PI's overall mentorship style has been to not mentor much until the end of the PhD. Overall, this fits with the approach of "welcome to the lab, here's a bench, let me know when you are ready to submit a paper" that is common in PhD training. We spend a lot of time spinning our wheels when this happens as we don't have the experience to know how to be successful in early years. This fails to address the need of a PhD student to be mentored and trained at critical stages where they need to learn confidence from experienced success in the thesis lab. Failure to help a student build up their early years leads to a lack of confidence and focus and contributes to the depression and mental health issues that are common among PhD students. This also leads to students falling behind peers that have mentors investing in them regularly and leads us to have very long PhDs, which negatively impacts our careers and mental health.
My mentor was interested in a very limited set of trajectories (grad school -> postdoc -> R1 or field-specific research institute) for his students and postdocs and was only equipped to advise in that small range. He recognized that he didn't have the expertise outside of that path, but he seemed to think and sometimes stated that he was more supportive outside of that pipeline than he was. This is a pattern across multiple trainees that I know of, but what this looked like for me: we established relatively early in my time working with him that I was interested in teaching positions and would do what I needed to pursue that, including teaching and *not* doing research over the summer after my third year. This came up regularly in our discussions of planning for the future. Later, he attempted to persuade me to put this off until the summer after fourth year (the summer directly preceding when I would be on the market, which I thought was too late). I did not put it off and did teach that summer, but I also did unpaid research work because of pressure/expectations from him. He was also supportive to a very limited extent of the teaching I did in the following few semesters, stating that he knew it was helpful for me but largely regarding it as a distraction. He helped when I was on the market as much as he could -- wrote rec letters/served as a reference, read over my research statement to check for reasonableness -- but that was also pretty limited (though again, that limitation he at least recognized). However, he then tried to use my success on the job market to talk another trainee, interested in industry internships, into staying on an academic trajectory. Overall, I ended up feeling like I wasn't the student he wanted or hoped for and that if I hadn't been on my own outside funding, he would not have let me pursue the opportunities that directly led me to a good position for me. It didn't feel like I could really talk about the work I was interested in with any amount of detail because it was so outside of his frame of reference and was part of what he thought was distracting me from my research. He never really saw or appreciated the *work* I did because I didn't think he would value it.
Unpredictability and lack of consistency. It is very difficult to know if my mentor is going to respond positively or negatively to an data, idea, a collaboration, or a method. This often changes too, where initially they will be extremely negative about an idea, but then later be enthusiastic about it. Or will not show any interest in being active in a collaboration, and then will be upset that they are not kept in the loop. It is very difficult for me to understand if I am doing well or doing poorly because of this mercurial style of engagement. It makes me far less likely to engage the mentor at all because this behavior is confusing and makes me uncomfortable.
The need to exert so much control over trainee projects (including experimental details and manuscript writing), while often being highly unavailable, was a major setback to my success and added unnecessary stress. This mentor was the P.I. of a large group, and a lot of energy was spent trying to get their feedback and attention, because without their explicit involvement, no project or paper could move forward.
Proactivity, seeing problems or shortcomings ahead of time to head them off. He occasionally did this well but not always. He did always responded well to feedback and fixed issues when he became aware of them.
My career was never a priority. I was never encouraged to write grants or attend conferences, while she attended conferences and presented every year. No clear strategy for publishing paper and would not put papers on biorxiv, even if that would have helped me get a job early.
This PI used the "break you down to build you back up" technique, without building you back up and generated an overall toxic lab environment. All feedback was on your shortcomings. This PI also built up (metaphorical) barriers in the lab to labmates supporting each other: the PI would speak negatively of other trainees in the lab to other members of the lab behind their backs. If you tried to defend a lab member, the PI would accuse you of the same shortcomings of that lab member, or of being too stupid to notice them. This PI made racist and ableist comments to other members of the lab. This PI told me, that I was taking her feedback too personally if I questioned it at all - no matter how I reacted to it. Overall this PI has made me lose trust in a lot of academia. This PI makes me forever worried that if a lab tries to recruit me, they are only putting up a front of being nice until I get into that lab, because in this PI's lab, I was treated as the "Golden Child" during my rotation, until I got tossed aside after joining.
I'd say the fact that he doesn't give me feedback is my main negative comment. I've tried asking but I think it's his personality. He's very kind and probably worried of coming across as rude when giving negative feedback. He does give positive feedback.
I am talking about my PhD. experience, as currently Im a Pandemic-PostDoc-working-from-home.
Power balance. The first concern of my mentor was to establish dominance, no matter the subject or the implications, the important thing was to have the last word, control and define the final decision. This translates to shutdown any idea or suggestion raised by a trainee for the hell of it and exert dominance. Sadly, because of this, I had to learn to manipulate the way I presented the idea, so she felt it was her idea and that she was in control and I had the result that I wanted as well. Hence, everybody was dysfunctionally happy.
The other thing is that she is more involved with the politics and project administration, so the scientific part fall to a secondary place, resulting in errors that grow and grow and grow, which could have been detected much earlier if she would worry more about the scientific part. Luckily for me, she was very open for collaborations and Im not shy at all and I had good relationships with many other professors, so I knocked many doors and got a lot of help/guidance (not the case at all for most of my fellow trainees).
Communication. Since I was the only foreigner at the group, not only cultural differences but also I have different “common sense” with the other team members. Once one behavior that I thought was normal turned out hurting badly my mentor which made him almost gave up to be my mentor. It was the hardest time in my graduate study period because I didn’t think I made any mistake. After several mediations, we finally made up and learned on how to communicate better between each other. That’s why I received specific mentorship compared to other members. But, after we found our best way to communicate, I ended up working for him in total of 9 years, PhD and Postdoc. Even until now, 2,5 years after I moved from academia, and I work in industry, we still communicate and have collaboration for some projects.
Lack of understanding the student- if a student is not willing to do a certain project. They should not be forced to do that project instead they should allow us to do something that will encourage us..
Bully - My supervisor was aggressive and arrogant, and liked harrassing students during group meetings by asking question after question until the student finally said "I don't know". Everyone was intimidated by her and came to hate the meetings. I felt immense pressure and suffered from anxiety and depression. I have graduated but continue to fear being interrogated by senior people, so am considered less capable because I shy away from interactions (please note that my fellow postgraduate students considered me to be highly capable and respected my expertise in areas such as biostatistics, a subject my supervisor knew nothing about).
- She did not know how to say no, and she was involved (and involved their trainees) to too much projects, generating unecessary stress. - She did not know how to put limits, so some trainees had few work while others were doing too much work. This generated a bad environment, were some of us felt overwelhmed and others felt ignored by her. - She was not a planner, so it was an usual thing to write your abstract for a conference the very last day or to submit your bureaucracy (even in weekends). - She was not an expert of my specific project, so sometimes it became very challenging and I had to teach myself a lot. I learnt by failing, which can get very frustrating and depressing. This made me feel very unconfortable presenting new results, since I was always thinking something was wrong for sure.
Often during meetings they'll propose and then answer their own questions, and I would like the opportunity to try to answer those questions for practice. All things considered though, not a big concern.
Their expectations were often not clear.
-My mentor was a bit unaware of mental health challenges. -I conducted my research in a separate system from my advisor and had full control of my projects. This was a huge advantage for learning how to set up my own systems, but I lacked guidance on some of the basics like how to contact landowners, where to get independent funding from small grants, etc.
Priorities of PI with regard to publishing does not align with the needs of ECRs. As an ECR, it is frustrating and detrimental to your career working four years for the one high impact publication that your PI wants but that does not get published within the time frame of your PhD or PostDoc leaving you with no publication at all.
Constant extension of deadlines for feedback, manuscript revisions, official reports etc. by the PI can cause huge disrupts in motivation even for the most motivated ECRs. PIs might think in time frames of 10-20 years with their permanent position, however, ECRs often have to think in time frames of 1-5 years, in which constant two week extensions even of simple tasks is just stressful. The feeling of lacking reliability and accountability and the loss of self-efficacy because no matter how hard the ECR works, projects and manuscripts are not progressing, are the reasons why these waiting periods are so demotivating.
When the PI is rather laissez-faire with the internal leading style with regard to the daily work, project management etc. but on the other hand wants to control every detail of what is leaving the lab, this can cause a imbalance between extremely high freedom and responsibility but very little control on the outcome, e.g. which projects will actually be published or are just cancelled. This is frustrating because on a daily basis, ECRs can feel lost and without direction but even when they grow up to the task and become their "own leader", they cannot actually make the important decisions or have only very little say in it.
Many ECRs in my group have not had 1-to-1 discussions with the top PI in most years being in the lab. This helps the spread of rumours and misunderstanding because the ECRs depend on somebody who they do not really know so even small things that are said can easily be misinterpreted. Of course, ECRs could ask for more meetings, however, if this is not encouraged from the PI side, only outgoing ECRs would actually request meetings. More importantly, if the PI is rarely present and also hard to schedule a meeting with (or meetings get postponed) because they are busy with other committees, mentees outsides the lab, etc. ECRs easily get the impression that they (and their work) do not matter.
Insecurity - they were insecure of themselves and towards other talented students /colleagues who were not as high as them in the academic ladder. This insecurity led to them actively discrediting or pushing down people they had power over.
Paranoia - paranoid of their research being scooped even by co--authors or their own students competitiveness - making it clear that if the research was not Nature/science worthy they would not dedicate the time and effort in mentoring Manipulative - people and colleagues who were useful for them or had skills they needed were treated very well until the point when they were no longer useful then they were discarded. there is a hierarchy of who is and is not important to the expense of much more junior ERCs, especially women.
I think there was a lot of uncertainty in what the expectations were for my work (i.e. my dissertation). My mentor was not always great at pushing me to complete work or setting concrete deadlines which is perhaps a clash in personal preference.
My mentor is (and has been) often absent for long periods, and then when he has a concern, he is overwhelming in his criticism and doomsday about it. He personalizes his concerns at times to me- e.g., makes assumptions about my motivations or decision-making without asking and without listening to what I have to say- e.g., this problem arose because you don't care (no, I asked you for help because I do care). He often does not provide proactive mentorship, rather reactive mentorship, which leads to issues being prolonged unnecessarily. He expects me to be able to anticipate a problem or know a solution that he has not ever communicated to me.
My mentor was unaccountable, nobody could touch him or check his actions. Not his peers, not the internal policies and not the law as it seemed - he was a very big fish with a lot of power and little to lose.
His only fear was with political correctness and scandals - which actually made him treating males much worse than females. Does not matter what happened and regardless of proof - males would always be wrong in any conflict with a female.
He and his PI would fail miserably in keeping us informed and safe regarding our future contracts. People would always be left on a limbo regarding renovations of contract until the very last moment. On the other hand, many colleagues were promised to have their contracts renewed just to be told they wouldn't also with short notice.
My mentor had a long carreer and some enemies which attacked me and some collegues. Bullied and mobbed us, inside and outside my work place. Blackmailed people around me to get away. The mentor was aware of the situation and could understand better than me at the time that it was not my fight. The mentor knew it was one agression against him and have NEVER move a single finger to protect us. Actually, my previous mentor have
never got involved in any sort of conflict solving role - which me and my colleagues lacked many times. When he would be involved, it would be to put all parts involved down and threat everybody.
In fact, perhaps the main trait regardin my mentor's attitude towards most of my colleagues (and me) was indiscriminate distrust. Unbearable in the long run.
I was never asked about a single feedback about my work environment, about my colleagues, about my mentors, about the institutional policies. There is absolutely no way to improve without feedbacks.
He was very hands off. He would not insist about deadlines for example. This made me miss some deadlines for fellowships etc. because he did not reminded me or helped me made the deadline.
Lack of organization, including not properly considering if thesis topic would be feasible. I lost of year of time given this shortcoming and felt like I wasn't progressing appropriately.
I had a really good experience but if I’m being critical I would say that she was fairly hands off so I didn’t get as much direction as I would have wanted. It was kind of on me to make things happen, which is fair, but in retrospect I think I would have benefitted from more direct guidance.
Lack of time for mentoring and too many mentees; because of that, not knowing what research projects are about.
At the beginning of my PhD my research was not going good and I often would think of quitting it. My supervisor was mainly criticizing without trying to understand where was the problem. It was also very difficult to approach him and he would never ask about our well-beings. It took me some time to start talking to him about my struggles, and often he was not aware of them. However, after I started to be more open with him, everything changed and he became more supportive and understanding. Now I am still in academia because of his support. But for many students he is still not approachable and he doesn’t do much to change it.
Very direct criticism, without necessarily taking emotions into account, which could make getting feedback an quite harsh experience
Simply being very busy, so not always having time to meet or give timely feedback. At least once this really affected a conference submission (which was then also rejected)
unclear communication, in any given meeting with my supervisor, it would take 20 min of mutual confusion until we get to a productive discussion
The biggest shortcoming was his ability to give me full control over my work. Back then, I didn't want to follow the academic path after my PhD and therefore didn't care much about publishing my work. I think him as a more experienced researcher, he should have step up and advise me to try to publish anyway. The fact is, later on, I had to change my mind and I am currently in academia. But base on my previous decision during my PhD, I have less publication now although I know I could have published all the 6 chapters in my thesis. With my new job, it is hard to find time and come back to my thesis and get the work published.
The biggest shortcoming of my mentor. It turned out that my mentor was/is a psychopath who was good at hiding. Due to his psychopathic behaviour, my methal health went down the drain, resulting in me calling in sick. After which my contract was terminated on bogus grounds.
He was terrible at communication. He didn’t communicate essential information to me, while other PhD students in the department who worked for other Pi’s did get that information. He worked on some of my projects without letting me know what he wanted to do on them. Resulting in me and him doing the same work. Priorities of the projects I worked on would change almost weekly. The project that was the highest priority one week would not matter the next week, and the following week it would be the most important project again.
The working conditions established by my mentor were toxic. For example, he would email and call me from 8 am to 11 pm and did not respect my weekends. He would plan meeting on official days of and expected me to work on days of and he denied me any vacations. He expected me to solve research problems in an afternoon while the entire PhD projects were devoted to that problem without success. He sneakily manipulated me on numerous occasions. He would promise me a lot without ever living up to his promises. He did not tolerate me speaking up against his behaviour and actively fought against me when I tried to find and get help to improve the working conditions.
My mentor did not respect my employment contract. I was supposed to follow courses as part of my doctorate training. I wanted to follow courses on the subject of my dissertation and work on my didactic skills. But mentor found courses to be a waste of time and money and he was not willing to invest in me. My contract stated a 38-hour working week but on average, it ended up at ~60-hour working weeks during my time there
To top it all, my mentor did not have the required skills to supervise me on a majority of my PhD project
When my contract was terminated I contacted the previous PhD students of my mentor to ask what their experiences with him. Luckily or sadly depending on how you look at it, their experiences were not better than my experiences with him. It saddens me that the university doesn’t do anything about this kind of behaviour. Because my mentor will continue his behaviour and cause harm to everyone who works for him
Not caring about what I was doing/no real mentoring - work was not as successful and less was done as could be with proper consulting and encouragement
Provides null guidance about possible or best career paths,
Extends contracts on very short notice, sometimes directly depending on specific results
My mentor puts people to work on risky projects and does not take any responsibility for the failures of those projects
My mentors biggest shortcoming was being relatively hands off when it came to collaborative projects. This meant that they took longer to come to publication. But it was a minor shortcoming.
The biggest shortcoming was the lack of communication and transparency. We very rarely had 1 on 1 meetings. When I asked for some feedback, he would say that my work was fine, but that is not what I heard when he spoke loudly from the coffee room. I became paranoid and lost all self confidence. I was second guessing every interaction and email with him.
Disinterested - in my abilities and work. I work on a 'lesser' system in his view (i.e., a non-human pathogen), and he does not consider my abilities when measured against those of others in our group. This puts me at the bottom of the pecking order, and he lets me know it.
Belittling - again, in my abilities and work. Again, following from then same reasons as above. Rather than being merely disinterested, he can at times be cruel when he offers commentary. I think he sees this as being 'constructive', but rarely offers help or direction forward beyond the criticism.
Hands off approach Pre-defined project but not communicated as such, unclear from the start and made me feel a bit like i was "caught" unawares
Not listening to what she's told and offering in response empty platidudes. This leaves issues with communication, organization, and low group morale unsolvable. As the only person who brings issues to her attention (being the most senior postdoc in the group, and tired of academic secrecy BS), I'm perceived as being the problem and exaggerating or making things up. Then she's stunned when students break down talking to her b/c they're overwhelmed and under supported, despite having already been informed, by me, that they feel this way. This is eroding my relationship with her, and my confidence that academic institutions hire anyone at all who is worth working for.
Another shortcoming is that she has no interest in projects I propose, until some other senior PI has an interest in it, at which point she's super entheusiastic about it. But she then takes it completely away and plans something related with the other PI, and I'm excluded. This means I need to work on independent projects secretly and not tell her about them till pretty much I'm done and have a paper draft
The biggest shortcoming was being a feather that shifts with the wind. I suppose their lack of confidence made it so that external judgement was placed above my science and well-being. The kind of “what will they think” attitude so I never really felt secure or confident in my own work. I also stopped trusting her feedback altogether because I know it was a matter of time for it to change to what someone else on my committee thought.
time management in both the short and long term. this includes being regularly late to meetings (or completely missing them), and asking for analyses during the period that should have been devoted to interpretation
mentoring time/effort influenced by liking the trainee. They were aware of this bias, and I feel they genuinely cared about the well being and career of all trainees, but some had more attention/interaction than others.
I think some lack of honesty, which may have been to avoid conflicts, eventually had a negative impact on our communication and sometimes on my wellbeing as a scientist.
Lack of providing proper guidance along the PhD path. As an incoming graduate student I had very little knowledge of how to be a graduate student and going to a prestigious school I felt intimidated to ask for the help I needed. For most of my PhD years (8 years), I was the only student in our lab, which was very isolating and I was discouraged from getting technical help from other labs with necessary expertise. We also only had "group" meetings once or twice a year, which means there I wasn't pushed to be accountable for my time.
Inclusivity and efforts to make me feel that I belong, especially that I am the only person of color in the entire department.
There wasn't enough time for everyone each week. This meant you needed to know if you needed time 2 weeks in advance to make sure you had time to discuss things otherwise you wouldn't get the feedback you needed when it was of the biggest impact.
My mentor was focused on what's best for him (some may argue for science in general) by focusing on big papers, which took years to produce. Everything what was not NSC was not good enough. That did not mean that it was possible to simply do the projects and publish. We were not allowed to publish if the papers were not on NSC level. It took me 4 years to have a single publication from my postdoc and I could only do it because I left the group. Lack of publications from the postdoc, inability to show productivity, almost costed me my research career. It has put >50% of researchers working with this mentor out of the academia.
A tendency to give away data, to collaborators or other students, such that no one felt secure in their projects
They weren't a strong leader which meant that they naturally said yes to too much and ran out of time. Also they found it difficult to raise concerns and deal with sensitive issues amongst the group.
Inability to support a diversity of personalities. Mentorship worked well for persons similar to him (e.g. confident men), but less well for others (e.g. women)
I think my start as a researchers would have been much better if my mentor was able define the boundaries of my project and clearly explain what he means. Most times I ask him questions I'm left more confused than to start with. This has caused frustrations and has honestly made me consider whether I'm in the wrong field.
The workload. Would assign a single individual multiple projects and expect results from all projects simultaneously, so there was a lot of jumping from one project to another and back again. Many projects are then partly done but not finished.
They seemed not interested in my personal goals, just that I do good science. They weren’t very empathetic maybe you could say cold, this also hard to approach. Lastly on a few instances they didn’t keep their word which led to trust issues
When my mentor gets really busy with teaching or grant writing he can be very forgetful and frantic when I try to ask him for help. If this comes at a bad time during my own research progression it ends up being a big distraction.
My advisor can be poor at recognizing certain signals, so if you don’t tell him an issue very directly he will miss the point entirely. This took a bit of time to learn how to manage.
The biggest short-coming was the fact that in the mind of my mentor I was working just for his career and not for mine. His career was the only focus, even though he was already an associate professor when I started my PhD.
Effect on my career: I was unable to develop independence. However it stimulated me to look for independence somewhere else.
They (I think unknowingly) played favorites. I was not the favorite (the favorite was the only other male in the lab 🙄). Mr. favorite had more access to funding and feedback was much more conversational compared to a more direct and at times condescending way of giving feedback for the rest of us.
I was left mostly to my own beyond an initial workshop or two that I attended so I did not have a good gauge for whether I was working in a way that would later make me successful as an independent researcher.
When requested, I received very little scientific feedback.
I did not feel valued as a scientist compared to other postdocs I saw my mentor interacting with.
Mentorship style appeared very hands off, but in reality was highly controlling. He allowed freedom in defining research projects but discouraged some collaborations strongly and wanted credit (as coauthor and proposal co-I) for mentees work. Also controlled access to and scheduling for laboratory, technical support, and analytical equipment. Discouraged seeking additional mentors at our institution, eliminating mentees ability to seek outside help. Retaliated against criticism. Sexually harassed and bullied to assert his dominance over his mentees and supervises.
A little too laid back about the way his female students were treated although he tried to be an advocate for women in STEM and was certainly a good advisor to many women.
My 'mentor' was the acting department head who had risen to the position based on his seniority and the lack of permanent head, but had very little technical knowledge about anything related to genetics.
He shipped me off to my co-supervisor and only showed up when we had a publication ready to be submitted. He then had conflicts with my co-supervisor over the people he wanted to include as gift authors and even threatened to sabotage my papers and my thesis if my co-supervisor didn't acquiesce to his demands. So in short biggest shortcomings: shamelessness, inflated ego, bullying.
My mentor is very busy so there is not as much 1:1 time as would be ideal.
Mentor was not aware of challenges of being one of very few URM minorities in the program and the only one in the lab in all its history. Did not offer any type of support in that regard and actually got frustrated by how I reacted to those challenges. Lab environment was not inclusive at all. Lost all faith in my abilities during grad school and only became confident after postdoc mentor was really supportive. I never felt like phd mentor would "go to bat for me" as my current mentor would.
I really struggled with writing. The only feedback I got was written. She was very thorough in her reading and comments. But I needed more conversation about how to improve my academic writing.
Not recognizing emotionally difficult situations and supporting me through them. For example when I was scooped we never talked about it beyond strategically what to do next. Some encouraging words would have gone a long way. Another example is fellowship or grant applications- just saying something positive or supportive when I submitted them, or even just acknowledging that it was a lot of work, would have really helped my mental health. Ironically, my advisor prided herself on her mentoring and on being supportive, but she did not do this for me because people always perceive me as very confident.
They were extremely negative about any potential projects I suggested or when I made statements about the work I was doing (I.e. telling me my ideas were bad and wouldn't get funded). They once laughed openly with others at a hypothesis I made about a project (which later turned out to be correct). My PhD advisor had been extremely supportive, so I lost most of my confidence in myself fairly quickly. This continues to affect me more than 5 years later. They then threw me under the bus for a job and have spoken very negatively about me to others. I work in a very small subfield and felt completely betrayed by people I thought were my friends. I still have trust issues as a direct result.
Zero skills transfer. This one speaks for itself and has made job hunting much harder.
They were spread really thin and had to balance mentoring many students. Several students in the lab had similar/overlapping projects, so sometimes there were conflicts/hurt feelings when it came to publishing.
Very little help was offered, not sure if it was because I was a shy person then and afraid of talking about certain things.
Not really discussing the future and the options available made it difficult to progress, develop ideas of where you want to go
Mentees report on biggest strengths of their mentors
In this section you will find the words of ECRs to describe ‘the MOST ADMIRABLE aspect of the mentorship they have received’ from a mentor of theirs, considering how did this shortcoming influenced their work, wellbeing, and/or career. You will see that even mentees who had a negative experience with their mentor had benefited from some aspects of the mentorship style they have received.
Guiding me not only to achieve my PhD but to prepare myself and learn skills for my future career
Extremely supportive and always willing to do what is best for their trainees even if it costs them something.
My mentor trusts me enough to let me guide my research independently (as a graduate student), which has been extremely valuable for my career development and maturity as a scientist. Trust in your students can boost their confidence and go a long way towards making them into creative, independent scientists.
Her honesty with my own shortcomings made me a better scientist. She also taught me what kind of mentorship does not work for many individuals who feel they don’t fit in to academia. It’s helped shaped me into a better mentor for my own current students.
My advisor's most admirable trait is that 95% of the time she is very approachable and takes my suggestions and opinions seriously. She also gave me the freedom to work on side projects I conceived. In general she considers me an expert in my field and she conveys that to me and to colleagues.
My mentor valued research that made me excited. They supported my efforts to turn follow this excitement down various paths. This mentality was the best guard against burn-out, and personally, re-invigorated my love for science.
Freedom to pursue interests. Flexible schedule and generally supportive of life events.
They very much valued work life balance and mental health. During every meeting they would ask me how my mental health was and if there was any personal issues or life events they could help me with.
They were very encouraging, interested, and patient when I wanted to talk about my work.
They always made time to meet with me and I felt they were very available.
They made me a much better writer.
I had autonomy and got to figure out how to do things that I really enjoy, and what those things are.
I continue to get help from them whenever I ask for it.
I feel I can talk to them about my career and my research.
They provide insightful and helpful feedback and advice.
I feel I got to figure out what sort of scientist I wanted to be because they were encouraging but also gave me the space to choose my path
Offering a high degree of independence to post docs in choice of projects and directions.
She gave me lots of freedom for my experiment. I can work anything I was interested. She also provided great mental support.
The quest for perfection, for every paper to be extremely impactful, every result to be rock solid with profound implications... As exhausting as it was, it taught me what I can achieve if I give it my all, and this confidence as propulsed my career and I try to instill it in my trainees now - minus the reign of terror.
Cultivated creativity and independent thinking
Unlimited support. Mentor was/is 100% dedicated to their work, have extreme love for science and live to promote their trainees. Extremely enthusiastic and always advocating in favor their trainees. Supportive in and out of the lab, invested on our happiness and well being. Warm, nourishing personality.
no drama, neutral and calm, available
Tranquility, His calm makes everything seem to be in order and that everything flows in his life, I respect that belief in him and it makes me want to learn to maintain that calm even though I do not feel comfortable in other aspects
Their openess- as well as review my work and progress, I also get to review them as a mentor-we then sit down and work out area where we both need to improve
There encouragement- having came back to work with these mentor after my first post doc (different uni) he has encourage me to try new things and to grow my carrer . As such as suggested I take lecturering hours, offer me side project(and given the time to so them).
Finally his timekeeping,
very strick on the 9-5 work week. If I need to be in the lab after that I have to give a good reason. Also insits that work laptop are left in the office at the weekend.
Completely hands-off approach, which was really difficult at first, but in the end I believe made me a more self-sufficient researcher and ready to establish myself in academia
Approachable: you can just walk into his office to discuss sometimes whenever you want (most of the time) Flexible
Gives many opportunities/responsibilities
Organisation: unlike most academics I have met, she was super organised and stayed on top of every single project she had. She forced all her mentees to be equally organised by making us use the same tools she did to keep on top of things. This helped give structure to my work days and helped me keep a reasonable work-life balance. I still use the tools she gave me to organise my work. She always made sure that papers were published: all my PhD data was published within two years of the completion of my degree. She didn't like to have unpublished
data for fear of being scooped, but that helped me get a couple of first author publications.
1) Respect to me/others 2) liability to the mentees 3) everyone was taken care of 4) the mentor did not intervene in the research more than I asked for 4) I had confidence that he will help me negotiating with other senior researchers
Very supportive of women in academia. As a woman, this helped and helps me in finding a path in my career.
I personally felt well supported and benefitted from the contact network of my mentor.
Support in cases of mental well-being. My mentor was never frustrated with mistakes that I made, and supported me in times that I was struggling with kind words. This really helped me in getting through all the mistakes that happened on the way. I am very grateful for this, as the attitude could have been the opposite, and most likely I would not have finished had this been the case.
Space for defining your project. This helped me pursue the questions most interesting to me and I never felt that I had to work on something I did not believe in or forced to work on. Not everything that I tried work but that helped me grow us a researcher Positivity and enthusiasm about science. Being always excited to talk about results and science in general helped me to maintain my own enthusiasm for science in times when I was feeling stressed and under-accomplished. Positive attitude on work-life balance, respect of personal time and motivation to take time off. I always feel comfortable to take holidays and try to maintain a healthy work-life balance .
She was very accesible, and her door was always open for us. This helped me to discuss laboral and personal problems with her, and get good advice or suggestions. I felt very comfortable talking and discussing ideas (even if they were crazy ideas) with her.
She always asked what we wanted, so I could
feel that my interests were first.
My mentor did a lot (and still does) for my career. She was always thinking ahead and proposed me things that could help my future integration in the academic system, and increase my chances to get a postdoc. She always pushed me to take breaks and holidays
He tends to get results with regards to publications for his staff. This means they could get other good roles, however many have chosen to leave science.
He leaves everyone a lot of space to evolve their work and their idea. When I come to him with a new idea, he's usually supportive about it.
Setting the bar high for my career goals: they pushed me to aim higher when it came to developing my career. They encouraged me to pursue a PhD, something I had never considered. They pushed me to apply for postdocs in good labs, not just any labs.
Taking time to listen and taking action when needed or requested.
Guiding mentees to reach their professional and personal goals.
Enthusiasm for amazing science, there's no such thing as impossible or too far reaching. This has had an great impact in making me more confident and determined to succeed.
Freedom of working style, flexibility in office hours when needed.
Being extremely open with data and samples and highly collaborative. This collaborating led me to my current position and led to a lot of very interesting projects. I think this attitude is good for science and I will take that into my lab whenever I get a faculty position. This collaborativeness also exposed the group to a lot of different people, so was excellent for learning and networking.
Being extremely supportive and actively involved in finding jobs for trainees leaving his lab. It helped that he was influential in the field, but I experienced for myself and saw for other people his willingness to make cold calls and advocate for jobs for people in his lab. This was particularly true for academic jobs, but I think also true for non-academic jobs. I think it was one of the main reasons why many trainees from the lab stayed in academia.
They very much treat everyone in the lab, including themself, as a group of peers. We all have valuable ideas and experience that we bring to the table, and it's always been encouraged. This has had a powerful effect on making me feel capable.
They very much treat everyone in the lab, including themself, as a group of peers. We all have valuable ideas and experience that we bring to the table, and it's always been encouraged. This has had a powerful effect on making me feel capable.
She is very understanding about work-life balance and also wants us to focus on our career goals. She always tries to be available if we need her for some guidance. She always challenges us to push our boundaries.
1) Awareness; she is present at the moment and knows how to act accordingly. 2) Respect; from the very first day she treats you as equal. 3) Listens, she will take the time to sit down and listen to you.
He is good to talk about life things with and he is very patient. Any time I have had personal things, like medical problems, he has been so kind and understanding and has no problem with me taking time off for myself.
He was up front about how he will not stand for sexism and therefore I felt like I could go to him. Before we traveled to our first conference together, he told me that I could come to him if I experienced sexism from anyone at the conference. He did this unprompted, which made me feel like he really “gets it”
Enthusiasm for science and ability to inspire others.
Promoting career development and networking
I don't know quite why this was the case, but I always left our meetings feeling excited, positive, and energized about my research. My advisor was very supportive and constructive, I felt valued and respected, and this strong positive experience helped me progress steadily in my career through an MS and then a PhD in his lab.
She's been great at helping me come up with my own ideas, but then providing guidance about how to turn those ideas into tractable science.
Enthusiasm about my research even when I was feeling down about results. Always encouraging (never blamed or shamed) even when experiments did not go as planned or failed.
Even the worst situation can have a silver lining. The mentorship style of my PI has caused me to be highly organized, efficient with reading publications, and not afraid to reach out to others for help.
They really care about mentoring. They ask for us the trainees feeback on how they are doing as a mentor and likes to make sure a fun and collegial environment is maintained in the lab. After leaving a large lab where I barely got to see/interact with anyone outside of research, this was really nice.
Generally his "brainstorming" or ability to push projects intellectually without taking control of them. HE has brought a lot of perspectives to my research I wouldn't have found on my own and greatly increased my abilities as an Independent researcher. Now that I am close to finishing my degree, he has put a lot of effort in building my personal network with his connections to increase the potential postdoctoral opportunities I might have.
He is just really nice and relaxed; He does not get mad or disappointed or anything (at least not to me). If something really botters me I can step towards him and he will at least try to listen.
He is super experienced, but allows us to figure things out on our own.
She is flexible and accommodating, understanding that everyone has different life experiences - for example I had a family member in a far away state become sick and ultimately die while I was in the lab, and she actively encouraged me to be present as often as I could and take time off, and she shielded me from any negative work consequences.
She truly supports you in achieving your goals, no matter what they are. She sees her main role as helping you attain whatever career goals you have, and she really means that - lots of people say that but don't truly mean it, and she does.
She maintains long term relationships with former mentees and continues to informally mentor long after they have moved on.
She provides structured feedback sessions so no one ever slips through the cracks - everyone meets 1 hour every 2 weeks or half hour once a week. This is despite a super packed schedule
She fights for her trainees - we primarily do computational biology and often collaborate with people who see our work as secondary. She consistently promotes us, and often makes deals where her mentees are first or cofirst authors, and she gives up the last author position (potentially to her personal detriment)
- Passion: He shows me how science could be intriguing, how it's exciting to solve nature mysteries... - Team work: Always defend your team, never criticize a member of your team to others. If you have a problem in your team, try to solve the problem by talking one-on-one first. - Innocence: He taugh me that you always have to ask questions, even if you think you're going to look silly. There is no shame not knowing something. (strangely he did not apply to himself^^)
He does genuinely care about the success of his trainees and about their happiness (he just isn't willing to step out of his comfort zone to ensure their success or happiness).
He encouraged people to develop their own interests and supported or at least did not discourage those interests.
Contagious passion for science.
The most admirable trait of my mentor was his push for work/life balance. He understood the importance and encouraged me to take time to recharge.
My mentor is not very hands on, acting more as an advisor than a commander. I had free reign to fail, which is important, because in learning to overcome my failures that's how I actually became a scientist. Learning how to critically think, troubleshoot, and design experiments for maximum information is an important skill that you can't learn when your mentor tells you what to do all the time.
Friendliness. This helped a lot during submission or review process or pushing some projects/grant applications in short time, which is just unavoidable sometimes. We worked as team.
Having a ton of really good ideas for how to use the data we have to answer interesting questions in detailed ways. This has made me a better coder and much more familiar overall with what can be done with our datasets. Also in cultivating a mentality of sharing ideas/code/feedback among everyone in our research group.
Listening to your ideas and support them.
He surrounds his lab with great people that I can get mentorship from other people.
I was still able to get the scientific development I needed by talking to members of the lab. I would say that most of the scientific knowledge I learned mostly came from talking to people in the lab.
Kindness. Kind and understanding mentor who gave me freedom in all things personally and scientifically.
My mentor puts a lot of emphasis on writing and presentation. I think these are really important skills that are often overlooked in favor of teaching experimental design and promoting data generation and analysis.
No problem is too small for her to notice and help with. Finding a flat, getting library access for your partner, bringing a child to a meeting, finding a reagent or teaching lab work. She’s going to help you succeed and no problem is beneath her notice. If she doesn’t know how to help, she’ll find the person who does.
Very supportive in letting mentees work in a style and pace that matched their strengths
Independence in choosing research direction: I was free to choose my own path and develop my own ideas without having to be micromanaged.
They are constantly thinking about my projects / my work. I am not sure if this is for their own benefit, or to be helpful.
E.g. Constant reminders about the status of things, where I should be headed, what I need to think about in advance, deadlines. This type of help is not always positive when the it also involves subjective messaging about my work ethic, or me as a scientist. But operationally, it is really helpful to have more eyes on deck and has avoided some major issues.
He had always time to talk, I liked a lot scientific discussions especially during analysing and writing phase. It helped me to build up the story when I could test my theories verbally first.
Always happy to drop whatever he was doing to read my work and provide extensive, thoughtful comments, often with relevant paper DOIs included if he thought it would help improve the writing.
He had amazing communication skills and very personable. I realized this is one of the most important thing to being successful.
Empowerment of trainees. They went out of their way to provide opportunities for all members of the lab and ensured that each person was in control of their projects. This went a long way to keeping a positive environment in the lab and one never felt like an underpaid servant.
He was a kind, respectful, and honest person. He demonstrated that it was possible to be both humble and assertive as an academic scientist.
Open to different career paths. Well connected to future job options for trainees.
Sincerity/Friendliness. Generally, there is a warm and sympathetic environment within the group.
Collaborations. Thanks to their sociable characteristics, there are lots of people who can be reached for different fileds in the era.
He had very advanced technical skills and I benefited from being exposed to a lot of different instruments
Observant; Able to tailor their mentorship style depending on the student’s ability to initiate meetings & their confidence level. Intellectually liberal but always available to give feedback.
Incredibly kind, fair, very smart, and very well connected. My PI made more of an effort than most (I think) to make sure that I left my PhD with a big group of science friends/colleagues. For example, every year, he and a couple of other PI friends would get the labs together for a retreat in a cool location, where we would all present our work and get to know each other. It has made the last few years much more gratifying, to have a big group of people to contact when I want to chat about something science-y.
They were incredibly inspiring. They made you feel like your work was really important and interesting.
Understanding of my obligations as a father, not putting pressure on me to increase time spent at work. One thing less to worry about. Leaving me alone most of the time and let me do my science. My projects also look like my projects. Never debated about authorship. I was last author when it was my student and my project. Supporting my formal career path at the university.
She has truly been someone who championed me, pushed me to grow, provided me with opportunities to grow. Her most admirable trait is that she genuinely cares about the growth of people if she sees potential in them. In nearly 10 years of association, I can count on the fingers of one hand when I've had a conflict with her way of doing things.
He taught the importance of networking and diplomacy
The most admirable trait of my mentor was her support in allowing us to pursue projects outside her primary area of expertise. This allowed us to show independence of her work and directly impacted the direction of my career and laboratory.
He had confidence in us and he let us evolve. For example, he never had an issue with us going to scientific conferences to present our work. I see very often PhD students that are not allowed by their mentors to showcase their work and the mentors are those that take over the task, which is too bad in my opinion. Also, he let us be the corresponding authors in our scientific papers, which is not very common in our scientific field.
Mentorship gesred specifically towards my future career goals, including setting me up with talks at the institution I hope to work for and introducing me to leaders in the field.
He runs a regular, structured journal club which I think is very beneficial to the students in the lab. There's a rota so everyone gets an opportunity to present and the discussions go very in depth.
He is genuinely a good listener. I think this matters a lot especially among the super busy academics.
She is very understanding of trainees that are not sure of what they want to do, and she has intimate knowledge of the current job market and encourages us to think outside the box
My mentor was very inclusive in projects such that I could learn from a cohord of colleagues and great scientists. Also, this pushed my communication skills to new heights and I felt that I could contribute to the scientific community early on.
I was given much freedom to try ideas and start side projects in the lab. My mentor knew that I was driven by curiosity and supported this greatly.
He was very aware of my needs as a human being and checked in with me regularly. He gave me full control over the direction of my research project.
I admired his swiftness of replying to each email regardless whether it came from the dean or a student. His time management was impeccable and allowed for even spontaneous meetings on a regular basis. His turnaround time for manuscripts and feedback. Within hours the latest within days the edited manuscript was back on my desk. The respect and openness for opinions and ideas from students, even if they clash with his own opinions. His work-life balance allowed ample time committed to his family, all of these traits made a lasting impression and I am thriving to become equally good at them.
Most of the time, when she commits to do something for or with me, she sticks to it. Thus, I know the areas I can trust her to be reliable.
He's very clear about how he reads and writes scientific work, and he gives good feedback. Even if his style doesn't match yours as a student, it's so helpful that his expectations and approach are transparent. That transparency let me figure out how to work with (or around) him in moving research towards something ready for submission to a journal. He's also very cognizant of his voice and his trainees' voices being different in writing, and his writing feedback is overwhelmingly focused on story, flow, and readability; he's not trying to change his trainees' voices.
A unique , collaborative, and creative approach to science. The mentor has built a career on bridging disparate fields and creating new types of science. The mentor supports creative, risky, and unusual types of work and is not focused on impact or novelty. I find that I engage with many different types of science now, and work with many collaborators.
This mentor excels at seeing their trainees as "whole people" and is always willing to accommodate life outside of science. I always felt as though I could speak openly and honestly to my mentor about my life and mental health needs without judgement, and receive genuine emotional support in return.
Ability to motivate team members to work independently to solve research problems.
Honesty. When he didn’t have the answers he said so, when he failed us in some way he owned it. It helped creat an open honest environment in the lab where we could be vulnerable to each other and honest.
He's very excited about research and he's happy with small achievements (which is research happen way more often than "big" achievements). I think his most positive trait is to keep the spirits up.
She worried a lot when there were exams, defenses, presentations or deadlines. We can fully count on that she would not leave us hanging, if we need to practice, write or meet on a Sunday or until 3 in the morning she would do it (it is not very common according to the experiences of acquaintances).
She would read any manuscript, draft, thesis chapter and gave you corrections in less than a week. She liked to read and review the writing together with the trainee and give corrections and recommendations discussing "in live action" not word marked/comments. This apparently is not very common either, in general the mentors leave any writing of their trainees in a drawer picking up dust.
Freedom. For the type of person like me who like to do whatever I like, this is the best style of mentorship you could have. He gave me space and time to think, plan, organize and execute my PhD project. But he would remind me when it’s the time to focus on how to finalize my PhD. This mentorship style allowed me not only to be independent earlier but also to manage fully a project compared to my PhD peers. That’s why I continued working at the same group for my PostDoc and had confidence to manage the project including for budgeting and spending the budget.
Very positive and make me believe that I can do it. I think this is the most admirable trait because a little boost during ur hard times with the experiments can give a mental courage.
Respect, encouragement, optimising time requirements, patience
Networking - My supervisor knows many people in the scientific community and has organised several medium-large scale scientific events that I was able to attend. This allowed me to make connections with other scientists.
- She was the most supportive mentor. I had her support as often as I wanted. - She loves science and transmits that to you. - She was a very positive person. This really helped me since I had low self-confidence and doubted of many things. - She was a colleague/friend more than a boss, so I trusted her.
Great listener, always supportive and available, wonderful role model for honesty and integrity, valued teaching and listening
Very intentional about spending time with us to fit in her schedule, extremely encouraging and supportive, defines reasonable expectations, provides helpful scientific advice
-My mentor was always incredibly enthusiastic about new ideas and always made time for questions. My mentor always made me feel more excited about science by the time I came out of a meeting, even if I had gone in feeling down or confused. -My mentor did check in about how students were doing on a personal level and definitely encouraged work-life balance, in part by modeling it herself (not working weekends, not constantly checking emails, having lab get-togethers, etc.)
My PI's ability to zoom out has always been extremely helpful. When working on the actual analyses, going down all the rabbit holes of tiny details, it sometimes becomes very hard to see the bigger picture. With more experience in the field, my PI does an excellent job in connecting the dots, building up storylines, and seeing the significance of single results for the broader field.
Once the ECR established a good connection with the PI by requesting regular meetings, explaining results that were unclear, sharing career plans, etc., the PI actually provides helpful support and good advice.
Good in planning and setting deadlines for me, which I was not very good at. This helped me through the PhD and made me even more aware of it so I started working on it.
My PhD advisor has complete trust in my abilities, and was immensely supportive even when they had no reason to be. The patience, encouragement, and support that I received made it all possible.
My mentor was very great about explaining the expectations of the profession writ-large. I think that he often did a great job of explaining how to develop co-author relationships and how to mediate those expectations which was super valuable to me.
Humbleness to accept complaints, and the ability to apologize for mistakes made
My mentor was smart, knew a lot the literature and would always have relevant scientific criticism and suggestions. My mentor always guaranteed that I would not be working on excessively risky projects. In fact, all my PhD and subsequent postdoc projects succeeded in great measure also because of his inputs and supervision.
I had a lot o freedom to propose new experiments and analysis. Most importantly, my mentor have never complained or repremended me because of errors, mistakes and poor desicions. On the contrary, he would only get pissed off if I could not answer something I was expected to know the answer - which for me is a very respectful and professional way of doing science.
I also had no issues with direct funding of my research.
They are not overbearing or too pushy for results; this enables me to feel I have "room to breathe" and results in less pressure to do tasks very quickly; they give you praise when you deserve it, giving you some external motivation
Having my back: if something goes wrong, I know that there is someone that will step in. That makes me feel safe.
Being very open to feedback and discussion, which meant I could have a lot of control over my research and really feel like a colleague, rather than just a student executing plans. Also meant that if I was upset about something, I could always discuss it
His availability, (it is always possible to meet him spontaneously). He is also very open about the things he does not know and gives me quite a bit of freedom in my research.
He was always looking at the bigger picture, he didn't care about me getting the degree but rather the knowledge. As he used to say the title without the knowledge that goes with is just another doctor out there, you have to master what you are doing to be able to teach others. Although I had no publications back then, I publish today with such easiness and I am sure it is because he took time to actually teach me and let me discover my potential. I can switch today (As I am actually doing) between company and academia.
Their approachable nature enable me to take responsibility for my own research, yet seek guidance do to their open door policy.
Very clear expectations for trainees coupled with annual meetings to discuss overall progress. This made it clear what needed to be done to finish the degree and progress.
My mentor is exceptionally invested in teaching and supporting students one-on-one/individually.
Honesty - tells us exactly what his angle is, how he is feeling, and expresses genuine interest in the lab members both scientifically and personally.
Rational, non-sensationalist thinking in the face of complex issues. I think this is a great quality, and one I aspire to. It was one thing that influenced my choice for him as a supervisor.
Very open, approachable Willing to accept a "no" Good work/life balance
SO good at advocating for trainees and connecting us to their extensive network to set us up for success.
She's very considerate about not putting pressure on people to finish projects, or directing where the project should go. These are the grant-related projects that she's already defined. This leaves everyone with plenty of time for data exploration and trying new techniques
their respect of personal/professional boundaries and work/life balance
Very supportive in helping me develop my writing style.
While she may not have had as much bench top experience, she had amazing applied science experience which allowed me to do more and see more, and be ready to apply my own career research as an early career professional.
Always ready to celebrate the wins, no matter how small which kept me going and gave me a skill set to keep pushing forward into unknowns.
Cared about me as a person, recognized what my research strengths were and supported them, and was open to new ideas which allowed me to take risks. Now I'm in a position I helped create since it didn't exist before I came here.
She was like a family-member for me. She always supports my future goals in my academic life.
Their understanding of people's outside lives and desire to run a happy healthy jolly lab of people. It was a very caring environment that protected students from negativity
Because my mentor was not able to make personnel decisions on his own, the entire group participated in deciding on new recruiting. This allowed us as a group to choose people we really wanted to work with and created a fantastic community within the research group. Likely, this was also the result of having a "common enemy" in the persona of our mentor.
Autonomy offered but supported with resources and help with experimental design, fully encouraged development into an independent scientist without any insecurity on their end
They had an incredible trust with the group to allow the group to develop ideas, protocols and grow as a scientist without the need to be there everyday or overseeing everything.
I admire my mentor for his level of dedication to science and his work moral, but I would not say that this has positively influenced my own research.
My advisor puts the mental health and happiness of his students above the research. I’ve had many issues come up during my PhD, but have been able to handle them without added stress due to the support of my advisor.
The most admirable trait was ENTHUSIASM. The enthusiasm was tangible and contagious. I was pushed to do research with the same passion.
She can see w clarity the problem in a logical argument, is well connected, kind, extremely knowledgeable about our field
Hugely supportive and a great listener. He listened and helped his students work through problems and really cared about their success. He was a very calming presence and encouraged his students to enjoy their time as students. 10 years later I still seek out his advice for big career decisions.
My mentor encouraged us all, leading by example, infusing his own enthusiasm into our lab, and treating us all with empathy and respect so that we were inspired to do the best work possible while feeling supported and valued.
Great training in science communication.
She matched her mentoring style to the ways her students wanted mentoring. I wanted 90 minute meetings once a quarter, others wanted 30 minutes every week and different types of guidance.
My advisor always tried hard to help us network professionally. For example, when she spoke at conferences, she would always include our photo in the corner of all the slides we contributed to. She would always make a point to introduce us to colleagues, and would even pay for our dinners when we met them. My advisor introduced me to my current postdoc advisor, and also spoke with them on my behalf before I'd even applied for anything.
They seemed to genuinely care about their students/mentees and were always an advocate for them. They maintained a diverse lab that was very supportive/nurturing.
Enthusiastic, driven by boundless curiosity and committed to excellence. Always helped with career advice and support for own proposals or endeavors
Supportive of my own ideas, allowing me independence
Mentees advise their mentors to do better
In this section you will find the words of ECRs to describe the advice they would have given to their mentor so they could do better.
Distribution of tasks within group i.e. identify projects most suited to individuals
Ask mentees for feedback more often (even once a year is better than never), and reflect on how to suit the needs of your trainees. Communicate, and ASK your trainees how you can meet their needs / if they have any specific needs and goals to achieve success.
Maintaining an accepting space for mentees is critical for retaining diverse groups and a productive lab - otherwise, your group will suffer and so will the work. Peoples well being comes before the science.
Learn to use digital tools better
Be kind and supportive. There is nothing to be gained by being mean to people. Read emails FULLY and more than once before lashing out.
I would have asked my previous mentor to provide (much) more frequent feedback and validation to trainees.
It’s not just up to the mentee to take notes during meetings and planning sessions - the mentor should also try to keep track of details from these interactions.
Hold weekly meetings with all trainees to check on well-being, progress, and overall direction.
To try and help students who want careers outside academia narrow in on their goals.
Be more open to questions from mentees and encourage them to seek answers from many people
train technicalities- how to give better talk, how to apply for jobs in the best places
Recognize the urgency that today’s post docs feel in regards to finding permanent jobs. Allow them to have full agency over when and where their work is presented and published (of course with feedback if there are issues that need to be fixed first)..this may not seem important to you, but for a postdoctoral who is job hunting a delay of even a month can mean the difference between sending job applications with papers to show for your post docs years, and job apps with limited productivity to show. As much as possible consider using preprints and similar to allow post docs to show their work sooner.
My advisor provide a lot of her effort to the public service, including many which I don't think it's necessary. I'd prefer her focus more on her own lab.
Keep pushing people, but recognize the signs when they are so overworked that it's harmful to them and counterproductive to the work.
I felt manipulated by years of affirmations that everything I did was amazing the work was more important than my colleagues work and it would lead me to great things. Then after making me think that I felt abandoned with none of the support I actually needed to progress. Don’t treat people like that.
Organize better, understand that not all trainees require the same type of mentoring. I flourished under them because I work independently and took my project in my own hands. Other trainees need more structure and guidance and their needs weren't met.
Do not mix in your own anger when you talk to student. Not everyone works harder/better under a lot of pressure.
Please provide students with both positive and negative feedback and spend a little time double checking their methods and analyses
It is okay not to be liked by absolutely everyone, setting boundaries (for your research group) is important.
Find time for your trainees. For me this is number 1 rule. Appreciate someone's hard work and do not punish them with massive delay just because you are pretending superhuman and you took too much on your shoulders or simply, your time management is bad. Respect other people. From other perspective I would also advise to invest in employees. Encourage them to improve their knowledge and skills and provide possibility (financial support) to do this.
Don't prioritise students/team members based on how thrilling you personally find their scientific work. Everybody needs feedback and guidance. Also, be more pro-active in identifying who need support.
A research group should be a safe place,
and not a battlefield. Make group meetings. Stop mixing personal life with work and using it to justify the bad behavior. Psychologists can be very helpful.
Be more available for manuscript feedback to allow the research output that ECR need.
Listen to the trainees career ideas before giving advice.
Get more engaged in the science of your students, they have not done this before. It doesn't mean telling them what to do, but to take time to guide their thinking in the right direction and to brainstorm over the science (the best part!)
Do not judge people because they are not clones of you and your abilities. Have empathy for people whose life and background are different from yours. Help trainees to become a part of the scientific community. Consider the university a workplace where everyone should behave professionally towards each other.
I would advice my mentor to try to build a plan with their students on what they want to accomplish in the long term, scientifically/personally/ professionally, and go back to this plan every once in a while, try to see together the progress made and adjust if necessary.
It's OK to talk directly and straight without the fear of hurting the person listening. Sometimes, it's more difficult to read in between lines, specially when there is a cultural difference
Realize that Academia is not the same as it was during her own graduate studies. It was way easier then to get a permanent position and to get funding. Most people trying to pursue a career in Academia are struggling right now, because of the high sacrifices it demands
Think more about the things you say and how they affect people.
When you see that people are struggling, especially in the beginning of their PhD, maybe give a little more input and see if you can work things out together.
PhD students are not just machines to produce paper after paper.
Hire less people to have more time for the individual person
Actively seek feedback from those working for you. Value their voices and their opinions, and make sure they feel comfortable sharing what they actually think (not just what you want to hear).
Please create a schedule to ensure that you are meeting with everyone in your group regularly and in an equal manner. If you don't have time for so many students, stop hiring them and focus on the people in your group that you already have.
Just to be more involved in the science. It's definitely a tricky balance, where the mentor should provide feedback and guidance but not be overbearing or micromanaging, but I think he erred in not being involved enough.
Another thing that I think could have been handled better, but is also tricky, is managing conflict between people within the lab. This type of conflict can poison the atmosphere and destroy morale. I think he could have done a better job of intervening and maneuvering the problem-causing individuals out of the lab...
Speak directly and proactively to your trainees about advice for improvement. Don't make them seek you out for it.
To learn more about systemic racism and how it affects minorities in the US.
Respect my time more. Recognize that you can’t give me time, and let me get it elsewhere. After 5.5 years with no publication, I got a co-advisor to help me move forward. Don’t let your ego get in the way of my progress. Be happy for me getting help instead of being passive because your feelings are hurt because I needed help other than what you could give me.
Say no to things, including prospective students. Do not spread your self too thin. Of course it is hard to say no and we want to offer scientific training to all who are interested, because what we are doing is cool and important. However, it is better to say no to a student and allow them to find a different path than to bring them into a situation where you can not adequately devote the time/resources to properly train them (funding is not the only limiting resource).
Meet with every person at least once every teo weeks, if they want to more often
None really. It could be worth considering formalizing / writing down certain expectations so new students know more explicitly what is the norm in the lab.
Spend more time listening and thinking before speaking. The words of a mentor carry a lot of weight.
Communicate with trainee and ask for feedback regarding the mentoring style; take leadership management training
Pay more attention to authorship, and show equal interest across all your student's projects. Being more up to date with the field would also be helpful, but is second to making sure there is no resentment or unequal favouritism towards students/projects/workload that is not on their own project.
Be more aggressive with collaborators, such that your grad student doesn't get left behind by people who are not as invested in the project
Life happens on Life's terms. When life events happen to your grad students, some need more support than saying "you aren't trying hard enough". A phrase as small as "hang in there" can really help during hard times away from loved ones, even if you don't want to know them personally.
Reliance on older grad students to teach the younger ones can be effective when you have a cohesive team with a variety of experiences who want to help and share. However, relying on 2 grad students (one of which is a second year) to teach new students is not effective and can lead to interpersonal problems as well as procedural issues (short cuts, bad lab etiquette,
waste of time and resources, etc.).
There is a way to both look out for yourself and also your mentees. Try to approach mentoring from a more generous perspective and not necessarily the status quo (aka get ahead academic mindset). For example, if you created an opportunity for your student that puts them ahead of you in some way-that isn't a bad thing, it's a sign of effective mentorship
Just be open to listening to your trainees because they may have a perspective on something you have not thought of.
Do not take in to many trainees, because you are leading a whole group and do not have time for that. Also pay a bit more attention when you hire Postdocs or so, they could take over part of the mentoring, but only if they are good at it and have the same view on mentorship (for me it worked out really well, but not all postdocs in our group are good for mentoring PhDs at this point in their career)
Don't take a PhD student if you don't master the subject or if nobody has formally agreed to advice the PhD student (all along his PhD). I think it's different for PostDoc.
Try to listen and think with your PhD as he is a colleague, not a student.
Take time to get to know your mentees, not just before they leave. Ask about their wellbeing, see how they are doing outside of lab. Not everyone bonds over discussions on sports or family life.
A lack of conflict in your own life does not mean that there are no problems. Ignoring harassment for the sake of keeping the peace with your senior colleagues makes you complicit.
The biggest advice I would give her is to try to be more kind.
The way she says things, the things she says, and the way she treats members of her group and others in the science community is in my opinion not acceptable.
And really, kindness can go a long way in these types of mentor-mentee relationships/.
Be better at time management, and communicate ahead of time if he can't attend meetings.
I tried to give him feedback, but was always ignored. This included simple things like telling the group what he was doing, to foster a sense of a team. Also maling written minutes of meetings so the phd students didn't loose their
minds when he changed his mind every week.
He avoids talking personally to students but I think its okay to get to know each other better so that the goals and passions can be aligned. I do not know my mentor at a personal level and at this point do not want to know. He also have been treating each student differently. Although some may be justified not all can be.
Be more encouraging to students, especially when they might be struggling to make progress or doing certain tasks.
Take the time to meet your trainees on a regular basis and actually listen to them, and honor the time commitments and deadlines that you set.
TRUST YOUR GRAD STUDENTS. They excelled in undergrad/previous work, that's why you agreed to have them on.
Ask students how they learn best, and accept that learning involves mistakes. Dictating a student's experience doesn't guarantee the outcome.
Positive reinforcement works better, shows true leadership and it doesn’t make you look weak.
That the life of your mentee is in your hands, if you like it or not. Do everything you can to be compassionate and treat the mentee with respect.
Formalizing certain aspects of the mentor/mentee relationship could help avoid problems before they occur.
I would have liked to see him play favorites less. I was not as funny or engaing as my colleagues, and so the conversations were less organic and much shorter. As a result we had less interactions.
Hire senior researchers (e.g. Postdocs) that can help supervise students and establish clear goals and timelines together
Acknowledge that mentoring is a thing, it is a set of skills that you can build, it takes empathy and caring for the success of others
Make sure your students feel safe talking to you. Be flexible and reasonable.
Make sure they get some small victories to help them believe in themselves.
They should be confident you have their back.
You should not ask your students to do things that will not help them graduate and / or get publications
To be more deliberate about their expectations, to give more explicit feedback on how we can improve
Be available. After a long period of being unavailable, consider seeking out your trainees and asking to meet because, after such long periods of absence, they are probably operating under the assumption that you are still unavailable.
Be transparent about expectations/responsibilities for both trainees and mentors. Write up a document outlining these expectations that trainees can refer to. Adapt the mentorship style to each individual and put the time in that's necessary to help folks succeed, and make it clear that it's a two-way street: trainees also have a responsibility to be passionate and dedicated to their own work/career.
Remember to put yourself in trainees’ shoes in time and space or career (of course much easier said than done). Trainees want to meet your expectations and impress - be sure to relieve certain pressure that is unproductive for them so that they feel free to be themselves with their own strengths (and weaknesses)
Understand that ECR might have different expectations not just because they are newbie but the way they are raised. Cultutal differences are something the mentors must be aware and act accordingly.
Criticism does not mean anybody is questioning your authority. It is a way to improve as a professional. Communicate your expectations clearly and set binding goals. Offer help to reach career goals.
Everyone has responsibility, so whatever the hardest it is, if you already taken that chance, you need to show your full effort to do all of the things properly. Manage your time and team super well, never leave them
Scientific productivity is influenced by also non scientific factors. Creating a good atmosphere in the lab is important
I would tell him to be more open to discussions. Sometimes people want to be heard.
There should be extra effort to make sure externally funded trainees are given the same experience and opportunities as those funded on a grant, especially when they are funded from fellowships intended to broaden participation in science for underrepresented groups.
Remember you have a duty of care to everyone in your lab. Check in with them regularly to see how they are doing, listen to their concerns and celebrate their successes. Be open to lab members putting forward their own ideas and disagreeing with you. This is not a sign a disrespect. See it as a success because it shows you're training them to think critically for themselves and that is so important in a scientist.
In general, I would adviser prospective mentors to reflect continually on what they see the purpose of their interactions with their mentees to be, and how their specific words and actions are functioning to align with their goals for their mentees. Mentors fulfill a few specific roles: they help the mentee understand the landscape they are navigating so that they can in time come to make more decisions on their own about how to navigate it. Interactions that help the mentee to understand the 'why' behind decisions and the options they have available are in my book good interactions. Questionable interactions would probably include ones in which the mentor starts with the primary goal of 'putting the mentee in her place' or proving that the mentor has some good quality (moral high ground, superior knowledge). It's ok to default to 'when in doubt, leave it out': if you're uncertain about why you're saying something to a mentee, consider not saying it. Careless words can have consequences for your mentee's wellbeing and can also confuse the mentee as to what your priorities are, if what you really meant as the take-home message is hidden in a jumble of off-hand comments.
Downsize a bit to give more attention to non-grant subjects and lighten the load on the trainees.
I would advise to work on better time management skills, or rather share important deadlines with your mentees so that there is less frustration for cancelled meetings. Also, regularly giving and asking for feedback might improve the wellbeing of your mentees.
Support students who have career goals that may not follow the "traditional" academic path.
Listen to your trainees. Solicit feedback in multiple different forms (formal, informal, anonymous and not) and react constructively, not defensively.
Care about your mentees! Ask about their expectations and recognise that expectations to postdocs, to successfully succeed in academics carrers, have changed over time.
To set a realistic deadline for an experiment/analysis/manuscript ask the trainee how long they think it will take them, then give them 50 % more time than they say it will take, and expect it may take another 50 % longer.
Help to implement and enforce a set of expectations and standards for management of trainees in the department or school that focuses on trainee career development and overall lab culture health. There is no system in place to manage the manager of trainees that I'm aware of. This is partially why PhD students struggle so much and why toxic PIs persist. Implement a regular review process for PIs who are serving as graduate and postdoc mentors in the department. This could include a review of the PI by their peers at every annual review that the PhD student has. There appears to be zero structure in place for holding a mentor accountable for their training quality and no structure in place to tell them what good management of a student or postdoc needs to look like. Much like anything, if there's no accountability or set of benchmarks and standards for a manager, the manager will not self-manage and improve and may take advantage of trainees. This review system should take special note to look out for the experience of minorities and especially persons on visas that are particularly vulnerable in academia.
It would be helpful to get positive reinforcement for things I am doing correctly so I know to keep doing them. And then mentor should make sure that if they are going to be negative about something they should have a good reason, and that they then share that reason with the trainee. I feel like sometimes the knee jerk response from the mentor is to criticize, but then not tell me what I am doing well and not tell me what I can do to improve the things I am not doing well.
Donot accept more than 4 PhDs. They required attention to do better research and be give more input in the feedback.
Be honest about your time, and communicate this to trainees. If you wish to exert control over project details and writing, please make sure that you have the time to do so- trainees should not have to have their papers held up for months and years because of your schedule.
Very little advice could improve his style. Perhaps more confidence and optimism expressed over student ability to obtain careers.
I think that a lot of the more closed door decisions about who to put on what project would have benefited from a group conversation. Specifically, I think the placement of trainees on projects led to a lot of resentment over who was chosen for a project and the group's atmosphere suffered for it.
Set expectations. The mentor I had before the one I have in mind filling in this form sat down with me at the beginning of my PhD and told me what I could expect from her and what she expected from me. At first I found that to be a bit cold, but it wasn't at all and later I realised how useful that actually was. She also asked me what I expected from her and what she could expect from me. So we could set our own rules in our student-supervisor relationship. I think this helped us have a smooth 4 years PhD project.
Leave the pride aside, listen better with an open mind and get more involved with the experimental design, analyzes, interpretation and worry more about monitoring the work of your trainees with periodically meetings, not only when there is a
Find the best way to communicate with your mentees including for simple tasks such as on how to email, replying email and the need of meeting/mentorship, and for understanding better the person.
I think mentor should be like a colleague with whom you can share your experimental thoughts and ideas.
Freedom of doing your work in your time as every people have different time cycle to work (if possible)
Start taking an interest in the mental well-being of people in their lab
Listen more, talk less - The most important person in the relationship is the mentee, and the most important thing is their personal and professional development. The mentee will not develop confidence or feel motivated if they are not treated with respect.
- Organize the project and schedule, and make a real follow-up with each one of your trainees. Define clear responsabilities and objectives for all of your trainees. - Do not avoid/ignore the problem (or the person) - Prioritize projects
Try not to force too many things and also take idea from trainees also and also not to wait too long for long validations to publish papers
Help connect students to collaborators that are planning to attend conferences so we have a resource once we get there
Learn to admit when you were wrong.
Don't just dig in and make it worse.
Give us more insight into what your expectations are.
If you want something different from us, as far as our mentee style, please say so.
Try to remember that some graduate students are starting from scratch. Even if we want to take on a totally new system, we don't have institutional knowledge about who to contact, where to get money, ways to get extra hands, etc. Just getting started can feel really overwhelming, but it's easy to overlook the "setting up" stage.
Join with colleagues and come up with guidelines. They shouldn't be strict rules because every mentor-mentee relationship is different but they could help to ensure a certain minimum quality of supervision and help unexperienced mentors to oriente.
Have a vision for your group, something that helps your employees to feel connected. Knowing why you are doing something and that you are not alone in it but actually part of a team can be extremely motivating.
Do not underestimate the damages that bad team spirit brings. Negativity and a feeling of hopelessness can spread in a group very quickly, especially when people are stressed and frustrated.
Invest some time in team building and join social events even if you think PIs do not need to attend these events to socialise.
I highly doubt they want to hear anything from me. Paranoia and insecurity combined will not lead to happiness. Perhaps self reflection of what it means to be a true leader within academia would be good? They are increasingly being responsible for more and more people's careers and scientific paths and unless their attitude changes this behaviour pattern has repeated itself so many times to the expense of many talented individuals its discouraging to think anything might actually change.
Be more personal, each mentee is besides a worker also a person with personal problems.
I don't have any advice for my mentor. My experience was extremely positive primarily because our mentor/mentee relationship was fully compatible; I would not have been in that lab if it wasn't. Mentors need to chose students based on complementarity of styles, and while this might be difficult, it should be an important consideration for all mentors and mentees when choosing to engage in a 5-7 year apprenticeship.
Be more proactive. In general, and for specific mentees, think about what areas of mentorship they need and go out of your way to provide it for them. Identify gaps in their knowledge and teach those things to them. Don't expect them to know what they don't know. Create an mentorship curriculum and expect to provide ongoing mentorship even to advanced mentees.
This is 2021. Societies are changing and at some point you or your successors will need to make a decision on whether or not to be the one moving our profession towards a more humane and civilized set of relationships. If you, like me, chose to improve our profession and make it better for us all you will need to have yourself accountable. You will need to accept that you are a limited person like any other and accept to be checked, accept to receive feedbacks and suggestions on what has to be improved and how it must be improved.
You need to make this move!
Should meet bi-weekly with student to review their progress, take adequate time to think through students thesis plans so they later don't change their mind about methods or topic (beyond the usual tweaking of methods/thesis that is required)
Provide expectations and some framework early in training.
Take into account time for mentoring (or lack thereof) when hiring new students, projects will likely be much less efficient if there is no supervision.
Make sure you are approachable, motivate your students
Make more time to listen to different experiences and not everyone responds so well to harsh criticism, however well meant it is.
Build a group culture where everyone is motivated to contribute
communicate slowlier and more clearly, ie. less paraphrasing when it comes to scientific details, paraphrasing instead of using the scientific term often leads to more confusion on my side because I do not yet know what he means by a certain phrase.
He only has to be less serious. The fact is that, he is really good at what he is doing, but many students always asked me how I manage to work with him. As a mathematician in an economic department, many people would like to have him as a mentor/supervisor but they are some how to afraid of him. I myself went to him because I had a graduate degree in maths and I was pretty much looking for a mentor that can speak maths. Otherwise I am not sure I would have worked with him. I discover who he really was only when I went close to him. I still miss our weekly meeting :(
Being more hands on in the laboratory would have increased the team spirit and my publication output. I felt alone at time due to my own inexperience in asking for help. I was not demanding or assertive enough.
I would advise my mentor to seek help and treatment for his psychopathic behaviour. And to create a support network for his employees, for example, someone that can help them and protect them from his behaviour
Try to work on your communication, transparency and honesty. Express your doubts or concerns early on. Do not count on the other members of the research group to relay them the current PhD. Some praise during positive events would improve the confidence of the current PhD.
If I have brought it up multiple times and you've said no/brushed it off every time, consider taking a step back to think about it/reflect why it is important to me.
Be kind. Give a dog a bone from time to time - if you have a criticism, or perhaps a view of how something could be done better, offer a way forward rather than letting you student flounder. You might see it as strengthening for them to figure it out on their own, but you are supposed to be training them, after all. Try to recognise when you need to be putting effort in.
Its okay to change with the times and update your mentoring style to meet the needs of new generations
Stop talking. Listen. Your need to answer everything with a story about yourself is selfish. Listen, and internalize what is being said. Do not offer an immediate, empty, response to everything. Do not use "you don't understand how difficult it is to be a PI, there are so many demands on my tie" as an excuse for why you cannot spend time writing grants with, reading manuscript drafts from, and meeting with people from your group, when you spend a lot, a lot, to our neglect, of time doing those things for/with people who don't work with you
Attend every workshop on being a good mentor possible! Please. And really truly begin to practice what you were taught.
Maybe allow and organise some mentoring feedback sessions. Once a year for instance. So that things can be said and adjusted without accumulating frustration from one side or the other, and one can learn along the way about mentoring, which can be really difficult and case specific.
Whenever possible work on networking, not for yourself, but for your students.
This is so when they come to you with career aspirations that do not follow in your footsteps you have people you can reach out to to help them on their journey. Keep going to conferences, keep reaching out.
Train themselves and the institute on inclusivity/diversity/team dynamics before even hiring foreigners.
Schedule time in for each individual at a regular interval. You can always cancel meetings but squeezing them in to nonexistent space isn't good for either party.
Put the interests of your mentees above your own
Be explicit about ownership of projects and expected timelines Be willing to express negative things: legitimate concerns, deadlines, feedback on productivity, clearly but kindly
I think they should have been a bit more involved from the start, they didn't give regular feedback until trainees started to feel lost in their research. I would also say, say no sometimes.
Learn about gender-based and other biases in academia. Make an effort to step out of your own body and see things from other perspectives.
-take more time to undestand what could be good for your mentee -each mentee needs different help and has different strengths
Compartmentalize tasks better among lab staff so one person doesn't get overwhelmed
- see potential conflicts beforehand and talk about it - manage the group - see strength and weaknesses - open up for feedback
Have at least a monthly 1v1 meeting a d actually try to get to know your trainees more than just a professional context.
I would tell him not to make assumptions so quickly. Sometimes they lead us down the wrong path and it takes a while to backtrack.
I would also say he should regularly collect feedback from his students, because each of them are having a slightly different experience and may want different things.
Trim their ego and see the mentees as people with their own path.
Admit your shortcomings from the outset, so mentees don’t expect more than they’re likely to get
Assuming you have an idea of how trainees can be successful in a field, please regularly check in with your trainees to set both short and long term goals, and help achieve them.
Consider things from your mentees point of view. Get counseling or take serious training to help identify and prevent inappropriate behavior.
Be willing to rock the boat when the boat deserves rocking. We need to improve the culture of academia and STEM - this means being brave and saying things our peers might not want to hear.
Our weekly 1:1 time is sometimes enough, but at certain points it feels like too little. Our mentor does sometimes have some extra office hours e can sign up for - perhaps a few more of these slots would be nice for when we are at a point in an experiment or paper where we could use a little more help
I would have appreciated more conversation about the work I was reading, and specific guidance on my writing and analysis.
Celebrate all the milestones, commiserate all the disappointments. And celebrate the draft, the submission, the rebuttal- don't wait until the end to celebrate, by then we're too defeated and depressed to care.
Be supportive of people's ideas and respect that your trainee may know more than you doabout a particular subject when your fields do not overlap 100%. You don't know everything about everything.
I would say that they should develope a habit of trusting the lab members and understand problems of lab members when they are genuinely expressing them. Also give liberty for discussion and collaborate with other labs so that we can get to learn the expertise.
Be careful about too many similar projects in the lab bc once one person publishes on it, the other student’s work isn’t as novel/exciting.
A little more support could have been nice, at the beginning more follow up would have helped more and helping us think towards the future would have been nice. Or just discussing what options etc existed
Take less students and invest more.l in each, or provide alternate support, for example hire postdocs
There are ways to help rather than dictating approaches and knowledge
Mentees advise future mentees
In this section you will find the words of ECRs to describe what advice they would have given to those who are getting ready to pursue a career in science and are looking for mentors.
Find a mentor who does not feel you being judged for what you don't know and helps you to become an independant scientist
Look for someone that is willing to support you no matter what choices you make for your career.
Look for people who care about others as whole persons, and not just what they produce. Look for those who show empathy to others, and those that aim to lift others up, rather than comparing people to others.
Find someone you have good rapport with. Pick a dynamic group that is well funded and the PI is passionate Find a location you like- outside of work. There is more to wellbeing in science than just the academic side.
Make sure you talk to the other graduate students / trainees in a lab group (individually, one on one) and ask them whether or not they are happy with the mentorship that their mentor is providing, and whether they are happy overall with their experience in graduate school under that supervisor. I personally had a great mentorship and graduate school experience, but I've seen some very unhappy graduate students who entered labs without realizing how bad the mentorship was, because they did not ask these kinds of questions to current students.
Choose a field/career path you are passionate about but keep in mind there are considerate scientists in your field that exist that may not be a “big name.”
Ask their people direct questions and listen to the answers. Make sure that the mentor in question can work with people for long periods of time.
Think about what type of mentorship you need and ask potential mentors if they can provide that
Ask people in the lab you are considering about their relationship with their mentor and if people warn you a certain PI is not a good choice - trust them. Don't think you will be the one who manages to enjoy a horrible lab.
Seek out a mentor that validates your experience; not just your successes but also your failures. Choose the mentor with the patience and grace to invest in your growth.
Ask potential mentors about their expectations for you / make your expectations of them clear. Talk ahead of time about how often you will meet, how involved the mentor will be in your project, how they approach the writing process. How does the mentor support the work-life balance decisions of their mentees?
Ask the trainees in their lab past and present what their experience was like.
Make sure you speak to current or past students of the potential mentors. This can reveal a lot more to you than speaking directly with the mentor.
Talk to former students, ask them for strengths and weaknesses. Expect answers. Have this conversation in a one on one meeting.
Make sure the lab you want to work in is a good fit and that the mentor has time to advise their students and provide feedback
look for your broad interest, select people with great career trainee output and consistent good papers by many different first authors, look geographically- do not want to live in a shitty place for 5 years
No one mentor will fill all your needs. Look for places where there will be several people you can work with who can offer different things. Be open about this. If a prospective mentor does not want you to also go to others for help and expertise this is a RED FLAG. Make sure you will not be isolated if your first job/lab does not work out (this can happen even with the best intentions on both sides). Make sure you will not be isolated from peers with similar professional/personal goals and experiences. Having a community, whatever that means to you is extremely important. Grad school and research are HARD, do not make it harder for yourself by trying to do it in a place where you are unhappy for professional or personal reasons.
Good communication with your advisor is one of most important point when you choose your advisor.
Make sure you understand the lab culture and mentorship style of your potential mentor
Know what kind of mentorship you need, and talk to current and former lab members to see what kind of mentorship they get.
Common advice students are given prior to selecting a PI or program is insufficient to navigate the system. We need systemic change.
Look for a person, not a reputation. Mentors directly affect your expertise, well-being and future career. There needs to be a match in personality, and nothing beats a supportive mentor.
Talk more to people that gave left the lab. Those currently working there might not tell you 100% the truth. Look for a diverse set of alumni!
Dont use ''famous' as a main criterium.
make sure there is a good personal connection and shared goals
Find a mentor that supports your independence and is not an empire builder.
To talk with students and colleagues who describe the mentor as a human being
Set clear guidelines with mentor on how you want yo work.. like how often will you have meeting , what are appropriate time for emails.
Stand for yourself and do not try to please. If you don’t want to do something say it and if you’re being forced to do something keep reminding your mentor
that they are pushing you.
I would strongly encourage them to talk with members who have left the lab to get their perspectives on the mentor. It seems those currently in the lab are rarely willing to provide honest feedback, and maybe do not have time to really reflect on the impact of their advisors mentorship till after they have left the lab and had a bit of mental space.
Find mentors outside of your program and outside of your school. Academia is small and runs on gossip. You won't know who is married to each other. Get more than one. Ask for help from them to build your network. Find science twitter and connect with folks there by asking questions. This is really helpful of you are a minority or URM or first gen - you can find mentors who understand what you're going through. Folks like these may not be available at your university and it's essential to have people who have the shorthand.
Find someone who is approachable. I really like that I can walk into his office most of the time and not have to wait days before he even replies on emails.
This is key point. Research your mentor. Find a contact to someone who worked with them and ask, have a normal chat how he/she is. Do not treat this as a minor problem. If ignored or badly choosen it can kill your spirit/passion and made you feel very bad for years of collaboration.
You want someone productive and supportive. Look at their publication records and check where the people who used to be in their lab are now, are they still in academia? Are they independent researchers?
A mentor might look great on paper, but always try to speak to people from their research group. Look at their body language, they will never say bad things about their boss but their body language shows how they really feel - I know I visibly stiffen whenever am asked about my experience.
Ask members of the prospective work place about their experiences when your future mentor is not present.
If you are going for a Ph.D. position, check how long it takes on average for a student to receive his degree at this place and do not assume that you can do it faster if joining that team.
It is more important to join a supporting environment than a top level department.
Look for someone, who you have good connection also on personal level. Try to write a grant with the potential mentor before coming over, this will reveal lot about how it is to work with the person and might give you more academic freedom while working there.
Find someone who asks about your own wishes and ideas and is not projecting their ideas of a successful career on you.
This is a very difficult question, everyone I asked beforehand had a completely different answer, because every relationship is different with their own difficulties. For me personally, I would say, try to find out the expectations of your mentor early on, and decide if they meet what you want from your work. Possibly the interview stage is not the best time, but once you have started. And don't be afraid to leave if things turn out to be different than you thought.
Talk to people who know the mentor if at all possible. Current students, previous students, colleagues, trainees of neighbouring groups. Be aware that current students might not be comfortable to say things directly.
Reputations spread in a department, in good and bad. Don’t underestimate how much good a good mentor can do and how much bad a bad one can do to your wellbeing and career.
Look for a mentor that will be supportive, that will have time for you and that maintains a positive environment in the group they are leading. Talk to the group!
Also people tent to prefer the senior famous scientist than a more junior researcher as a mentor but younger mentors normally have more time, are more open minded and can be more supportive. You could accomplish more in a smaller but more supportive group, take this into account.
A mentor is a very good resource that can help you to achieve your objectives. If you feel that your mentor is not helping you, tell him/her as he/she could try to change. And if it doesn't work at all, speak soon. None of you want to loose your time.
If you want to engage in the preparation of a PhD thesis with a mentor, it's better knowing them before (e.g., do a 2-6 months internship in their lab beforehand). It's too risky engaging in a big project that will take you several years of your life if you don't know or don't trust the person who will mentor you.
Really try to have an open and honest conversation with the other staff they work with to find out if there are any issues, this way nothing will come as a tough surprise
Pick your mentor really carefully, and maybe ask them what their style is, i.e. how much input and feedback they give to their PhD students. If you're someone who is fine working mostly on your own, then you also need a mentor who leaves you a lot of room to do the things you want to do. In the same way, if you're someone who needs more feedback and direction, you may need someone who meets a lot with you and who is open to discussing struggles. If something feels weird about your potential mentor during the interview, don't just ignore it but really think about if this is a person that you want to be around and answer to for the next years. Don't just pick a project because of the institute or the topic per se like I did :P
Choose someone who will be honest with you and not sugarcoat any difficulties. A career in science is very competitive and you will need someone on your side who can tell you when a piece of work is not up to par. But also someone who will be supportive of your chosen career goals, regardless of what they are.
Personally, I feel the best mentor would be someone who will encourage you to pursue your carer goals when you are feeling low, but will be also honest and realistic with you when you are aiming for to high not knowing it. A great feature of good mentors is also that they are introducing mentees to their own network.
Read their previous work and talk to their current and past lab members.
Look for someone equally passionate about your field of research as you are. Chose a mentor that understands your degree/thesis/project is not just an output, but is actually an opportunity for you to gain competences as a professional and as a human being
Every mentor and every mentee is different. Some give more help, others expect more. Some need more help, others are good to work on their own. Define your strengths and directly ask for what you need. Most mentors want to help and will help.
Look for someone who is a good person and a good researcher. Prefer mentors who have more time per trainee.
Talk to the graduate students and postdocs about their experience in the lab. This will give you the most direct insight into how the lab is run.
I would say that the mentor is almost as important as the focus of the work. Researchers deserve to be treated with respect, if it is clear that people in one lab are really struggling, that might not be a space for you and your science can thrive.
Lab culture, which is largely a reflection of the mentor, is the most important factor in deciding upon a lab. It's important to vet the lab and get the opinion of current and past trainees. If people don't have good things to say proceed with extreme caution.
Try to establish a network of peers, where every member of the group feels empowered to bring their expertise, or is encouraged to build an expertise.
Try to establish a network of peers, where every member of the group feels empowered to bring their expertise, or is encouraged to build an expertise.
Ensure work life balance in students life and also be flexible about the methods you use to accomplish a project. There can be multiple ways to achieve the project goals, we just need to more time in literature.
Have a good honest conversation with your mentor. Look for people that have worked with them, ask them about your future mentor.
Ask their previous students how long they were in grad school. How many publications they got. How much time until their first pub. Ask if there are any students that have dropped out of this mentor’s lab.
Ask if the department has any sort of checks and balances system. I.e. is there a system in place to check on your progress and advocate on your behalf? Our department instituted a “mentor” program where grad students got paired up with a faculty member outside of their committee, someone who wasn’t their main advisor. This persons sole job is to check on your progress and intervene if you need assistance. I didn’t have this person until my 5th year of grad school, so I didn’t get help u tip my 5th year to move forward. It shouldn’t be on my to advocate 100% for myself. I’ve never been a grad student before. I don’t know what is and isn’t supposed to happen. We (students) need that external person to help guide us through what is and isn’t normal in a grad experience.
Get advice from everyone in the lab, and specifically ask if the workplace culture is toxic!
Pay attention to your future mentors track record. Have they consistently gotten students to where you want to end up.
Always talk to the people in the lab/who left the lab and read between lines. People will not tell you directly to avoid a specific lab but if they are not positive it probably means they are negative.
Your mentors do not have to be synonymous with your PI
Don't trust accolades only. Look at the roster of successful trainees in a lab. If all of the trainees stayed as short a time as possible or only tangentially worked with the mentor, this is a HUGE warning sign.
Be sure to have conversations with your potential mentor to make sure you are compatible. I especially encourage talking with current and former mentees to offer perspectives on their abilities as a mentor.
Reach out to current and past students to learn about mentoring styles and spend a lot of time reflecting on what type of mentoring style will work best for you.
No-one is perfect but choose mentor who understands how you work and supports you.
Talk to the current students in the lab, and ask them their favourite and least favourite attributes of their mentors.
Find a mentor whose style matches yours - it will be different for different people. Also make sure your mentor cares about you as a person and values breaks/time off.
Word hard but also work smart, seek out the people who can help and don't be shy or embarrassed to ask (and also to say no). There are people ready to help but they may be maintaining a distance to give you space and not be presumptuous.
Research your PI. There are many bad apples out there, get in contact with members of their lab and ask opinions.
Mentor needs to appreciate work life balance. Weekend work should be the exception, not the norm.
Choose your PI VERY carefully. Talk to lab alumni b/c current ones are too scared for their positions to be truthful.
Listen to yourself. How you feel about a lab can change. No one should be made to feel like they are not wanted or that they are not worth the effort. Try to find an environment that fits your mentality best, the science will follow. Ask students in the lab the hard questions, this is your life and you should be allowed to hear their truth. If they use vague terminology, ask for examples. If they say the PI is hard on you, ask "what do you mean by that?" or "can you give me an example of a time they were hard on you?"
Ask their previous and current mentees how they are as an advisor. Ask existing students how the advisor supported them in their worst moments.
better choose someone with a small group, they will have more time for you
Try to find someone that is willing to fight for you. That you can be frank with out your career but also when things come up in life. I made a mistake of chosing a mentor that ran their lab like a company that i then had to join another group bc
the companys need came above the need of the trainees
Talk to multiple current and former students of your mentor of interest. They will give you the clearest representation of what wok life will be as a mentee.
It is so important for your research to find a good mentor, just do not accept a job if you have the feeling that your mentor is not the perfect fit; its just not worth it. I looked for different projects and am convinced that the mentor/supervisor click, is more important than the project itself..
Pay close attention to how mentees talk about their mentor, especially casually. The most important things are you have a supportive advisor who is present for you and who does not abuse their mentees. Abuse in science is so common that it's normalized, and mentees will often not recognize and name their experiences as abuse, so don't expect someone to fully tell you that so-and-so is abusive. Use all your emotional skills to vet a lab as well as possible before you make a decision.
Ask to previous students how it happens with the mentor, and how the mentor organize his mentorship (weekly meeting, journal club, conferences, help with publications...)
Find someone who takes time to listen and care about your wellbeing as well as your success.
If you have a marginalized identity and your advisor has never before mentored anyone either with that marginalized identity or any marginalized identity, be extra cautious and make sure they are fully committed to defending you.
Get to know your potential mentor before joining the lab. If they can't afford you that time they will not be good mentors.
If you don't get the reply within 24 hours to your email, continue to looking for mentors.
It is so important to talk to current graduate students in the lab and find out the lab culture so you do not end up joining a toxic lab environment.
Choose a mentor you can openly talk to and doesn't see you just as labor. I got very lucky with my mentor as I realized this during my rotations. As I look at my peers though, so many professors, typically earlier in their career, see their students as labor producers as a means for their own career. The system encourages this with the pressure that's placed on young investigators and anybody choosing to work with such a person should know this going in.
Well, I've come through a lot of different mentors. If it don't "click" with your mentor
- don't push it, because 99% it would be futile. Search for another one. Also, I've encoutered a lot of "professors favourite students" on the way. If you see something similar - just run, you will never be able to replace them or given much attention.
Always ask current group members for honest opinions of the PI as a mentor.
I was told by a senior Professor at my graduate institution that my current mentor was a 'great mentor for female scientists' and I have found her mentorship to be the exact opposite.
The official supervisor may not be the best mentor, keep looking.
The most important characteristic in a mentor is a willingness to communicate and listen to their trainees. (This is more of a realization that communication is very important more than a natural ability to do so effectively). Knowing when to be encouraging helps. Sometimes grad students in particular need extra positive reinforcement.
Talk to as many past group members as you can, including those who are no longervrelisnt on him in any way. As forspecific examples of how the pi has been supportive.
Choose a PI who you feel is interested in your development, not just interested in you as a paper generating machine.
Find someone where your goals and passions are closely aligned. Hardship is made easier when you are working with someone rather than working for someone.
If you are considering a mentor who is not going to be able to give you all the guidance/encouragment/advice you need, make sure there are senior members of the lab who will be able to do so, and that there is enough support among lab members to make up for the deficit with the mentor.
Write down expectations. Multiple times a year. Make plans, review the plans, revise the plans with your mentors.
Be your own advocate. Communicate with fellow mentees for ideas and perspective
Your informal mentors (colleagues, collaborators) are just as important as the PI or person whom you have a formal mentorship relationship with.
Make sure their work style aligns with their prospective mentor's
Make sure you can deal with their style of mentoring - certain styles aren’t for everyone.
Set boundaries for yourself BEFORE grad school.
SELF CARE -- spend some time reflecting on what makes you feel the most like you (emotionally regulated, healthy, confident, relaxed) Ask yourself: how many hours a day can I reasonably work, what kind of work settings/habits allow me to work effectively, what kind of breaks work best for me, do I like working from home, do I need a run first thing in the morning to be focused for the rest of the day, do I like long lunch breaks, do you work better at night and taking slow mornings? Think beyond undergrad lifestyle because this lifestyle isn't sustainable. Remember you are in it for the marathon, not the sprint.
Whatever this looks like for you, GREAT! Try establishing that routine BEFORE grad school and treat it as sacred, unfudgeable territory.
Be active and remember that it is the mentor’s duty to guide and help. They are usually super busy, but ask their time for weekly meetings even when there wouldn’t be anything spesific in your mind. Talking about science is the best way to understand the bigger picture. Also, don’t be a shamed of asking ”basic” questions, sometimes they maybe the tricky ones. Also, ask help rather earlier than later instead of wasting a lot of time and getting desperate.
Research and more research; Talk to previous and current members of the group about the work environment. Clearly communicate the expectations of both sides.
Look for a mentor whose work ethic closely matches yours and someone who makes time for their mentees.
Make sure you have a good group not just a mentor. While my mentor was missing most of the time the resources I had within the group is what made it possible.
Talk to former and current group members, stay away micromanaging group leaders.
Find someone who will be your advocate and be as invested in your career development as you are.
Find mentors who you click with on a personal level. Find people who you can ask "silly" questions without fear of judgement. Stay away from people who make you question your self worth.
Get co-supervisors that can step in and help organise projects
Look for a mentor that views you foremost as a person, not a machine for producing data.
Pick a mentor who you trust (in terms of both scientific rigor and having your best interest at heart) and one you can communicate with most ease including both positive and negative feedback. Pick a mentor who is available.
Your boss shouldn't be your *only* mentor. Also, especially if you plan to roughly stay in the same field long term, the people you meet randomly during your first year of your PhD could still be your colleagues 10 years later. So, generally keep that in mind from a professionalism perspective and in terms of effort to be cordial, etc! :)
First, you want to avoid total assholes. Try and talk to other trainees in the lab. Talk with the mentor and see if you like them as a person. If you can get along with the mentor, then the next concern is how cool their science is. But there's no such thing as the perfect mentor, so it's just as important to learn from a mentor what *not* to do. The weaknesses of your mentors are just as valuable as their strengths, as they help you to define your own style. And it doesn't stop there. No one ever ends up as a perfect mentor, and your own faults will end up being helpful/educational to your trainees (whether you are aware of them or not). At the same time, it's great if we can get feedback from trainees to try and improve ourselves continually (but it's often hard to get that kind of frank feedback from trainees).
If you are going to study abroad, be aware of cultural differences and get ready to accept the others culture, rather than trying to dominate yours.
To be a good scientist, we should improve our knowledges in many ways, don't be a super fans for someone who is good looking in the outside, please learn everything from a lot of scientists who have the same frequency as well as life goals with us.
Find someone who champions you. That will make a great difference to your happiness.
Choose mentors that care about you, not those that care only about how you will make them shine
Try to find a mentor that you feel comfortable with, someone that you can communicate and that respects work ethics.
Personality alignment is sometimes more important than research interest alignment
Make sure you can communicate with your mentor: that you are comfortable and feel like you are heard, but also that you understand their expectations and value system.
It's important to seek a healthy working atmosphere and a mentor who is approachable. You won't benefit much from a super successful but intimidating mentor.
If your prospective mentor has previous mentees, talk with them! After a negative experience with a former adviser, I treated interviewing the mentees of faculty I was considering working with as a game of getting them to disclose the worst aspects of their mentor. 'What would you say are the primary goals of X when it comes to their students - publishing quickly?', 'When you contact X with a question or send material for feedback, how long is it normally before you hear back from them? What aspects of your work does X normally focus on for feedback?' 'Has X ever said anything that made you uncomfortable?', 'Does X show a preference for having mentorship interactions with some students over others?' If there are actually uncomfortable answers to these sorts of questions, mentees will usually hem and haw. If, on the other hand, you've found a stellar mentor, students will usually be able to deny the impression given by these sorts of questions and elaborate on some good qualities of their mentor. Asking a question that expects a positive response ('Do you enjoy working here?') makes it seem like all you are looking for a is a 'Yup!' before deciding to work there, and many people are happy to oblige.
Be very discerning when choosing to work for an assistant professor, particularly as a postdoc.
Be in it for love of science. Only your determination can carry it forward. Mentors matter more than science.
Look at the post-doc environment of you PI to get a sense for what to expect (PI comes from a very large big-shot lab, understand that they might target a similar research environment themselves).
Go for an ERC for grad school to get all their attention but, if you want to stay in academia, target a big shot for post-doc so you have greater access to faculty job market.
Talk to as many former lab members as you can, make sure that when you interview if any lab members are not present that you get to speak to them. In my case disgruntled lab members were told not to attend my interview and I did not get to hear about the toxic environment of the lab until I was already there.
Getting along with youth mentor is waaayyy more important that the project in most cases. Chose your lentils health every time!
Do your homework. Really reach out to past students, not just the one or two emails the perspective mentor might provide. Go further. Check for a code of conduct. If they aren't producing students who are continuing in your field, that's a red flag. Take your time and don't settle for whoever just answers your email, you deserve a mentor who will do their best for you.
Ask about the mentor's leadership style and mention your expectations early and clearly that you agree on a schedule that works for both.
Find someone who cares about you as a human being. I tell this to all of my undergraduate students.
Ask lab personnel what it's like (but even then you may not always get the truth). So also ask other peers in the field who know the potential mentor. Ask the mentor and the lab personnel how many students and/or postdocs have left their lab prior to finishing, and then check to see that the answers match between mentor and mentee. If the mentor says "Well, I had 1 postdoc leave but he was crazy" that should be a red flag. Is the postdoc crazy or is the mentor crazy? Lastly, as much as you may want the job, nothing is more important than your own physical/emotional/mental well-being. It is simply not worth it to work for a jerk. And it is much easier to choose not to work for them than to leave their lab after you are already working for them. So, do your research and make sure you and joining a lab with a mentor that is mentally and emotionally stable.
Communicate expectations, needs and career expectations early and clearly with your mentor. Build yourself a supportive network of peers.
It's all in the mix! There are different kinds of mentors and each can be helpful in their individual way. Some are very good at providing guidance for the day-to-day questions and problems, these mentors are ideally physically close, e.g., at the same department. Some are good at networking, putting the word out, or write exceptional recommendation letters, or help with your career vision. The latter do not need to be around often to still make a huge impact. No single person has answers to all your questions, and sometimes a second opinion is helpful too, so it is good to have several mentors.
Look for a PI with a track record of senior author publications with their students as first AND co-authors. Make sure the PI WANTS to meet regularly to help you meet your goals. Under no circumstances is the science of a lab ever cool enough to make it worth working for a toxic PI in a toxic lab. Do NOT join a toxic lab.
Here are some questions I recommend thinking about! Do you want a group culture? Socially? Research-wise? If yes to any of those, what kind of culture/community do you want? A lot of folks recommend thinking about how hands off vs. hands on a mentor you want. But if you're opting for more hands off, what kinds of options do you want/need for times when you do need a little more interaction and help? How important is it that your existing research interests match your mentor's vs. other kinds of compatibility? What kinds of future paths are you considering, and what experience does your mentor have in advising folks on those paths? What are your strengths, and what are skills you want to work on? What skills do potential mentors think are important, and how do they help trainees develop those skills?
Ask senior members of the lab/group about the mentor's style and shortcomings. Be honest about your own needs/abilities/work style and if it will fit with a potential mentor. For example- do you need a lot of structure or are you looking for a high degree of freedom in how and when you spend time in the lab?
Prepare to invest allot of time and hard work into the field. Only go into this career if you enjoy the study and are willing to overcome the tedium and heartbreaks.
Honestly, this is really tough. Because all different mentoring types suit different individuals. I would (and do) listen to the pursuant individual and find out what they want from the experience prior to giving advice.
Look for someone who is excited about what they do and who nurture team work and not competition among colleagues. Also someone that gives you opportunities to create your network (proposing conferences and outreach activities), and who encouraged independent and creative thinking.
This is hard because is a box of surprises, everybody is cool, gentile and happy when are they recruiting. A good advice could be to talk with current or past trainees of the professor you have in mind.
Enter a laboratory that is ideal for you and with a subject that you are passionate about, it is already difficult enough to do it with an assigned subject.
Have confidence to speak, especially if you feel trampled (there is some reason), stop looking professors as demigods, they are just people and remember you have a University, center, institution who should help you and look out for you, even against a bully advisor (at least you will be able to find one person to lend you a hand).
My personal experience here in Chile was quite different from the one the nationals of this country have, it might be cultural. In Venezuela I studied in a big public University, in Chile the Universities are very different, very based on hierarchy, so here they are not used to argue or contradict a professor or even discuss, even the feel somewhat attacked. But I was very clear in my mind that we needed to come to terms and been able to discuss, not just fall in line as I was supposed to.
To sum up, I guess that the best advice I could give would be: stop believing and feeling like your advisor is doing you a favor.
Choose mentors who can guide you.
Don't select them based on the papers how much they have published. Select them on the basis of the person how he is and whether you will be compatible with the mentor in the lab or not. Keep in mind a mentor can make your life hell or heaven so choose it carefully. Alwz check Whether he gives you enough space to think anything else rather than research or not. You can take a break anytime or not... I believe if you are mentally fit then you can achieve anything..
start with an internship with the person to know if you are compatible, and contact former students of the person
- Look for someone who really loves her/his scientific project - Ask people working on the lab, their opinion of the group and the mentor - Follow them on social networks like Twitter, so you can get an impression of them
Verify that the person you might work with actually has interest in your research topic. If they don't, plan to be on your own.
If possible, find a mentor where you're not worried to ask questions that feel simple/naive. These questions often form the foundation of your understanding of complex subjects.
Find someone you are comfortable with.
Listen to how they talk about others in their department, particularly their students.
Take notice and see if they are actually listening to you.
Always ask previous/current lab mates about their advisor's mentoring style, how much time they dedicate to their students, and how they're a role model for good work-life balance, healthy relationships, and fostering community in the lab. The feel of the lab will be as important as the questions you're hoping to study.
Talk to people working at a lab before joining.
Ask about some standard procedures, have they thought about onboarding? How often do 1-to-1 meetings happen?
See where people leaving the lab ended up. If they got great jobs after their time in the lab and this is clearly advertised on their webpage, this can be an indication that the PI cares about their mentee's career paths.
Make sure you have a clear idea of what expectations you as an ERC have from your mentor. (do you just want someone in the periphery? more hands on? Someone you can approach more than a manager?)
Sit down with your mentor before you start your contract and go over these with them. If they have their best intentions for you, your career and your working relationship they will make the time for it and be clear to each other on your working expectations (do they want you to be semi-independent? what working hours do you each expect? etc )
Also never rely on one person for the success of your degree/paper/career. If you think something is a red flag it probably is and be sure not to bottle it up. Academia is a cruel place where kindness rarely pays off and a culture of silence is often expected.
Make sure you have done your research; check your mentors group dynamics (ask to join a group meeting if possible), talk to colleagues, check authorships and lists (is there a bias? Are other graduates at least building dynamic CVs or are they dropping off?) etc.
Figure out what mentoring style works best for you, and try to choose your advisor(s) based on the maximum extent of this complementarity. This is a hard task, and granted most incoming graduate students don't yet know what style works best for them. Each person is different, and therefore we should expect that mentoring styles that work for one person may not work for another. Graduate students should invest time to research the prospective lab's culture, talk to alumni of that lab, assess their own fit within that lab's culture, and determine to the best of their ability whether that would be a good fit for them. This set of criteria is far more important than joining the lab with the most CNS papers or the lab with the "coolest" PI.
In social sciences you don't have to pick the person that is doing precisely what you are doing. It is fine to select mentors that you for lack of better term "vibe" with. For people in the sciences with a much stricter lab culture, it is useful to find a variety of voices for mentorship.
Understand that mentors are also constantly learning from their mentoring process and they don't always have appropriate support from the institution
Hard to say- because even when you do your research and ask lots of questions, you don't completely know who a mentor is or how the dynamic is until you are there. But I think is important to understand not just the content area of a mentor, but their personality and mentorship style. Talking to current and former mentees can help.
The most pragmatic advice I can give to someone searching for a mentor is: get information about your mentor in advance from people at your academic level.
If you are seeking for a PhD mentor, figure out a way to speak openly with people that did their PhDs with this mentor. If you
have the impression a potential mentor is problematic, either try someone else or get ready and brace yourself for what is to come. Just don't get surprised after it is too late! Try to know as much as you can and don't ignore the information you gather!
1) trust you instinct, gut feelings when it comes to choosing a mentor. 2) mentor and trainee are humans, it is a human relantionship. It needs communication, and adaptation, and what works for you might not for someone else, and the opposite.
Make sure expectations match up. Someone can be a great mentor to one person and a crappy mentor to another, based on personality and work habits.
Also, speak up if something is going wrong. Most PIs I have experienced are open to feedback and I have heard many phd students complain about things the PI wasn't even aware of and so couldnt address either
Find a supervisor who is available and supportive. Get to know her/him and build a relationship so that you are not afraid talking to her/him. And get an additional mentor outside of your supervisors field of expertise - it helps to see different perspectives on your own topic.
Go for someone who still has something to prove, someone that can teach you real science, the art of publishing and how to stand out of the crowd of all these PhD out there. Someone human not just a pure scientist. After all, live is not just about science, there is actually a great deal of life out of our offices.
Firstly, I would ask them, are they sure they want to go into science. It is a toxic working place with people who have been given a lot of power without any checks. In addition as an early career scientist, you will be exploited. You will only get certainty in employment when you reach tenure and only very few early career scientist will reach tenure.
If they really want to enter academia, and have looked for opportunities outside academia. Then I would advise them to thoroughly vet the mentor. By looking for red flags and asking and or looking for the contact information of previous PhD students who worked for the mentor. And contact them and ask them about their experiences as a PhD student and their experiences with the mentor. I would also advise them to look into the working culture in the department
Do a background check with other people about your mentor to try to determine whether it would be a good fit, and to prioritize that above the fame or flashy scientific merits
The choice of advisor has a much greater impact on your career that you might anticipate. This will impact your wellbeing during your PhD as well as your future network. I would suggest contacting previous PhDs and postdocs that have worked with your future potential advisor.
Others may see it differently, but I believe the ethics, personality, and leadership/teaching style of a formal mentor or advisor (which have little to do with the actual science) are far more important to consider than the actual scientific problems/questions/methods that are that person's expertise.
Find a lab where you can be happy and enjoy yourself socially. Nothing is worse than going to work and hating your job and co-workers. A friendly environment can change everything.
NEVER put academic prowess before quality of life. A supervisor/advisor might be the best at what they do at one of the highest ranking institutions. This will not help you or your career if you crash an burn because you put this as criterion above all others in your choice of them, and failed to see other nuances such as their toxic personality. You need to be able to respect each other other to prosper, and it really helps if you could see them as something like a 'friend'. When choosing a supervisor/advisor, it might help to ask yourself whether you could imagine catching up after work at the pub one on one. If the answer is 'no way in hell', it's probably not gong to work out well.
Selecting a mentor is very important, trust your gut, go with someone who will understand your background while at the same time exciting you. Diversify - have many mentors for different things.
Talk to the people currently working for, or who worked for in the last few years, the mentor you'd like to work with. Ask them what kind of mentorship they get, and ask for specific examples. Did you write grants together? Did you write manuscripts together, or did you have to write on your own, only to have the PI completely re-write it to their style with no opportunity for you to work on improving the text? Does the PI introduce you to collaborators? Do they allow you freedom to develop your own collaborations? That sort of thing. And use a personal email for communications about this, never your work email.
I would suggest to find a mentor that meets your needs or has a network of people who can help get your needs met whenever they aren’t equipped.
Also, remember that at the end of the day, the body of work you create is yours and so don’t be ashamed to acknowledge when something isn’t working and you need to pivot quickly. Encourage your mentor to think like industry folks and remember that if you’re gonna fail then do it fast. Perfectionism is trash.
Ask around about the mentors, the way they work, their expectations, if they are supportive, which careers did previous trainees follow. Ask as many questions as you want, I think this can be really "healthy",
and a good motivation proof for the job.
Be friendly, organized and concise and please do not pressure anyone into being your mentor - reminders are fine!
Have a clear idea of what you need from the relationship, even if it is "I have no idea what this field is, please teach me" Find mentors for all stages and skills - professional, scientific and life - that you feel comfortable talking frankly with. This will keep you sane when things are rough.
They should look for a mentor who have papers on the particular topic they want to study. In addition to that, I believe working with a younger mentor would have its own advantages such as the thirst for the new ideas.
If you really like research, the institutional rankings do not matter, choose the mentor or group that can nurture your mental well being, not those who care for outputs.
Talk to people before you commit to anything. Be open about your situation and have an open and honest agreement about both parties needs and wants out of the relationship.
Talk to all members of the research group. Particularly, reach out to past member and ask them about their experience: they have nothing to fear and are likely to be more honest.
Seek those whose work style matches yours for close mentor ship, and those whose work styles are quite different for additional mentor ship, so that you have a variety of strategies for productivity or experimental approach
Always have an open and honest conversation with a mentor from the start (even before application). The more honest you can be the better trust you will get and the better you will be supported to your needs.
Pick someone who genuinely seems to think highly of you and respect you. It wears you down to feel looked down upon in the long run, even if no disrespect is openly expressed.
Find one who is flexible and understanding in terms of scheduling. As long as the work is done, the time you do it doesn't matter to them. Also find one who is engaged and willing to meet with you at least weekly to help keep you focused and on track.
Science is generally an unstable high stress career at PhD level. Sincerely ask whether you want that or if a ms level position meets your needs. Look for mentors who have experience in a variety of industries to help w job placement
I would say you should find an advisor who fits your goals well. If you’re trying to do good science while staying mentally and physically healthy, you should find an advisor who values that. Make sure to ask questions that prove their work-life balance and priorities. The mentor-mentee relationship will make or break your graduate school experience and beyond.
Mentor fit can be very specific, but the best mentors will also be flexible and adaptable. Try to understand what kind of support you need, and talk to many people about what kind of support helped them succeed. Ask for what you need and if your current mentor can’t give that help, find another who can.
If something doesn’t feel right, keep looking for someone you can trust to bring this up. I dealt with sexual harassment for years before I was able to get it addressed properly. It shouldn’t be this way and now is the time to act for change - but the people who will help you can’t help you if they don’t know what is happening.
When something doesn’t feel right find someone you can trust to bring the issue up with. Keep looking for this someone if you don’t find them right away - they are there and they will help. They can’t if they don’t know there is a problem.
Your mentor can make a huge difference on your quality of life. I’d recommend finding someone who nurtures a supportive lab environment. Talking to other members of the lab can be a good way to learn about mentorship style and the overall lab culture.
Your advisor will probably not be the person helping you learn techniques or do analyses- look for a cohesive and supportive lab environment for that. Esp: look for high postdoc/scientist to student ratio, or formal senior student mentoring (look for coauthorships with first/second year students). For your advisor, what matters most is their availability (will they have time to remember you exist? Ask students this not them) what matters second is their network (are they well respected and well liked? Do they take their students to conferences every year?). And, they will tell you about their most successful students. Ask explicitly about who took longest and why, did anyone drop out or change advisor and why.
Even if you think you know someone through collaboration, get outside opinions from previous/current mentees to make sure your mentor is a good fit for you.
Always try to know what the mentor's requirement from the ECR and do a research not only on what they publish in academia but also about their general behaviour with lab members and workimg style bceause you should be able to match with that otherwise that might be a reason for stress and then work gets affected. Talk to people who are laready working in their labs to know more about them.
Ask past and current members of a team you want to join about the issues that are important to you. If possible go visit and talk to the perspective mentor
Ask your current (if applicable) mentors, professors or lecturers about the perspective mentor
Find someone who you can easily talk to about anything, and is prepared to help you think about the future and push you to get better and pursue things
If you have any suggestions or concerns, please feel free to get in touch with me via the comments section below, by sending an email, or contacting me through (@merenbey).