Whether it is for a career in academics, industry, policy or whatever, grad students and postdocs join labs for training. Working in an academic lab can provide valuable skills for all kinds of careers and I take this responsibility very seriously. Students and postdocs are here to learn, not just work.
I am a new professor. I don’t have a lot experience to draw on. But, I do know that I am successful because of the people that trained me. Obviously, there isn’t a magic bullet for every trainee, but here are some general lessons I picked up along the way. I will try to implement these in my lab:
1) GOALS: It’s important that everyone has goals – long term career coals and short term progress goals. I will make sure that we reassess and develop these goals on a regular basis.
a. CAREER: Whatever your career goals are, I will try my best to provide the necessary resources you need to reach those goals. If I don’t have the answer, we will find someone who does.
b. LAB: We will set project goal posts to shoot for. We will reassess on a regular basis and decide if the goals need to be reset or extended.
2) WRITING: Nearly everyone is terrible at this when they start and nearly everyone improves with practice. So, I will push you to write. Write abstracts, posters and papers. You will write the first drafts. Then, we will work together to improve it. Rinse and repeat.
3) SPEAKING: Just like writing, nearly everyone is terrible at first. Unlike writing, nerves are involved and the only way to get over the fear, is to practice. GIVE.LOTS.OF.TALKS. Again, I will push you to present. From the beginning you will be presenting for lab meeting. I will encourage you to volunteer for journal clubs, local talks and national meetings. We will always submit abstracts with talks in mind. PRACTICE putting together a talk and giving a talk.
4) SUPPORT: My door will always be open. Come to me for support. If something is not working in lab, let’s figure it out together. If you feel you are missing something in your experience, let’s figure out how we can fix it.
5) CHALLENGES: Expect to be stretched and challenged intellectually. We have (a true) multidisciplinary research program and that means that projects may extend into realms that you aren’t comfortable with. I expect my trainees to leave my lab with a broad outlook on genetics.
These are a few of the (many) ways I was mentored and helped me be successful (so far). I am still learning this PI thing and of course I will modify how I think about this as I gain experience. But, if you join us, you can expect that I will try my hardest to ensure that your experience will prepare you for your next step.
Please chime in and let me know how I can be a supportive PI and mentor. What have I missed?