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Biologist Randall Roper Adopts Mentorship Framework From NRMN Training

By June 20, 2018No Comments

Interview by Lisette Serrano

Describe your personal journey as a scientist: What inspired you to pursue science? Where are you in your career?

I was inspired to become a research scientist by my high school biology teacher. From the time I learned about DNA, I knew I wanted to be involved in the research of genetic disorders. As a graduate student I studied the genetics of autoimmune disorders, and as a postdoc, I began studying the genetics associated with Down syndrome. I have continued studying Down syndrome and the reasons why three copies of certain genes on human chromosome 21 cause traits associated with Down syndrome including skeletal and cognitive abnormalities. I am currently an Associate Professor of Biology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI).

A number of mentors during my undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral training catalyzed my interest in mentoring. Through my training, I realized that a mentor could have a lasting impact on students. I began to mentor undergraduate students as a graduate student and found that a positive mentoring relationship had a positive impact on my work. When I started my own laboratory, I focused on training graduate and undergraduate students.

How did you get involved with NRMN?

Two colleagues at IUPUI recommended that I become involved the NRMN.

What was it about NRMN that initially caught your interest?

I was impressed with the organization, training, and national influence of NRMN.

Which of NRMN’s programs did you participate in?

I participated in the NRMN Train-the-Trainers Workshop: Facilitating Entering Mentoring at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on April 12-13, 2018.

Describe your role in the program, and tell us a little about your experience in that role.

I attended the Facilitating Entering Mentoring Workshop with substantial mentoring experience of both graduate and undergraduate students. I had also recently been appointed the IUPUI Graduate Mentoring Center Director. The ideas shared in the workshop were congruent with my own mentoring philosophy that I had developed over a number of years. The workshop gave a philosophical and methodological framework to many of the techniques I had learned over the years. Participation in the workshop also introduced me to a number of new ideas that I have found very useful in my mentoring of students.

How has your experience with NRMN changed the way you approach your career in the sciences?

The Facilitating Entering Mentoring Workshop introduced me to the tools that I needed to facilitate the training and improvement of mentors at IUPUI. It has also changed the way that I mentor my own students and I am currently trying and applying many of the new techniques that I learned in the workshop. I came home from the workshop and immediately started applying techniques that I had learned and organizing opportunities to facilitate the sharing of these ideas with others on our campus. I am more aware of how to align my expectations with students and faculty with whom I work, and how to address challenges with equity and inclusion.

If someone called you and asked, “Why should I become involved with NRMN?” how would you respond?

It is a fantastic way to improve mentoring and share mentoring ideas with others!

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