Interview by Katie Stinson
How did you get involved with NRMN?
By attending an NRMN Training Workshop at the Big10 Conference Center.
Which of NRMN(s) programs have you participated in?
I have served as a Mentor as well as attended the NRMN Facilitating Mentoring Training Workshop in May 2018.
Describe your role in mentoring and tell us a little about your experience in that role.
I was a participant in the NRMN Facilitating Mentor Training Workshop. As co-director of a T32 Graduate Training Program in Biotechnology, I am interested in how training faculty as mentors for graduate students can strengthen our program and help us align our mentoring activities with the new NIH training guidelines.
Have you participated in other similar programs in the past? If so, how was your experience with NRMN different or unique?
NMRN brings together an enthusiastic, highly motivated, and engaged community of mentors.
The workshop helped catalyze new interactions with other faculty from my own institution that would probably not have happened otherwise. An off-site conference provides an opportunity to focus on issues that have a tendency to get side-lined in the daily onslaught of other academic responsibilities.
If someone called you and asked, “Why should I become involved with NRMN?” how would you respond?
It is an effective organization for promoting awareness of issues related to mentoring and in promoting best practices through shared experiences. The organization is respectful of the pressures on faculty time and is efficient in streamlining activities. Most importantly, NRMN provides a wealth of resources and tools to facilitate mentoring.
Describe a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career.
While I believe that I have made fundamental contributions to the field of bacterial signal transduction, the achievement of which I am most proud is the success of students and postdoctoral fellows who have trained in my laboratory. As Isaac Newton’s quote, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants” so elegantly captures, scientific knowledge is progressive, with each advance building on the foundation that came before. From this perspective, the most important contribution one can make to science is to ensure the training of the next generation. I have been very fortunate in my career to have been associated with many trainees who have been exceptional researchers.
What makes you an ideal mentor?
I strongly believe that no one is an ideal mentor – as in all other activities in life, there is always room for improvement.
Each morning, what do you look most forward to in the day?
A cup of coffee!
Is there anything you’d like to share about yourself with a potential future mentee?
When I was an undergraduate, I enjoyed biochemistry, but had no idea of the career I wanted to follow. From my own experience and from observing experiences of numerous trainees through the years, I feel confident in saying that it is OK to be uncertain about a career path. Ultimately, only you can answer the question of which career is right for you; but asking others questions along the way can help you discover your own interests. I was fortunate to have several fantastic mentors in my early years. I wouldn’t be in the career I am today without their influence.
What is your current position and what is your favorite aspect of it?
I am a faculty member at a large research university. While I love research and couldn’t imagine a career without it, a current administrative role as a center director limits my time in the laboratory. My favorite part of my position is interacting with students and postdocs and vicariously experiencing through them the joy of scientific discovery.