To Experienced Mentors,
My principal investigator (PI) helped me with my writing, the postdocs in lab taught me bench science, and my fellow grad students helped me better communicate my science. I’m going to be in charge of training an undergrad on a project which will be an extension of my dissertation work. I’m excited, and my PI thinks I am ready for this responsibility, but I don’t know if I am going to be good at training as this is my first time as a science mentor. Should I be worried?
A Nervous New Mentor
Dear A Nervous New Mentor,
First off, congratulations on taking this leadership role in your lab. Training freshmen scientists is one of the most important steps in maintaining the success of not only individual research programs, but scientific progress in general. That being said, training a new lab member as a graduate student or even a postdoc for the first few times can be challenging because rarely will you have someone providing constructive criticism as you employ your own method of training.
Even though this is your first time in a training position, know that your PI trusts you at this point in your career to be able to handle this responsibility. This is not to say there won’t be speed bumps and some additional demands on your already busy lifestyle. But that is where you can utilize your mentors’ help. Never be afraid to ask for advice from your PI and other colleagues who have had the opportunity to train new lab members. Use their advice to mold your own personal training strategy, and over time with trial and error you can improve your mentoring strategy. Even seasoned investigators sometimes have to modify the way they teach based on the available resources and personal characteristics of the trainee.
So to answer your question, don’t be worried. Instead, utilize your skills as a scientist to be observant and know that some hardships and failures may come up that you will have to find solutions to implement.
An Experienced Mentor (who is still learning a few tricks)