How to Choose a Lab and Mentor According to #AcademicTwitter
Academic Twitter comes through with a stockpile of answers on how to choose a lab and a mentor.
Any tips on how to choose a mentor wisely? I’m currently doing lab rotations as a 1st yr PhD student. Research topic or lab environment/culture? Mentoring style? Please, share your experience. That would be very helpful for me.
@AcademicChatter #phdchat #AcademicTwitter #phdlife
When you talk to current/prior students about environment, mentor support, also confirm they actually were able to get their work done (support to do projects, write papers, attend conferences). You want a mentor who isn’t just nice, but can get you to the finishEnvironment>topic BUT topic still important to keep you interested in persevering when things get rough. Also see if you’re exposed to a diversity of methods and skills that can be easily applied to other topics.
–Dr. Nicole Redmond@DrNRedmond
Lab environment. You can have the perfect project, but the wrong lab/PI can kill it for you easily. Talk to the current and past grad students to get an idea of the mentoring style of the PI and overall ‘vibe’ in the lab.
–Vernon García Rivas@vgarciarivas
I would talk to FORMER students of the PI. They may feel less restricted to tell you the truth about their experiences especially if they were negative. Ask them about their current career stage and if they felt properly mentored.
–Dr. Adelita Mendoza@AdelitaMendoza7
My mentor from undergrad said, “pick your mentor like you’re getting married to the person”. There really isn’t a right answer that fits all. Some people marry for fame or money… in which case a tender-hearted normal person won’t do, and vice versa.That being said, I won’t ask the current lab members “why did you pick the lab”, because they’ll tell you what they LIKE about the lab. I suggest finding people who rotated in the lab, but didn’t stay, and ask them why. Kinda like asking the ex what went wrong.
I looked for a mentor who would work with me and listen to ideas and not simply dictate the entire path. I also looked for a collaborative environment. Sometimes you all need to pitch in for experiments or deadlines. Will the lab get your back?
Try multiple rotations like you are already doing. In my opinion this is the best way to find the right fit. You can never fully tell what a lab is going to be like until you get in the lab and start working there.
–Erome Daniel, PhD@EromeDaniel
Look at a lab culture. Are grad students happy or are they tired and unhappy? Ask them what they like and not like in their PI. Would they choose the same lab if they could pick again? Research topic is important, but your wellbeing is a priority.
Lab environment. If you’re in the field, you’re probably curious about a whole lot of things and can find something interesting to learn about nearly anything. But, no matter how much you love the project, nobody can cope with 5-7 years in a toxic, unsupportive environment.
Talk to the students in the lab, they will give you the real story. Take them out for coffee or a walk away from the lab.
-Carlotta A. Berry, PhD@DrCABerry
Find the original Twitter thread here.
Posted with permission from Raider E. Rodriguez @RRodriguezNY
PhD Trainee @ubuffalo; CUNY ‘20 B.S. Toxicology