Mentors for Science

Maria Mitchell, the first professional astronomer in the U.S and Mildred Dresselhaus, the materials scientist, the ‘Queen of carbon science’, both wanted to be mentors. They wanted to guide the next generation without expecting any sort of a return.

The idea of the word mentor goes back to Homer’s Odyssey. In ancient Greek epic, Athena, the wisdom goddess took a man’s form known as Mentor for assuming the guardianship of Telemachus, the young prince while Odysseus, his father, was fighting in the Trojan War. Athena was not only there to protect Telemachus protector, but to also educate and guide him.

One of aspect of good research supervision is mentoring. But it’s not always the case, based on the facts showed by a 2018 Nature survey regarding laboratory life. Most of the respondents of the survey wanted more help for managing and mentoring.

The lack of mentorship has given a global rise to the organized doctoral-training academies, where learning is done by PhD candidates in groups and they have access to scholarly experience as well as expertise, other than that of their supervisor.

Mentoring is recognized by some employers, for instance, a lot of scholarly societies implement formal schemes for assigning mentors to trainees. Scholarly publishers also implement such schemes via their global trade association, STM.

Awards for excellence are also given by Nature annually, in mentoring. It’s the 15th year for these awards and they are open again for nominations for 2 prizes: 1 for a mid-career mentor and 1 for a lifetime achievement in mentoring. Every year, mentors are recognized via awards, from a different region. In 2019, nominations have been invited nominations from India, which resulted in the production of 24,300 graduates of PhD in 2014, the 4th highest number worldwide after the U.S, the U.K and Germany. Applications’ deadline is 6th October.