Being a Mentor for Students and Colleagues. HBCU-UP LDI August 12, 2009. Mentor. Ancient Relationship “Wise and Trusted Counselor” by Homer Mentor = Faculty Advisor What is a Mentor?. Mentor . - Advisers , people with career experience willing to share their knowledge;
August 12, 2009
What is a Mentor?
- Advisers, people with career experience willing to share their knowledge;
- Supporters, people who give emotional and moral encouragement;
- Tutors, people who give specific feedback on one’s performance;
- Masters, in the sense of employers to whom one is apprenticed;
- Sponsors, sources of information about and aid in obtaining opportunities;
- Models, of identity,of the kind of person one should be to be an academic.
- Morris Zelditch
Primary motivation was well understood by Homer: the natural human desire to share knowledge/experience.
Some other reasons:
I was mentoring an undergraduate student as part of a summer research experience. I explained the project to him and taught him how to make media and grow bacteria. Because he did not have sufficient genetics background for a molecular project, he was given a microbiology project. He was very quiet for the first ten days of the project and then he complained to the faculty member who recommended him about the project. He said he wanted a project like Sharon’s. Sharon was a student with a strong genetics background and her project was to clone and sequence a gene. The faculty member insisted that my mentee keep the project I had designed for him, but the student became sulky. As the summer went on and he didn’t get any of his experiments to work, I began to wonder if he understood what we were doing or even cared about it.
If you were the undergraduate
student, how would you feel?
What would you do?
i.e., if you get “x” to work, you can do “y”
What do you expect from your mentees?
What do they expect from you?
Zachary, L.J. (2000). The Mentorﾕs Guide: Facilitating Effective Learning Relationships. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, Inc., Publishers.
• Projects should have a reasonable scope
• Projects should be feasible
• Projects should generate data that the student can present
• Projects should not simply include cookbook experiments
• Projects should have built-in difficulties that will be faced after the student has developed some confidence
• Projects should be multifaceted
1. Remind them that it is better to ask questions than to make a mistake that could have easily been avoided.
2. General lab safety procedures including:
- Appropriate clothing
- Food and drink in the lab
- Lab coat/gloves/glasses
3. How to find and use helpful reference manuals such as Current Protocols
4. Chemical and biological safety issues including:
- How to dispose of wastes
- How to handle chemicals safely
- How to clean up a spill
- How to handle and dispose of biological materials
5. Making chemical solutions; provide guide sheets for: a. Solution preparation
b. Calculations c. Dilutions
6. Literature research skills
7. Basic guidelines for generating graphs and tables
*Molecular biology and microbiology labs
A foreign-born engineering student is reluctant to question his adviser. As a result, the adviser thinks the student lacks a grasp of engineering. The adviser tries to draw out the student through persistent questioning, which the student finds humiliating. Only the student’s determination to succeed prevents him from quitting the program.
The student grew up in a country where he learned not to question or disagree with a person in authority. Had the adviser suspected that a cultural difference
was at the root of the problem, he might have learned quickly why the student was reluctant to question him.
When communication is poor, try to share yourself, listen patiently, and ask the students themselves for help.
Handelsman, J., Fund, C., Lauffer, S., & Pribbenow, C. (2005). Entering mentoring.The Wisconsin Program for Scientific Teaching.
For PDF version of this book, go to