Science needs mentors

Science needs mentors

Maria Mitchell, the first woman to become a professional astronomer in the United States, was one; so was materials scientist Mildred Dresselhaus, the ‘Queen of carbon science’. In common with many scientists, they desired to be mentors, guiding the next generation with no expectation of return.

The concept of a mentor, indeed the word itself, can be traced at least as far back as Homer’s Odyssey. In the ancient Greek epic, the wisdom goddess Athena took the form of a man called Mentor to assume the guardianship of the young prince Telemachus while his father, Odysseus, was away fighting the Trojan War. Athena’s Mentor was not only Telemachus’s protector, but also his educator and guide.

Mentoring is one aspect of good research supervision. But it doesn’t always happen, as a 2018 Nature survey on laboratory life showed. A majority of the survey’s respondents wanted more support for mentoring and managing.

The lack of mentoring is also among the reasons for the global rise of organized doctoral-training academies, where PhD candidates learn in groups, and where they can access scholarly experience and expertise in addition to that of their main supervisor.

Some employers recognize mentoring: a number of learned societies have formal schemes that assign mentors to trainees, for example. So do scholarly publishers, through their global trade association, STM…..Read more>>





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