My Mentorship Philosophy
One of the main reasons I chose to be an academic is because I enjoy mentoring students and seeing them succeed. So, if you are accepted into my lab at La Trobe, I have two aims as a postgraduate supervisor. My practical aim is to help you complete your degree and become competitive for a job in the field you wish to pursue. My aspirational aim is to help you achieve your dreams. Working in science is a fun and exciting, yet highly competitive and challenging career, so although I can’t offer guarantees about success, I offer a safe, supportive, and inclusive environment in which to learn how to be competitive for your career goals. I will provide training and opportunities for research and will help you develop your own project ideas. I will also help you learn how to write grants and communicate your research in writing and in presentations. However, your project is your project, and it will be up to you to complete the tasks necessary to earn your degree. Throughout your project, I will offer constructive criticism (with as much sandwiching as possible!) to help you learn what works vs what doesn’t.
I also have a few expectations of you. I expect you to be self-motivated to complete your project on time. You should read as much as you can in the area you decide to study so that by the end of your degree, you are the expert. I expect you to treat people with respect and kindness, and follow all ethical requirements for studying and working with animals, following approval from the animal ethics committee and relevant permitting organizations. I expect you to work safely, and follow all laws, regulations, and university policies that apply to your work. I expect you to pass on what you learn, by training undergraduates, helping new postgraduate students, giving public talks, and/or publishing your work. I expect you to apply for your own grants to help support your research, and to gain experience in “marketing” your ideas, which is an important skill. I expect you to try to balance being a critical thinker with keeping an open and generous mind, which is one of the hardest things to do in science. Lastly, I expect you to communicate with me. Let me know when things are going right, so that we can celebrate, and when things are going wrong, so that I can help you figure it out.
I also expect you to try to have a life outside of your studies. People who focus solely on academics are often productive, but they can also risk burnout or mental illness. Remember that education is just one part of life. Always let me know if this is becoming a problem, so that we can work together to find a solution that still allows you to finish on time.
There are many “advice for students and academics” webpages available. Professor Scott Keogh at ANU has compiled a long list (CLICK HERE), that I highly recommend anyone interested in science and/or academia read through.