Working on my first “real” research paper and came across my very first research “paper” – my summer research report from the very first research I ever did. So grateful to Dr. Jeff Sigman at St. Mary’s College of California! Those first research experiences are soooooo critical. And sooooo exciting – everything feels exciting, even the things you grow to find soooooo boring. And it’s sooooo important to have support and mentorship in those times – and throughout your entire journey. And it’s my dream to be able to teach undergrads in those times. And when I (hopefully) do I’m going to keep in mind all of the thoughts and struggles and feelings I felt then. And the same for remembering my grad and postgrad experiences. And using that as fuel to compassionately teach the next generation. Here are some thoughts that are really core to my motivation…
You hear a lot about science being “self-correcting,” but it’s also important to recognize that science is “self-training.” In grad school you’re learning from professors who were (various amounts of) recently postdocs who were recently grad students who were recently undergrads. And I think that it’s soooo important to keep in mind the memory of being in each of those stages. As I’ve gone through grad school I’ve kept in mind my undergrad self – and my early grad self – the things that confused me then became fuel for my posts. Procedures I had difficulty with when I first tried them in the lab I try to make sure to cover in detail and point out tips and potential confusion points when teaching others in the lab. And I am dedicated to making it a continued part of my mission to keep that undergrad me in mind. And the grad student me in mind. And later, the post-doc me. And, when I’m a hopefully a professor, I want remember how much it meant to me in my training to get support and encouragement and simple things like an email reply from a scientist I admired. And I hope that, as you become amazing big whig scientists, you all will keep you in mind too. Because we will be training the next generation of just-as-confused (but hopefully not for long) students. And our mentorship and support and time-taking will mean just as much to them as that which we have gotten has meant to us.
It can be all too easy for big-name scientists to forget they were once in our shoes. And some scientists might see it as a sort of right of passage to suffer through difficulties in science. But I don’t think it should be. And I am so grateful to have had some truly amazing mentors and colleagues supporting me throughout my training, starting with Dr. Sigman whom I will forever be indebted to. He took so much time to teach me and push me past my comfort zone confidence-wise, encouraging me to apply for fellowships and grad schools I didn’t think I stood a chance at succeeding at (but did!!!). And he gave me the opportunity to get my first mentorship experience teaching fellow students in the lab. He came to my thesis defense Zoom and it meant the world to me. And it meant so much to me when my current research mentor, Dr. Leemor Joshua-Tor told me today that she knows I will do great at a poster presentation I’m giving next week that I’m super nervous about. It’s those “little things” from people you admire that can really seem so big – and I hope I never forget that and always take the time for those “little things” and hope you will too.
Huge thanks to everyone who has mentored and has continued to mentor and inspire me every day – both officially & non-officially.