Why science needs strong mentors
Julie Gould: 0:11
Hello, I am Julie Gould. And here is Working Scientist, a podcast from Nature Careers. Welcome to our new series, all about mentoring.
Julie Gould: 0:30
I started this journey with a pretty straightforward definition of what a mentor is. Someone you turn to for advice in an area where they have more experience than you, and someone to share their experiences and ideas with you. And you get what you want out of it.
But it turns out that for some, mentors are much more. And that’s what we’ll find out in this seven-part mentoring series.
Throughout the series, we’ll also explore how mentoring differs across the world. And we will discover other similar roles that can occur alongside mentoring, such as coaching and supervision.
Then there are the different types of mentoring as well. Peer-to-peer mentoring, employer mentoring, reverse mentoring, as well as the evolution of mentoring relationships throughout your career, the challenges of these mentoring relationships and the difference between academic and industry mentoring relationships .
But in this first episode, I’m going to see what it means to be recognized as a mentor.
Scientists spend many hours doing science. But lots and lots of hours are spent on something else, something rewarding, fulfilling and ultimately, for some, much more important.
This something is called mentoring. And unfortunately, given the time people spend on it, it’s not as widely recognized as scientific work.
Magdalena Skipper 1:53
It’s almost like we’re talking about mentoring in the abstract, which of course we expect academics, lab leaders, PNs, lecturers to be mentors.
But in this abstract sense, we aren’t necessarily talking to individuals about how to support mentors in this way when they face their own challenges.
We all know mentoring is important. And yet, we don’t seem to appreciate it appropriately. And indeed recognize those individuals who devote time, energy and passion to mentoring.
Julie Gould: 2:30
It was Magdalena Skipper, editor-in-chief of Nature, and part of his role is to lead and manage the Nature Awards for Scientific Mentorship. It was created by his predecessor, Sir Phillip Campbell, and the awards aim to recognize the tremendous efforts of academics to support and train the researchers with whom they work.
Over the years, the award has been divided into two categories, one for Mid-Career Mentorship Achievement and the other for Overall Achievement.
Skipper Magdalena: 2:56
The fundamentals are the same It’s the same principle, the application process is the same, the judging process is basically the same.
But the reason we introduced these two categories is simply because it’s very difficult to compare those who have maybe only 10 or 15 years of mentoring experience, maybe the members of the lab or students or even colleagues, with those who have spent a lifetime and perhaps are nearing retirement and perhaps still have professional mentoring relationships.Julie Gould: 3:32
Each year the awards are focused on a different country. And in 2020, the focus was on mentors in Israel. Netta Erez of Tel Aviv University is studying tumor biology in her lab and she was a co-recipient of the Mid-Career Mentorship Award. And I asked him to tell me how it felt to have his role as a mentor officially recognized.
Netta Erez: 3:53
This is an award for which I have been recommended by my former and current students and post-docs. So the people I was mentoring applied for this award.
So really, you know, I’ve had all kinds of stuff in the past, but I’ve never been so moved, like I was with this award.
So it’s really amazing to be rewarded for something that you really put your whole heart into.
We’re kind of supposed to pick them up as we go. And when I became IP, I realized I was grateful to the mentors who helped me have, you know, my own lab. What I tell my students when they come to do a PhD in my lab is that they start as students, but I want them to graduate as my peers because I want to be able to do them. supervise and provide them with these tools which can make them more efficient. It’s more than just how to plan an experiment, how to formulate a hypothesis. These are all obvious things you need to learn to be a scientist. But there is so much more than that that a good mentor should be able to give to the people they mentor,
Julie Gould: 5:26
A recipient of a Joint Mid-Career Mentoring Fellowship, and also from Tel Aviv University, Tal Pupko believes that when you take on the role of group leader, supervisor or PI, or any other position you have of researchers working in your group, you must focus on the development of the people.
Tal Pupko: 5:43
So I’m saying mentoring is your way of empowering your student researchers to grow, both in science and on a personal level, so that they become better people, better scientists, better everything.
So you don’t care so much about science, because in science you care about them. You want them to become better scientists, you want them to become better people, to think more critically about things, to improve their calculation scale, their writing skills or their skills. general. And enjoy it along the way. It is also very important that you want to see the sparkle in their eyes when they are doing science, and when they are talking about science and understanding how science is made.
Julie Gould 6:39
But mentoring, as we’ve heard, is often learned on the job. And this learning continues throughout your career,
Tal Pupko: 6:45 a.m.
You can always improve yourself. I’m sure my mentorship can be improved as well. And if you care, it will come naturally. And usually we all sit in departments and professors and we know that there are people we know who could mentor or so we can always ask them for advice and get feedback and we can only improve. We just need to worry about it. I think the critical aspect is to take care.
Julie Gould: 7:13
Hannah Margalit is a bioinformatist and computational biologist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. And she’s someone who really cares about the people she works with. She received the Lifetime Achievement Award for her mentorship in 2020. And when I asked her why she was a mentor, she said she never really thought about it.
Hannah Margalit: 7:32
It’s so ingrained in me that I think it’s one of the main tasks of a PI in college. We do the research with the students and we have a common goal, and one is more experienced than the other. So I make sure they get all the qualifications they need to become independent researchers.
Julie Gould: 8:00
Hannah has been a mentor to many scholars over the years, some of whom have recommended her for this particular award. But Hannah was also mentored, even later in her scientific career, by people younger than her. This concept – being mentored by a younger and usually younger person – is often known as reverse mentoring. And Hannah thinks that is great.
Hannah Margalit: 8:23
I think that it does not go by degree or by hierarchy, because we are talking about expertise here. So if there’s somebody that’s the least advanced in their career, you know, but they’ve got more experience in a discipline that’s necessary to accomplish, you know, the mission. So why not? Yes, I was really open to it.
Julie Gould: 8:44
The mentoring awards were given to researchers around the world. So I wondered if Magdalena Skipper had noticed any differences in the way people supervise in different countries.
Magdalena Skipper 8:55
It’s both different and the same. Mentoring is therefore a universal concept. It is these core values and principles that guide this mentor-mentee relationship, which remain constant. You know, after all, as individuals we need support and guidance in very similar ways wherever we are, it’s actually more than the circumstances in which we need their guidance and guidance. support.
But there are differences. And there can be differences in the style of mentoring, which is defined by, say, you know, how formal or informal the relationships can be between more experienced mentors and more junior mentees.
But the fundamental basis remains universal all over the world, which is perhaps not surprising, and it’s also quite encouraging that, you know, we all have very similar needs, and we can exchange values and ideas. mentoring advice across the world across cultures, through social media situations.
Julie Gould: 10:03
And that’s what we’ll explore in the next part of this Working Scientist Mentoring Podcast Series. I’ll speak to researchers in India, Japan, Singapore, Norway and elsewhere to find out if social and cultural norms determine mentoring relationships and how they form.
Thanks for listening. I am Judy Gould.