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The Science of Mentorship

Author: The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine

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Mentorship is essential to the development of anyone in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, or medicine, but did you know mentorship is a set of skills that can be learned, practiced, and optimized?

In this 10-part series from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, you’ll hear the personal mentorship stories of leaders in academia, business, and the media, in their own words. Learn how evidence-based mentorship practices can help you develop the skills to engage in the most effective STEMM mentoring relationships possible.

If you are a mentor, a mentee, or have a role in mentorship, this podcast is for you.
16 Episodes
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Welcome to The Science of Mentorship, a 10-episode podcast from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that introduces you to the evidence-based practices for effective mentoring told through the personal stories of leaders in science, tech, math, engineering, and medicine. You'll hear from notables like iconic physicist Dr. Jim Gates, groundbreaking physician Dr. Vivian Pinn, advocate mathematician Dr. Richard Tapia, and Twitter phenom immunobiologist Dr. Akiko Iwasaki. They share the ups and downs of their own mentorship journeys from the beginning of their careers to today, to help you develop the skills to engage in the most effective STEMM mentoring relationships possible.Mentorship is essential to the development of anyone in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, or medicine. If you are a mentor, a mentee, or have a role in mentorship, this podcast is for you. Listen to The Science of Mentorship to learn, practice, and optimize mentorship for you and your colleagues, and visit https://nas.edu/mentoring for more.
In STEMM fields, students and professionals from marginalized populations often feel misunderstood or isolated because their identities differ from their peers. Biomedical engineer Dr. Gilda Barabino often found herself taking roles in which she was the first and only African American woman in her position. At times, it was very isolating. In this episode, Dr. Barabino shares how she responded to a lack of mentorship, where she found supportive networks, and how she’s creating inclusive environments so that marginalized students don’t have to face the same obstacles. Dr. Gilda Barabino is a biomedical engineer with a background in chemical engineering. She specialized in sickle cell research and cellular and tissue engineering. She also deeply understands the role of race, ethnicity, and gender in science and engineering. Dr. Barabino is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Medicine. She is currently the president of the Olin College of Engineering. To learn more about the Science of Effective Mentorship in STEMM report, and for a guide to implementing best practices at your institution, visit NAS.edu/mentoring. Brought to you by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. Transcript
Research shows that even if marginalized students earn bachelor's degrees, they’re still less likely to receive mentoring or be retained in STEMM careers. Chemistry professor Dr. Michael Summers found himself in a position to provide effective mentoring to his students from marginalized backgrounds to guide them both in the classroom and beyond. In this episode, Dr. Michael Summers shares how positive mentoring experiences led him to his current position, how he worked to provide access and opportunity through the Meyerhoff Scholars Program, and what he’s doing to help other universities implement programs and practices to support marginalized students through academia and beyond into their STEMM careers.  Dr. Summers is a chemistry professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County who studies the nuclear magnetic resonance of proteins. He has led efforts to develop programs for retaining marginalized students in the sciences. In 2000, he received the Presidential Award for Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring. In 2016, Dr. Summers was elected into the National Academy of Sciences.To learn more about the Science of Effective Mentorship in STEMM report, and for a guide to implementing best practices at your institution, visit NAS.edu/mentoring. Brought to you by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. Transcript
Academia can be a toxic environment, especially for women and other marginalized students. Dr. Akiko Iwasaki experienced this reality both in her studies and after she earned her Ph.D. However, research shows that women and marginalized students can better integrate into academic communities when they have positive mentoring experiences, and often, multiple mentoring relationships. In this episode, Dr. Akiko Iwasaki tells the story of her journey through STEMM academia and beyond as a woman from Japan. There were times she was discouraged from continuing her studies, but supportive mentors guided her through difficult situations with both emotional and technical support. Dr. Iwasaki shares about these experiences and how they shaped her approach to mentoring her own students in innovative ways. Dr. Akiko Iwasaki is a professor and researcher in immunology at the Yale School of Medicine. She has contributed significant research to the field of innate immunity against multiple viruses and cancer. She has won numerous awards and in 2018, was elected into the National Academy of Sciences. In 2019, Dr. Iwasaki was elected into the National Academy of Medicine.To learn more about the Science of Effective Mentorship in STEMM report, and for a guide to implementing best practices at your institution, visit NAS.edu/mentoring. Brought to you by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. Transcript
The most effective mentoring relationships happen when the relationship is mutually beneficial to all parties. Dr. Jedidah Isler found this as she gave and received significant support at historically black universities, and when she lacked support at predominantly white institutions. As she earned degrees in these different environments, she discovered mentoring is a necessary skill, as is knowing what you need as a mentee.                                                                                     In this episode, Dr. Jedidah Isler tells her story of how her career in astrophysics shaped her development and approach to mentorship. Through times of consistent support and in times where support lacked, Dr. Isler discovered what effective mentoring is. Dr. Isler shares about the obstacles marginalized students face in higher education, the different roles of mentors, and how effective and culturally responsive mentorship can expand what’s possible for marginalized students and STEM fields altogether. Astrophysicist Dr. Jedidah Isler studies hyperactive, supermassive black holes as an assistant professor at Dartmouth College. She is an award-winning scholar and speaker who works at the intersections of science and social justice. She is also the creator and founder of VanguardSTEM, an online platform and monthly series that focuses on women and non-binary people of color in STEM. She founded VanguardSTEM’s parent foundation, The STEM en Route to Change (SeRCH) Foundation, Inc., which uses social media to build community and resources for Black, Indigenous, Women and Non-Binary People of Color in STEM. Dr. Isler is also a co-author of the paper: Defining the Flow—Using an Intersectional Scientific Methodology to Construct a VanguardSTEM Hyperspace.To learn more about the Science of Effective Mentorship in STEMM report, and for a guide to implementing best practices at your institution, visit NAS.edu/mentoring. Brought to you by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. Transcript
Entering the academic ecosystem can be especially daunting for students with underrepresented identities. These students can face a different set of obstacles when making decisions on higher education and careers. Dr. Jim Gates faced this reality on his path to becoming a physicist. Looking back on his journey, Professor Gates understands that he couldn’t pursue his dreams without support. Theoretical physicist Dr. Jim Gates was often the only African-American in the physics departments in which he worked and learned. In this episode, he tells his story of discovering his passion in physics and how effective mentors throughout his life supported him through what could’ve been insurmountable obstacles. Professor Gates also shares how important it is to actively seek mentors, the impact of culturally responsive mentoring, and what mentoring skills he uses most today. Professor Gates is known for his groundbreaking work on supersymmetry, supergravity, and superstring theory. In 1977, he received his Ph.D from Massachusetts Institute of Technology as the only African American in his cohort, where he gave the first doctoral thesis to explore supersymmetry. In 2013, Dr. Gates was elected into the National Academy of Sciences and was awarded the National Medal of Science by President Barack Obama. To learn more about the Science of Effective Mentorship in STEMM report, and for a guide to implementing best practices at your institution, visit NAS.edu/mentoring. Brought to you by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. Transcript
Students’ mentoring experiences are shaped by the mentorship skills of their mentors.  However, if academic institutions lack commitment to implementing successful mentoring practices, faculty members often struggle to support their mentees. Biochemist Dr. Keith Yamamoto had positive mentoring experiences during his undergraduate and graduate careers where his mentors consistently guided and helped him develop independence in the field. But when he became a professor, he initially struggled to effectively mentor his students. In this episode, Dr. Yamamoto shares key moments of how he learned what tendencies can damage mentoring experiences, the skills that contribute to positive mentorships, and how academic institutions can implement more successful mentoring practices. Dr. Keith Yamamoto is a professor of cellular and molecular pharmacology at University of California, San Francisco. He also serves as the vice chancellor for science policy and strategy, and as the director of precision medicine at UCSF. Dr. Yamamoto has worked on several national committees that focus on public and scientific policy. In 1990, he was elected into the National Academy of Sciences, and in 2003, he was elected into the National Academy of Medicine. To learn more about the Science of Effective Mentorship in STEMM report, and for a guide to implementing best practices at your institution, visit NAS.edu/mentoring. Brought to you by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. Transcript
In academic institutions, faculty hold power over their students. However, this power often goes unacknowledged. Dr. Kate Clancy found that students can experience negative mentoring experiences when there is a lack of expectations set on faculty and coercive power goes unchecked.Biological anthropologist Dr. Kate Clancy shares her experience of observing gaps within the mentoring ecosystem, then taking action to create more inclusive spaces for both students and faculty in higher education. In this episode, Dr. Clancy discusses the coercive power in STEMM ecosystems, how confirmation bias negatively affects mentoring, and what faculty and students can do to create more effective mentoring relationships. Dr. Kate Clancy is an associate professor of Anthropology at the University of Illinois. Her research focuses on intersectional feminist biology with specific focus on gender and racial harassment in science and the effects of environmental stressors on endometrial and ovarian dynamics. Dr. Clancy has given congressional testimony on sexual misconduct in the sciences, has consulted on two Congressional bills on sexual harassment in science, and has co-authored a National Academies report on sexual harassment of women in STEM. To learn more about the Science of Effective Mentorship in STEMM report, and for a guide to implementing best practices at your institution, visit NAS.edu/mentoring. Brought to you by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. Transcript
To create lasting improvements in mentorship, it’s necessary for institutions to develop a culture that supports and values effective mentoring. This is applicable, not only for college and universities, but for STEMM workplaces. Astronaut and engineer Dr. Ellen Ochoa was the first Hispanic woman to go to space. When she first joined NASA, Dr. Ochoa discovered a culture that recognized the value of effective mentoring for everyone in the space shuttle program. In this episode, Dr. Ochoa shares her story of how this culture of mentorship impacted her career, what she did to develop formal mentoring programs in NASA, and how professionals can be guided further when workplaces value and implement effective mentoring practices and tools like compacts. Dr. Ellen Ochoa is a distinguished astronaut and research engineer. She earned her PhD in electrical engineering from Stanford University. Dr. Ochoa was the first Hispanic woman to go to space and served as the director for NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston from 2013 to her retirement in 2018. She has been inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame, the California Hall of Fame, and the International Air & Space Hall of Fame. She is also a member of the National Academy of Engineering. To learn more about the Science of Effective Mentorship in STEMM report, and for a guide to implementing best practices at your institution, visit NAS.edu/mentoring. Brought to you by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. Transcript
Medical school is a challenging journey. It’s especially daunting if no one at your institution supports you or if people actively discourage you from pursuing your goals. When pathologist Dr. Vivian Pinn started medical school, she was passionate to learn medicine. But often, as the only African American woman in a world dominated by white men, she experienced pushback to her presence. In this episode, Dr. Pinn shares her story of how she responded to a lack of mentoring in school, how positive mentoring experiences can empower students’ independence, and how she’s working to ensure students and professionals never face obstacles alone.Dr. Vivian Pinn is a distinguished pathologist, researcher, and administrator. She was the only woman and student of color in her class to earn an M.D. from the University of Virginia. Dr. Pinn taught at Harvard University and Tufts University before becoming Professor and Chair of the Department of Pathology at Howard University in 1982. In 1991, Dr. Pinn became the founding director of the National Institute of Health’s Office of Research on Women’s Health, where she led the implementation of clinical research inclusion policies for women and people of color. In 1995, Dr. Pinn was elected into the National Academy of Medicine. To learn more about the Science of Effective Mentorship in STEMM report, and for a guide to implementing best practices at your institution, visit NAS.edu/mentoring. Brought to you by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. Transcript
Mentors may not always realize that students perceive them as role models. Yet, mentees pay attention to their mentor’s behavior, attitudes, and accomplishments. Mentees can envision themselves as successful in their chosen STEMM career when they see positive role models succeeding in the same field, particularly role models with similar values or a similar background. Mathematician Dr. Juan Meza initially experienced a lack of effective role models in his academic career. At times, it was difficult to see himself as a future leader in STEMM, especially when there were few mentors who shared his background. In this episode, Dr. Meza shares his story of moments where he was discouraged to pursue STEMM, how certain leaders stepped in to guide him, and how he currently works with students to ensure they are equipped for all challenges. Dr. Juan Meza is the Division Director for the National Science Foundation’s Division of Mathematical Sciences. Previously, he served as Dean of the School of Natural Science at the University of California, Merced after earning his PhD in Computational and Applied Mathematics from Rice University. Dr. Meza is also a Professor of Applied Mathematics. His current research focuses on nonlinear optimization with an emphasis on methods for parallel computing. Dr. Meza has received numerous awards and has served on several external boards and federal advisory committees. To learn more about the Science of Effective Mentorship in STEMM report, and for a guide to implementing best practices at your institution, visit NAS.edu/mentoring. Brought to you by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. Transcript
Finding a Mentor

Finding a Mentor

2021-09-2216:59

We all want to discover the passion that drives our dreams. Often, we need help to find it. In STEMM careers, students need mentors, sometimes multiple mentors, to support them as they find their way and choose their career and academic paths. In this first episode of Season Two, host Bethany Brookshire takes us through the experiences of undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate students. These students share stories of what qualities they sought in a mentor, how they found their mentors, and how each mentor guided and supported them to identify and follow their passions. Bethany Brookshire is a science journalist, writer, and podcast host. She has a PhD in Physiology and Pharmacology from the Wake Forest University School of Medicine. Her writing has appeared in Scientific American, Science News Magazine, The Washington Post, Slate, and other outlets. To learn more about the Science of Effective Mentorship in STEMM report, and for a guide to implementing best practices at your institution, visit NAS.edu/mentoring. Brought to you by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. 
New mentoring relationships can be intimidating. Mentees may not know what to expect of their mentors, or what the goal of the mentoring relationship is. For mentoring relationships to be mutually beneficial, both mentees and mentors must establish expectations and boundaries. This is a skill that can take some practice, but helps students reach their full potential in STEMM. In this episode, students share their stories of when they recognized the need for expectations and boundaries in their mentoring relationships, how they established them, and how they responded when their mentor didn’t respect the boundaries in place.  To learn more about the Science of Effective Mentorship in STEMM report, and for a guide to implementing best practices at your institution, visit NAS.edu/mentoring. Brought to you by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. 
For many students in STEMM, family life is a top priority. However, some students have found tension when it comes to balancing family life and their STEMM careers, from both faculty and colleagues.  For mentoring relationships to be effective, mentors must acknowledge students as whole people with priorities, responsibilities, and important personal decisions that exist outside of STEMM. In this episode, we hear from students who have juggled raising children and new family milestones as they simultaneously researched and earned both undergraduate and graduate degrees. They share about the challenges of balancing family life and career, the moments they needed to ask for support, and how mentors can support students with families without the student suffering repercussions. To learn more about the Science of Effective Mentorship in STEMM report, and for a guide to implementing best practices at your institution, visit NAS.edu/mentoring. Brought to you by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. 
Some students quickly trust their mentors. Others are hesitant to be vulnerable with them. And some students encounter barriers that disallow them to trust their mentors at all. Building trust may sometimes be easy, or it may be awkward, depending on the relationship. But there’s a reason why trust is critical to an effective mentoring relationship. In this episode,  students share how they were able to build trust with certain mentors, how students navigated relationships where they were hesitant to fully trust their mentors, and how they responded in situations where trust was broken. To learn more about the Science of Effective Mentorship in STEMM report, and for a guide to implementing best practices at your institution, visit NAS.edu/mentoring. Brought to you by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. 
Mentees must rely on someone with more experience and power to support them through their STEMM career. Sometimes, conflict happens. And it can have a massive impact on both mentees and mentors. Negative mentoring experiences in STEMM happen, and they can leave students and professionals feeling stuck and confused. In this episode, students and postdocs share their stories of what circumstances led to negative encounters with their mentors, and how these experiences impacted their careers. Students share the factors that contributed to these negative experiences for them, including unchecked intentions, refusal to get to know students, and uncontrollable circumstances. To learn more about the Science of Effective Mentorship in STEMM report, and for a guide to implementing best practices at your institution, visit NAS.edu/mentoring. Brought to you by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. 
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