BY SHRUTI GOPAL VIJ
Human nature dictates that each and every one of us seeks guidance on life choices and trajectories. A key to this is mentorship. As scientists navigating the ever hardening world of academia it is vital today to find a mentor. A mentor that can show you the short-cuts, encourage you, applaud your achievements and support you in tough times. While some of us are lucky to find such mentors in some form or other, there are a large number of students, postdocs and other early career researchers who are left in the lurch. On the other hand, neuroimaging has quite a few established researchers and PIs who have themselves taken a long winding path picking up tips along the way that will make them great mentors. The OHBM Student and Post-doc SIG of 2017 aspires to provide a platform for both mentors and mentees to come together and establish an independent and effective mentoring relationship. This initiative, spearheaded by AmanPreet Badhwar (chair) and Michele Veldsman (chair-elect) with enormous support from SIG officials, covers two aspects, 1) a Mentorship and Career Development Symposium at OHBM 2017, and 2) an online Mentorship program.
The Mentorship and Career Development Symposium slated for Wednesday, June 28th 2017 (12:00 - 14:30 pm), is aimed at imparting meaningful information on how to navigate initial career transitions. Since an overwhelming number of our social media followers requested information on non-academic or industry transitions, the symposium is set to answer many of the hard questions facing junior researchers. The program promises to cover a variety of topics such as transitioning to PI, science writing/journal editorial positions, how to deal with micro-aggressions in work environments, managing work-life balance, starting a business post PhD and much more. Following short-talks from individual speakers, the panel will answer questions from the audience on what it is like to be a PI, run their own lab and what they look for when hiring junior researchers for academic and non-academic positions. The collection of 7 speakers and 5 panelists includes a variety of academic and industry experts who are not only approachable and personable but are also well-equipped to provide us significant advice. If you have questions that you want featured in the panel discussion at the Mentorship and Career Development symposium, please feel free to send them to us in advance.
While much has been talked about on the importance of mentorship in today’s world as well as the requisite nature of pro-active attitude on behalf of the trainees to find appropriate mentors, the trainees of OHBM have been largely isolated. In further bridging this gap, the OHBM Student and Postdoc SIG has announced an online mentorship program that promises to bring together mentors and mentees from the world over throughout the year. The idea behind this is primarily to provide another platform for mentees to seek support outside of their current environment and increase their knowledge of the ever-expanding unknown of academic and/or non-academic careers. The online forum was recently announced and sign-up for this year was closed on 1st May 2017. Even at the nascent stage of this being the first year for such trainee-focused initiatives, we have an impressive enrollment of 331, of which 89 PIs have signed up to be mentors. About 143 trainees have signed up to be mentored and will be pleasantly surprised by who they end-up with as a mentor. An additional 88 brain mappers have signed up to be both mentors and mentees, principally post-docs who are vital rungs in the academic ladder and can provide invaluable advice to students whilst also seeking support for their own career development. The SIG will match these mentors and mentees and introduce them via email. The mentors are required to meet their mentees online once every quarter and in person at the annual meeting and establish a mutually beneficial relationship resulting in the betterment of science all-around.
I have also signed up to be a mentor and a mentee. My reasons are simple. My career trajectory to a post-doc has been unique, with its own up’s and downs, and the kind of jobs best suited for me are also unique, even though they may be hard to come by. If I can help other scientists and especially women scientists break more boundaries, I personally consider that a win! There are many ways of getting to the end-goal of our own careers. I believe the only way to learn is to participate and talk. So here is me participating and discussing and learning. I welcome you to come participate, discuss, learn, find new mentors and become great brain mappers. Let’s make science self-supporting and self-sustaining in today’s age of uncertainty!
Suggestions, questions and comments are most welcome at @OHBM_trainees, Facebook and firstname.lastname@example.org.