The Value of Mentorship in the Scientific Field
July 13, 2017
Christine Pfund, director of the Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experiences in Research (CIMER), was featured in Lab Manager.
The value of effective mentorship in the sciences is increasingly being recognized. Mentoring is tied to many benefits for a mentee (e.g., increased research productivity and career satisfaction), which also benefits the lab overall. Anyone can learn to be an effective mentor with the right training and practice. However, mentoring is not an isolated endeavor, and a team-based approach (e.g., peer-mentoring groups) can provide a holistic support system to ensure an individualized mentoring experience.
Why mentoring in the lab matters
Research shows that the presence of effective mentoring relationships in the lives of early-career scientists is a strong indicator for career success. According to Christine Pfund, an associate scientist in the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who has extensively researched mentoring in the sciences, “In short, good mentorship impacts who does science, how productive they are, and how satisfied they are on a science career path.”
While technical skills and scientific theory can be taught in the classroom, Suzanne E. Barbour, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology and dean of the graduate school at the University of Georgia, says that much of what it means to be a professional scientist is just too nuanced to learn in that setting. Thus, a mentor is needed to serve as a role model to show trainees what is expected of a “card-carrying member of the profession.”