Jun 27 2010

Seeking Mentors

Dr. Crazy has an interesting post up today concerning a research breakthrough she just made based on the input of one of her mentors. As she describes it:

I’ve begun reading a book that I never would have read – or maybe I would, but I don’t know how I would have gotten to it given the other sorts of stuff I’ve been reading – that Eminent Awesome Wonderful Fun Mentor suggested when I saw her at a recent conference. I’m not entirely sure how she knew, after listening to me talk for only 2 minutes about NB, but this book? It is so freaking important to what I’m trying to say! It is like the missing link! And it’s not an obvious link – it’s a sort of weird connection to make, if that makes sense – but it’s exactly the way for me to get from point A to point B in my overall argument – something I hadn’t known how I’d manage.

W00T! However, she also concludes that she would not have had this person as a mentor if she had not ceased to have a mentoring relationship with her PhD thesis advisor:

I…wondered whether I would just disappear into obscurity because I was so cleanly and clearly cut off once my dissertation was defended and filed. I mean, what happens to people whose dissertation advisers forget they exist the moment that they’ve finished the dissertation? That’s a bad thing, right?

You know what? In my case, it has not been a bad thing at all. In fact, I think it’s been a great thing. Because you know why? I somehow have ended up with all of these awesome mentors – including people whom I totally admired and thought were rockstars and who I never thought I’d be, like, friends with – who do things like encourage me and recommend that I look at certain books and who do all the mentory things that my dissertation adviser does not do.

I’m not sure why she assumes that had she maintained a close mentoring relationship with her thesis advisor, she would not have formed additional close mentoring relationships as her career progressed.

I remain personally close to my thesis advisor, but have never relied on her for scientific professional mentoring since I left her lab. On the other hand, my post-doctoral mentor is still a valuable source of mentoring, and since I’ve been an independent investigator and faculty member, I’ve sought out various types of mentoring from a number of individuals both at my institution and elsewhere.

In fact, I would say that one of the most important skills of professional scholarship to develop is the ability to seek, find, and enlist a diverse portfolio of mentors throughout one’s scholarly career, each of whom provides a particular aspect of expertise and insight.

There is more cool shit in Dr. Crazy’s post, so go check the whole fucking thing out.


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  1. 1


    including random douches on the internet?

  2. 2

    There is not a single swear word until the very last sentence?! Who are you and what have they done with CPP?

  3. 3
    Dr. Crazy

    I was busy getting shitfaced with a high school friend, so didn’t see this post until now. Here’s the deal: I think that in English there can be a lot of proprietary shit over grad students, and this can both get in the way of students finding mentors beyond the director and also produce a culture in the field in which English peeps think diss director is ALL – the support of that person can feel like an end-all be-all of success in the field. Maybe this is because we’re a field in which we don’t co-author? Dunno. You’re right: it’s not at all that I couldn’t have found these mentors in addition to the diss person had that been possible. BUT – I think I appreciate those mentors *infinitely* more because I was left out to sea by my diss person and I had to find them without his help. At the end of the day, I credit these mentors with really helping me to become the scholar I am. I think that my diss director doesn’t give a shit what I do – even though I’ve done better and more than any of his advisees in recent memory and in the history of the past 15+ years. Except, of course, this job wasn’t “good enough” and the fact that I took it reflected badly on him. Gah. Sorry to bitch in your comments. Time to drink more. (High school friend has passed out in the spare room.)

  4. 4
    Comrade PhysioProf

    Sorry to bitch in your comments.

    AHAHAHAH! That ain’t nothin’!

  5. 5
    Isis the Scientist

    I really hate calling it a “diss.” Almost as much as I hate “PI.”

  6. 6

    My husband is a Philosopher.
    He and all the humanities people call their thesis the diss.
    I’m not sure why.

  7. 7

    At my InternationallyRenownedUniversity, we abbreviated the hell out of everything. Computer Science was Compski, Natural Science was Natski, Russian Language and Literature was Ruskel… so of course it was a diss. And one prepped before a supe (prepared before meeting with your supervisor). Cultural differences!

  8. 8

    Best thing my advisor ever did for me was die. Really. His students are now a limited commodity.

  9. 9
    Karl Knoeff

    Humanities, history, music …….. LOVE


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