Mentoring series designed to shape scientists' future careers

By Kim Urquhart | Emory Report | Oct. 15, 2012

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The Emory NIH Pathfinder Series will initially focus on the biomedical and life sciences, but organizers say the lessons learned will be transferable to all disciplines. Emory Photo/Video.

A new initiative of Laney Graduate School and partners aims to enhance the mentoring ethos at Emory.

The Emory NIH Pathfinder Series is a university-wide discussion of mentoring for both students and faculty, with inaugural events this month.

"This multi-year series will greatly elevate the level and intensity of discussion of important aspects of mentoring and career development, including underrepresented scientists, and will be important in reinforcing the consensus that mentor training is productive and necessary," says professor Keith Wilkinson, director of the Graduate Division of Biological and Biomedical Sciences. Wilkinson and professor Pat Marsteller, director of the Emory College Center for Science Education, helped organize the Emory NIH Pathfinder Series, a Laney Graduate School-funded initiative.

Inaugural speaker  

The Emory NIH Pathfinder Series presents Rick McGee of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, who will present the following public lectures, consultations and workshops:  

Thursday, Oct. 18

• "Postbaccalaureate Research and Education Programs (PREP): What students are seeking before the PhD," 9 a.m. -10:15 a.m., Whitehead Auditorium

• "Mentors, Coaches and the Sociology of Science: A New Approach to the Development of Young Scientists," noon -1:30 p.m., School of Medicine Room 110

Friday, Oct. 19

• "The NIH Directors Pathfinder Awards to Promote Diversity in the Scientific Workforce: A Coaching Model Translating Theory to Practice," noon-2 p.m., Cox Hall Ballroom

For more information contact Keith Wilkinson, Pat Marsteller or Cathryn Johnson.

A good mentor can teach unofficial lessons, says Marsteller, such as: who are the important players in a department, institution or field; how to earn fellowships, awards and prizes; what conferences to attend; how to search for a job and negotiate an offer; and when to take risks.

Featured speakers will be the scientists who have earned the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) Director's ARRA Pathfinder Award to Diversify the Scientific Workforce.

The inaugural speaker is Rick McGee, who will present public lectures, consultations and workshops on mentoring on Oct. 18-19.

McGee is associate dean for faculty recruitment and professional development and associate professor of medical education at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, where he is responsible for guiding the development of research expertise of young clinical and basic science faculty.

McGee, who also heads Northwestern's Scientific Careers Research and Development Group, is expected to discuss how understanding the sociological underpinnings of research training can benefit scientists. He will also talk about the new coaching based models for supplementing scientific development. He is using this to assist junior faculty in their transition to independence.

McGee's presentations on Oct. 18 will provide a snapshot of the large national longitudinal research study his group is conducting to provide new insights into the development of young scientists beginning at the pre-PhD and PhD training level.

His Oct. 19 presentation will focus on The Academy for Future Science Faculty, which McGee's team created as an experiment to study the development of young scientists and new coaching models.

The workshops and lectures in the series are aimed at faculty as well as students. "All people who mentor grad students and postdocs can benefit," says Marsteller, who was recognized with the George P. Cuttino Award for Excellence in Mentoring at Emory's 2007 Commencement.

"The Laney Graduate School is proud to support this strong initiative, led by some of our most accomplished faculty mentors in the natural, biomedical and life sciences," says Dean Lisa Tedesco. "Research shows that strong mentoring makes a tremendous difference in the career paths of graduate students, especially among students of diverse backgrounds. The Emory NIH Pathfinder Series reflects our deep commitment to leadership for mentoring and diversity."

The series will initially focus on the biomedical and life sciences, but the lessons learned will be transferable to all disciplines, organizers note.